This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
It seems obvious to most of us: Building homes on land that is prone to move is, to put it mildly, unwise.
But some developers who stand to make fortunes selling houses on hillsides that offer million-dollar views don't see it that way. Indeed, as long as the home stands still long enough for them to take the money and run, they don't seem to see any problem at all.
They do, however, object strenuously to government stepping in to put limits on where they can build. That's too bad. When public safety bumps up against private development rights, safety must come first.
The governor's task force on geologic hazards is moving in exactly the right direction toward reining in building on sensitive hillsides where homes are apt to be damaged by landslides. The group, comprising engineers, geologists and other scientists, has recommended a sensible course of action for the state, such as training local planners and raising standards for geotechnical engineers. It will also propose a model ordinance for cities and counties.
The goals are to prevent heartbreaking personal loss to homeowners and to help cities and counties avoid being left holding the liability bag when developers pack up and move on. Homes built on unstable ground in four counties have been destroyed by landslides in recent years.
Cities and counties need all the help they can get as they go up against deep-pocketed and politically influential Realtors and developers. Those groups are heavily represented in the Legislature and will, no doubt, do all they can to undercut efforts to curb the profit-first excesses of some land developers.
Having scientific support and state backing for a local ordinance to restrict development and require building practices that mitigate the risk of landslides may take some of the heat off local officials if they must go head-to-head with those developers who have made these regulatory measures necessary.
So it's important that the Governor's Geologic Hazards Working Group, as well as responsible legislators and the governor, do not yield to their protests.
"Buyer beware" is a wise admonition for home buyers. But they should also be able to trust that local officials are taking responsibility for the safe construction of homes in their cities and counties. Whether certain developers like it or not.