On March 3, 2009 the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that realty groups and some legislators are absolutely opposed to any state regulation over Western North Carolina’s hazardous land development. These parties say that risk-assessment, mandated construction standards, and hazardous land disclosure statements are unnecessary.
The Facts Indicate Otherwise
Western North Carolina county governments have knowingly, and without constraint, jeopardized lives and property by failing to enact landslide-prevention regulations. Unbeknownst to buyers all mountain counties were notified by emergency management professionals in 1998 that the land under their jurisdiction was landslide-prone and highly hazardous.
Hazard maps for Watauga (2008) and Macon (2006) counties show that thousands of homes and lots are sitting in the path of potential landslides. Many of these residences were built in the past ten years. These high-risk property owners are now being informed that there is no landslide insurance and that their real estate will be labeled landslide-hazardous.
Other Hazardous Matters…
Landslides are not the only geologic hazard endangering Western North Carolina mountain building sites. Federal and state professionals who have investigated and mapped the region over the past several decades have determined that weak reactive soils undermine building locations throughout the 23 counties that comprise Western North Carolina.
Unstable soils are definable and measurable geologic hazards that threaten lives and property. Extensive soil stability tests have established that most mountain slopes are “unsuitable” or “poorly suitable” for residential development.
Soil assessment surveys for the following Western North Carolina counties: Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, McDowell, Madison, Rutherford and Yancey can be viewed on the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation website.
Surveys for the remaining counties: Alleghany, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Mitchell, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, and Wilkes can be found in local Soil and Conservation offices.
Homes in Harm’s Way
The Asheville Citizen-Times reported on March 1, 2009 that there are “homes in harm’s way” all over Western North Carolina. It is too late for these property owners but there is no defensible reason for the counties’ hazardous land practices to continue.
Safe Artificial Slope Construction Act-House Bill 782
On March 26, 2009 Representative Ray Rapp reintroduced legislation that would require safe mountain slope construction practices.