Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I-40 Rockslide Reveals Western North Carolina Hazardous-Land Conditions

Western North Carolina: I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Rockslides— July 1997 /October 2009 —NCGS & Asheville Citizen-Times

The Pigeon River Gorge I-40 rock slide has shut down a major corridor from Asheville, North Carolina to Knoxville, Tennessee. This mountain side collapse preceded a similar I-40 rock slide in 1997. Professionals estimate remediation will take months and cost millions.

A major landslide also threatens the Blue Ridge Parkway as noted in the following October 16, 2009 Blue Ridge Parkway Update:
With growing fears of a major landslide onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, officials have indefinitely closed a 1.5-mile section of the Parkway near Mt. Pisgah - south of Asheville. Barricades are at the Bad Fork Valley Overlook at milepost 399.7 and the Wash Creek Valley Overlook at milepost 401.1. The closure is a result of widening 300-foot-long fissures on a slope 200 feet above the road. If the 50-foot-deep cracks cause a landslide, an estimated 1,000 tons of rock and soil could end up on the Parkway. The cracks are 5-7 feet wide and a bulge has developed under the down-slope roadbed. Federal Highway Administration geotechnical engineers determined that an inordinate amount of rainfall, the likelihood of additional precipitation and the tenuous condition of the slope create a high risk of failure. The slope failed in 2002 and has been closely monitored since being repaired.
In April 2009 a landslide damaged a section of the Parkway near Boone (milepost 270) necessitating closure of a two mile stretch. Officials hope to have repairs completed in December 2009.

Blue Ridge Parkway Landslide/Rockslide 2004-2006 —NCGS

Western North Carolina Mountain Real Estate

Those reading the Interstate and Parkway landslide articles would not know that these destructive forces target all Western North Carolina mountain real estate.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency all steep slope building sites in the 25-county region known as Western North Carolina are at considerable risk of landslides. ( Contrary to local planning boards’ definition, steep slope is defined as land above a 15% grade.)

In an effort to control and mitigate hazardous-land development practices, FEMA is requiring disaster-susceptible counties to provide risk/loss assessments. For example all real property in Buncombe County, North Carolina has been evaluated for probable disaster events. The North Carolina Geological Survey's Buncombe County landslide hazards maps were published in August 2009 but the FEMA address-specific hazardous-land data maps (April 2009) have not been released to the public.

Presently there are no federal rules governing hazardous-land disclosure so states are left to their own discretion. In North Carolina, real estate documents such as sales contracts and Subdivision Street Disclosure Statements fail to provide fair warning that mountain home sites and roads are landslide-hazardous.

Since 2003 Western North Carolina landslides have caused six deaths and millions of dollars in real property damage.

Before and after photographs- Donin Landslide
Haywood County, NC—2009 —Asheville Citizen-Times

Horseshoe Cove Subdivision Landslides- Haywood County, NC
2003 —Pam Williams, Property Owner

Mountain Air Landslides-Yancey County, NC 2003-2004

Airport Landslides -Jackson County, NC
1977-2005 —NCGS

White Laurel Subdivision
Landslide -Watauga County, NC

Jonas Ridge Debris Flow
Burke County, NC 2004—NCGS

Jones's Landslide Fatality
Haywood County 2003—NCGS

Peeks Creek Landslide
5 Fatalities/15 homes destroyed
Macon County, NC 2004— NCGS

Moody Landslide
Haywood County, NC 2009
Asheville Citizen-Times

Starnes Cove Landslide
Buncombe County, NC 2004 —NCGS

Landslide-hazardous real estate is an ill-advised investment because property owners have no access to insurance protection. Insurers have weighed the risk and they will not cover landslide losses. As a result, earth movement damage is excluded in all homeowners policies nationwide. Specialty landslide insurance is not available in Western North Carolina.

The question then arises why would the mortgage industry provide financing for homes that have no critical insurance protection? The answer is securitization. Hazardous-land mortgages, like subprime loans, were bundled and sold to other investors.

Hazardous-Land Subdivisions

In addition to personal loss, Western North Carolina steep slope property owners are faced with the responsibility for maintaining their private subdivision roads.

At time of lot sales, developers require their clients to sign a document titled the Subdivision Street Disclosure Statement. By signing this standardized conveyance document, property owners agree that they own and are responsible for the subdivision’s private roads.

For information concerning property owners' legal obligations please visit the North Carolina Real Estate Commission Web site

No comments: