Okanagan families to carry burden of costly repair work

Sara Potton and her husband inherited a costly problem they fear will cause financial devestation.

Sara Potton and her husband inherited a costly problem they fear will cause financial devestation.

Their Kloppenburg Court home backs on to an unstable slope in Black Mountain that is putting neighbouring residents in danger and city property at risk of destruction, prompting council to vote in favour of remedial action that they will carry the cost of.

Potten told council Monday she’s grateful the city recognized the risk the slope poses and that they have been helpful in their efforts to figure out the best path forward, but fear they are could lose their home one way or the other.

“We’ve been told the cost could exceed $300,000 (for us) and it would be added to property taxes,” she said.

That’s a prospect they can’t afford. As is, they can’t even afford to move from their home and pay for a rental.

They purchased their house in April 2017 with mortgage of around $500,000, and they recently refinanced it for $820,000 to invest in business opportunity with Indigenous Bloom, a recreational marijuana company.

“Now we have no ability to take equity from (our) home to pay for (fixing the slope,)” she said.

Their business is also not in a position to incur the cost, being that it’s in its early days.

READ ALSO: COUNCIL TO CONSIDER FIXING SLOPE

Potten pointed out the the geotechnical report indicated it was land developers and professionals who didn’t do their jobs properly and left them in that position. Further, she said, the city trusted these people to do the work and gave them the go ahead.

Mayor Colin Basran said that the city was sympathetic to their predicament, but couldn’t alter its course.

The residents have two weeks to ask council to reconsider. If they don’t take action in that time, the city can then access the property to make it safe.

“We do this understanding, your worship, that council does not take such a decision like this lightly. It imposes hardship and significant financial burden on the two properties that are subject to the proposed order,” said Lance Kayfish, director of community safety, when presenting the report to council.

“We are making this order with compassion for all the properties impacted. This and the other properties.”

Through their investigation, the city concluded that the slide might compromise road connections and interrupt gas, electricity and water services to dozens of area residents. Evacuations may be necessary.

The silver lining of acting now, said Kayfish, is that the city can “prevent tragedy before it occurs by making the slope safe.”

Kayfish said the city can’t take on the cost and go about finding compensation from the parties at fault, because it would place the city in the position of being an insurer, setting a dangerous precedent.

So, given the urgency of the situation, the city will do the work, which may cost more than $300,000, and try to recover costs from the current landowners. The community charter doesn’t allow them to assess blame or go after previous owners.

The city says the total cost of the work could be between $750,000 and $1.2 million.

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