Western North Carolina Landslides
Saturday, July 11, 2009
The Cliffs at High Carolina—Hazardous-Land Disclosure Statement
One of a series of North Carolina Geological Survey landslide prediction maps. Computer technology now allows developers and Buncombe County officials to evaluate occupied and vacant residential parcels for probable landslide events. Home sites in unstable and upper threshold locations are a concern.
It is not known whether Jim Anthony, CEO of the Cliffs Communities, Inc. and developer of The Cliffs at High Carolina, has been informed by the County Planning and Development Board that all Buncombe County real property has been reevaluated for hazardous-land conditions.
Sometime in March 2009 emergency personnel along with county, city, and town planners were briefed on the use of the Buncombe County Multi-Hazard Risk Tool. This risk assessment computer application was designed by the Renaissance Computing Institute to identify residential hazardous-land conditions. These disaster impact reports (landslides, flooding, wildfires) are required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The Cliffs at High Carolina
The Cliffs at High Carolina is a 3,200 acre, under construction, residential community near the city of Asheville. Mr. Anthony has permits ( 2006) for 1,300 home sites, a Tiger Woods’ golf course and various recreational facilities.
The Cliffs at High Carolina Property Report— October 21, 2008—states that all of the ninety-nine (99) single-family building lots offered for sale on November 8, 2008 were evaluated by S&ME, Inc., a Raleigh-based engineering firm, for the possible presence of colluvium: an unstable, landslide-triggering soil base. Surveys for the lots in Phase 1 showed evidence of colluvium but the Cliffs’ contractors determined that these soils were well outside these planned home sites. There is no indication in the High Carolina Property Report that the remaining unsold home sites have been investigated for landslide hazards.
The question is, now that Mr. Anthony is aware of the new Buncombe County hazardous-land real estate risk report, how can he protect his future clients from making unwise decisions? The answer is simple: It’s called a Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement. This pre-sale document has accompanied all California real property hazardous-land transactions since 1998.
The following is a modified version of the California disclosure statement and is an example of the type of risk information that should be included in Buncombe County real estate transactions.
Buncombe County Real Estate—Hazardous-Land Disclosure Statement
Please be advised that you are buying real estate in a federally designated disaster-prone county.
The Renaissance Computing Institute and the Buncombe County Emergency Operations Center have researched hazardous-land data and have determined that extensive real property in Buncombe County is threatened by three expected high-impact geological events: landslides, flooding and wildfires. Every parcel in the county has been assessed for hazard extent and potential market-value loss. Information is available though various planning offices throughout the county.
Buncombe County— Landslide-Hazardous Real Estate
The decision to buy landslide-hazardous real estate should be well-considered. Flood and fire insurance is available to property owners. Landslide insurance protection is not obtainable. The inability to insure this special-risk real estate will have an adverse effect on property values. Please seek legal advice concerning landslide liability.
The maps and reports generated by the Buncombe County Multi-Hazard Risk Tool are “best guess” estimations of probable disastrous events. Flood and wildfire risks are known through published maps available to the insurance industry. Costs to insure these properties are predicated on the level of risk.
Landslide maps, likewise, show generalized questionable building locations. Landslide propensity is only determinable by on-the-ground site surveys. These investigations should be conducted by state licensed engineers.