Porter Creek homeowner wants city to pay for sinkhole damage

The owner of a house in Porter Creek claims he isn't being treated fairly after the city refused to pay to fix a sinkhole that appeared under his driveway.

The owner of a house in Porter Creek claims he isn’t being treated fairly after the city refused to pay to fix a sinkhole that appeared under his driveway.

At the centre of the dispute is whether or not retaining walls built outside the property required prior authorization by the city, and how that affects who’s responsible to foot the repair bill.

David Hedmann said he noticed a sinkhole underneath his driveway on May 24.

Several depressions within nine metres of the sinkhole affected the retaining walls, he said.

The sinkhole is a square about 2.5 metres long, underneath half the driveway. When the News came by it was approximately 20 to 30 centimetres deep.

Several bricks on retaining walls a few metres from the sinkhole were spread apart.

“The walls are no longer vertical, they’re falling forward into the street,” he said.

Both the sinkhole and depressions are on city property.

Hedmann is using saw horses to prevent people from driving there-he fears the driveway might collapse.

The city dispatched a crew to verify whether a leak was causing the sinkhole, but as they didn’t find any, they packed up and left, he said.

Now he has taken the city to court.

On June 18, Hedmann filed an affidavit to Yukon small claims court, claiming that because the sinkhole and depressions were on “the city right of way”, they were responsible for it.

In an interview, Hedmann said the sinkhole impacted his business – he runs a bed and breakfast. People can’t drive on the driveway because it would collapse, he said.

The city filed a reply on July 7, refuting much of Hedmann’s claim.

It says the retaining walls were on the boulevard, outside his property.

“Later investigation revealed that no permit had been obtained for construction of the retaining wall,” the reply read.

The city is not responsible for the damages as there was no leak, the city said in the filing.

“If you’re going to put something significant like the retaining wall at Mr Hedmann’s, you would require something in terms of written permission,” Pat Ross, the city’s manager of planning services, told the News.

Typically, properties stop up to six metres back from the actual sidewalk, he said.

“As a city we’re saying that’s his responsibility, we’re not taking any responsibility for why the hole is there,” he said.

Hedmann denies this, claiming that at the time his walls were built, the city didn’t require a permit. He claims that was confirmed by two city staffers he talked to.

City officials couldn’t confirm this by deadline, but expressed surprise.

The city paid for repair costs of other homes in Porter Creek with similar issues, Hedmann said.

Jerry Bradford, who lives on the same street as Hedmann, confirmed city crews carried out work on and around his property on two separate occasions.

In 2010, the city paid for the repairs of a hole, by the curb, which is on city property.

Early this June, Bradford noticed his lawn “started dropping,” he said.

The city found out there was a leak from water infrastructure the city is responsible for, and fixed it, he said. This involved digging up part of his lawn and driveway, and filling it back.

“I have nothing but praise for the city guys, they kept me informed and did good work,” he said.

Asked to comment, city staff said they had to look at cases individually.

A case management conference call is scheduled for Sept. 30 between Hedmann and the city lawyer.

In the meantime, Hedmann said he is considering ways to force the city to hand over all the records about the properties in his neighbourhood that had similar issues.

“I’ll try to keep public pressure on the city,” he said.

“I may go and make a presentation to council because it’s ridiculous.”

He said an engineer who looked at the sinkhole and depressions estimated it would cost about $25,000 in repairs, but the situation is getting worse by the day, he said.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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