Homeowners in the district of Sechelt are furious as they say officials have closed off access to about half a dozen homes in the Seawatch neighbourhood.
This comes after a huge 25-metre-deep sinkhole opened up on Christmas Day.
The homeowners say they are being denied access to their belongings, but this is more than just a dispute about access.
It is a disaster according to the people who live here.
The district has systematically avoided doing anything to help, said resident Ed Pednaud.
“It’s like death from a thousand cuts,” he told Global News.
The District of Sechelt says barricades on Gale Avenue North and Seawatch Lane will remain in place in response to the most recent investigation from Thurber Engineering. Signs are in place to restrict pedestrian access as well.
In a statement, it reveals the investigation of public property on Seawatch Lane confirmed that Seawatch Lane has been undermined and the thickness of the remaining crust may not be sufficient to support ongoing use.
The homeowners claim the district knew as early as 2006 that there were serious issues with the land under their properties and approved the development anyway.
Engineering reports through 2012 only confirmed their fears, and the most recent report commissioned by the district points to significant voiding under public rights of way.
“Enough is enough. It’s time for the district to step up and admit they made a mistake and fix this problem,” homeowner Chris Moradian said.
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In a statement to Global News, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the situation is “very unfortunate” but it does not qualify for provincial assistance.
“I sympathize with the difficult situation and uncertainty that residents are facing,” Farnworth said.
“The province – through Emergency Management BC – provided funding for the District of Sechelt to obtain geotechnical assessments of the factors that have led to sinkhole formation in the development, as well as funding for any measures that may be undertaken to mitigate future sinkholes from forming.
“During the assessment, the province was made aware that geotechnical reports were previously prepared to determine whether it was appropriate to build on the property. This report identified the formation of sinkholes as an existing risk. The province played no role in assessing the risk or in approving or denying necessary building permits.
“The province considered a request for Disaster Financial Assistance in 2015 when a home was directly impacted by a sinkhole. It was determined that damages incurred are related to the pre-existing geotechnical challenges. As such, this incident cannot be attributed to a sudden catastrophic event as is required by the legislation. The continued formation of sinkholes in the development has not changed this assessment, and reinforces the determination that the sinkholes relate to a known risk when building decisions were initially made.
“As there was a clearly identified and predetermined risk for sinkholes before development, this situation does not qualify for provincial assistance.”
In October, 2018, the District of Sechelt said it recognizes this is a difficult situation, but maintains that even though it is named in a lawsuit, this is an issue between the developer and homeowners, and that residents need to evaluate their own personal safety.
“I think the decisions were made appropriately by the council of the day,” said District of Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne at the time.
“And I think, I assume, that the people who developed the land as private developers and the people who purchased the land as homeowners, all were aware of that information, they have covenants on their title and they made decisions that they thought were appropriate.”
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Milne said the district has been transparent with residents, sharing every report they’ve received on the issue.
He said there is no “quick solution,” that any fix will need to take the entire area into consideration — and will likely come with a price tag in the ballpark of $10 million.
“And no guarantees whatsoever that it’s effective. In fact, some people have read those engineering reports and said if you de-water the site, you’ll have more problems.”
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