• John Jantak

St. Lazare cannot stipulate the inclusion of foundation pilings in new residential developments


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

The developer of the H-300 residential project of Ste. Angelique Road has included pilings to provide additional foundation support even though St. Lazare can only recommend and not stipulate that contractors do so.

The issue of cracked and sinking house foundations was at the forefront during question period at the October 2 council meeting when resident Joanne Ackland raised the topic by asking St. Lazare director general Serge Tremblay whether it was true he said the town cannot stipulate that developers install pilings to provide additional structural support for houses in new developments.

While developers are required to conduct geo-technical tests to determine the stability of the soil and provide the results to the town before construction can proceed, both Tremblay and Mayor Robert Grimaudo told Ackland that even though the town can suggest pilings be put in, developers are not obliged to adhere to the recommendations.

The issue became personal for Ackland who discovered earlier this year that her house’s foundation required urgent repair work. The total cost was about $70,000 and the pilings that were implanted to provide the necessary stabilization went down to a depth of 135 feet.

“I know that you’ve been saying that you can’t change the past, but in the present you can,” said Ackland. “So when Mr. Tremblay says that that the town can suggest but cannot stipulate, for me that’s not right.

“Somebody has to take responsibility,” Ackland added. “We all know now that the soil is risky and people shouldn’t have to end up having my problem. The way I see it is that this land should not have been built on. Even with the new developments, it’s the same as my soil. It’s not fit for building,” said Ackland.

“The most we can do is what we are doing right now,” said Grimaudo. “We can talk to the contractor, we can tell them this is what we want and they have to do the geo-technical tests, but the reality is that we can’t mandate them to do anything because we don’t have the regulations in place.”

While contractors may not be obliged to put in pilings in new residential developments, the developer of the H-300 project on Ste. Angelique Road has included pilings.

Ackland says she only now knows about the situation regarding her soil because of the research she did when she discovered her foundation problems, but was unaware of it when the home was purchased 13 years ago, adding that the land should never have been developed.

“If that was the case, then we shouldn’t be building on 80 per cent of the land in Quebec,” said Grimaudo. “Buyers want houses in particular places and if we were to go with your logic, there shouldn’t be one house built all along the St. Lawrence seaway from Quebec City to Kingston, Ontario. I understand what you’re saying but we can’t stop people from building.”

Despite Ackland’s criticism, Tremblay said it’s the responsibility of the purchaser to do their due diligence and ask questions when purchasing a home. The point was reiterated by Grimaudo who said that when it comes to any type of purchase, “Unfortunately and sadly, it’s buyer beware. You cannot put the onus on the council and say it’s because of you that I would tell people not to buy in St. Lazare”

Ackland also chastised council again for not providing any sort of financial assistance to homeowners with foundation problems, noting that the municipality of St. Amable has a program where homeowners with foundation problems can apply directly to the town through its website for financial assistance to repair damaged foundations. Grimaudo said he would look into St. Amable’s initiative.

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