New lawsuits filed over Seawatch

The owners of two properties in Sechelt’s evacuated Seawatch neighbourhood have filed petitions in BC Supreme Court, naming the District of Sechelt and the Province, through the Minister of Public Safety, as defendants.

Seawatch was evacuated Feb. 15 over concerns that ongoing issues with sinkholes in the 14-home neighbourhood on Gale Avenue North and Seawatch Lane in Sechelt had reached the point that there was, in the words on an engineering report, “the high hazard of sinkhole collapse in combination with the consequences of potential injury or death.”

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Greg and Gerry Latham, owners of 6637 Gale Avenue North, and Carole Rosewall, owner of 6641 Gale Avenue North, filed court actions July 12, through the same Vancouver law firm, and the wording of the claims is identical.

The property owners allege the district is aware of “steps necessary to address geotechnical instability under Gale Avenue North, Seawatch Lane, Seawatch and the surrounding region.”

Their lawsuits also claim “Sechelt’s failure to adequately implement remedial recommendations in a timely manner caused and contributed to the plaintiffs’ damage” and that “Sechelt continues to refuse to implement their professionals’ recommendations despite knowing that the recommendations would substantially rectify the problems with the geotechnical instability.”

“In these circumstances,” the court filings continue. “The defendants’ ongoing practice of temporarily extending a purported emergency on a weekly basis by means of the evacuation order and extension orders is without lawful authority, is improper and is abusive.”

Rosewall and the Lathams also claim they have suffered “significant mental stress and anguish” and faced “costs and expenditures for shelter, clothing and furniture” that they wouldn’t have otherwise. They are seeking damages, including punitive damages, as well as costs.

At a council meeting April 17, Sechelt mayor Darnelda Siegers said district officials and council would no longer publicly comment on the situation at Seawatch, after being served notice of pending litigation.

It’s not clear if the Latham and Rosewall suits are the litigation Siegers was referring to and, as of Coast Reporter’s deadline, no other new court actions had been filed by Seawatch property owners.

There were, however, already lawsuits pending over sinkholes at Seawatch before the February state of emergency and evacuation order. A suit filed by Ross and Erin Storey, who had to abandon their home on Gale Avenue North in 2015, is scheduled to go before a judge in March, 2020. That lawsuit names the District of Sechelt, developer Concordia Seawatch, several engineering firms, an insurance company, real estate agents and others.

At the April 17 council meeting, Siegers read a brief statement saying the district had been meeting with provincial officials “to explore options for the future of the Seawatch site and to discuss an appropriate level of provincial support” and that “the District of Sechelt will continue these conversations and work toward a plan for the future of the site which could include temporary access for property owners to retrieve possessions.”

The district has not released any updates on those discussions. 

The only information about Seawatch made public by the district since mid-April has been the regular notices of the extension of the state of emergency and evacuation order.  The most recent extension runs to July 26.

The district has not yet filed statements of defense in the Latham and Rosewall lawsuit, and none of the claims made in those lawsuits have been proven in court.

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