Eva Lake buildings may have to be demolished 

Sinking buildings will be monitored through winter, decision made in spring

A decision on the fate of the two Eva Lake Village buildings that are sinking will be made in the spring.

While the employee-owned buildings are being monitored for further movement this winter three options are being considered for the spring: 1. Push the buildings back into their original position 2. Make the buildings square (which could result in structural damage) 3. Knock them down.

If they are knocked down then several owners might also have to file for bankruptcy – and some might have to file regardless of what happens. Engineers have estimated that it’s going to cost between $800,000 and $1.8 million to fix the buildings.

"I’m paying mortgage monthly and lately I’m wondering where my food for next week will be coming from," one young female owner said recently.

She added that there "wasn’t a hope in hell" that she would have moved into the buildings had she known what was going on with them.

"We were told in 2001 that it had been fixed but we found out that "a" problem had been fixed but not "the" problem.

"People think it’s a wonderful opportunity to own employee housing but when you’re not getting support it’s tough."

The owners of units in the two buildings, which were built in 1988 to address the employee housing issue, recently held a special meeting to brainstorm solutions to the problem.

"I strongly believe that with some innovative thinking we can turn this nightmare into something positive," one owner wrote. However, no one is certain why the buildings have tilted.

In a message to Summit Strata Management, the company acting on behalf of the owners, Jaroslaw Dubas of Dubas Engineering wrote that "…the buildings were found to be leaning as much as approximately 1.5 inches to 3 feet.

"Such movement of the framed structure has introduced, in my opinion, significant stress on components of the frame and its integrity may be seriously affected."

In another letter Dubas wrote, "if additional testing and investigation reveals continuous slope stability problems, other options should be considered since to stabilize the soil would be very costly, which may prohibit the project."

Many of the owners have spoken of how the problem has affected them personally. While the uncertainty continues none of them can upgrade their apartments or make long-term plans.

The municipality’s manager of building services, David MacPhail, is familiar with the Eva Lake project and has extensive experience in Whistler. He was also unsure if any investigation would prove what was happening on the site.

"I don’t know if there is a geotechnical investigation they could conduct to get to the bottom of it," said MacPhail.

"It’s hard to believe that both (original engineers) Jacques Whitford and Jon Paine got into a pocket there where there was something that wasn’t obvious to them.

"There’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me because I can’t believe that so many engineers went in there and screwed up, because these guys have done an awful lot in Whistler."

MacPhail said there were many things that could be happening deep underground, which are almost impossible to test for, that could affect the bearing pressure or soil settlement at the surface.

"You could have something like an underground stream or rock movements," he said.

"Another situation other towns have had is where there has been mining and they’ve got underground mining shafts that haven’t been documented and then 100 years later somebody comes in and starts building a town. After a while you start to see ground settlement because of underground mine shafts that nobody knows they were there and even if you did a geotechnical investigation, unless you had a history of the mines, you wouldn’t know it."

On the original plans for Eva Lake Village, under the heading "site conditions", it says: "...steep slopes may be prone to snow and earth sliding and slippage." The explanation on the plans goes on to say: "No review of slope stability of ground bearing (soil stability) conditions has been performed by the engineer… such reviews, if required, should be by a soils engineer."

In the meantime the strata council will continue court proceedings against Jacques Whitford Environment Limited, the engineering consultant Jonathan Paine and the municipality.

The parties involved are expected to find a financial resolution soon. If the case goes to court then a spring date is anticipated.

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