Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mountainaircc Real Estate: Landslide Concerns

Mountain Air: A Hazardous-Land Subdivision

The Mountain Air residential community, located in Yancey County, NC was sited on geologically-hazardous land. Federal authorities state that landslides and slope failures can be expected.

Wurster engineering photos of before and after Mountainaircc/Austin View Villas underground landslide repair—

Wurster Engineering and Construction, Inc.— Description of Mountainaircc/ Austin View Villas landslide remediation:
Continuous slope movement was causing considerable damage to the Austin View Villas Condominiums. Slope inclinometers indicated that slope movement was occurring about 40 ft below the condominiums and extending to the road above the condominiums.

WEC installed patterned ground anchors to stabilize the slope. Patterned ground anchors consisted of 85 to 110 ft long strand tieback anchors connected to 8 ft by 8 ft reinforced concrete pads. Once the tieback construction was completed, the slope was backfilled.

Subsequent slope inclinometer readings indicate that slope movement has ceased. The condominiums were releveled and restored by others.
Legal Actions re Mountain Air Development Company

In 2003-2004, earth movement impacted steep slope condominium buildings in the residential community known as Mountain Air (Mountainaircc). The landslide caused structural damage to Austin View Villas and Hemlock Bluff Villas. Affected property owners sued the developer, Mountain Air Development Corporation, for negligence and other causes of action.

Austin View Villas Landslide Property Damage Complaint
(07 CVS 19)
…in 2003 the foundations of two buildings of the five unit Austin View Villas began cracking and in late 2004 the foundations of the Units began and/or continued moving and “sliding” on the side of the mountain upon which the Units had been constructed, causing the foundations, wall structures, floors, and other components of the Units to crack and to deteriorate substantially. As a consequence, the Units became-and remain-completely uninhabitable and the Intervenor Plaintiffs have been deprived entirely of the use and enjoyment of their Units since January 2005.

Hemlock Bluff Villas Landslide Property Damage Complaint

During the summer of 2004, Building C, one of the Hemlock Bluffs condominium units began shifting on its slope site. Court documents reveal that:
Hemlock has been severely damaged, including separating of the decks from the buildings, cracking in foundation and supports, movement of stairs and walls, and otherwise and Plaintiff has spent and will spend substantial sums of money for the extraordinary repairs and reconstruction of the buildings and major portions of the common elements at Hemlock.
The complaint, Hemlock Bluff Villas Condominium Association Inc. vs. Mountain Air Development Corporation et al (06 CVS 51), was settled out of court.

Mountain Air Landslide Insurance Issues

Insurers have evaluated the probability of earth-movement property loss and as a result, this hazard is not covered. These restrictions apply to all US-issued homeowner policies.

Western North Carolina Landslide Hazard Maps

Due to the region's adverse geologic conditions, federal authorities (FEMA) obligated the state in 2005 to produce landslide hazard identification maps for nineteen at-risk mountain counties. Maps for Macon, Watauga and Buncombe Counties mark areas of critical slope status and the need for geo-technical on-site analysis.

Landslide Predictives: Steep Slopes and Colluvial Soils

Yancey County, NC steep slope soils are "ill-suited" for home sites and infrastructure. Reference: Yancey County, NC Soil Survey

Steep slopes are universally defined as land on or above a 15% grade.

Failure to Disclose

Mountain Air Development Corporation and agencies listing Mountain Air real estate have several unmet obligations. These parties have failed to disclose the Western North Carolina Landslide Hazard Mapping Program, Austin View/Hemlock Bluff Villas slope repair and contraindicated Mountain Air soil findings.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Centex Violations re Bear Lake Reserve

Bear Lake Reserve Subdivision Jackson County, NC

Photograph of Bear Lake Prior to Development

Bear Lake Reserve Site map

Bear Lake Reserve, a 2,100-acre Jackson County, NC  steep slope subdivision, was planned and partially developed by Centex Destination Properties.  Tax records show that Centex paid $11 million for the original 770-acre tract in April 2003.

Centex contractors began laying in Phase One roads and home sites in early 2004. When the project is completed, the Bear Lake Reserve Property Owners' Association will be financially responsible for water, sewer and road systems.

Macfarlan Capital Partners, L.P purchased Bear Lake Reserve in April 2008 for an undisclosed amount. TerraMesa Resorts, an MCP-formed entity, is currently in charge of operations. 

Shortly after the acquisition of  Bear Lake Reserve, TerraMesa learned that Centex had violated Duke Power shoreline policy and state regulations.

Bear Lake Reserve property owners received the following Centex-violation status report in October 2008:
October 29, 2008

Dear Bear Lake Homeowner,

The purpose of this letter is to bring you up to date on several issues concerning the community and its infrastructure including the docks. Many of these issues were raised at the Annual Meeting in September and we would like to bring you up to date on the efforts taken to address them. Each of these issues has involved interaction with Centex Homes and, in the case of the docks, Duke Energy. The Terramesa team has been fully engaged with each of these entities in the effort to bring our concerns to a resolution.

Throughout the process, Terramesa has maintained a dialogue with Centex Homes and has communicated the urgency of these matters to Centex. Terramesa is committed to keeping you informed. As such, a web-link has been created to provide you with the latest information and progress. This letter will provide you with a baseline of information, which will be updated via the web-link. You can reach the blog site by going to: This letter will also be posted on the blog site.

Dock Issues with Duke Energy

We first sent a letter to owners on September 17th concerning issues raised by Duke Power as to the validity of certain dock permits originally obtained by Centex. At the time, we were still researching the issues and waiting for Centex Homes to provide us with their response to Duke Power on the issues raised, so we were not in a position to provide more detailed information. However, we feel that it is appropriate to lay out for you the chronology of events that have taken place since this issue was first raised.

Since June, Terramesa has met with Duke Energy on site on two occasions. The first meeting was on June 18th. This meeting was our introduction to the situation. Duke Energy approached Terramesa on the issue due to our status as the current developer of the Bear Lake Reserve property. At that time, we were informed of the concern as to the validity of certain permits and/or docks on Bear Lake. Duke Energy Lake Management personnel provided an overview indicating that Duke had accomplished an inventory of the docks and stair facilities within the Bear Lake Reserve subdivision.

Following that meeting, Duke Energy provided written notification of the specific issues by letter, dated August 4th, which was addressed to TerraMesa. In its letter, Duke pointed to a lake management policy for Bear Lake Reserve adopted by Duke in 2003, which sets a limit on private docks per amount of shoreline. Although Duke recognized that Centex had been given a number of permits for private docks that were considered grandfathered from this policy, Duke took the position that the permits were only applicable to certain lots and that the unused permits have since expired. Duke’s letter stated that there were currently more docks within the shore frontage of Bear Lake Reserve than permitted under their current policy, and called for a plan to address this issue by September 29th.

Although the letter from Duke was addressed to TerraMesa, as the current developer of the Bear Lake Reserve project, the permits and the dock installations and alleged violations raised by Duke occurred during the ownership of the property by Centex Homes. Accordingly, we forwarded the letter to Centex Homes and requested that they be prepared to respond to Duke’s issues.

On August 23rd, Terramesa and senior Centex Homes management met on-site at Bear Lake Reserve to address infrastructure and dock issues. In preparation, the Terramesa team conducted an extensive infrastructure and dock survey documenting a complete list of concerns to be addressed with Centex Homes. As part of that meeting, the Centex Homes representatives were provided a copy of the infrastructure and dock survey findings and were given a property and lake tour identifying general and specific issues. Terramesa informed Centex Homes of the necessity to bring these items to closure and, specifically, the need to respond to Duke Energy on the dock issue by September 29th.

As a follow-up on the dock issue and, as part of our effort to develop a good working relationship with Duke Energy, Terramesa invited the Duke Energy Lake Management Representative to meet on-site on September 8th. During the September 8th meeting, Terramesa posed clarifying questions to Duke Energy and conducted an on-lake tour of several sections of the shoreline. Following that meeting, on September 17th, Centex Homes sent two representatives to Bear Lake Reserve to look for and recover any dock permit related information that may have been left behind in the construction records file. Terramesa hosted the individuals for the afternoon and provided them access to the inactive file storage area.

On September 29th, Centex Homes, through their attorney, responded to Duke Energy with regard to the August 4th Duke Energy letter. In the response, Centex Homes requested additional information from Duke Energy and expressed a desire to resolve the issue, but challenged Duke’s position on the issues.

During the interim timeframe, Duke Energy has continued to research the permitting process and the development and application of policies applicable to Bear Creek Lake. As a result, Duke Energy drafted an October 16th clarifying letter to Terramesa, which was received by us on October 20th. In the letter, Duke Energy provided very specific information on the affected shoreline sections and identified a series of actions required to bring the shoreline into compliance with the applicable Duke Energy pier and shoreline management policies. In this letter Duke modified their position to the better from that expressed in their August 4th letter, but they continue to raise concerns that we believe require further discussion.

This letter, like the one of August 4th, was passed onto Centex Homes for their use in addressing the issue with Duke Energy and with you, the affected owners. As we did before, because the resolution of the issue regards actions taken by Centex Homes and involves issues of a contractual nature, Terramesa has asked Centex Homes to develop the response to Duke Energy and to address the matter with you directly. We are working with Centex Homes to resolve this matter, and we believe that there is a good opportunity to craft a solution that will be satisfactory to all parties. Please know that we share your concern about this issue; in fact, it directly affects our future development plans so we have every interest in resolving this matter in a manner that provides for existing and future lot owners with dock access to the extent possible.

Utility Infrastructure Issues

Since acquiring Bear Lake Reserve from Centex Homes, we have learned that a number of the water lines installed by Centex Homes throughout Phase II were installed without the proper permitting from State of North Carolina, and did not receive the proper inspection that would have occurred during the permitting process prior to their being buried and put in use. We have also learned that as-built drawings showing the location of these lines were not prepared, which would have been required as part of the permitting process as well. As a result of failure to obtain the necessary permits, we have been informed by the State that no service connections can be made to these water lines until permits have been obtained and the lines have been inspected and certified.

The lack of as-built plans has also hampered our ability to install other utility lines in these areas, because we do not want to dig up the existing lines. Also, in the event that there is an issue with the integrity of the lines that have been installed, if we were to open up the trenches where these pipes are installed, we would take on the liability for any problems with the water lines, as it would not be possible to demonstrate that the line was defective prior to our efforts, and since these lines were not previously certified, this is a risk we are not willing to undertake.

We have been in contact with Centex Homes concerning this matter and they have retained engineering assistance and are preparing the necessary permit application. On October 6th, Terramesa hosted a Centex Homes representative on site at Bear Lake Reserve and provided the appropriate professional staff representatives to serve as escorts. During the visit, each water delivery issue was addressed, inventoried, and photographed. Centex Homes is keeping us informed about their progress on this matter, and we have reason to believe that it will be resolved in the coming months, so that we will be able to complete the installation of utilities to these areas.

As you can see, the past few months we have been busy. Terramesa has invested a significant effort into resources and time in the identification of and documentation of issues that concern our community. We believe that the efforts to get to a common level of understanding will benefit the community and we continue to urge Centex Homes to support speedy resolution. In the meantime, in order to keep you informed, Terramesa will support a weekly update of the previously mentioned web-link and continues its offer to host a Centex Homes sponsored information session at the Lake Club.


Todd S. White

President, Terramesa Development Group

“Our Family Creating Memories for Your Family”

P.O. Box 96 - 412 Lake Forest Drive - Tuckasegee, North Carolina 28783

Phone (828) 293-7414 - Fax (828) 293-3920

Bear Lake Reserve Landslide Issues

Bear Lake Reserve property owners were advised on November 21, 2008 that Centex would be held responsible for Southshore Mountain Lodges, Lakeshore Condos and Juneberry Cottages slope failures.

Bear Lake Reserve Landslide Issues

Bear Lake Reserve Subdivision Jackson County, North Carolina

Photograph of Bear Lake Prior to Development

Bear Lake Reserve Subdivision Site Map

Land for the subsequently-named  Bear Lake Reserve Subdivision was purchased by Centex Destination Properties in April 2003. Tax records indicate that Centex paid $11 million for the original 770-acre tract. By early 2004, the company's contractors were cutting roads and laying out home sites in Phase One of the proposed 800-residence subdivision.

When the Bear Lake Reserve project is finished, the Property Owners' Association will assume responsibility for maintaining water, sewer and road systems in the enlarged 2,100-acre subdivision.

Macfarlan Capital Partners, L.P. acquired Bear Lake Reserve in April 2008 for an undisclosed sum. TerraMesa Resorts, an MCP-formed entity, is presently in charge of operations.

Jackson County, NC Real Estate: Landslide Hazard Concerns

If Centex had conducted due diligence before investing in Jackson County mountain land, the company would have known that the Bear Lake Reserve site was "ill-suited" for residential development because its steep slope soils require “major increase in construction effort, special design, or intensive maintenance.” References: Jackson County, NC Soil Survey/ Jackson County, NC Land Development Plan advisory.

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—

Since the Bear Lake Reserve Centex-land purchase, stakeholders have had a steep learning curve.

The following reprinted  report details Bear Lake Reserve areas of concern. MCP, the current developer, is holding Centex responsible.

Bear Lake Reserve Property Owners Update November 21, 2008

Phases I and II
This past week concluded a major review of the progress on infrastructure projects by the Terramesa team. We reviewed each of the line items that have been identified as discrepancies with a specific focus on the water distribution to Phase I lots and correction of hillside stability.

In addition to the hillside stability issues, our Land Development and Resident Civil Engineer reviewed the progress on extension of the water system to several points within Phase I and Phase II that require additional pumping and piping. These plans are in preliminary review and are the basis for the project execution plan which Centex will review.

Lakeshore Condos and Juneberry Cottages

Engineering plans for slide correction at the Lakeshore Condos and the Juneberry Cottages were reviewed and forwarded to Centex. Centex is working through the approval process which will include on-site inspections. Once approved these projects will get underway and will be completed.

Lilywood Court and Purpletop Drive

Final grading and utility installation was completed on Lilywood Drive. Purple Top paving has been completed and the erosion control and storm water management components have been put in place.

The next step will be a review of each additional site for preparedness. We want to ensure that we accomplish the infrastructure tie-ins in the most efficient manner requiring some preliminary research and confirmation of the current status.

Southshore Mountain Lodges

Centex made a return visit last week to do a site review of the geotechnical repair proposal for the slide at Southshore mountain lodges. We are currently waiting for approval to begin repairs.
Centex Corporation: Hazardous-Land Subdivisions

The Bear Lake Reserve subdivision tract has two documented geologic impediments: landslide-prone slopes and erodible soils. These perils are significant financial burdens for homeowners: insurers will not cover earth-movement related property loss.

It is not known whether Macfarlin Capital Group and Bear Lake Reserve property owners are aware that Centex, now Pulte, has a record of using unstable land tracts for residential endeavors.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fort Bragg Infant Fatalities Continue

Fort Bragg Infant Deaths

Fort Bragg infant Jaxson Garza died for unknown reasons on February 24, 2011. His death, coupled with the loss of eleven other military-housed babies, is a statistical aberration.

Twelve Fort Bragg infants have died since February 2007. Medical examiners have ruled SIDS for one fatality, the cause of the other infant deaths remain undetermined.

Some parents were advised after their children's deaths that sulfur-emitting wallboard could be a factor. Three fatalities have been linked to occupancy in one residence. Even though investigators responsible for the 2011 Consumer Product Safety Commission report found no environmental causation, other professionals disagree.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Report February 7, 2011 re Cause of Unexplained Infant Mortality

In early October 2010, personnel from Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc. (EH&E) conducted a series of on-site tests in two of the suspect residences. Summary as follows:
Findings: Neither Fort Bragg home met the criteria for identification of homes with problem drywall as defined by the CPSC/U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) interim guidance document (CPSC/HUD 2010).

Conclusions: Based on the observations of the EH&E field staff and analysis of the results of the in-home sampling and testing, as well as interviews with CID and CPSC field investigators and a review of previously conducted testing of drywall from the homes, EH&E concludes that 144 Groesbeek Street and 4 Darden Street do not contain problem drywall.
Other infant-death homes have not been evaluated for toxins.

While EH&E was analyzing data, another Fort Bragg baby died in November 2010.

The EH&E inspection team determined that Chinese drywall was not present in the Groesbeek and Darden structures. Whether the absence of this federally-required corroborating evidence influenced the scope of the investigation is not known.

Conflicting Fort Bragg Consumer Product Safety Commission Studies re Sulfur-Emitting Wallboard

On November 23, 2010 the Fayetteville Observer reported that CPSC field employees on two occasions had found persuasive evidence of elevated sulfur levels in two of the under-scrutiny homes. The initial report noted presence of rotten egg odors, blackened copper and corroded metals.

Sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide

Sulphur in its natural state is a benign element but industry-produced chemical by products, i. e. sulphur dioxide (SO2) and hydrogen sulfide, are harmful.

Hydrogen sulfides produce warning signals by releasing acrid odors but they also impair the sense of smell. As a consequence those being poisoned are unaware of the threat. Breathing hydrogen sulfides can result in death.

American-Made Drywall Health Hazards 

ProPublica reported on December 15, 2010 that synthetic ( flue gas desulfurized)  gypsum, an American-manufactured wallboard  is and has been commonly used for home construction. Litigation documents indicate that this relatively-new coal ash composite wallboard poses risks similar to those of the Chinese product. For additional information regarding the use of this industry/government-promoted manufacturing process please see  FGD research document.

Home Insurance Faulty-Material Exclusion Clauses

The cost to remediate a sulfur-contaminated residence is generally $100,000 or more. By use of exclusion clauses, homeowners’ policies have avoided liability for these damages.

Failure to Communicate

The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are still collating data re domestic/foreign made sulfur-emitting wallboard. As a result of industry demands, there is no regulation over American-manufactured  synthetic gypsum or disclosure of health risks linked to this product.

If the original CPSC field report findings are correct, the off-gassing sulfur wallboards were risks to infants' health. But there may be other contributing  factors.

Fort Bragg Soil and Water Contamination Report

Some of the substantive findings in the 2009 Fort Bragg hazardous-land assessment report:
Contaminants of Concern: Explosives, Metals, Pesticides, Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB), Semi-volatiles (SVOC), Volatiles (VOC)

Media of Concern: Groundwater, Sediment, Soil, Surface Water

Groundwater underlying Fort Bragg has been shown to be contaminated with solvents, POL, metals, and pesticides primarily at FTBR-069 and -103. Groundwater at Fort Bragg is not currently used as a source for drinking water.
For reasons cited above, federal authorities have classified various Fort Bragg contamination sites not acceptable for any public use:
Landfill restriction - Restrict access to the site, Landfill restriction - Restrict vehicular traffic, Media specific restriction - Prohibit groundwater extraction that interferes with Remedial Action system, Media specific restriction - Prohibit, or otherwise manage excavation, Media specific restriction - prohibit use of groundwater for consumption or domestic purposes, Media specific restriction - restrict drinking water well installation, Media specific restriction - restrict withdrawal or use of groundwater for agricultural/irrigation purposes, Restrict land use - Mitigation area(s) protection, Restrict land use - No daycare/hospital/school use, Restrict land use - No residential use
Medical History of Camp Lejeune Personnel

Camp Lejeune's hazardous-to-health site conditions are a case in point. It took decades for federal authorities to acknowledge that ground and water pollutants will trigger stillbirths, miscarriages, and result in an array of cancers.

Additional References Re Sulfur-Emitting Wallboard

More Companies Knew About Tainted Drywall but Stayed Quiet—and Kept Selling It— ProPublica/Sarasota Herald-Tribune — June 2010

Expert: Builder’s New Guidelines for Chinese Drywall “Feel Like a Whitewash” ProPublica— March 2011

Five Things You Can Do With Our Interactive Feature on Tainted Drywall—ProPublica—December 2010

Habitat for Humanity Buys Back House Built with Chinese Drywall—ProPublica—March 2011

National Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Drywall Companies for Manufacturing Sulfur Emitting Drywall—Attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez

Chinese Drywall Plaintiffs Awarded $2.6M—CBS NEWS—April 2010

Executive Summary of April 2, 2010 Release Consumer Product Safety Commission

Sulfur-Emitting Chinese Drywall Blamed for Sickening Residents in American Homes Fox News —April 2009

Florida Homeowner Brenda Brincku’s Senate Testimony June 17, 2009

National Gypsum Press Release— January 2010

Drywall supplier at Bragg faces suit Fayetteville Observer December 2010

Indoor Air Pollutants Affecting Child Health— 2000