Western North Carolina Developers Permitted to Build on Hazardous Ground

After experiencing decades of land development disasters, California acted in 1998 to stop the construction of homes and residential communities in identified hazardous regions. The state notified regulators and Realtors that all permits for geologically suspect land would require risk analysis: site specific proof that the proposed project would not be a danger to lives and property.

California lawmakers also established a special "buyer beware" classification for all real property sold in designated hazard areas. For the first time, interested buyers were advised of natural hazard property risks with a pre-sale "show and tell" disclosure statement. This statement provides clear warning that the purchase of land in natural hazard zones... "May limit owner's ability to develop property, obtain insurance, or to receive assistance after a disaster."

Most people are aware that California landslides are frequent, sometimes deadly, and always financially devastating. But what the public doesn't know is that Western North Carolina landslides are also common, sometimes lethal, and always financially ruinous.

North Carolina is a build anywhere state. Even though the 21 counties that comprise Western North Carolina were designated a high risk landslide region in 1998, and 15 counties were declared federal disaster areas in 2004, there are no state regulations governing hazardous land development and risk disclosure is not required.

Nationally recognized real estate development companies are taking advantage of North Carolina's industry friendly environment and are currently constructing expansive resorts on ancient landslide terrain. The following are some of the largest residential projects underway in Western North Carolina:

The Cliffs at High Carolina: 2500 acres (The Cliffs Communities)
Laurelmor: 6000 acres (Ginn Resort Property)
Balsam Mountain Preserve: 4400 acres (A Chaffin/Light Community)
Grey Rock at Lake Lure: 4000 acres (Land Resource Companies)
Bear Lake Reserve: 2100 acres (Centex Destination Properties)

By coincidence or by design these five residential/resort developments were approved before the federally mandated "Is It Safe to Build Here?" landslide mapping program could be initiated.

How many of these mountain slope communities are sitting on ancient landslide sites? This serious question can only be answered by the North Carolina Geological Survey and they were not invited to investigate the safety of these projects.