Budget cut a landslide defeat -- literally -- for some NC mountain homeowners

by Rick Vogel
        To buy or not to buy, that is the question.  Landslide mapping, soil surveys, landslide histories and common sense dictate that dangers lurk on the steep slopes of western North Carolina's most popular properties.  Some developers, realtors and their political enablers argue there have
Gone are the five geologists responsible for landslide hazard mapping in western North Carolina.

been few deaths and minimal property destruction caused by landslides. They also argue that landslide hazard mapping to determine safety is not cost effective.  Now the North Carolina Republican-controlled legislature, to prove the points, has pulled $355,000 of funding that was being used to employ five state geologists in the mapping of dangerous areas throughout all 19 western North Carolina counties.
        This move begs the question:  Was it truly budget concerns and cost savings that prompted these lawmakers to target landslide hazard mapping?  As Asheville-based Southern Environmental Law Center attorney D.J. Gerken points out, "Certainly some of the legislators have been very open in their statements that they viewed these maps as a backdoor to regulation and were not the least bit sorry to see these maps go away."
        What is missing from the debate -– the prospective buyer -- is more important than the motives of elected officials who have effectively moved to hide this information from the public.  What prospective buyer of steep slope property would be comfortable in making an informed decision about safe building
The $355,000 saved from the program's elimination is less than the value of many homes in landslide prone areas.

and/or possible financial loss absent information about potential landslides?  Those with the most to lose have been essentially without voice in the process.  Is it reasonable to believe that someone willing to spend $300,000 to a $1,000,000 or more for a new home would choose to ignore the benefits of landslide hazard maps that might well result in safer construction?  If this information could be had by the inclusion of a few hundred thousand dollars in the state budget, are we to believe that state legislators are working in the best interests of their constituents when they suggest these very same constituents should be kept unaware of the many dangers that could be avoided by landslide mapping?
        The truth of the matter is much simpler than any interest in the public's needs.  The fact is that landslide mapping would result in some property being deemed not safe to sell or develop.  It is unimaginable that this information would not be of interest to a prospective buyer.  Outrageous is the only word that can be used to describe the self-serving choices of some developers, realtors and numerous political hacks working in concert to keep this information as far away from interested buyers as possible.  Why would they do this?  Greed, plain and simple, the very same mindset that is responsible for the current economic downhill slide.
        There is no insurance available to cover any loss caused by earth movement, manmade or otherwise.  The only protection you can buy that might tell you if construction is safe and your investment is likely secure is the initial site-specific survey prompted by landslide mapping information.  This one time cost is arguably the most important money that you could spend related to a mountain home, and yet some NC elected officials have voted otherwise.  The argument against continuing state landslide mapping is simply dumb and potentially dangerous for the eventual occupants of the property.

Rick Vogel, who has contributed articles to Golf Community Reviews in the past, and his wife Lynne reside in the golf community of Wolf Laurel near Asheville, NC, and are among our web site’s most dedicated readers.  Although Rick’s opinions in his editorial are his own, count your editor as four-square in support of more information for prospective buyers, especially where safety is concerned.  I invite other readers to contribute their own opinions on this and other subjects related to real estate, golf and, especially, the combination of the two.

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