Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Settings of Black Mountain— Hazardous-Land Disclosure Statement

One of a series of North Carolina Geological Survey landslide prediction maps. Computer technology now allows developers and Buncombe County planners to evaluate occupied and vacant residential parcels for probable landslide events.

It is not known whether Richard W. McWhorter, President of The Settings Development Companies, LLC. and developer of The Settings of Black Mountain has been informed that all Buncombe County real property has been evaluated for hazardous-land conditions. The Settings of Black Mountain Web site does not reference the completed hazardous-land real estate maps.

Disaster Maps Reveal Buncombe County Real Estate Hazards

Federal and state emergency management agencies expect disastrous events such as landslides, wildfires and flooding to impact major residential areas in Buncombe County. These forecasts have prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to require real estate risk blue prints as part of the county’s hazard mitigation planning.

The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) has designed computer software that is able to locate by address all naturally hazardous real property locations. Although new to Buncombe County, these real estate risk determinate programs are in place in other multi-hazard municipalities.

Emergency personnel along with county, city and town planners were briefed in March 2009 on the use of the Buncombe County Multi-Hazard Risk Tool and its ability to generate real estate hazard/risk maps. Hazardous-land risk identification tools were installed in Buncombe County computer systems in April 2009.

Examples of Hazardous-Land Data for Buncombe County, North Carolina

Starnes Cove Landslide—NCGS—September 2004

Landslide Hazard Map—Town of Woodfin—April 2009

Landslide reports show parcel count and value for parcels in the unstable area and the upper threshold area.

Homes in Harm’s Way— Landslide Investigations

In March 2009 two newspapers, one national and the other regional, reported on the dire consequences of hazardous-land real estate development. The New York Times and the Asheville Citizen-Times found that thousands of homeowners across the county will face significant uninsurable landslide property losses.

Wildfire Threats

Wildfire Hazard Map—Town of Montreat—April 2009

Wildfire Reports show parcel count and value for parcels at high, medium high or greater, and medium or greater risk levels. Data compiled by the Renaissance Computing Institute.

City of Portland—Hazardous-Land Data

Looking to buy real estate in the city of Portland? Type in an address, such as 6438 SW Burlingame Place- Hillsdale, on the PortlandMaps Web site and you will find that this property is rated for landslides, earthquakes and wildfires.

Photo/Burlingame Landslide—The Oregonian—October 8, 2008

PortlandMaps—6438 Burlingame Place—landslide real estate map

Why was this address chosen? There are two reasons: the first is to illustrate the sophistication of the PortlandMaps system and the second is to demonstrate the accuracy of geological findings. On the morning of October 8, 2008, a portion of the Burlingame lot collapsed and a neighborhood was devastated. The cause of the Burlingame landslide: use of a sprinkler system on unstable slopes.

The Settings of Black Mountain

Mr. McWhorter should be concerned that the permit for The Settings of Black Mountain was granted without benefit of hazardous-land mapping.

The question is, now that Mr. McWhorter is aware of the new Buncombe County real estate risk reports, how can he protect his 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 on The Settings of Black Mountain Web site and as part 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 and mortgage refinancing. 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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