Saturday, July 4, 2009

Landslide Forecast: City of Asheville— Buncombe County Area

Examples of hazardous-land data available to Buncombe County planners.

Upper chart displays overview of landslide areas on a NCGS Stability Index Map. The next risk reports were generated by the Renaissance Computing Institute—they show parcel count and value for parcels in unstable and upper threshold landslide areas in the Town of Woodfin.

“Homes in harm’s way on many WNC slopes”

On March 1, 2009 the Asheville Citizen-Times provided an in-depth look at the issue of Western North Carolina landslides. The newspaper determined that these destructive forces are an urgent regional concern. Reporter Jon Ostendorff noted that the absence of hazardous-land information has exposed thousands of homeowners to extraordinary risks.

Western North Carolina Landslide Hazards Known in 1998

Landslide/flood events in September 2004 resulted in two federal disaster declarations for 15 western counties. Landslide fatalities and property loss prompted additional funding for the already in place (2000) Western North Carolina landslide hazard mapping program. In 1998 the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management issued high hazard landslide advisories for mountain areas in 23 Western North Carolina counties. To date only two counties have been landslide mapped: Macon (2006) and Watauga (2008).

Members of the North Carolina General Assembly have twice declined (2007 and 2009) to require hazardous-land disclosure. Their stated reasons: hazardous-land conditions have not been identified—the issue needs more study.

Renaissance Computing Institute— Buncombe County Multi-Hazard Risk Tool

The Asheville Citizen-Times did not know when Mr. Ostendorff’s article was published that all Buncombe County real estate had been assessed for expected disasters.

In an unpublicized March 2009 meeting emergency personnel along with planning board members from Buncombe County, city of Asheville and nearby communities were advised that software applications designed by the Renaissance Computing Institute can now readily pinpoint potentially dangerous building sites.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Why has Buncombe County real property been assessed and inventoried for potential disasters ? The answer lies with federal hazard mitigation requirements. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants to know real property risk-exposure in this identified multi-hazardous county.

Failure to Disclose Buncombe County Hazardous-Land Conditions

It is not known how developers, Realtors and lawyers will respond to the Buncombe County Multi-Hazard Risk Tool but these professionals know that, when identified, material risks must be revealed.

How can the public be dutifully informed of Buncombe County’s real estate risks? The answer is simple: It’s called a Natural Hazard Disclosure Statement. This document has accompanied all California real property hazardous-land transactions since 1998.

The following is a proposed modified version of the California disclosure statement.

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 evaluated 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.

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