Sink­holes dec­i­mate Sechelt sub­di­vi­sion, home con­demned

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - RANDY SHORE rshore@post­media.ca

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 is blocked with ce­ment bar­ri­ers spray painted to in­di­cate ar­eas of weak­ness.

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

They can’t even walk away from the house and leave it to the bank with­out be­ing stripped of their busi­ness as­sets.

“We have to fight,” said Ross. 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,” said Greg.

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 made safe.

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.”

Rod and Donna Goy’s home is not dam­aged, but they are sur­rounded by craters, fail­ing roads and bro­ken san­i­tary sew­ers.

Goy and his neigh­bours are still press­ing the dis­trict to re­pair the storm sew­ers, a util­ity cor­ri­dor and the road, which was un­der­mined three years ago.

“We are ask­ing them to fix their prop­erty, not ours,” he said.

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 even work.

Pur­su­ing the work would lead to an im­me­di­ate 8.5 per cent in­crease in prop­erty taxes, the dis­trict said.

“We don’t even know what would hap­pen if we de-wa­ter the site and all that moist sand that has held to­gether for cen­turies is sud­denly dry,” said Milne.

Sev­eral ac­tive springs are still run­ning in the neigh­bour­hood, which neigh­bours be­lieve are the cause of the most re­cent sink­holes.

“There have been sev­eral en­gi­neer­ing re­ports rec­om­mend­ing eight or nine ac­tions the dis­trict should take, but they haven’t done any­thing,” said Latham.

An as­sess­ment by Thurber En­gi­neer­ing noted that wet zones, spon­ta­neous springs and sink­holes de­vel­oped dur­ing site prepa­ra­tion for build­ing in 2008.

“These is­sues were on­go­ing through­out con­struc­tion and are doc­u­mented in the avail­able geotech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion,” the re­port said.

En­gi­neer­ing stud­ies of the area dat­ing back to 1988 noted the po­ten­tial for soil in­sta­bil­ity, but gen­er­ally con­cluded the site could be used for dwellings.

The dis­trict has filed suit against Con­cor­dia to re­cover $500,000 in mu­nic­i­pal re­pair costs.

In ap­prov­ing the de­vel­op­ment the dis­trict en­tered into a covenant in 2008 with Con­cor­dia stat­ing the “Mu­nic­i­pal­ity has no spe­cific knowl­edge and makes no rep­re­sen­ta­tions or war­ranties re­gard­ing the geotech­ni­cal ad­e­quacy of the lands for the pro­posed uses,” ac­cord­ing to the dis­trict’s no­tice of civil claim.

Con­cor­dia has built and sold 15 homes in Seawatch and holds 14 more empty lots and one empty home that may never be oc­cu­pied.

Calls to Con­cor­dia — owned by Ron­ald An­talek — were not an­swered.

The cou­ple’s trial is set for March 2020, ac­cord­ing to the dis­trict.

RANDY SHORE

Ross and Erin Storey are pay­ing a $450,000 mort­gage and prop­erty taxes on a house they can’t set foot in af­ter sink­holes opened up in their Sechelt yard. The cou­ple has filed a law­suit against the Dis­trict of Sechelt, de­vel­oper Con­cor­dia Seawatch, 14 en­gi­neer­ing firms, in­surer Trav­el­ers Guar­an­tee and five real es­tate agents.

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