District wants minors out of sinkhole-plagued Sechelt subdivision

Families living in a Sechelt subdivision at risk from recurring sinkholes continued to pack their belongings on Sunday in anticipation of an evacuation order.

Fourteen properties in the Seawatch development remain under an evacuation alert, and the district has told residents that minors should not be on the property.

At least one family Global News spoke with said they planned to stay in their home until a formal order is issued.

Global News

“My kids were with their friends and not here, so my first thought was my kids will never see their house again,” said Rae-Dene Pednaud.

“They’ve left us here … in a snow storm to remove all of our stuff with no limit on when or whether or not we’ll be able to come back and get other things.”

Pednaud’s 12-year-old son Grant said he said he felt like officials didn’t understand the impact the situation is having on families.

“If they could live a day in our lives where we had to move out of our house and we’re packing up our stuff, it’s really sad. I don’t think they get that, I think they see it more from a business perspective.”

On Saturday, representatives of the District of Sechelt met with residents to discuss their concerns about the situation.

In a letter to residents following the meeting, Mayor Darnelda Siegers said the district was willing to move concrete barriers cordoning off the neighbourhood to make it easier for them to move their belongings out.

Siegers’ letter also said the district could hold off on issuing a formal evacuation order if there were no children or youth on site and that if all adults that remained acknowledged the risk.

The district is not expected to upgrade the evacuation alert to an evacuation order until at least Monday.

However, Mayor Siegers made clear that such an order was likely.

“The advice we have received from our geotechnical engineers makes it clear that the present situation qualifies as an emergency, and must be treated as such,” she wrote.

A city-commissioned engineering report released last week recommended a “precautionary closure” of the neighbourhood over safety concerns.

“The high hazard of sinkhole collapse in combination with the consequences of potential injury or death result in a high and, in our opinion, unacceptable level of risk to the public,” states the report.

The district declined a request for an interview with Global News on Sunday.

Geotechnical stability in the area has been a concern for more than a decade, but several recent sinkholes — one just two months ago — have escalated the issue.

Residents of the homes, some assessed at more than $1 million in value, say they are terrified they will lose their life’s savings, and say the district and the developer ignored the warning signs of unstable ground.

“Likely, it will bankrupt us and most of our neighbours as well,” resident Ed Pednaud previously told Global News.

The district insists the issue is between the residents and the developer.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth says the area does not qualify for disaster relief because the possibility of sinkholes was identified before the development was built.

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