Ogden house perched atop eroding hill worries landowner down below

Sunday , February 19, 2017 - 5:00 AM11 comments

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Looking at the muddy slope behind his boyhood home, at the boulders strewn across the property, at the expensive home perched precariously up above it all, Lance Youngberg gets uneasy.

“I’m worried about the whole house coming down,” he says. “Where’s it going to come? Right here.”

As is, the Youngberg family’s two horses, Two Pence and Quizzy, use the open land behind their home, about 9 acres, to graze and roam. But ever since the neighbor to the rear, Bennett Thurgood, built what was supposed to be his dream home high on the bench in the Shadow Valley area of Ogden, things have changed.

RELATED: As Ogden home slips on slope, homeowner seeks compensation and answers

The horses remain, but as the slope sustaining the Thurgood house erodes, as the dirt washes out and flows downward, the Youngbergs are left with muck on their property.

The retaining wall meant to bolster the hill holding the home has disintegrated, leaving large rocks over the north end of the property and a sense of gloom as the Thurgood structure seemingly teeters up above.

Thurgood filed suit in 2nd District Court in Ogden in 2015 against the varied contractors that built the home, blaming them for the problems and seeking compensation. He, his wife and the couple’s two kids moved in to the home in January 2015, freshly completed, then moved out October 2016. They were worried about the erosion and extensive cracks and sagging in the foundation closest to the falloff, along the southern half of the home.

With no immediate end in sight to Thurgood’s lawsuit, though, Youngberg gets frustrated and vocal. The contractors deny any wrongdoing in the matter.

“We need to get this taken care of now,” Youngberg said.

His father, W.R. Youngberg, the owner of the property downhill from Thurgood’s home, has filed his own legal claim, seeking compensation from Thurgood for the damage to the property. The erosion has killed off the tall grass on about two acres of land — vegetation Quizzy and Two Pence used to eat — and the rocks that used to serve as the retaining wall need to be removed.

The younger Youngberg, meanwhile, suggests the long-term fix may be tearing down the home — built at a cost of $800,000 — and hauling the rubble to the dump.

Thurgood — who’s had the home braced with piers forced deep into the ground below the structure — sympathizes and understands Youngberg’s frustration. He wishes the neighbors would join in his lawsuit against the contractors.

“I wish there was more that I could do right now,” Thurgood said.

Meanwhile, the court cases continue. The Youngberg claim against Thurgood, originally filed in small claims court in Ogden seeking around $10,000 in damages, has been bumped to 2nd District Court, according to court records. Thurgood has yet to formally respond to the lawsuit.

‘It’s progress’

W.R. Youngberg built his home in the late 1970s, seeking a piece of the country. Back then, his was about the only house in the area, according to his son.

Lance Youngberg remembers riding horses as a child in the rugged terrain, traveling up the slope — to where the Thurgood home and other homes now sit — and beyond. “You could just go miles and miles and there was nothing,” he said.

Now, the Youngbergs have more neighbors and the hill up above is full of homes, including Thurgood’s. He doesn’t begrudge the growth, though. Except for Thurgood’s, the other homes built on the hill up above have held their ground, as have the retaining walls bolstering the slopes below them.

“It’s progress. Nothing we can really do about it,” said Lance Youngberg, a businessman who also spends time in Salt Lake City.

It’s just the eroding slope behind the Thurgood home, the boulders scattered in his backyard and the home on the precipice that get to him. The erosion around the Thurgood property began even before the home was complete, he said, and the retaining wall started to bulge only months after it was done.

The developers were overly reliant on fill, Youngberg suspects, not building on firm-enough ground. He worries that the hillside will just “bleed and bleed” as the Thurgood lawsuit winds its way through court toward resolution.

“The whole thing’s just a mess and kind of needs to be taken care of,” Youngberg said. “You got to live on solid ground.”

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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