Work being done to prepare a former septic field for development is worrying Fleetwood Court residents who live high above the Langford property, separated by a large retaining wall some say is already unstable.
Developer Gerry Mounce’s GM Landco Management is having the site at 2402 Fleetwood Ct. cleared and levelled in preparation for building five single-family homes.
Resident Dennis Fraser, whose home sits next to a steep access driveway leading to the site, is concerned about safety given that some of the clearing has been done at the foot of the rock structure keeping the hillside below his home in place.
“I am concerned that they are taking away too much of the bottom of the retaining wall and that my house may end up in the field down there,” he said. “If we have another shaker or a little tremor and those rocks move, then my house is in jeopardy.”
Mounce, whose company has experience developing in the area, told the Gazette that the walls were “engineered” when built back in the 1980s. He said his company has engaged a geotechnical engineer for the project as well as a regular engineering firm, but earlier this week said there has so far been no need to bring them in.
While he said he sympathized with the residents, he couldn’t understand why people are so concerned about the structural integrity of the wall.
“This was a certified wall, signed off by an engineer at that time,” he said.
“We’re just getting it opened up and we have to fill against that wall to put the road in.”
Johnathan Chase Singfield, who is renting the home next to Fraser’s, said he’s feeling “not safe at all” these days. At the base of the wall below his home, Singfield pointed to large rocks that had fallen away and tree roots that have become exposed since crews began working on the site. He, too, worries about the long-term integrity of the wall and has sought information about such structures from two separate geotechnical engineering firms.
“Those are not just safety concerns that I came up with on my own as a layman …,” he said. He noted that his descriptions of the clearing being done and the age and style of the wall prompted engineers to whom he spoke to initially characterize it as somewhat unstable. He also emailed photos of areas at the bottom of the wall to one of the firms.
The City of Langford initially stated it had no comment on the situation, outside of calling it “a private property matter.”
Matthew Baldwin, director of planning, later emailed to clarify that the City “has not designated the property on Fleetwood as a Development Permit area for either hazardous conditions or sensitive ecosystems.” As such, he wrote, the property owner is “entitled to cut down trees, clear their land, dig, blast, level and move soil around on the property, all without need of any form of Development Permit. A soil removal or soil deposit permit would be required in the event that soil is brought into the property or removed from the property.”
Residents have been in contact with City staff a number of times, on issues ranging from a clarification of construction activities requiring a permit to the safety of the wall.
“The main concern is always the retaining wall,” said Fleetwood Court resident Erik Andersen, who lives next to Singfield. Andersen’s house was built on top of a very large rock, but a corner of his home sits over a section of the wall. “I think the retaining wall should be inspected by the proper authorities to make sure it is safe and it is done the way it’s supposed to be done.”
Meanwhile, Fraser has consulted his insurance company on who would be liable for any damage done in the course of the construction preparation and subsequent work.
“It will be up to my insurance company to go after the developer if they are at fault for causing the damage,” he said.