Legasus/Waterdance Subdivision Landslide
Jackson County, North Carolina—February 2010
Photos: Perry Eury
“These slides are occurring countywide. None as visible as this one, but I’m vetting calls every time it rains.” Robbie Shelton — Jackson County erosion control officer.
Jackson County, North Carolina Mountain Real Estate
Waterdance: A Legasus-Designed Jackson County, North Carolina Hazardous-Land Subdivision
The Waterdance Subdivision landslide is the latest example of the consequence of hazardous-land real estate development in Jackson County, North Carolina.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency notified Jackson County commissioners and planners in 1998 that land under their jurisdiction was unstable and subject to disastrous landslide events. The Agency's hazardous-land findings were based on historical events, soil surveys and landslide mapping.
When the Waterdance Subdivision was declared and recorded, the plat should have reflected the following material information:
The Waterdance Subdivision development site is located on steep slope unstable soils. Landslides and erosion are likely to occur on, above and below 15% grades. Soil assessments for this subdivision can be found at the county Soil & Conservation Office. Jackson County did not require geotechnical, hydrologic or soil studies for this subdivision. Should this subdivision’s private roads be damaged by predictable natural events, the members of the property owners’ association will be liable for all repairs.
This caveat would have had a deleterious effect on sales, so this material information was withheld from Waterdance purchasers.
Legasus developers, Robert A. Corliss and Theodore C. Morlok, are responsible for a number of Jackson County, North Carolina hazardous-land subdivisions.
In November 2009 a Henderson County, North Carolina jury found Carriage Park Associates guilty of fraud for failing to disclose hazardous building site conditions.
The following is a reprint of the Legasus/Waterdance landslide news report.
Smoky Mountain News—Week of February 24, 2010
"Landslide damages financially-strapped Jackson development"
Giles Morris • Staff writer
A landslide at the Waterdance development in the Tuckasegee area of Jackson County washed out a road and dumped a significant amount of mud and concrete into the Tuckasegee River in early February.
Robbie Shelton, erosion control officer for Jackson County, estimated the slide laid bare a 75-foot-wide swath about 100 yards long. A retaining wall holding back a cut-and-fill slope above a road broke, and the resulting slide covered an entire lot at the development.
“It was just retaining too much water and the hydrostatic pressure caused it to fail,” Shelton said.
Shelton said the cause of the slide had not yet been determined.
Shelton said cold weather froze the slide and limited the effects of runoff. He also said the near flood levels of the Tuck’s West Fork may have minimized the impact by diluting the sediment. Shelton said there were no visible soil deposits downstream of the slide when he examined the river days after the event.
Water Dance is located between Tuckasegee and Glenville and is owned by Legasus, a mega developer that once held more than 4,000 acres in Jackson County. The developer fell victim to the recession and has faced numerous foreclosures over the past year.
The slide damaged a lot owned by Patrick Kennedy, who bought large acreage from Legasus during the company’s financial problems. Shelton said Legasus is currently working on a mitigation plan for the soil and concrete that entered the river, and the company’s engineers are studying the roadway. Water Dance was started before Jackson County passed a new, more restrictive subdivision ordinance, but its roads met county standards, Shelton said.
Shelton has received numerous calls about slides around the county as heavy rains and snow hit the mountains hard in February.
“These slides are occurring countywide,” said Shelton. “None as visible as this one, but I’m vetting calls every time it rains.”
Another slide closed a lane of N.C. 281 near Little Canada, and Shelton received reports of a third heavy slide near Whittier.