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

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Reports: Slopes had previous issues before failure

Today marks four months since two homes in North Stafford were condemned. On Sept. 10, shortly after the region’s trio of natural disasters, the backyards started to slide a little bit, and then a little more, and then a lot more–leaving the dream homes worthless. Now, a huge hole replaces what used to be sloped yards to the west of I-95, in the Austin Ridge subdivision. I drove by the other day, and the lots look as sad as ever, surrounded by tall metal fences.

Dan and Michele O’Leary recently got results back from engineering tests done on the land. They can’t release either the report from the USAA insurance company or from a private subcontractor, and are meeting with legal counsel to see how to move forward. Both reports though have similar results: that there has likely always been issues with the stability of the slopes.

According to a release:

 The current landslide is the third land failure on the two properties since the homes were constructed in 2000 and 2001. The subdivision developer attempted repair of the failed slope following the first two failures, but has yet to contact either homeowner following this third failure. Further, the developer refused to meet with the homeowners when asked to do so by Stafford County officials.

“What we are learning now is that these two home sites were developed on parcels that had potential slope stability issues even before construction on the homes ever began. Construction on the parcels only increased the potential for realization of the slope stability problems and the failure of the developer to fully understand the problem has resulted in the current disaster. We have dealt with this problem since shortly after moving in and we have only now come to realize the magnitude of the problem some ten years in the making. Equally disappointing is the lack of oversight by the County. Review of county records indicates no awareness or acknowledgement of any deficiencies during the initial development of the property. Even when presented with information about the first two slope failures in 2003 and 2005, the County appears to have paid little to no attention to the issue, leaving the developer to themselves to address the issue with no oversight. It is such a shame and a huge heartache for our family,” states homeowner Dan O’Leary while shaking his head. Along with the engineering report, USAA has informed the homeowners that the landslide is not a covered loss under their policy and as such they are ineligible for any assistance and help from USAA.

Although costs estimates and a detailed plan for repair are not yet complete, it is very clear that the total cost will easily reach several hundred thousand dollars and would take months to complete. “We have tried to put heavy equipment in the failed land mass once and it didn’t go well – it is totally saturated in the failed area from the naturally occurring water that runs beneath the properties” he said.