Some owners of properties in Sechelt’s closed Seawatch neighbourhood have launched another court action against the municipality.
On Aug. 6, 12 individuals petitioned the B.C. Supreme Court to be awarded compensation for their losses under the Emergency Program Act.
The lawyer for the property owners, Jeff Scouten, told Coast Reporter that no trial date has been set. “The action has been referred to judicial case management and there could be a decision on this matter well before previous actions are resolved,” he said.
He estimated the process should be complete within three to four months, unlike his clients’ original claim for damages that were filed over two years ago.
The District of Sechelt has 21 days to file a statement of defence, or request an extension.
Sechelt applied for and has used powers under the Emergency Program Act since February 2019. It was granted authority to order evacuation of homes and has continued a state of local emergency to bar public access to the area due to the risk of land subsidence, sinkhole and slope instability.
The 14-home subdivision was ordered evacuated Feb. 15, 2019
The province has approved Sechelt’s extension applications on a weekly basis.
Under the Act, the government body “that took or authorized or directed the taking of the action may compensate the person for the loss in accordance with the regulations.”
Scouten’s clients are still awaiting rulings on the appeals of decisions related to their claims from last year. In August 2020, B.C. Supreme Court Justice J. Macintosh ruled that even with the covenant that Sechelt had attached to the titles of their properties, the landowners had not released the municipality from their claims for damages. Sechelt appealed that ruling. Macintosh also allowed Sechelt’s application to have its then Approving Officer, Ray Parfitt, removed from the action and to have all claims against him dismissed. Scouten’s clients appealed that decision.
The owners of the eight properties filed their claim against the province, Sechelt, Parfitt, the developer and a number of engineering firms and real estate agents in August, 2019. Other than an offer of provincial emergency social service assistance for the 72-hour period following the evacuation order, the owners have not received compensation for their losses.
Twenty-seven properties in the Seawatch subdivision and four surrounding properties are impacted by the evacuation and closure order. The orders were made after Sechelt commissioned a geotechnical report in response to the Christmas Day, 2018 appearance of a sinkhole on Seawatch Lane. That opening took over 40 truckloads material to fill. The report identified the potential for risk to human life if access to the area continued.
Sechelt has been responding to sinkhole incidents in the area since 2013. In 2015, the Storey family was forced from their Seawatch residence after the ground beneath their home gave way. Claims related to that case filed in March of that year remain unsettled.