British Columbia

Kelowna property owners could be on hook for $1.2M repair to 'hazardous' slope

A report to the city describes the fill slope on the two properties in the Kirschner Mountain neighbourhood as "hazardous." Council voted Monday to use reserve funds to take immediate action on the slope and figure out cost allocation later.

Owners say it's 'unfair' to burden them with costs; city says immediate action is needed

It's uncertain what caused instability in the slope in the Kirschner Mountain neighbourhood, and 'tension cracks' to appear in the ground around it. (Laurence Watt/CBC)

Kelowna city council has decided to proceed with remediation work on a slope considered a landslide risk in the east end of the city, which could leave two private properties with the $1.2 million bill. 

The city voted Monday to use reserve funds to take immediate action on the slope and figure out cost allocation later.

"Those are the powers that are bestowed upon us through our legislation, that when there is something that is an urgent need, [we can] go in and take action, and figure out the costs after that," Coun. Brad Sieben told Radio West's Josh Pagé.

A report to the city describes the fill slope on the two properties in the Kirschner Mountain neighbourhood as "hazardous."

A geotechnical investigation found that if a landslide occurred, four properties at the bottom of the slope would be in danger, and approximately 90 properties could have their road access cut off. 

'We're not responsible'

At Monday's council meeting, the owners of one of the properties — Stephen Smith and Sarah Potton — asked council to reconsider imposing action that could leave them with a hefty bill.

"We're not responsible for the slope movement and it is unfair that the cost of remediation is placed upon us," Potton told council. 

"We do not have the financial ability to pay for the remedial action imposed on us by city council's resolution ... and we do not believe it is fair to impose these remedial action costs on us."

Sieben said he is sympathetic to their situation, but if council hadn't chosen to take action and a slide did occur, the cost would have been a lot higher for residents and taxpayers.

'Tension cracks appearing'

City engineer James Kay said council needs to begin work on the slope before the snow melts and the land thaws, which would cause instability.

"There are tension cracks appearing in the boulevard and on the private property, which is where the land starts to separate, the land starts to move and leaves the large cracks," said Kay.

It's not known for certain what has caused the instability. Possible factors may be record high groundwater over the past two years, and filling operations that have been done in the past, said Kay.

A previous landowner paid to have fill material brought onto the site to build it up to support townhouses.

"So, vast amounts of material have been brought into this site and placed on the site over the last 10 years," said Kay.

"[The current landowners] are grappling with a very challenging situation, which is is largely through no fault of their own, at astronomical costs."

'Trying to find other solutions'

The city plans to stabilize the bottom of the slope to prevent a slide, remove some of the earth at the top, and build a retaining wall to protect one of the homes, said Kay.

"Staff certainly understand that this is a huge imposition on two landowners who didn't create this issue and so staff are trying to find other solutions, trying to find other ways," said Kay.

But the city and taxpayers can't absorb the cost either, he added.

with files from Laurence Watt and Radio West

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