Riverbank Homeowners, Town in Dispute

Disagreement over geotechnical reviews, engineer drawings

Residents of Outlook whose homes are located directly above the riverbank are hoping for an amicable and peaceful resolution with the Town of Outlook in a dispute over measures that would specifically affect such houses.

According to homeowners, the Town is trying to impose a requirement for riverbank homeowners to have a geotechnical review and engineer drawings done out of pocket if they wanted to move forward on any type of structural work.

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A geotechnical review, or ‘investigation’, is developed from an examination of the soils and rocks at the proposed site of construction.  It typically concludes with the recommended foundation conditions to prevent settlement and/or failure of the structure.

The issues with homes that are located directly above the riverbank in Outlook aren’t exactly breaking news if you’re familiar with the area.  The sloping, unpredictable lands gradually moving toward the riverbank have made for a litany of structural problems for some owners, particularly at houses located along the edges of Tufts Crescent and Carter Crescent.

“It’s not far from being livable,” said Kendra Wright, a young homeowner who spoke with The Outlook at her house on Tufts.

Wright’s home was found to be out of level, and it may have had a bad foundation along with some settlement.  Regardless, the house has needed almost nothing done to it since it was built in 1976.  The fixer-upper was designed to be a good opportunity for Kendra as a new homeowner when it was purchased by her dad Dale earlier this year.

However, the Wrights say a stop work order was placed by the Town of Outlook on the home very quickly.

“They gave us the stop work order almost immediately,” said Dale.  “We had Duane Ivanco over here, and he was basically pulling out the drywall around the outside basement walls so we could see what we had to work with, and they came and hit us with the stop order right out of the blue.”

Dale says he wasn’t given a reason as to why the order was being placed, and it was inadvertently given to him when he wasn’t listed as the homeowner before it was given to Kendra when it was discovered who had the title.

Most recently, a hearing was held on Tuesday, September 17 in which the Town responded to an appeal brought forward by Kendra.

“It was for the Board of Appeals to review our permit that we sent in to the Town,” she said.  “It was a discussion on why it was rejected and what we need to do instead.  The Town had their lawyer there, and we had Bill Rees.  They want geotechnical reviews.  All of these houses are affected.”

The Wrights understand what comes with owning a home near the riverbank, but the feeling is the Town is overstepping by expecting owners to add to their costs by way of geotechnical reviews and engineer drawings.  To Kendra and Dale though, the house on Tufts is worth saving, and they’re ready to get to work on doing so.

“We know there are issues,” said Dale.  “She’s willing to accept that.  That’s the cost of living on the side of a riverbank!”

“Everybody here has made the same choice!” added Kendra.

One of the other concerns is the possible future ramifications of such a measure being imposed for riverbank homeowners, Dale theorized.

“It’s going to add a big cost to each homeowner,” said Dale.  “Now, it might end up that anyone trying to sell a house here may end up having to disclose that information.  If you were looking to buy someone’s home around here, the owner might have to say, ‘Look Derek, if you want to go and add a garage here, you’re going to have to go get a geotechnical review’.”

The Wrights maintain that they don’t want to give in to the requirement of a geotechnical review, but they’re staying positive as they wait for their formal appeal review.  As Kendra says, as a homeowner, you have to “work with it, not against it”.  She and her dad simply want to move forward on fixing up her home.

“They’re really holding firm with this geotechnical review and engineer drawings,” said Dale.  “And that would be okay if we were putting a new house on this riverbank.  If you were going to put in a new one tomorrow, then you’d have to go through all these paces, and why would you not?  But we’re just trying to save what’s there.”

The Outlook reached out to the Town of Outlook for their perspective on this matter, as well as questions surrounding the stop work order placed on Kendra’s house and any restrictions being placed in front of riverbank homeowners.  The Town provided us with the following:

“We would first like to clarify that an official Hearing was held on Tuesday September 17, where the town was responding to an appeal brought forward by Kendra Wright in regards to her property to the legislatively mandated Development Appeal Board under The Planning and Development Act.  This was not a meeting between the Town and homeowners but rather an official hearing called by a mandated board external to the Town.  As such, because this matter is currently before the Board and awaiting a decision, it is improper for the Town to discuss the Appeal and its details.

Once a decision has been rendered, the Town will be able to provide further information and release the official decision of the Development Appeal Board to the public.

The Town can answer some of the following questions in a general way that is not effected by the outcome of the Hearing.  In regards to improvements, no homeowner is automatically disallowed from making improvements on their home but rather must follow the mandatory channels of approval depending on what those improvements are.  Any homeowner is able to do minor renovations including painting and siding, however, specific work will require proper permitting, which is by no means a new concept with the Town or any municipality.

In regards specifically to the stop work order, while this relates to the Appeal currently in front of the Board, the Town can clarify that the stop work order was issued to the property as there was work progressing on the property without the required permits.  A complaint was made which brought this to the attention of the Town and upon inspection, a stop work order was placed.

The Town’s bylaws place restrictions on what people can and cannot do with their properties.  These restrictions effect every ratepayer within the Town depending on where they are located.  Restrictions are a natural result of any municipality’s bylaws and the planning and development legislation that governs all of Saskatchewan.  All property within the Town has restrictions of some sort of another with which defining what can or cannot be done with property.

At the very core of the matter, the Town is responsible to ensure the peace, order, good government, and safety of all of its ratepayers and that is its ultimate goal in these matters.

Once the decision of the Board is reached, the Town will be able to supply more specific information regarding the Appeal and is happy to do so at that time.”

© The Outlook

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