Municipality and engineers in court over sinking Eva Lake buildings 

Owners concerned it might be happening elsewhere

Court proceedings have been launched against three engineering companies and the Resort Municipality of Whistler over two apartment buildings in the Eva Lake Village that are sinking.

The strata corporation, which is acting on behalf of the owners, is suing the engineering firm Snow Country Consultants, Jacques Whitford Environment Limited and engineering consultant Jonathan Paine as well as the municipality, according to court documents obtained by Pique Newsmagazine.

The issue the owners have is their buildings, which are located off Eva Lake Road, are sinking and, while they have already raised $600,000, it’s going to cost them between $900,000 and $1.8 million to fix the problem.

"I’m completely supportive of this getting resolved as soon as possible or before any serious damage occurs to the properties," one concerned owner said.

"A number of people believe that the ones responsible are the people who approved and watched over this project in the process, which involves the municipal planning department’s approval….

"It was always my understanding that there are a number of checks and balances in place that would prevent this from ever happening, but obviously they haven’t worked.

"Who knows if these buildings are experiencing these problems, what other buildings in Whistler might (experience the same thing) in the future?"

The buildings in question were built in the late 1980s as an employee housing development and were considered vital accommodation for many of the people moving in to help build Whistler.

In documents filed in court, the strata corporation maintains that "Snow Country designed the foundations for the development, and Paine personally carried out the design and stamped corresponding drawings and specifications which were used to construct the development."

The court documents go on to explain that "Snow Country 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."

In the writ of summons the owners maintain that the RMOW had a duty of care to ensure the buildings were properly designed.

"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," the summons states.

"And that the development was being designed and constructed without taking into proper account the fact that it was being constructed on fill."

Jacques Whitford has been named in the case because he was hired by the owners "in or about 2000" to investigate the problem and recommend a course of action.

Whitford did recommend a course of action but the problem was not resolved.

The summons says: "Jacques Whitford failed to use such reasonable skill and care, as a result of which failure the repairs carried out in accordance with their recommendation were useless, or almost useless, and the plaintiffs (owners) suffered substantial loss and damage as a result of wasted repair costs."

Lawyers for Snow Country Consultants and Paine have denied, among many things, they owed a duty of care to the owners and that the owners "failed to take reasonable steps to mitigate such damage."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler is also denying a duty of care because it alleges it took all the steps necessary to ensure the Eva Lake development was built correctly.

To fix the problem now, according to the minutes from several strata council meetings, engineers will have to move "each building, one at a time, to the parking lot while repairs to the foundations proceeded…"

"The owners of the units would live in their units and services would be connected to the buildings while in the parking lot. There would be a few days during the moving where owners in that building would need to relocate."

"The timeframe to do the work ranged from 21 weeks to 42 weeks."

There is another option, which involves driving piles under the buildings to prop them up. Unfortunately, it’s not cheaper.

Another engineering firm has estimated that the piles option would cost between $800,000 and $1.5 million and that charge would not cover the costs of fixing cracks in windows, floors or walls.

The owners have decided to monitor the buildings for another winter and then re-tender the job in the spring.

In the meantime the municipality and lawyers acting on behalf of the owners are in discussions.

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