Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Macon County Real Estate: "Caveat Emptor" Warns Planning Board Chairman

Macon County, NC Real Estate: Landslide Hazard Maps and Soil Surveys

The state notified Macon County commissioners in October 2006 that major tracts of privately-owned mountain land were impracticable for residential development. These advisory reports (digitized soil assessments and landslide maps) were compiled by the North Carolina Geological Survey at the behest of federal officials.

Macon County, NC Landslide/Soil Hazards Maps

Macon County planning decisions became a Federal Emergency Management Agency concern after the Peeks Creek landslide killed five residents and demolished fifteen homes. Macon was one of fifteen western mountain counties affected by slope failures in September 2004.

NCGS—Peeks Creek Landslide Photos

Western North Carolina Landslide Hazard Maps

In October 2006, Governor Easley issued this press release regarding the importance of the 2005 federally-mandated Western North Carolina Landslide Hazard Mapping Program:
These maps will show which areas are prone to landslides, and that will help developers, county officials, and residents decide where to safely build homes, roads, and other structures.
Landslides Impact Macon County Residences and Subdivision Private Roads

Macon County commissioners were faced with a choice in the fall of 2006: continue the status quo and allow residential growth in geologically unstable areas or institute prohibitive regulations. The county currently does not require feasility/safety studies as a condition for steep slope subdivision permits. The decision to favor hazardous-land development over the public’s well being was addressed by Lewis Penland, chairman of the Macon County Planning Board on December 2, 2010:
We have sat by as people from faraway places have promised us the moon if only we would stay out of their way and let them develop. Well that promise has come and gone and we’re left with unstable roads and house sites, unlivable homes, and hundreds of foreclosed lots burdening our banks.

What we offer is a “caveat emptor,” “buyer beware” atmosphere. For example, if I buy a used car down at the local lot and the brakes don’t work on that car, then, we come to find out, the salesman knew that all along, but he wanted to make the sale, so he didn’t disclose. Well, a couple of things are going to happen. First of all I will never buy a car from that individual again. Secondly, I’m going to tell all my friends “don’t buy anything from that car lot because you don’t know what you’re getting.” The same thing is happening right now with our county.

People who’ve invested in property here only to see that property affected by slides or erosion and runoff on their property or their neighbors’ property. They in turn are telling their friends.

Over the long term, that’s going to hurt us.

Ultima Carolina Wildflower Subdivision Landslides

SouthWings photos of Wildflower landslides

Craftsman's Village/Boggan Landslide

Photos of Craftsman's Village construction site and view of Boggan
landslide property damage—Macon County News

Macon County, NC Real Estate: Hazardous-Land Disclosure

The North Carolina Real Estate Commission has determined that Realtors and developers must disclose published N. C. Geological Survey risk
(landslide map/soil assessment) findings on property listings and in sales contracts. Macon County Realtors are not in compliance with the Commission's material fact ruling.

It is not known whether county governments are obliged to reveal hazardous-land data.

Of the twenty-one Western North Carolina counties designated landslide-hazardous in 1998, only three have completed maps: Macon (06), Watauga (08) and Buncombe (09). Two county governments, Buncombe and Watauga provide links to their respective landslide maps, Macon does not.

State geologists have determined that 67.3 % of Macon County land is unstable to moderately stable. This fact should be noted on all Macon County real estate sales contracts since property owners will be self-insuring for structural damage caused by earth movement. The insurance industry does not cover  landslide losses.

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