vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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County to help families in Austin Ridge

Stafford County will use a developer’s bond for financial help for two families to repair their backyards overtaken by a landslide following the August earthquake and subsequent tropical storms that swept through the region.

The Board of Supervisors approved assistance agreements after a closed session discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting.

This puts $62,000 toward the costs of stabilizing the slope behind the North Stafford houses that has grown over the past six weeks, forcing the families out of their condemned houses in the Austin Ridge subdivision.

The county will contract directly with the funds for technical work on the two properties and adjacent common areas, said County Administrator Anthony Romanello.

In order to get this money, the county has used its authority on an original agreement with the developer on a bond related to erosion and sediment control and stormwater management. (When work is not completed to standards, a locality then has this option to use those funds to complete the project.) The county had previously made attempts to work with the developer to address the landslide, but was denied.

The homeowners—Dan and Michele O’Leary, and Ora Barnes—signed the agreements before the meeting.

“We actually feel fortunate that the county was able to do this,” said Dan O’Leary. “These are not county monies, this is not money from taxpayers, this is money the county was able to seize.”

The assistance agreement states the funds do not mean the county is admitting liability.

Romanello said this assistance will help defray the costs of stabilizing the land so that the homes can be saved. The project’s total cost has been estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ebenezer United Methodist Church has raised $40,000 for a landslide relief fund for the families to access.

Dan O’Leary said rain has continually caused more soil movement, and the erosion is about two feet from the house’s foundation. Yesterday, a geotechnical team finished boring and taking soil samples to study. Results should be back in several weeks for an engineer to use in developing a solution.