District of Sechelt sues residents forced from subdivision by sinkholes

Click to play video: 'District of Sechelt sues Seawatch homeowners who lost everything'
District of Sechelt sues Seawatch homeowners who lost everything
Homeowners in a Sechelt neighbourhood -- who lost everything when their homes were declared unsafe due to sinkholes -- are now being sued for damages by their municipality. Aaron McArthur reports. – Oct 18, 2022

Residents of a Sunshine Coast subdivision who were forcibly displaced when sinkholes appeared in their neighbourhood are now being “bullied” by the municipal government, an affected homeowner says.

Ed Pednaud says nearly four years after being forced out of his Porpoise Bay home in the Seawatch subdivision and ongoing legal wrangling, residents are now being sued by the District of Sechelt.

“The first (suit) is to have us repay some settlements they’ve already gotten into with (other) residents here … plus some legal costs. As well, they want us to fix the roads in the subdivision,” he told Global News.

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“It’s an attempt to coerce us into dropping some of the lawsuits we have against the district of Sechelt right now. They’re just trying to bully us, basically.”

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Pednaud and residents of 13 other homes were forced to evacuate their homes in February 2019, when erosion and sinkholes rendered the subdivision unsafe for habitation prompting a state of local emergency.

Click to play video: 'Residents of devastated Sechelt neighbourhood suffer major legal blow'
Residents of devastated Sechelt neighbourhood suffer major legal blow

That emergency declaration was renewed over 150 times, despite B.C. Supreme Court rulings the order was unlawful. It was only lifted in February 2022, allowing residents to legally return to their properties.

“It’s devastating. You walk through the house and you have memories. You know, you had a party here or you met neighbours there,”
he said.

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“And then you walk through it (now) and there’s broken glass, there’s graffiti on the walls, there’s things that have been stolen from your house and you just don’t know what to do about it.”

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The District of Sechelt has refused to comment on the case, citing ongoing litigation.

Click to play video: 'B.C. judge rules province must pay displaced Sechelt residents over sinkholes'
B.C. judge rules province must pay displaced Sechelt residents over sinkholes

The district’s legal filings, however, reveal it is seeking damages that could mount into the millions of dollars.

One claim seeks legal costs from failed lawsuits by the residents and legal actions by third parties, and to recoup smaller compensatory payouts made to several residents due to the evacuation.

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That suit cites a clause in a covenant registered on the subdivision indemnifying the district from damage or costs from use of the land.

The second suit seeks to hold the residents financially responsible to repair all the infrastructure in the subdivision.

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If successful, the residents would be required, at their own expense and to the satisfaction of the district, to repair, remove, restore, replace or stabilize any structure, landscaping, utility or road infrastructure at the site.

Neither suit lists a dollar figure.

Pednaud said residents just want a solution, and are happy to deal with the issue outside of court, if the district is willing to talk.

“We are still hoping that the district of Sechelt comes to the table and sits down with us and just talks to us, maybe take the lawyers out of it, let’s just talk and see what we can come up with,” he said.

“We have a new mayor that’s been elected. Perhaps there’s an avenue there we can open a dialogue with him and see what we can do to resolve this situation.”

In the meantime, residents remain displaced and financially on the hook for their unviable homes.

Property values for some have plummetted from more than $1 million to around $2, according to recent BC Assessment figures, and continue to be subject to vandalism and squatters.

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