British Columbia

Province, district deny responsibility after 12 homeowners sue over sinkhole-riddled development

Defendants facing legal action over the evacuation of an entire neighbourhood in Sechelt due to sinkholes have filed their their responses to the lawsuits, replete with denials and finger-pointing.

An entire neighbourhood of million-dollar ocean-view homes was evacuated in February

The front steps on a home in the Seawatch neighbourhood break apart, due to sinkhole activity, Feb., 2019. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

It was a dramatic evacuation order last February — the residents of 14 homes in a Sunshine Coast neighbourhood with stunning views of the Sechelt Inlet were ordered out, after sinkholes emerged and an engineering report found they were putting the residents at risk.

The District of Sechelt declared a local state of emergency, and over a couple days in the snow, the residents were forced to hastily clear their million-dollar homes of all their possessions. 

Twelve of the homeowners subsequently launched legal action against various parties, including the district, the province, real estate agents, and the developer, Concordia Seawatch.

Now those defendants are filing their cases in the B.C. Supreme Court. The new documents harbour a series of denials and instances of finger-pointing in all directions.

Rod and Donna Goy are two of the residents who have turned to the courts.

They allege the geotechnical hazards underneath the subdivision were known to the district when the development was approved in 2006. Court documents claim the district was negligent in approving their homes, and continually negligent by ignoring problems as they cropped up during construction.

Rod and Donna Goy stand in their nearly empty Seawatch home with their dog Zoey as the deadline to vacate loomed. The Goys moved into the house on April 1 — Aprils Fools' day — 2013. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The Goys also claim the province has extended the state of emergency on a weekly basis, keeping them from their homes since February and claim the order extensions are an "abuse of power."

Response to the lawsuit

The defendants have now filed responses. In the documents, the province says it didn't cause or contribute to any loss or damage included in the Goys' claim, and extended the state of local emergency at the request of the district, and based on a geotechnical report highlighting the danger. 

The developer, Concordia Seawatch, claims a geotechnical report it relied on from 2006 said the properties were expected to be safe, and that the district had other information it ought to have shared.

The district's court filing in the Goys' case is nearly 40 pages long. It says the decision to authorize development permits relied on the geotechnical report provided by Concordia Seawatch. It ends by naming several third parties it may involve in the complex legal action, including the developer, contractors, and various engineering firms. 

The district claims that on-going risks justify the continued use of emergency powers, and that the statement of local emergency does not constitute an abuse of power.

None of the claims have been tested in court.

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