Landslides can be reduced with planning
During the recent heavy rains, The Daily Times reported that part of a mountainside gave way in a Townsend development. The mudslide started just below a house newly built on a slope.
Rock and mudslides regularly hit highways in our region, but residential areas have largely been spared. However, such incidents may increase as construction on hillsides continues.
Construction and road building are a major cause of landslides because soil is destabilized when vegetation is removed. Septic systems on slopes also contribute by raising groundwater levels.
Because it is virtually impossible for property owners to obtain “earth movement” insurance, they may resort to lawsuits to recoup losses caused by slides. County governments have been held liable for “inverse condemnation” in such cases. The Public Entity Risk Institute concludes that “where public safety is concerned, local governments are better off when they tightly regulate development of unstable lands.”
Landslides are a public safety issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control, they cause dozens of deaths in the U.S. each year. Because of the dangers landslides present, many communities in mountainous areas have taken a proactive approach by adopting land-use regulations for development on slopes in order to moderate its impact. (For example, Sevier County has done so.)
The stated goal of recently proposed ridge top and hillside regulations for Blount County was to address “the effect of ... development on erosion control, soil stability and the natural environment.” Rules have yet to be adopted.
The mandate of zoning is to protect public safety, health and welfare. Does the recent mudslide in Townsend forecast events to come? Blount County needs regulations for safe development on steep slopes.
3135 Little Dug Gap Road
Louisville, TN 37777