British Columbia

Frustration builds for Sechelt residents displaced by sinkhole threat

Nearly a month after fences surrounded the Seawatch neighbourhood in Sechelt as a result of sinkhole activity, displaced residents are settling into their new lives and waiting for updates on the future of their evacuated home.

District mayor meeting provincial officials to discuss what happens next

The front steps on a home in the Seawatch neighbourhood of Sechelt can be seen breaking apart due to sinkhole activity. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The District of Sechelt's mayor will meet provincial government officials on Tuesday to discuss the community's sinkhole-plagued Seawatch neighbourhood.

It's been nearly a month since temporary fencing was erected around the 14-home subdivision, barring intruders — and residents — from accessing the ocean-view homes, which remain under evacuation order.

Since the order was issued, displaced residents say they've learned little about what the future holds for their homes.

"We hope that the ministry of public safety and the ministry of municipal affairs and housing will assist us," Mayor Darnelda Siegers said.

"Nothing to this extent has happened anywhere in Canada, so it's really beyond our expertise. We're looking to them to help us with recovery of the site."

According to Siegers, the municipality doesn't own any part of the neighbourhood except the road, so it isn't known whether an ultimate resolution will include expropriation, decommissioning the entire neighbourhood with a bulldozer, attempting to relocate entire houses, or something else completely.

"We can't keep the whole subdivision behind temporary fencing forever," she said.

Siegers said RCMP officers and district staff have made multiple visits to the neighbourhood each day, deploying drones and motion-activated cameras for security.

The displaced residents have been working to re-settle since they were ordered out of their homes.

Ed and Rae-Dene Pednaud and their two boys have gone from their dream home — about 4,000 square feet perched right above Sechelt Inlet — to a small cabin. Soon, they'll be moving again into a more permanent mobile home rental.

Ed Pednaud stands in the cabin he and his family are staying in after they moved out of their ocean-view home in the Seawatch neighbourhood. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"The transition has been challenging but we've adapted fairly well," said Ed Pednaud.

"It's a little bit humbling, although, you know, we have a roof over our heads — which there are many Canadians that do not, so we're grateful for that."

Pednaud said their credit union has agreed to allow them to make interest-only payments on their mortgage until the future of the Seawatch property is resolved.

He's hoping to get access to his home to pick it clean of anything of value, such as appliances, a hood fan and light fixtures.

Rae-Dene Pednaud stands outside her home on Feb. 14, the day before an evacuation order and a local state of emergency was declared by the District of Sechelt due to the threat of sinkholes. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

For the Pednauds' former neighbours Rod and Donna Goy, it's been difficult.

They have all their possessions spread out between two houses and five storage lockers. Some of it was packed up wet after they hastily moved out during a snow storm.

"We're still, I guess, reeling from the shock of that," said Rod Goy. "It's a real shame."

Goy has found an older rental house across the inlet to move into, but the financial situation has been a strain. He said storage is costing $1,500 each month, in addition to the mortgage payments on the evacuated home. Starting in April, rent will run him $2,400 per month, but he said he should be able to clear out the storage lockers.

Both Goy and Pednaud expressed frustration at how little they've learned from district officials since evacuation day. An attempt to form a neighbourhood delegation to address council was rebuffed.

Siegers said she has detected some of the frustration, but said things in government sometimes move slower than people would like.

"We're hoping to have more information for residents in the next couple days — hopefully resolution, or at least positive next steps," she said.

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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker


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