Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jackson County, North Carolina Real Estate: Landslides "Not Surprising"

Jackson County, NC Realtors Fail to Disclose Mountain Slope Landslide/Soil Hazards

Data from soil surveys and North Carolina geologists find that Jackson County, NC real estate and HOA private roads are subject to slope failures, debris flows and underground landslides. These  identifiable land impediments are not referenced on MLS listings, sales contracts and Subdivision Street Disclosure Statements.

Adverse building site conditions are material facts yet this information has not been forthcoming from Jackson County, NC Realtors. This omission is curious since the planning board stated in 2006 that approximately 50% of Jackson County land is unstable.

This recent North Carolina Geological Survey report details Jackson County, NC landslides:
Landslide Hazard Mapping Update
Jackson County Planning Board
April 14, 2011

A. Overview of work completed from 2/22/201 through 4/8/2011.

NCGS staff briefed Planning Board on 2/8/11. Field work began on 2/22/2011 and initially concentrated on sites identified by Robby Shelton. Field crews are now conducting routine mapping at various locations in the county several days a week.

Mapping Summary

Total Number of landslides documented in field: 40
Accompanied by Robby Shelton: 19
Field Crews Only: 21
Landslides on unmodified slopes 15
Landslides on modified slopes 25
Total field data collection locations: 231

B. Major issues.

No major issues with work progress have been identified to date. Given the extent of steep slopes in the County, the number of slope movements and slope movement deposits identified to date is not surprising.

C. Things anticipated/not anticipated.

An embankment failure/debris flow associated with acid-producing rock at the Mountain Heritage development is not unlike similar occurrences with acid-producing rock in Macon, Haywood and Swain Counties. As hoped, field crews have been able to confirm debris flow sites on the ground that were identified from 1953 aerial photography.

D. Information or assistance needed from Planning Board.

Cooperation and interest from County staff, especially Gerald Green, Robby Shelton and Kevin Jamison has greatly facilitated the project. Field guidance and historical information on landslides provided by Robby Shelton has been a great help in expediting the mapping and data collection. Thanks to Kevin Jamison who provided the new 2010 ortho-imagery on 4/11/2011. Identification of any areas of concern within the County will help prioritize sites for field visits.

Notes on Selected Sites Investigated to Date

Active, Slow-Moving Landslides

Sutton Road weathered-rock slide: Past slide movement affected outbuilding and driveway on upper slope. Continued movement could potentially affect homes at the toe of the slope.

Figure 1. Preliminary map showing the outline of the slow-moving landslide in weathered rock. The shaded area indicates the approximate outline of the slide as of April 2011. Blue dot is a mapping reference location near the upslope extent of the slide. 2010 orthophotograph map base.

Ramp Cove Debris Slide: Slide reactivated in 2007 after excavation in toe of older, dormant slide that had developed in a pre-existing debris deposit. A home site under construction was abandoned after slide movement covered part of the foundation excavation for a new house. Residences below toe of active slide currently not affected by slide activity.

Figure 2. Preliminary map showing a landslide developed in pre-existing debris deposits in Ramp Cove.The shaded area shows the approximate extent of the active slide as of March 2011. Ground rupture lines outside of the shaded area show the approximate locations of inactive scarps indicating the presence of a feature interpreted as an older, now dormant, debris slide also within pre-existing debris deposits. Yellow dots are mapping reference locations near the upslope extents of the slides. 2010 orthophotograph map base.


Green Gables Development: Cut slope failure in debris deposit affecting property, but not immediately threatening residence.


Tuckaway - U.S. 281 Debris Slide: Cracks observed in embankment of recent NCDOT road repair. Active slide mass below the highway appears to extend downslope to shoreline of Bear Lake. Slide movement appears to be affecting a vacation home.

Figure 3. Preliminary map of an active debris slide and other debris deposits along U.S. 281 near Tuckaway Road. Pink shaded area outlines the extent of the active slide as of April 2011. Orange shaded areas are debris deposits from previous slope movement events. Yellow dot is a mapping reference location near the upslope extent of the slide. 2010 orthophotograph map base.

Figure 4. Photograph of a scarp (ground rupture line) with vertical displacement) within the active area of the Tuckaway-U.S. 281 slide. Ground movement has split the tree straddling the scarp. Other leaning and curved trees in the area indicate slide movement.

Stillwell Branch (EBCI) Weathered-rock Slide: Initial mapping done of cut slope failure/weathered-rock slide above a house site. Additional field work needed to assess any potential hazard to residents.
Debris Flows, Debris Slides, Debris Deposits

Tilley Creek Debris Flow: 1973(?) debris flow that damaged cabin. The run out zone of the debris flow is on an older debris fan surface. The debris flow appears to have initiated on an unmodified (“natural”) slope.

Figure 5. Map showing the path or track (pink shaded area) of a 1973(?) debris flow that damaged a cabin near Tilley Creek Road. The cabin was abandoned after the debris flow event. The debris flow deposited material on pre-existing debris deposits from previous debris flow events. 2010 orthophotograph map base.

Kiesse Creek: Two embankment failures/debris flows during Frances-Ivan,  in September 2004 merged into one~4,000-foot long track that impacted Bear Lake Preserve property and contributed sediment to Bear Lake. Remaining embankment in vicinity of debris flow initiation zones remains unstable.

Sheep Cliff-Glenville: Embankment failure/debris flow during Frances-Ivan, in September 2004. Sedimentation in creek, homes not damaged or threatened. Some of remaining embankment material at the head of the debris flow is unstable.

Mountain. Heritage Development: 2009(?) embankment failure/debris flow, and cut slope failure/debris slide. Embankment failure/debris flow developed in embankment derived from sulfidic rock excavated from cut slope. Cut slope failure developed in colluvium.
Dark Road: Home damaged by a cut slope failure/debris slide. Home had to be repositioned onto foundation and is now in foreclosure.
Geologic Hazards

Pump Mountain Cut (U.S. 23/Hospital Road): Altered ulramafic(olivine) rock with asbestos minerals is exposed in cuts and other graded areas.  Our mapping program will likely result in some small adjustments to the outline of the ultramafic rock map unit into areas not previously mapped as ultramafic rock.  Two slope failures were identified: a small rock slide related to talc on planes of weakness in olivine rock (dunite); and a small embankment/sediment pond failure in micaceaous soil.  Impacts from the slope failures are on-site. Some additional mapping is planned for this area to evaluate extent of the ultramafic rock and asbestos minerals.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jackson County, NC Real Estate Landslide/Soil Hazard Disclosure Statement

Jackson County, NC Real Estate
Landslide/Soil Hazard Situation Report


Photos of landslide damage to a Jackson County, NC home. The property, auctioned by Williams & Williams; is located at 808 Hawks Ridge Dr. Whittier, NC 28789  in the Hawks Ridge Subdivision.  Williams & Williams provided the following soil condition caveat:
Soil Instability Disclosure. This Property has been identified as possibly being effected by soil instability. In some instances, soil instability can be associated with landslides, rock falls, foundation shifting problems, or settlement and cracking problems. Buyer should conduct an investigation prior to bidding, to determine whether or not the property contains said defect and the extent of any possible problem. Buyer shall undertake said investigation at their expense, and any offer of purchase shall not be contingent upon the results of such investigation. Bidding on this Property at auction is Buyer's confirmation of their election to accept said property “as-is, where-is,” and Buyer's agreement to assume all responsibility for any necessary repairs or remediation. Buyer further understands that neither the Seller, nor Williams & Williams, or their agents make any assertions or guarantees as to the condition of the Property.
Buyers received fair warning on the Hawks Ridge property, but soil instability disclosures do not appear on other Jackson County,NC steep-slope MLS listings. This is a curious omission considering that the Jackson County Soil Survey  provides the same information. Also please refer to Michael Sherrill's book, "1979-1999: Two Decades of Progress in Western North Carolina Soil Surveys."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Debt-Collection Practices Include Arrest Warrants and Incarceration

The Wall Street Journal report, "Welcome to Debtors' Prison, 2011 Edition," reveals that:
Some lawmakers, judges and regulators are trying to rein in the U.S. debt-collection industry's use of arrest warrants to recoup money owed by borrowers who are behind on credit-card payments, auto loans and other bills.

More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can't or won't pay to be jailed.
Last year the Star Tribune focused attention on the use of debt-arrest warrants.

Debtor Prisons

Prior to the federal/states' abolishment of debtor prisons, creditors commonly used this punitive action to force debt repayment. As noted by the media, influential debt-collection firms have persuaded states to revive this practice.

The Star Tribune recently raised the question: "Is jailing debtors the same as debtors jail?" 

Findings by the newspaper suggest that debt-arrest warrants are illegal measures:
"We have created a de facto debtors prison system in the United States that is largely unconstitutional," said Judith Fox, a law professor at Notre Dame Law School. "In some parts of the country, people are so fearful of arrest they are scrambling to pay money they might not even owe."

In states such as Indiana and Illinois, people are being locked up for not making court-ordered payments. Known as "pay or stay," it can mean days in jail and multiple arrests for the same debt. Some legal experts say the practice is unconstitutional because the arrest is directly linked to the failure to pay a debt.

In Minnesota, the issue is less clear because warrants to arrest debtors are issued for disobeying court orders, such as not filling out a financial disclosure form and missing a required hearing, not for failure to pay debt. So long as someone fulfills the court order, they can avoid incarceration.

Senate Bill 3888: End Debt Collector Abuse Act of 2010

Al Franken has proposed amending the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to protect consumers from corporate malfeasance. Congress has declined to intervene in this matter.

Americans face numerous indignities, but industry-sponsored detention should not be one of them.

Debtor Rights

Debt-collection firms have a disturbing history of violating federal law. For additional information, please read the following reports.

State Statues of Limitation on Debt Collection

FTC Actions Taken Against Debt Collectors