Sinkholes decimate Sechelt subdivision, home condemned
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.
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.