Monday, March 3, 2008

The Cliffs at High Carolina...Are Safe Slopes a Concern?

The Cliffs' eighth master planned community, The Cliffs at High Carolina has been controversial since the project was announced in June of 2006. In John Boyle's article for the Asheville Citizen Times "Builders rush to beat stricter slope rules," Cliffs President Jim Anthony acknowledged that his company submitted the application to beat the deadline. The Cliffs at High Carolina
is a 2500+ acre residential/resort enclave located on steep mountain slopes in Buncombe County.

In December 2007, The Cliffs Communities won a lawsuit they had filed against Buncombe County. At issue was the county regulation restricting the density of condominium or apartment complexes on steep mountain slopes. Buncombe County Superior Court Judge Ronald Payne ruled that The Cliffs Communities did not have to comply with the county rules. For more information please see "Cliffs can dodge building limits" by Mark Barrett in the Asheville Citizen-Times January 12, 2008.

The real estate web-site for The Cliffs Communities provides the following description:The Cliffs at High Carolina is nestled in the high mountain meadows of the Blue Ride Mountains at an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet and with views reaching 50 miles.

In 1998 the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management found that the mountain slopes of Buncombe County were at high risk for landslides.

The Buncombe County Hazard Mitigation Plan (August 23, 2004) stated that the steep slopes and fragile soils of Western North Carolina place Buncombe County at a high risk of landslides. This report was issued just weeks before the 15 county catastrophic slope failures of September 2004.

What are the plans for The Cliffs at High Carolina?

According to Mr. Anthony, "The final decision has not been made, as to how many homes and what kind will be built on the land." Mr. Anthony said his company hopes to make an announcement related to the golf course being designed by Tiger Woods, in the coming months. Later in the year it will announce details of of the first offering for sale of lots in the development. Please see Mr. Barrett's article.

Should prospective buyers of property in The Cliffs at High Carolina be apprised of the identified landslide risks with a Natural Hazards Disclosure Statement?

Please be advised that you are buying property in a high risk hazard area and this will affect your ability to obtain insurance. Buncombe County, location of The Cliffs at High Carolina, is in a state designated landslide district. The slope stability information provided by the federally mandated landslide mapping program was not available at the time this residential project was approved. The Cliffs at High Carolina is being developed under regulations that do not require site specific stability investigation.

It is unknown whether Mr. Anthony will provide due diligence for The Cliffs at High Carolina. Safety concerns for this project should dictate soil analyses and site specific studies for all roads and building sites.

If The Cliffs at High Carolina were being developed in California, state law would require site specific investigation and disclosure of landslide risks.


Anonymous said...

All of the lots that have be platted have been approved by an independant engineering firm.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the writer feels that politicians are better qualified to determine the safety of homebuilding sites than the civil engineers that do the design work. I think this is about preventing development rather than safety.