When a section of Fleetwood Court was built high above Setchfield Road in Langford, the area topography required the use of large, engineered rock retaining walls to safely support the hillside and minimize the potential for the homes to slide down the hill in the event of an earthquake.
The lack of sewer services in the area at the time prompted developers to create septic fields below the walls, but after the homes were hooked up to the new sewer lines, the need for the septic fields was negated.
It was only a matter of time before someone moved to develop on the property below. In recent weeks, crews working on one such site have been clearing brush, digging, pushing around soil and generally preparing the land for the development of five single family homes.
As reported last week in the Gazette, residents of three homes directly above are concerned how close the digging is coming to the base of the wall and whether the integrity of the structure is being compromised.
Sounds to us like a valid safety issue. While it seemed as of last week that a distinct lack of communication existed between the developer and neighbours, we were somewhat surprised when the City of Langford stated that such situations are a private property matter.
If that is the case, then whose responsibility is it to ensure that steps are taken to prevent a potential disaster? In general, the onus falls upon property owners above the retaining wall, since the developers who constructed it and their homes are long gone.
But what happens if a developer looking to build on the low side of the wall picks away at the earth around it and damages the integrity of the hillside? It seems a bit like poking a hornet’s nest then blaming the hornets after getting stung.
At least one homeowner has consulted their insurance provider to get more information on who would be at fault in the event of a failure of the wall and collapsing of the hillside.
This scenario seems a great opportunity for the City to show leadership and work with the developer in advance to help ensure the safety of its residents and prevent something devastating from happening.