March 15, 2022 – 7:00 PM
A North Okanagan woman who was forced out of her home following a landslide in 2020 is suing the province and the regional district, along with a host of other players for compensation.
In a notice of claim filed at the Vernon courthouse, March 11, former Lumby resident Donna Sharpe names 10 defendants in the case, from a land surveyor and an engineer to the lawyers that did the paperwork when she bought the house.
Sharpe claims various parties were negligent for not disclosing that the land where the house was built was unstable and prone to landslides.
“(The defendants) knew, or ought to have known, that the original parcel (of land) would be unsafe for any habitation or development of any kind,” reads the notice of claim.
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Sharpe purchased the 450 Albers Rd. property in 2002 and lived there worry-free until March 2020 when a landslide meant it was too dangerous to continue living in the house.
The lengthy notice of claim lists the series of events that led up to a building permit being issued in 1994.
In the original building permit application, there was a warning of “problem soils” in the area and on the proposed site of the property.
Three years later, a landslide took place that exposed the foundation of the building.
The court documents say the regional district made a note in its property database that noted, “April 2, 1997, Natural Hazard (Landslip) has recently occurred.”
Sometime in 1997, more construction began, although without a permit.
“Remediation work, in relation to the April 1997 Landslide Remediation, was conducted without oversight or inspection of the (regional) district and other,” the notice of claim says.
The regional district issued a stop-work order and noted “engineering required because of hazard soil movement, and slide area.”
While the regional district asked for a geotechnical report on several occasions, it’s unclear as to what capacity a study took place.
However, in 1999, the regional district completed a final building inspection and granted occupancy for the building.
A year later the land was approved to be subdivided.
The court documents show a letter sent to the regional district at the time of the subdivision talked about how unstable the ground was.
“The land in question is suspect and regarded locally as not being suitable for residential buildings,” the letter reads. “Land to the east and west of the area proposed for subdivision has had a massive land slippage over the years. In fact… purchased this land and house very cheaply because a massive land slippage had occurred in the front of the unfinished house. At the time of purchase, a corner at the front of the house was hanging unsupported above the precipice.”
The subdivision was granted and the regional district proposed a covenant be put in place so that it wouldn’t be responsible if there was to be a flood or erosion. The covenant also applied to the province.
In the court documents, Sharpe says the engineering company should have realized that duty to the 1997 landslide it has to take an “above average” duty of care.
While it’s not completely clear what part Marvin Lentz had to play in the subdivision, Sharpe accuses the businessman of knowing that the land was not safe for habitation or development.
“Lenz knew, or ought to have known, that his actions and directions to conceal those known defects of the original parcel (of land)… would be not only misleading but could be seen as fraudulent misrepresentation,” the notice of claims stated.
In the notice of claim, Sharpe names the Regional District of North Okanagan, the B.C. Ministries of Transport, Environment, Health, and the B.C. Land Reserve Commission.
She also names the original owner of the property, referred to as John Doe, businessperson Marvin Lentz, the Gentel Technology Corporation, Golder Associates, Guy King Construction, Shoesmith Land Surveyors, and Jay Hack Esq. a lawyer at Davison Lawyers.
None of the parties have filed a statement of defence and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
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