Flooding over but Willow Beach residents still out of their homes

While much of the South Okanagan community goes back to its summer life following extensive spring flooding, Willow Beach residents are still awaiting access to their homes and a return of services.

And they say they’re beginning to wonder if their landlord even wants them to return — a frustration the property owner says it understands and is working to resolve.

The residents are still living in campers, with friends or elsewhere five days after an evacuation order was lifted for the 18 properties lining the north end of Osoyoos Lake.

“The property owner and the property manager are doing absolutely nothing to get us back in our houses,” said resident Cheryl Smith, who like other owners in the development rent pad space for modular homes placed on the property.

Residents are waiting for power to be restored, the central well to come back online and, in some cases, for water to disperse.

But Josh Turner, who represents Willow Beach Development Group and its parent company Infinity Properties, said power can’t be restored to the property as a whole until each housing unit is inspected by an electrician.

“It’s been a perfect storm,” he said by telephone from Infinity’s office in Langley. “We were unable to do anything until the groundwater receded enough that (well and sewer) systems were back to the state they were prior to the whole site flooding.”

Until Saturday, the property’s sewer hook-up with the Town of Osoyoos system was closed to keep lake water on the Willow Beach property from flooding the Town system.

Then, Mr. Turner added, once that issue was resolved the company learned of FortisBC’s requirement that each property be inspected by a licensed electrical contractor — who would provide an affidavit of inspection — before it can restore service.

“FortisBC won’t turn on power to the park,” he said. “It’s demanding an electrical inspection of each individual mobile home. That’s where we’re at.

“The valve is open, it’s just now electricity is the problem.”

Without power being restored, Ms. Smith said, residents will be left “living in their trailers out here without sewer and water and electricity or they’re going to be on their own to find other accommodations.”

 

That, she added, is perhaps what the property owner wants.

The developer has plans for a 76-unit residential sub-division at Willow Beach, the process currently held up as environmental studies are undertaken. Eventually, the residents will be asked to leave to make way for the development.

Ms. Smith points to provincial legislation effective today that provides additional security for park tenants facing eviction as a result of park owners closing or converting a park.

“They’re not kicking us out, but they’re not doing anything to get us back into our houses either,” she said. “They would like us gone.”

Ms. Turner disputes that allegation.

“I don’t even know if that is an option on our end,” he said. “We can’t just turn our backs. I’m quite certain there has to be existing legislation that would force us to do something.

“We’re certainly willing to get the park back to operating as it was operating when we purchased it.”

The company has left tenant communication through the flooding event with a local property manager, although Mr. Turner added he has spoken to several residents.

“I did have two tenants call and I tried to explain (the issues) to them, but they didn’t receive (my response) very well,” he said.

Ms. Smith said she is trying to share with neighbours information about their responsibility to have an electrician inspect individual properties.

But she noted not all property owners are onsite.

“There are summer people who live on the coast — what if they don’t do it?” she wondered. “Nobody’s power gets turned back on? That’s not OK.

“The property manager should have been dealing with this five days ago.”

Meanwhile, just north of Oliver, residents living on Sportsmen Bowl Road remain under an evacuation order.

Along Sportsmen’s Bowl Road, water is still an issue, trickling down the access road toward Hwy. 97.

“The water is still running down the road but it has receded enough that (the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure) can get in and do their assessment,” said Bill Newell, CAO of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. “They’re working to repair that road right now; they’re going to open one lane — just for local traffic.

“We’re hoping by the end of the week people should be able to get back in there.”

That won’t come soon enough for resident Jennifer Busmann, who has focused on her Oliver Osoyoos Wine Association work — including hosting the recent Half-Corked Marathon — to keep her mind of her flooded property.

“Sunday, I walked in,” she said. “My entire house reeks of mould. The crawl space got wet and the basement got wet, but there’s nothing I can do to rectify that until we have proper access.”

Although understanding there’s lots of work to be done, she wishes those responsible for the work would communicate more effectively with the residents affected.

“I can see now that there’s progress, but nobody from the Regional District or the province communicates what’s happening,” she said.

“It’s the most frustrating thing on the planet. We understand things take time, but could you kind of explain to us who live there what the heck is going on.”

 

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