Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware

It’s like the construction crew knew I was taking a couple of days off to concentrate on catching up on marking.

This is not defamation. This is not written with any intent or malice towards the project developer or the contractors.

This is simply a somewhat incomplete accounting of the construction of a set of seven townhomes across the street from my home and how their construction has impacted our lives and the use of our property. Everything within has been communicated to the District and there have been District Council meetings dedicated to this project and the issues it has caused for residents of the neighbourhood. District Councillors have visited the site, and the developer has been contacted by District repeatedly. There are no falsities, no exaggerations, no embellishments. If anything I am probably under-representing the impacts of the almost two year nightmare we have endured.

When we bought our place in 2013, we knew that the site across the street would probably be developed at some point. It was a large lot with an old, old, fourplex on it, surrounded by quite the overgrown jumble of trees and bushes in relatively poor condition. We didn’t think it would be quite as quick as it happened though.

In the winter of 2015 there was a townhall meeting, which we attended, that was presenting the project to the District Council and the community. The project looked good, better than what was there, and we voted in favour. The developer was a member of our yacht club, we thought “that’s kind of cool, we should support him and what looks like will be a very nice complex”.

Turns out it was anything but.

From the outset I should have known this project was going to be a disaster.

When they cleared the lot and cut down all the massive trees, they almost launched one. There was a huge 150+ foot cedar tree that came down last. The feller limbed it and took off the top in two or three logs. He then notched the bottom of the remaining 40+ feet and the crew thought they’d speed things up by using the excavator to assist. They tied a cable to the tree and started to pull it down but, when it was at what seemed to be the point of no return, the cable snapped and the tree shot back upright, bending frighteningly the other way. Standing across the street watching, I turtled and thought it was going to snap and catapult across the townhouse complex driveway (on which people were blissfully unaware and driving to and fro) and into the house next door. I don’t know how it didn’t. And through all of that tree falling, they never even put a safety flagger on the driveway to the townhouse complex….until that moment when the tree almost launched…then they ran someone over to the driveway and stopped traffic.

Safety seems, from the outside looking in, to be an afterthought.

I thought all the heavy equipment was done now that the outside is almost finished, the roofs are done, the masonry is done, and they are mostly working on the inside.

But no.

Yesterday and today, starting at 7am, the excavator is digging up the front of the project (again) and a line of dump trucks sit idling along the road. A rational guess is that they are having water problems again since we noticed that the water that has been pumping out of the site 24/7 for the last 10 months stopped suddenly a few weeks ago. Although, I walked outside last night and there was a funky smell in the air towards the site…maybe they have to dig up a sewer line again, someone down the street told me they’d accidentally hit it during the initial digging. But I’m more inclined to think it’s a water issue again given the number of dump truck loads of material they are taking out. Maybe the underground parking is flooding; it wouldn’t surprise me given all the other issues they’ve had.

In the course of a year and-a-half, just a smattering of events include:

In November 2016 their forklift driver (accidentally) tore out the overhead lines leaving all four units without telephone or internet for two days. Their solution was to and install a wooden structure in our driveway to hold up the repaired (but non-wrapped and therefore sagging) lines for a week. It took repeated requests by phone, in person, and by email to have them properly repaired and have the wooden structure removed from our driveway. At no time did anyone from the site provide any information freely, instead residents were forced to repeatedly ask for information and updates.

Also in that November, they installed a white hot light that provided delightful light pollution into our home at night. We brought it up repeatedly and they finally removed it. Blissful darkness again..for awhile anyway, it didn’t last.

In February 2017 they broke the water lines twice (accidentally). They didn’t actually tell anyone until I went out and asked what happened to the water supply to our complex.

Also in February/March of 2017, they knocked out our power at least once (accidentally), and apparently (our neighbour informed us) they apparently (accidentally) hit and broke a sewer line.

On March 1st 2017 I noticed that the excavation had moved to the south side down two driveways. We had been offered no communication as to what they were doing, or when it would be carried out. There was no notice that access to homes would be blocked and driveways would be inaccessible. I walked into the construction zone to ask the excavator operator when they would be reaching our driveway and was informed that it would be completed by the end of the day Thursday.

That Thursday afternoon, walking up the street, I noted that the work had not yet been completed and caught a young man at the site to ask him about it. He called his manager and I spoke with him explaining that I could not have my driveway blocked on Friday as I had a veterinary specialist booked for an ultrasound and radiography of our very sick cat and that I would need to go in and out several times. He offered to carry the cat for me but I explained that he was very stress sensitive and given his illness I just wanted to get him out the door and into the vehicle and that walking him through a construction site with extremely loud equipment all around was not acceptable. I was clear that I called because I was trying to avoid any conflict arising from a failure to notify us that we would not have access.

The next morning the crew was accommodating and I was able to drop off my husband and return home. I was able to take the cat out and to the veterinarian where he was left for several hours while the tests were being performed. When I returned I parked down the street and walked in as they had begun to dig up my driveway. During the time I was home the excavator both dug and filled areas. When filling the operator used the scoop to pound fill into place and the house shook with every impact. Out of curiosity I placed a glass of water on my counter and watched as the water danced with every impact. When the work was completed we found new cracks in the plaster of our 65 year old walls. They had withstood a lot, but they couldn’t withstand that level of vibration.

When I received the call to collect our cat I went to speak with the men in the deep ditch across my driveway and told them that I had to go get it and would be back in about an hour. I was assured that they were almost complete and the excavation would be filled by the time I returned. It wasn’t, and when I came home it was suggested I carry my frantic cat into the house past all the noise. I said I’d wait and eventually then filled a narrow opening so that I could get into my driveway, except that they didn’t fill it appropriately and the truck sank and got stuck. It took four-wheel-low to extricate myself and get home.

When they finally finished the work we went out to see what had been done and discovered that the curb that fronts our property had been pushed in approximately two feet and was now laying, broken and askew, inside of the water main cover and embedded water meter that feeds our four unit building. The water main cover had been recently replaced and now it had been exposed in such a manner that drivers could easily drive over it.

Asphalt had been poured over what was never street, and our neighbor to the east had lost a medium sized shrub that had been removed without discussion. The neighbours were justifiably angry as the shrub presumably could have been removed and replaced rather than disposed of by the site crew.

And, as a result of a poor fill of asphalt on the excavation, the work has left the area with a depression that is below the level of the drain and creates a small lake across the entire front area of the driveway and to both sides of it.

We were later told, by a neighbour who had been watching the production, that they had lost control of the excavator and slid it sideways down the bank of our front yard – breaking the curb and pushing it back several feet (it used to be along that green line below) and displacing a pile of gravel into our fence, pushing it in, and leaving a terrific mess behind (accidentally). When I asked them when they were going to fix the frontage along our home, they told me to “[don’t] worry about it, because it’s not [your] property anyway, it’s District property (Thanks asshat, for making the front of our home look like shit for a year now). When I started to list all the impacts to our place, the man from Apex Siteworks turned and snarled in my face “Those were accidents!” “My goodness sir, your company certainly has a lot of ‘accidents’!” I shot back.

When I indicated that we wanted to rebuild our fence that summer I was told, by the developer, in an email, with a thinly veiled threat “Please feel free to build a fence on your property, the temporary road works should not be on your property preventing you from building a fence. You may want to get a survey to locate your property line out front, so that you dont build your fence on District property and then they come along and ask you to remove it.” Actually, yes, the temporary roadworks “DO” prevent us from building our new fence since we have to put in a retaining wall to keep the newly pushed over materials at bay.

On the upside (for them), the curb being pushed in made a nice parking spot for their wide work truck and the vehicles of other site crew…except that now their wheels are inside of where the curb used to be and they often drive over the water line cover that used to be behind the curb.

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They dug up the front of our driveway at least twice with no notice – once trapping me inside and once cutting off my access on a day that Loki had to go in for a bone marrow biopsy. The only reason I knew a day ahead that they were going to dig it up was because I literally walked into the middle of the active construction site and made the excavator operator shut down his machine so I could ask him what the plan was.

When they filled it in, instead of using a proper tamper they just used the bucket of the excavator to bash it in, causing the entire hose to rattle and shake and adding cracks to 65 year old plaster finishing. When I pointed that out, the Developer suggested that the vibrations were probably coming from a construction site three blocks away (instead of the work happening 30 feet away?!?).

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In the latter part of March 2017, they dug a massive hole in the road and, at the end of the day when they hadn’t finished, instead of filling it in, just parked the excavator over it and left it open. No safety issue there…. They also tossed their garbage in the hole under the excavator.

The area has a very high water table, and their excavation pit flooded repeatedly with ground seepage. They should have known this since they did a set of townhomes a few doors down sometime in the past and each unit has to have a sump in the basement or they will flood. This is not a neighbourhood for basements. As a mitigating measure in the current project, they had to install a sump that pumps water out a pipe and under the sidewalk; it pours water 24 hours a day onto the street and into the storm drain. They had a concrete company working until past 10pm to try and get ahead of the water seepage, then denied working past the 8pm bylaw cutoff (again, we had photos as evidence).

Later, in the summer of 2017, they backed a dump truck up in front of their site and dumped load after load of gravel right on top of the storm drain, filling it and packing it in…. and then denied the fact to District when we called it in. Call me naive, but I’m pretty sure that storm drains aren’t meant to be filled with gravel, particularly not in areas that see as much rain as the North Shore does. Again…photographic evidence called them out. District fixed the problem, at taxpayers cost, presumably.

We told them that by pushing the curb back they had exposed the water line cover and it would get damaged when someone (they) drove over it. They said, “Oh, no, that will never happen”.

Guess what?

It happened.

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A week or so ago, we came home to a little piece of wood laying over the cover and found a jagged hole in the metal underneath. So despite assurances that there would never be any issues, they did in fact break the cover of the water line to our complex by driving over it with their massive trucks. Not even a handwritten note in the mailbox to let us know. The day we discovered it, we asked the masonry subcontractors what happened, they said the truck taking away the dumpster drove over it and broke it. Their solution when we brought it up was to spray paint the little piece of wood orange and put a pylon on top.  When we told District, they told us Harbourview denied ever entering our driveway, denied it had anything to do with their site project, yet it was their pylon (painted with “Harbourview” on it), that sat atop the broken cover – and we have video evidence of them responding to their screwup on the day it happened. District eventually replaced it and changed out the water meter, but now we live with a pylon at the entrance to our driveway because Harbourview’s contractors can’t tell where the edges of their work vehicles are and continue to make our driveway part of their traffic plan.

All summer, they used the front corner of our driveway as a shady place to smoke their cigarettes and hang out on our fence and drink their beer at the end of the day.

They put up a row of pylons across our property and that of our flanking neighbours and then tied caution tape along them all, turning it into a new “sidewalk” to try and move pedestrians off the real sidewalk on their side (I finally removed them all and put the pylons back on their side after about 4 months of looking at that mess). Then some of their workers just slid their vehicles inside of the posts for their own parking.

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This guy was awesome, he came every morning and moved the posts out enough to park, and then pushed them back in at the end of the day so no one else would.

 

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They have repeatedly parked everything from cement trucks to double length flatbed trucks across our and our neighbour’s driveways and given us the “sorry, you’ll have to wait 10-20 minutes” shrug.

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They assured us that they would repave the road out front and everything would be returned to normal…by last August. It’s now the following March with no end in sight and a lot of arm waving, with a date of “In the spring”.

They have flooded our front yard, twice turning it into a complete lake because of the poor job they did in refilling the excavation across the front of the driveway (they filled it to below the level of the storm drain so that when the fall rains arrived the water couldn’t actually flow to the drain but instead went down our driveway and into our yard.

They set up a new, seemingly nuclear powered, “safety” light for the site but directed it straight into a white wall at a distance of about six feet so that it bounced back and lit up our bedroom. We asked it be turned off at night. They didn’t. I went over and asked the site supervisor to turn it off at night, a guy digging a hole looked up at me and snarled at me “It’s for safety, so people don’t fall in the hole”. My response was that perhaps they could point it at the hole then instead of almost straight up at a white wall, a direction that did nothing to improve the safety of a hole that is behind a fence and which no passerby can possibly fall into unless they were to leave their site unsecured. The light was, unsurprisingly, left on 24 hours a day all that weekend, and every night and weekend thereafter until a District Councillor personally called the developer and told him to get the bloody light turned off!

It’s off at night now.

Thankfully.

I’m very grateful to Councillor Lisa Muri for that.

When we leave, they use our driveway to park vehicles, including a massive forklift, while we are out; again video evidence refutes their denials to District.

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They put up “temporary” No Parking signs along the front of several homes on this side of the street, telling me it was for a week while they unloaded, that was over a year ago …but they park their work vehicles directly in front of the No Parking signs on a daily basis. So my only interpretation of this is that construction workers are allowed to place No Parking signs in the front of homes so that the people living there cannot park, and so that the construction workers can have dedicated parking when they want it.

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There is more, so much more, but isn’t this enough?

And, through all of this, the only written communication of any disruptions came from Apex Siteworks “after” we raised complaints with District. And those ended after the weeks that Apex Siteworks finished their accident laden excavation efforts. Not once has Harbourview Projects provided notice of disruptions to the neighbourhood, and they tell the District representatives that they communicate with us all the time, when they do no such thing.

Seriously, what a cluster-f&$k. District Hall says they have never received so many complaints from so many residents over one project.

As we understand, from communications with the District, they have been fined over and over again for infractions. But I guess the fines don’t matter since they stand to make millions on the units given the current housing costs.

District has asked us at least twice if we’d like the site shut down, they were prepared to do so. While part of me says “YES!!”, the reality is that it will just extend the pain and suffering and victimization that we’ve endured at the whims of this company. And District has no teeth to manage the problems with poor developers once they have approved them.

We were told the roadworks would be fixed by August. LAST August. Yet now we are told it might be this August instead. A year late. This will almost be two years of hell that we have been subjected to, with absolutely no recourse and virtually no support from District. They increased our property taxes by 300%, and then provide absolutely no support in the face of it all.

Witnessing all the accidents and lack of respect that this project has for the surrounding community has been frustrating at best. Their miscalculations have set them a year behind, I’d honestly never buy a home built this developer, I couldn’t ever trust it.

And certainly never this one at 3730 Edgemont.

Buyer beware, your millions of dollars may come with some unexpected issues.

And even though it will (hopefully) be finished by the end of summer….the huge property next door is for sale now and will easily fit another project of this size, or larger. Yay!

What a nightmare!

In the future we will be more careful of which projects we vote in favour of, and will definitely voice our concerns over any new projects that are put forward by this particular developer.

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And then, just to add insult to injury, and not an hour after I post this… workers using the front of my home to relax and vape. >:(

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March 23rd, 2018|Just Thinking|0 Comments

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