Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Queens Gap Roads Threatened by Hazardous-Land Conditions

Queens Gap Subdivision—Rutherford County, North Carolina

Much of the Queens Gap subdivision development site is steep slope and as such should be classified a hazardous-land subdivision. Although not acknowledged by the Rutherford County planning board, the accepted definition for steep slope is land above a 15% grade.

The US Army Corp of Engineers has identified twenty eight different soil types on the Queens Gap construction site. The three major soils groupings are Evard-Cowee complex, Hayesville-Evard complex and the Ashe-Cleveland-Rock outcrop complex. As recorded in the 1997 Rutherford County Soil Survey: These soils on or above a 15% slope factor are “not suitable” or “poorly suited” for development—”Some are too unstable to be used as a foundation for buildings or roads.”

Both the county and the developer are aware of these geologic impediments and they know that Queens Gap roads will likely be damaged by slope failures.

Even roads built with the best engineering techniques are subject to stress and collapse. This point can best be illustrated by the recurring slope failures on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway Landslides 2003-2009

— Boulders on the Blue Ridge Parkway from the April 24, 2003, rockslide near Potato Field Gap, northeast of Asheville. The 165-ton boulder is being broken down to fit into a dump truck—North Carolina Geological Survey

—Sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed after rains from Hurricane Frances in September 2004 caused the roadway to give away in four places between Mount Mitchell and Linville Falls. The area in this image is near Milepost 348. Costs to repair road damage is estimated to be $11 million.—North Carolina Geological Survey

—This slide occurred along the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2006 totaling a passing vehicle and injuring the passengers—North Carolina Geological Survey

Photos are not available for the spring 2009 BRP landslide near Boone milepost 270. The landslide-road remediation is expected to be completed in December 2009.

Queen Gap Roads

Plans to develop the Queens Gap subdivision were approved in 2006. Roads in this 3,350-acre subdivision have been and remain an issue. The current owner, Keith Vinson, is under a new county deadline to have Phase 1 roads finished by June 2010. If Mr. Vinson and his financial backers miss the due date the county will call the bonds insuring compliance and finish the work.

Transfer of Hazardous-Land Subdivision to Property Owners

Each time a Queens Gap lot is sold, Mr. Vinson requires his client to sign a Subdivision Street Disclosure Statement. This conveyance document transfers ownership of roads and common areas from the developer to property owners in the incorporated homeowners’ association. The Subdivision Street Disclosure Statement shown below is the required conveyance document for all North Carolina private road subdivisions and planned communities.

Sample Subdivision Street Disclosure Statement

Pursuant to N. C. G. S. Section 136-102.6 _______, as the Declarant of _______,
issues this statement indicating that all of the roads within_______ are private. It is the obligation of _______ Homeowners' Association, Inc. (hereafter "Association") to maintain and keep in good repairs all of the private roads in _______Subdivision. It is mandatory for all property owners in _______ to be a member of the Association and the property owners, with the exception of the Declarant, have an obligation to pay assessments to maintain the private roads. The Declarant specifically states that the streets have not been constructed in such a manner to allow inclusion on the State highway system for maintenance.

The Subdivision Street Disclosure Statement may be an acceptable conveyance document for private roads built on non-hazardous soils but its applicability for steep slope subdivisions is disputable.

Those reviewing the standardized form should notice that there is no disclosure of the financial commitment required on the part of property owners for the maintenance of roads built on landslide-hazardous soils. For an example of the costs of repairing and stabilizing roads built on colluvial soils please see Horseshoe Cove Landslide Report.

The question of whether the Subdivision Street Disclosure Statement is a valid conveyance document for private street hazardous-land subdivisions has not been adjudicated. Queens Gap property owners who have concerns about this issue should query the North Carolina Real Estate Commission and seek legal advice.

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