A crumbling retaining wall on Swallow Crescent must be removed, said Chilliwack council this week. (City of Chilliwack report)

Chilliwack property owner has to remove unsafe retaining wall within 30 days

Crumbling timber structure on Swallow Crescent deemed a safety hazard to neighbours

A crumbling retaining wall on Swallow Crescent must be removed and replaced within one month by the property owner.

If not, the City of Chilliwack will have to complete the work itself, and bill the owner.

That was the decision by city council Tuesday, after an exhaustive effort that included back-and-forth correspondence on the matter, with duelling engineering reports that resulted in different conclusions.

The timber retaining wall was failing, and had effectively outlived its lifespan, staff argued.

Further, it was deemed unsafe and could pose a hazard to the neighbours, according to the staff report calling for “a remedial action requirement,” under section 72 of the Community Charter, which was approved by council.

But reps of the property owner posited that it was city infrastructure, a storm sewer, that caused the premature end of service life of the retaining wall structure.

All attempts at gaining voluntary compliance from the property owner at 47475 Swallow Crescent had failed, so a remedial action requirement was deemed necessary.

Correspondence between city officials and property owners/engineers have gone back and forth since 2016 on this file.

Several technical questions dominated discussion, including which party had the ultimate responsibility for the failing retaining wall.

“The deteriorating condition of the timber retaining wall is a potential risk to neighbours when the wall does fail,” stated the engineering staff report, prepared for council.

“Despite numerous attempts made by City staff to have the owner address these deficiencies, the owner has failed to comply.”

The role of a storm sewer overflow pipe was determined not to be a factor.

Engineer John McLintock, appeared on behalf of owner Terrence Hamel, suggesting the engineers hired by the city had “ignored” the role that the “sub-surface water flow” played in the wall’s deterioration.

The city position all along was that it was unquestionably the responsibility of the property owner but that point was argued by the property owner’s rep right to the bitter end.

Coun. Sam Waddington supported the staff recommendation, saying it was a technical dilemma for council but after “three layers of engineering,” provided “the best and most accurate information” available, it was enough for council to trust the reports and recommendation that the wall had to be replaced.

“For all of us this was a tough one,” Waddington said. “I hear loud and clear the challenges of the homeowner but it really is a technical dilemma.”

Council has to trust that its legal and engineering opinions are “accurate,” Waddington said.

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