Weighing the balance of property rights versus safety

Tuesday , August 05, 2014 - 2:01 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

LAYTON — A landslide in a North Salt Lake neighborhood resulting in a home being destroyed Tuesday is not new to Davis County.

Neither is the fact the surrounding neighborhood near the home had to be evacuated.

Due to the geographic topography of Layton, where many homes are built on high ground, the landslide scenario has played out several times as city officials walk that fine line in doing its due diligence of determining where developers can build without trampling on people’s property rights.

Since 1998, on three different occasions Layton city officials have had to respond to landslides that have either damaged or destroyed homes, according to Scott Carter, former community development director for Layton city, and now park planner.

Carter said he is just grateful none of the slides resulted in injury or death.

“Property damage is one thing — awful. But having someone hurt, that is a whole new ball game,” Carter said.

In 1998 the city lost one home in the 1850 East block of Sunset Drive due to a landslide scarp, which is where the steep slope of the ground begins to move down vertically, he said.

On the same street, eight years later, in April of 2006, the same land scarp took a second home in the same area, Carter said. “The homes were right next to each other,” he said.

“The landslide scarp, the crack at the top of the slide, was under the homes,” Carter said. As a result, the back portion of the houses were over land that had moved, he said.

“It was a combination of water and the soil structure,” Carter said of the cause of the slides. “This fracture in the soil went down tens of feet, 30 to 40 feet deep. It was down there quite a ways. Helical piers could not hold the property in place.”

Where the homes on Sunset Drive once stood has been made into a trailhead access for the Kays Creek walking trail.

Three Layton homes were also destroyed in 2001 when a landslide occurred in the 1400 East block of Heather Drive.

“Six homes were removed. Three were saved. Three were destroyed,” Carter said. The city brought in a moving company to try and save the homes, he said.

It was later determined that the slide was a result of a combination of water and soil structure, Carter said.

The way to avoid this from happening in the future is through better planning as it relates to construction, Carter said. But if someone is to build in a volatile area, he said, the movement of the ground creates too much force for it to be held in place.

Other recent landslides include two occurring in South Weber, according to the Utah Geological Survey website.

  • - In February of 2005 a landslide flowed across South Weber Drive at 425 East, blocking the road. The landslide also destroyed a barn south of the state road.
  • - In April of 2009 a slide occurred above a South Weber house at 7687 S. 1650 East. The unexpected slide caused significant damage to the house, injuring a child inside the home.
  • - In April of 2004, fire related flooding and a debris flow, caused flooding and debris flows in areas along the east bench of Farmington between Farmington and Shepard Canyons. Flood waters and sediment deposition were mostly restricted to streets and yards, but several vehicles were damaged.
  • - In the late winter or early spring, three landslides also occurred in the Creekside Drive area of Mountain Green. The landslide damaged the house, landscaped areas and the driveway of one home, and resulted in some damage to two nearby homes.

Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or bsaxton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton

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