Losing ground: Plympton-Wyoming homeowner pleads for help from town as her property slips into lake

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When Jennifer Burbidge moved into her lakefront home after extensively renovating it, she expected to be there for a very long time.
But, the erosion on her property is so severe, it may not happen.
In 2014, Burbidge worked with engineers to secure the cottage on her mother’s property near Hillcrest Heights subdivision. Contractors secured the foundation with 12 piles. “It was a very, very expensive project,” she told Plympton-Wyoming councillors.
But she was willing to do it so she could make the cottage her year-round home.
But in 2016, Burbidge noticed the ravine beside her home seemed to be deteriorating more rapidly than it had the last two years. “There were a number of people out to see it but nobody has been doing anything about it,” she says.
This year, the land beside her home has begun to fall into a ravine which is next door.
Burbidge showed councillors a number of photos, one of which shows much of her cement basement wall exposed. “What was a small opening, turned into a major landslide,” she says.
The ravine is a drain outlet for local farmland owned by a numbered company. Burbidge says there appears to be a lot more water draining into the lake and worries some nearby homes are now using it, making the problem worse.
Town staff believe only three homes are now draining into the ravine and that shouldn’t cause the extensive damage.
The town’s drainage consultant Will Bartlett, in a report on the slope, says what is happening next to Burbidge’s home is fairly common along the lakeshore in that area. “The bottom of the ravine is actively eroding due to surface water flows. As the ravine bottom and the toe of the slope erodes deeper, the side slopes become oversteepened and eventually unstable. This erosion of the ravine bottom is a natural process which has been ongoing for many years probably decades,” he writes.
Burbidge wanted the town to step in and fix the problem, but Bartlett says the best way to do that is through the Drainage Act. Burbidge would apply to have the drain fixed and then a commissioner would assign the person who would benefit the most from the fix, most of the cost. Since Burbidge’s property is in peril, it’s likely she would foot most of the bill.
Burbidge recently had a contractor take a look at the ravine and he said the problem would take over $100,000 to fix – money she doesn’t have.
Mayor Lonny Napper and the members of council sympathized with Burbidge but say erosion along the lakeshore has been a major problem for years. Napper says the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, which has jurisdiction over coastal erosion, has been “telling us for years, don’t build out there” because of the deterioration of the banks.
“It blows me away that you got a building permit,” says Councillor Ben Dekker, noting it would have come from the town acting on the advice of Burbidge’s engineers who secured the home in 2014. “I can’t believe that happened. We have a ratepayer coming forward doing everything right and boom – here we are.”
Napper says the municipality would like to be able to help but it can’t just go onto private property to repair the damage. He says the only real option is asking for the ravine’s outlet to be repaired under the Drainage Act and possibly suing to help recover the cost she will incur. “I don’t see anything being resolved now.”
Councillor Muriel Wright suggested Burbidge go to the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority’s board of directors meeting and explain what has happened and see if they will take action. “They have the authority to do it,” she urged.
Burbidge says she will try to speak to the board and suggested she might file for the drain work, but by the end of the meeting she was angry and demoralized. “I have a property that is unsaleable,” she says adding that for anyone to come onto her property now is “dangerous.”
“Don’t confuse our answers with a lack of sympathy,” says Councillor Ron Schenk. “But we can’t do what you want us to do…we just can’t make it happen.”

3 Responses to “Losing ground: Plympton-Wyoming homeowner pleads for help from town as her property slips into lake”

  1. Roland Nantais

    No one is going to help this lady I can tell you that. They all will spend more time and money finding excuses why they can’t fix it then what it takes to fix the problem. The people we hire to sit in those chairs couldn’t make a decision if there life depended on it and if one did the rest would be against it and most people know that a engineer is never responsible for any design he comes up with. I would suggest if she can’t afford to fix it herself she could find a contractor to fix the problem and pay him after she sells because if she continues on dealing with the people I know she has to deal with the stress will kill her and she won’t be living there anyway

    Reply

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