Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jackson County, NC Real Estate: 2006 Landslide Hazard Situation Report

Jackson County, NC Landslides

Jackson County, NC  Landslide Photo
SouthWings Flyover 2010

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, NC erosion control officer.

Jackson County, NC  landslide photo 2010—

2005 Western North Carolina Landslide Hazard Mapping Program

Federal authorities notified twenty-seven mountain county governments in 1998 that the region was geologically hazardous and that mountain slope development would likely precipitate landslides and slope failures.  Planning boards did not heed these advisories and as a consequence, homes and private subdivision roads across the region have been built on critical slopes and costly to control soils.

September 2004 landslide events,  which included fatalities and wide-spread property loss,  prompted federal intervention.  In February 2005, the North Carolina General Assembly agreed to formally initiate the Western North Carolina Landslide Hazard Mapping Program.

Counties covered by the Hurricane Recovery Act: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, and Yancey.

The North Carolina Geological Survey has published landslide/soil hazard maps for Macon '06, Watauga '08 and Buncombe '09.  Geologic Information Systems show that significant portions of completed or proposed steep slope building sites in these three counties are unstable to moderately stable.

In May 2010, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission advised Realtors that landslide/soil hazard maps, like flood zone maps, are material to purchasers.

Jackson County, NC Landslide Hazard Maps Not Available

Since there is no scheduled release date for Jackson County, NC landslide hazard maps, interested parties will have to rely on other sources when making decisions.  As shown on the following maps, a significant number of Jackson County subdivisions have been sited on unstable slopes.

Jackson County, NC Land Development Plan—2006

Jackson County. NC Slope Evaluation Map
 Green indicates 30-50% slopes; purple 50-100%

Jackson County, NC  Subdivision Map

Following years of free rein mountain slope residential development, the Jackson County planning board determined that requests for subdivision permits should be carefully considered due to the region's unstable land conditions.

For clarification,  please refer to page 23 of the Jackson County, NC Land Development Plan:
As growth and development occur at an increasing rate in the County, the natural and manmade limitations to development become more apparent. Topography—primarily steep slopes—has been one of the more significant limitations to development. Map 1 [See Appendix] categorizes the development potential of land in the county based upon its slope, with land having a slope in excess of 30 percent considered to have severe limitations to development and lands with a slope in excess of 40 percent considered not suitable for development. Given these parameters, almost half the land in the county either has severe limitations on development or is considered not suitable for development.

Jackson County Real Estate: Subdivision Permits 2000–2005

Jackson County did not require feasibility studies for these listed subdivisions. Developers were left to their own best judgment on where to place lots and build Property Owners' Association roads.

Subdivision Name/Number of Lots

Mountain Top/325
Bear Lake/675
Balsam Mountain Preserve/354
Lonesome Valley/200
The Divide (Bald Rock)/67
Water Dance/94
Phase 1 River Rock/40
Phase 2 River Rock/200
Phase 3 River Rock/1760
Smoke Rise/100
Bear Pen/95
Black Bear Falls/99
Black Rock/32
Dills Cove/70
Bridge Creek/80
Garnet Ridge/100
Mountain River of Cullowhee/31
Cedar Hill/150
Stone Creek Estates/38
Whiteside Cliffs/30
Bakers Creek Preserve/ 42

Total Lots 5454

Jackson County, NC Real Estate: Conditional Sales Contracts

When purchasing steep slope home sites  (defined as land on or above a 15% grade),  experts recommend stability evaluations as a condition of contract.  These risk assessments are crucial: landslide insurance is not obtainable.

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