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Builder named in Eva Lake condos lawsuit

Parties trying to set a date for mediation to address sinking condos

A local builder has been named in a lawsuit initiated by the owners of two sinking condo buildings at Eva Lake Village.

Rod Nadeau was added as a third party in the lawsuit on March 29, 2005.

Other defendants in the case include the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and two different engineering companies, Jacques Whitford and Snow Country Consultants, as well as structural engineer Jonathan Paine.

They were named as defendants in the case when it was first launched in April last year.

The two apartment buildings at Eva Lake Village, which were built in 1988 as employee housing, are sinking. A third building in the four-building strata is showing signs of sinking too, according to Barry Burko. owner of Summit Strata Management, the strata company representing the owners of the four buildings.

It could cost owners between $900,000 and $1.8 million to fix the problem.

All the parties involved in the case are now trying to resolve the matter through mediation.

"There have been attempts to set a mediation where the parties can talk about trying to resolve the matter," said lawyer David Twining, of Barnes Twining & Short, the firm representing the municipality in the case.

He added that they are hoping for a resolution this summer.

"We’re trying to do something this summer if we can. Obviously if you can get something done that gives them some basis to undertake their repairs before the fall, that’s in everybody’s best interest so that’s what we’re trying to do."

Burko said it’s crucial to get the matter resolved this summer. The strata’s engineers are questioning whether or not one building making it through another winter.

"The great urgency here is that the strata corporation’s engineer has… doubts whether or not one of the two buildings, or perhaps both of the buildings, can make it through the winter without fixing."

Burko explained the strata is looking for either money from the defendants or rezoning rights to develop on a portion of their existing lot and raise money for the repairs. With the money the owners can start to fix the problem.

"The options that are currently being discussed are to shore the buildings up by driving piles and supporting the buildings, and then fixing the inside of the property," said Burko.

At the heart of the issue, according to the Writ of Summons from April 2004, is the fact that the employee housing buildings were developed on fill.

"…Snow County and Paine failed to carry out a proper investigation of the characteristics and nature of the fill or determine how the Development should be constructed in order to account for the settlement which would occur as a result of the fill," the writ states.

"Whistler knew or ought to have known that the Development was being constructed on fill, and knew or ought to have known that no proper soils investigation had taken place and that the Development was being designed and constructed without taking into proper account the fact that it was being constructed on fill."

In March this year, Snow Country Consultants and engineer Jonathan Paine added Nadeau to the list of defendants.

Councillor Nick Davies is representing Nadeau but would not comment on the case this week as a matter of personal policy.

When asked if he was concerned that a municipal councillor was representing a party in a case in which the municipality is named as a defendant, Twining said it was still too early to tell.

"There is some question about conflict (of interest) ’cause obviously Whistler is one of the parties in the action but I haven’t talked to Davies about that personally," said Twining. "I understand that he is determined there isn’t a conflict.

"I think it’s too early to say whether I’m concerned about it. I understand that he takes steps to make sure there is no conflict so if those steps are adequate then I shouldn’t be concerned…"

Burko and the strata have a different position. Not only is Davies in conflict as a councillor he said but also as the chair of the Whistler Housing Authority.

"Certainly the strata council believes that it’s a conflict," said Burko.

In the meantime he said they are hoping to meet all the parties on Saturday June 7 for mediation to brainstorm solutions.