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Eva Lake battle only just starting

Many questions still to be answered regarding sinking employee housing buildings

A week after the news became public, the argument over who should be paying to repair two buildings in Eva Lake Village that are sinking has only just started.

Lawyer Thomas Barnes, who is acting on behalf of the municipality, said all the parties involved in this case were still at the "document discovery" stage.

Summit Strata management, which is acting on behalf of the Eva Lake Village owners, has launched court proceedings against three engineering companies and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Like most people involved in this case, Barnes believes several parties will agree on compensation for the owners and the case will not reach court.

But even if it does not reach court the case raises a number of issues. Several owners, developers, lawyers, bureaucrats and residents that know about the case are asking questions like:

Why isn’t the builder and construction company that built the apartments named in court documents?

If there is a problem with this employee housing building is there a problem with employee housing buildings elsewhere?

Why did it take strata management so long to address this problem?

Steve Bayly from the Whistler Housing Authority board is also a landlord who has partnered with Jonathan Paine, one of the engineers who could be sued, in the past and he said there needed to be clarity about when this ordeal started.

He also said questions must be asked about what the strata managers did with the advice the engineers gave them.

"This has been going on for so long, I’d like to know when this settlement started and what was done to stop it back then," said Bayly.

Karen McKibben from Summit Strata confirmed that Summit started managing the buildings in question in November 2001. Prior to that Whistler Resort Management managed Eva Lake.

McKibben added that the construction company and builder, Rod Nadeau and Associates, had not been summonsed because – as is common practise – Nadeau, and several of his partners, used a shell company to build Eva Lake and disbanded it once the project was finished.

Nadeau confirmed yesterday that "the company that built it (Eva Lake) is no longer in existence."

The result is that Summit has pursued the companies that "exist" and have money because that, as well as a lot of coherent advice and co-operation, is what’s going to fix their clients’ buildings.

The latest estimates on the cost to fix the buildings range between $800,000 and $1.8 million.

"Given the limitations of their funds, they (the owners) have to pick and choose who is going to give them the best chance to get some money back," said McKibben.

A big part of this case is geotechnical reporting, or the reports about the stability of the soil and fill on the site.

The RMOW’s Manager of Engineering and Public Works, Brian Barnett, said a geotechnical report "refers to the study of soil conditions and a geotechnical report is done for virtually any building or road.

"So you do a report on any building where you’re doing work or where the ground is important in terms of stability of the foundations," he said.

"You’ve got to make sure the ground is particularly stable or that by digging the trenches you won’t make the ground unstable.

"Almost every building has geotechnical evaluation done," he said. "Even single family homes have an investigation to see if there’s loose soil, so you might need concrete poured to stabilize soil, or if you’re building on rock."

Barnes said at this stage of the case the "defendants (the RMOW and the engineers) are denying everything," but there has always been a great deal of sympathy for the owners and their tenants.

"It is always unfortunate when you see people in that situation, it’s a serious problem," said Barnes.

"Nobody could look at their (the owners and tenants) situation without feeling sympathetic to the circumstances they’ve found themselves in.

"My client (the RMOW) treats all of these things seriously and I can assure you no one will be attempting to string things out."