Sunday, October 21, 2007

Town Mountain Landslide, Asheville, North Carolina

Jerry Birdwell, a member of the Executive Committee of Friends of Town Mountain, discusses landslides and the proposed steep slope subdivision called Town Mountain Cove in an e-mail to Cecil Bothwell, reporter for the Xpress.

"It is baffling to me why Buncombe County officials have so far shown such indifference to potential hazards [posed by] steep-slope, high-density development in this county in view of multiple landslides in Western North Carolina, at least one of which resulted in the loss of life...

..."As my home was under construction, the owner/builder (from out of state) on the lot next to me ordered a major clear-cut for a view and home site. After lengthy blasting and cuts and filling, the house was completed. He then sold it three years later."

"Within the first week after the new owners took possession, during a rainy week, cracks began to show up in the fill areas. As rains increased, the fill land began to slide, increasing as the rain increased. My new neighbors, in fear for their lives, moved into a hotel during evaluation of the safety of the house. 'Fortunately,' only one corner of the foundation moved. Ultimately, a $130,000 engineered retaining wall stabilized the house, but the garage and parking area were lost. Rocks and debris covered two streets and a multi-acre building site below. Today, the slide-area scar can be seen from the Haw Creek overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway."

Birdwell's neighbor, who declined to be named in print, confirmed the details of the story. Birdwell's own building contractor, he noted, "was super-cautious. We did very little clearing and, in fact, may have left trees too close to the house." But clear-cutting next door, he noted, "opened up a wind tunnel, and we have lost 13 or more 75- to 100-year-old trees that have been blown down.
Original article in Mountain Xpress

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