Sunshine Valley homeowner Liberty Mellow

Sunshine Valley submits petition

Landslide victims continue to seek property compensation

Residents in Sunshine Valley have sent a signed petition to the provincial government requesting compensation for last year’s landslide victims.

The 267-name petition was presented to MLA Gwen O’Mahony during a tour of the area last Thursday. Homeowners want their properties purchased back at fair market value as they are no longer livable or sellable. Trees and debris from the May 25, 2011 slide still remain piled on several homes along Cedar Boulevard.

“Once you clean this up and remove all the houses that are damaged, then it’s going to look like nothing ever happened,” said Jim Benbaruj, who looks after his parents’ property in Sunshine Valley.

“The properties, as they stand have no value and cleaning them up would not improve anything for the homeowners. There would still be no value there for us. In order for us to move on … we need to have the full compensation to do it.”

The slide occurred on Crown land and was 225 metres long and 25 metres wide at the start. The width grew to about 75 metres by the time it stopped. It stripped vegetation from the slope and diverted a stream into properties below, causing extensive flooding.

“In the paperwork, it’s called a debris slide. When you look at it in person, it’s enormous,” said O’Mahony.

“To actually look at it and see the water flow change, it’s shocking. I have no idea why it took so long – that’s wrong. People can deal with a straight answer, but uncertainty is very painful. I don’t think they’re going to receive any compensation … but I’m still going to bring forth my concerns on behalf of them regardless of the outcome.”

Liberty Mellow was lucky to escape the slide after being trapped inside her house by an avalanche of rocks, mud and trees. Since then, she and her partner have been renting a place in Hope while awaiting news on their property.

“It’s really hard for us without the government doing anything at all,” she said.

“We’re not asking for much. Just give back our life, give back what we had before.”

Five homes were directly impacted by the slide last May. Since then, three properties to the east have been added to the danger zone. Homeowners feel unsafe and threatened by future slides in the area.

A geotechnical report conducted by Golder Associates found there to be a high annual probability of additional landslides on the slope. The same report also found there is no longer enough setback from the toe of the mountain to rebuild or allow future development on the properties.

“We’re all very helpless here,” said Freda Wicki, a pensioner who had just completed renovations to her house before the slide. “This was supposed to be my (retirement) home and now I’ve got no place to go. It’s not worth it to rebuild because the place is off its foundation and leaning to the side. Also, whatever wasn’t nailed down there, people stole.”

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said they will not provide compensation to residents because the landslide was “an act of God” with no human intervention. However, Emergency Management BC and the Fraser Valley Regional District have agreed to work together on debris clean up, which is estimated at $357,000.

Area B electoral director Dennis Adamson feels the government has taken too long in responding to residents.

“It should have been dealt with immediately, one way or another,” he said.

“It seems to me the ministry is just stalling. I think the residents should be compensated. This area should be cleaned up and never allowed to be built on again.”

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