With no indication the state of emergency and evacuation order covering the Seawatch subdivision will be lifted in the near future, Mayor Darnelda Siegers met Tuesday with officials from the province to discuss how to move forward.
Seawatch was evacuated Feb. 15, after engineers concluded the risk of new sinkholes in the area had reached the point where the risk of damage to property, injury or death was too great to allow people to remain in their homes.
The state of emergency has now been extended until at least March 22.
Siegers said staff from the ministries of public safety and municipal affairs and housing told the district that “the province’s position regarding private property in the Seawatch subdivision remains that it is a private matter and not a matter for the province,” and that their position on offering disaster financial assistance to the homeowners is still that the situation “does not meet the provincial guidelines of a natural disaster.”
“With respect to the subdivision itself, officials from [the province] are still investigating options for the future of the site and property owners will have to evaluate their own cases and determine the next steps that they are willing to take,” Siegers said.
In a message sent to the property owners about the meetings, Siegers said, “I had many questions that I did not get definitive answers to, however provincial officials will continue to investigate and communicate with us. What I can tell you is: The Province’s position regarding private property in the Seawatch subdivision remains that this is a private matter and there is no role for the Province; Disaster Financial Assistance is not applicable as this situation does not meet the Provincial guidelines of a natural disaster; With respect to the subdivision itself, officials are still investigating options for the future of the site; Property owners have to evaluate their own situation and take their own actions against parties they believe have caused them harm. The District cannot do that for them.”
When asked by Seawatch residents at the March 6 council meeting about gaining temporary access to their homes, chief administrative officer Andrew Yeates said, “We have engaged an engineering firm to work out the specifications for bridging and various road arrangements. We’re just trying to get quotes now on bridging material, the mats, and the installation… The quotes we have so far are quite expensive, but we’re waiting for the full package.”
According to the district, municipal officials continue to work with Sunshine Coast RCMP on security measures for the evacuated neighbourhood, which include regular patrols of the perimeter by district staff and RCMP, drone surveillance, and video surveillance.
While talks continue between Sechelt and provincial officials, community fundraising efforts to help displaced residents are also continuing.
Gina Stockwell, who organized an online drive through the website fundrazr.com, said as of Tuesday nearly $14,000 had been pledged. Online donations were scheduled to close after March 15, but Stockwell said the bank account for donations will remain open until the end of the month and anyone who wants to contribute can email firstname.lastname@example.org
A beer and burger fundraiser is also planned for March 17 at the Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt. Details are posted on the Lighthouse Facebook page.