Like Sechelt’s own “little Chernobyl,” the Seawatch neighbourhood sits silent and abandoned at the end of West Porpoise Bay. The view up Sechelt Inlet is second to none on the Sunshine Coast, but barricades and danger signs block access to the 14 empty houses, and weeds and brambles are taking over the site.
Two years ago, then Sechelt mayor Bruce Milne described Seawatch as “the most complex file in B.C. right now,” when the problem was limited to sinkholes closing roads and one family forced from their home. But look at the situation today. The entire subdivision was evacuated in February under a state of emergency that appears to be permanent. The future of the site is a complete unknown. The residents, all of them, have lost their homes but not their legal obligation to continue paying large mortgages on properties that they will likely never be able to resell or live on. In that sense, they’re worse off than refugees.
The District of Sechelt, meanwhile, stopped making public statements on Seawatch in April and the lawsuits keep piling up, with eight new ones filed last week.
Jeff Scouten, the Vancouver lawyer representing the latest group of plaintiffs, was absolutely correct in pointing out “the very large human cost” for the property owners – that much is undeniable. His hope that the province, the district and other parties concerned can get together and come up with a “creative solution,” which could be to buy out the homeowners and “re-wild” the area as a public park, has real merit – but it can only happen if the province comes to the table.
Sechelt does not have the financial resources to make a decent settlement, but the province does. Earlier this year, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth washed his government’s hands of any responsibility for the mess, but perhaps now that the province is included as co-defendant in multiple lawsuits, they will take a more serious look at the matter. As a sitting member on the government side, MLA Nicholas Simons could play a crucial role by advocating for the homeowners on behalf of the people of Sechelt.
It’s the best hope for breaking the circle of blame. The alternative could be legal bills for everyone until the middle of the century.