Wedgewood Estates Land Issue

Reeve Leanne Beaupre issued the following statement on August 17, 2017 after Council met on August 14, 2017 to discuss the Wedgewood Estates Site-Specific Geotechnical Work:

After much consideration and debate, County of Grande Prairie Council has decided to take no action on the request to provide financial assistance to four landowners in the Wedgewood Estates whose properties are within the study area that are facing issues of soil erosion and slides.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What legal obligations does the County have in this situation?

  • The County has no legal responsibility to help these landowners. 
  • The subdivision approval that created the lots in 1994 required a caveat to be attached to the titles for the lots in question. That caveat acknowledged that site-specific geotechnical work should be done on the land prior to development. Specific instructions within the caveat outlined steps to protect future developments, including items such as ensuring a sufficient setback, not installing underground irrigation systems, and avoiding disruption to existing vegetation. 
  • Many of the specific instructions in the caveat that would have mitigated the risk were not followed by past and current landowners.

 Has the County done anything in the past to attempt to help landowners?

  • Yes, since 2012, the landowners approached Council numerous times seeking assistance. 
  • In 2015, Council offered to share the costs of a Geotechnical Investigation to identify the problems and determine solutions to prevent damage to their properties, and surrounding County land and infrastructure. 
  • Residents rejected this offer and instead, attempted to implement several costly solutions to the problem that they devised without the advice of an engineer.  According to a preliminary geotechnical engineering study the County had done, these actions made the problem worse.
  • The County had site assessments completed over 2014 and 2015 and a preliminary geotechnical engineering study completed in 2016 to look at ground survey and determine next steps that the geotechnical investigation would include.
  • In 2016 and 2017, the County had a geotechnical investigation completed to further identify the problems and determine solutions to prevent damage to their properties, and surrounding County infrastructure and look further into any impacts slope failure will have on land that can be accessed by the public.

 What has resulted from allowing this area to remain improperly repaired all these years?

  • There has been structural damage to the properties, as well as increased land erosion and slides. 
  • The additional building activity and property development that has occurred over the years has further aggravated the stability problems. 
  • The steps the landowners have taken to resolve the problems themselves have worsened the condition of the soil and created further problems. 
  • The costs associated with site-specific geotechnical work to stabilize the land have increased because of these actions, and because of the time that has passed since the problems were identified.

Do the issues with erosion at this location have an impact on County land or infrastructure?

  • No. At the present time, County land and infrastructure have not been damaged.  There are also no immediate threats to County land or infrastructure.

 How much will it cost to fix the problem?

  • The costs to provide site-specific geotechnical work on this land are unknown at this time.  The County will not provide additional funds to complete geotechnical work on private land or property.

What are the major reasons for rejecting the request for assistance?

  • The County believes that if further assistance is offered to this group of landowners, the County will set a precedent and face requests to help other landowners in similar situations.
  • The County does not think it is fair for residents of the County to incur the costs associated with the actions and decisions made by these landowners. 
  • The County offered to help these residents in 2015, which landowners subsequently rejected.  According to a preliminary geotechnical investigation, this lapse in time, the refusal to stop development, and the attempts to fix the problem without professional advise, have all increased the slope failure risk, the damage to properties, and the costs to implement a solution.
  • The County feels they have met the commitment of the residents through the completion of site assessments in 2014-2015, a preliminary geotechnical study in 2016 and geotechnical investigation in 2016-2017.  

 What message does Council have for other homeowners who may be facing similar issues?

  • Council is here to provide assistance where appropriate; however, County taxpayers have no obligation to fund issues that arise on private property. 

 What message does Council have for the homeowners involved in this issue?

  • Council understands that this situation has created personal and financial stresses for the homeowners and has compassion and empathy for what they are experiencing; however, if financial help is offered to this group, the County will set a precedent and be at risk of obligation to help other landowners in similar situations. In addition, Council does not think it is fair for taxpayers to pay for costs associated with the actions and decisions made by private landowners on private land.