February 26, 2019 3:07 am
Updated: February 26, 2019 9:56 pm

Kelowna homeowners tell council they can’t afford $300K bill to fix unstable slope

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The City of Kelowna is moving forward on remediation work to stabilize a slope in the Kirschner Mountain neighbourhood that has been deemed a risk to life and property.

A large crack developed on Loseth Road in April of 2018.

Engineers have determined the slope below the crack is going to give way with the spring thaw and that immediate stabilization work is necessary.

No matter who is responsible for allowing the condition of the slope, city staff believe protecting life and property in the area is a priority.

READ MORE: Unstable slope in neighbourhood has high landslide risk, says City of Kelowna

A couple who own the house and property at 2001 Kloppenburg Court, which includes the slumping slope, made a plea to council during a hearing on Monday afternoon.

Stephen Smith and Sara Potton have been told the repairs to the slope behind their home could exceed $300,000.

“The possibility we’d have to pay this money is frightening to us,” Potton told city council.

The couple bought the home in April of 2017 and mortgaged it for $520,000, she said. They then refinanced the home in September of 2018 for $820,000 so they could invest in a business opportunity in Kelowna.

The B.C. Assessment authority states the address is valued at $922,000 and was built in 2005.

Potton and Smith are listed as directors of Indigenous Bloom Corporation, a marijuana company located within the Westbank First Nation.

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“The business is in its early stages and doesn’t have the income to pay for this remediation,” she said.

A geotechnical engineers report found the slope is unstable because developers and professionals that worked for them did not do their jobs correctly several years ago, according to Potton.

“We pray that the city can find some way to hold those responsible for this problem to account,” Potton said.

“Someone took a shortcut for profit.”

The city has said the current property owners are financially responsible for the slope stabilization, something Potton and Smith reject.

“We can’t afford to fix this problem and we know the city will,” Potton said.

The hearing about the remediation orders culminated in council approving work begin immediately to stabilize the slope by March 11 at the latest.

City staff’s only concern is that by moving forward without the property owners cooperation, the solution may not align with their desired outcome.

Potton told council they would prefer a retaining wall “so we don’t lose land value and view.”

But her request was not met with a response by the city.

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“I appreciate council’s reluctance to move forward but I see no other option,” Mayor Colin Basran said.

Basran told the couple council is empathetic to their situation.

“This is just an awful situation but at the end of the day, we need to make the residents in that area safe,” Basran said. “We also need to be accountable to our residents and leave avenues open for cost recovery.”

If there is a landslide at the site, a water pump station and road that accesses more than 50 properties would be negatively affected, according to the city.

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