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Lawyers are starting to get involved over slumping on Moose Jaw's Skipton Road.

A pair of homeowners on the South Hill road that overlooks Wakamow Valley received notices from the city to vacate their houses by the end of July because the ground is slipping away from their property.

Searle, a former Snowbird pilot who now flies for WestJet, says the value of his home has depreciated drastically due to the issue and his dream of retiring soon will be put on hold unless he can obtain compensation from the city. 

"It was a retirement home and it's quite a financial hit," said Searle, who has already found other accommodations.  "Without compensation, yes I could survive, but it means working a few more years than I planned to as I'm 57 now and I was hoping to slow down by 60."

"I don't know the answers to any of that now, it's in the lawyer's hands and we'll see where it goes." slumpA broader view of Searle's home over Wakamow

Searle has owned the home for 25 years and has seen the land behind his back deck erode year after year.  He added that there have been sewer issues at his home "for about 10 years," leaving many in the area unsure whether to blame the issue on Mother Nature, faulty city infrastrucutre, or both. 

While Searle is concerned about his own plight, he also is hoping this issue can be a valuable experience for his neighbours.

"(I want) the residents to understand what it means to be in a slump zone, and for the city to clearly communicate that," said Searle. "For them to understand they could get (the same eviction) letter if something happens to the area, whether it's related to erosion from the river or perhaps underground city infrastructure that hasn't been looked after."

James Benn lives two houses to the north of Searle, and when he purchased his home in 2015, it was defined as "S2" - or having "low to moderate risk of slope failure."

However, close to the same time Searle received his eviction letter due to the safety issues presented by slumping, Benn received a letter from the City of Moose Jaw advising his home had been changed to "S1" - or having a "high to moderate risk of slope failure."

"I don't want any sympathy, I know I bought in a slump zone," said Benn. "What I'm looking for is the city to be accountable for the things they haven't done to keep this area managed properly."

City Manager Matt Noble couldn't comment in great detail due to pending legal action, but did say that "historically, these are considered to be private-property matters. Other cities have told us (that), including the City of Saskatoon."

Noble says once Administration heard concerns about slumping they received "a report from Ground Engineering, and they advised us that these were unsafe conditions."  At that point the notices were sent to the affected homeowners.

"We have empathy for those individuals who are in that position," said Noble, but he doesn't feel the city is at fault or should be on the hook for compensation, again referring to the issue as a "private-property matter."

"You don't tax other people so some people can risk their investment by obtaining special views and so forth," he stated. "Over these number of years they had a responsibility to protect their property and they didn't.  Ultimately, if there's a pursuit of compensation it will likely wind up in the courts."

Noble says there are other slump zones in the city, but "every one is different. They all have certain similarities but there are some areas identified as slumping that will never see an issue but they still have to be identified as slumping. That doesn't mean they're going to be unsafe someday."

As for the future of Skipton Road if slumping continues?

"From the information we have, the millions of dollars that would be required (to fix the issue), we would not be doing that."

SKIPMAPResidents have taken an old city study on the area and attached it to the fence blocking traffic in the area



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