Sechelt sink­holes leave own­ers with po­ten­tially worth­less homes

Times Colonist - - British Columbia - RANDY SHORE

At least one fam­ily has been forced from their home per­ma­nently and pos­si­bly a dozen oth­ers are left with po­ten­tially worth­less prop­er­ties as sink­holes spread through a Sechelt sub­di­vi­sion.

Ross and Erin Storey moved to the Sun­shine Coast to raise their three chil­dren, but their $500,000 home in the Seawatch neigh­bour­hood was con­demned in 2015 af­ter the ground be­neath their home gave way.

Since then sev­eral new sink­holes have opened be­neath their street and on a nearby lot just last month, giv­ing the im­pres­sion of a mor­tar at­tack.

At­trac­tive ex­ec­u­tive homes are set into a steep hill­side, all with a stun­ning view of the in­let, but the road has been blocked with con­crete bar­ri­ers and spray-painted in­di­cat­ing ar­eas of weak­ness.

“We moved here to live in our dream home and now we can’t even go in­side,” Ross said. “We are still pay­ing a $450,000 mort­gage and prop­erty taxes.”

They can’t walk away from the house and leave it to the bank with­out be­ing stripped of their busi­ness as­sets. “We have to fight,” Ross said. Af­ter me­di­a­tion failed, the Storeys filed suit against the Dis­trict of Sechelt, the de­vel­oper Con­cor­dia Seawatch, 14 engi­neer­ing firms, home in­surer Trav­el­ers Guar­an­tee and five real-es­tate agents, among oth­ers.

Greg and Gerry Latham’s $1-mil­lion home is just a few me­tres from a sink­hole that opened up in 2012, swal­low­ing a car.

“We had an in­de­pen­dent ap­praisal done. But due to the spe­cial cir­cum­stances, they said our house is now worth zero,” Greg said.

The Lathams dropped out of the law­suit af­ter it be­came clear they could not hope to re­cover their loss, be­cause their house is so far un­dam­aged.

The neigh­bours are di­vided over whether the sub­di­vi­sion can be sal­vaged.

Ross Storey does not believe the de­vel­op­ment can be re­paired, which is why he is seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for the loss of his home.

“There are is­sues no one can iden­tify, no one knows how to fix and no one knows what it will cost or if it will work,” said Storey. “That means there is no fix.”

Mayor Bruce Milne said the dis­trict was not pre­pared to “put a Band-Aid” on in­di­vid­ual prob­lems when sta­bil­ity is­sues per­me­ate the en­tire site.

The Dis­trict of Sechelt is­sued a de­tailed his­tory of the de­vel­op­ment, say­ing that it would not at­tempt to fix the area’s ground­wa­ter prob­lems be­cause there was no guar­an­tee the $10-mil­lion drainage sys­tem would work.

Ross and Erin Storey are pay­ing a mort­gage on a house they can't set foot in af­ter a sink­hole opened up in their front yard in Sechelt.

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