Saturday, July 2, 2011

Slow-Moving Landslides Force People From Their Homes In North Salt Lake And St. George, Utah

This is one of the North Salt Lake homes affected. Look at the roofline and you can see how the home has been literally warped
Slow-moving landslides are forcing people out of their homes in two parts of Utah; North Salt Lake, and St. George. The St. George story just broke; 16 condos in The Gardens South are sliding downhill, triggering a condemnation order from the city. The problem was first noticed in 2008, but has accelerated; one building moved four inches during the past month alone (Note that while the St. George Spectrum is a paid subscription site, I was able to back-door free access to the article by Googling the headline).

But the main ongoing story is the slow-moving landslide that has affected Springhill Circle and, to a lesser degree, Springhill Drive in North Salt Lake. Local media outlets have reported on this periodically for over a year. On July 2nd, 2011, other residents of North Salt Lake, joined by people from Bountiful and Woods Cross, took advantage of the opening of a new park in the relatively new Foxboro community to raise money for the affected residents of Springhill Circle with a pancake breakfast and 5K race. All proceeds went to families facing the landslide via the El Nino Foundation. Affected residents are also soliciting donations via the ProjectSpringhill website, which also contains a host of media videos dating back to February 2011 as well as slides of the damage and a map of the affected area:

KSTU Channel 13 news video embedded below:


Why are they soliciting donations and conducting fundraisers? First, their home insurance won't cover it. Second, FEMA has refused to help so far. And third, they obviously can't sell their homes, yet some are still stuck with mortgages, and there is also the cost of paying for demolition when the city condemns the homes. Three homes have already been torn down, and 24 others are either affected to some degree or are threatened. The landslide, which had been intermittently moving about an inch per year, has accelerated to an inch per week because of the wet spring. Barry Edwards, North Salt Lake City Manager, offers some hope of future FEMA assistance; he says the city is working with FEMA to secure funds for residents forced from their homes, but it could take at least a year. FEMA will assess the value of the remaining homes this week to determine the amount of money they will allocate.

Disgustingly, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that even as North Salt Lake seeks to condemn more homes, banks are actually trying to sell some of those same homes that have been foreclosed. Neighbors flag down those who come to look at the homes and warn them about the landslide. One home for sale at 402 Springhill Circle is directly within the affected area; another home for sale at 161 Springhill Dr. is only two houses away from the affected area.

Most of the homes in the area were first constructed in 1975. One long-term resident says the problem first manifested itself in 1998, abated for a while, then resumed last year. The blame game is being played in the Tribune's comments section, with some blaming the developers, others blaming the Feds for telling the banks they would back up risky home loans, others blaming the banks for predatory lending practices, and still others blaming homeowners for not doing their homework before buying. What a mess!

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