The state of local emergency (SOLE) at Sechelt’s Seawatch subdivision is over.
The SOLE expired Feb. 11 at midnight, senior public affairs officer with Emergency Management BC Aimee Harper advised Coast Reporter via email on Feb 15.
Mayor Darnelda Siegers signed and submitted a SOLE renewal request to the province on Feb 10. Siegers issued the original SOLE order on Feb 15, 2019. It closed access to the area because of concerns for public safety related to sinkholes and subsurface instability.
“This places the ball squarely in the District’s court to now announce what it intends to do about this fiasco of its own making,” lawyer for owners of eight of the subdivision properties, Jeff Scouten, said. His clients along with residents of seven other homes were forced out of their residences by an evacuation order issued as part of the SOLE and renewed by the province weekly since March 1, 2019.
“The recent judgment from [BC Supreme Court] Justice Gomery means that it is no longer reasonable to keep approving the state of emergency without additional information from the District. In making this decision, we are of the opinion that there is not sufficient new information to warrant approving the requested extension to the state of local emergency. The province, through Ministry of Municipal Affairs, is working with the District of Sechelt to facilitate finding a long-term solution for public safety in the Seawatch subdivision,“ Harper wrote in her email.
Seawatch property owner Ed Pednaud told Coast Reporter that he became aware of the change through media reports and as of Feb. 15 had not received any communication regarding the situation from the District of Sechelt nor the province.
As Feb. 15 marked the third anniversary of the last residents leaving their homes in the Seawatch neighbourhood, several of the home owners gathered outside of the still locked gate on Gale Avenue North.
“Today is a tough day,” Pednaud told reporters of the anniversary and hearing about the SOLE not being renewed.
“We’re not sure what it actually means at this point in time, other than now the District has to have a plan of some sort going forward,” he said.
Around a week ago, Pednaud said a neighbour who periodically walks the fence’s perimeter informed him the basement door of Pednaud’s house was open.
“That was the first time that I had heard that there was an actual problem with my house,” Pednaud said. “It was really sad to hear that. I kind of thought at the back of my head that there was probably somebody in there or somebody living in there, but when you actually hear that your door is open, it's just so disheartening.”
Elliott Held, another Seawatch home owner, told Coast Reporter, “It's hard. My wife couldn't come, she’s just in tears this whole day. For me, I had to, I had to come out here just to see the feeling here. I’ve walked here before and the feeling – it's just dead.”
Held said he was shocked to hear the SOLE has come to an end, because it had been extended for so long. He and his wife had purchased their house in August 2014 as a retirement home, and lived there until Feb. 15, 2019. The day of the move, he said, many community members came to help the residents pack, but some also took their belongings, including some of his tools.
He too said he heard the SOLE was not renewed through news reports, and was contacted by neither the District nor the province.
When asked if he thought he’d ever step foot in his house again, Held said, “Probably. As far as living in it, no.”