Thursday, March 3, 2011

Grief and pain for promised joy...

I would prefer to post stories on that which I cherish about this place. Unfortunately, that which I cherish is vulnerable to the best laid schemes of mice and men. For about the past 500 years, outside interests have exploited (or hoped to exploit) these mountains for one thing and another, often with disastrous results. The peaks and valleys around here have literally become a war-zone more than once. People and the land have suffered and still suffer from this old conflict.

For the 10,000th variation on this theme, let’s turn to a Paul Tharp article found in NC Lawyers Weekly (2/25/11).

Last month, in a Superior Court trial, a homeowners association was awarded $2.4 million in compensatory damages, possibly the largest award ever in Swain County. The Alarka Creek Properties Homeowners Association had sued Cane Creek Development Corporation of Bryson City and W. K. Dickson & Company of Charlotte, alleging fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices, negligence, breach of contract and breach of warranties.

The road system in the Alarka Creek development began to disintegrate shortly after it was transferred to the homeowners association. Total slope failures made roads impassable, and the cost of repairs was estimated at $1.5 million.

I don't have a photo from Alarka, so this shot of the February 2010 landslide and road failure on the Legasus property will have to do. I looked at the site a few days ago, and I can't see that anything has been done to clean up this mess which sits directly above the west fork of the Tuckasegee.

While peddling Alarka Creek lots in 2002, developers Arthur and Anne Williams of Cane Creek Development Corporation sent letters to potential buyers claiming:

All of our property is paved at the present time and if not will be paved by a reputable paving contractor who has new paving equipment & paid by the developer not by the homeowners association (which is you!).

All of our roads have been engineered and have been put in by environmental specifications and approved by the state environment board. Therefore, with their proper drainage measures in place, they will hold up in the years to come.

I’d say these folks would have benefited from the able editorial assistance of elizabeth adams, considering what a bang-up job she did for our friends who perpetrated the Legasus / River Rock “fantasy development” for a few years back in the good old days.

But back to the Alarka developers…

I remember when the patriarch of this clan rolled into Jackson County. As I recall, he bought what was left of an olivine mine on the head of Cane Creek and started selling lots. You might have seen his sales office at Chestnut Gap. That was a long, long time ago.

Other gems from the developers’ pitch:

So far as we know, we are the only developer in the county offering paved roads

The large acreage tracts of land are all fronted on paved roads which were engineered by W. K. Dickson Engineering Firm in Asheville and approved by the N. C. Environmental Agency and properly hydro seeded.

Although we do not advertise gated land, electronic wrought iron gates are being installed for your security.

The developers disclosed, upon the sale of the lots, that the state would not maintain the roads and that the homeowners association would assume responsibility. However, the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that “the developer and contractor should not be allowed to burden an association with common elements that are defective, as was the case here.”

Apparently, the Swain County jury agreed.

With rollbacks on the enforcement of measures to protect communities from developers operating in this manner, here's hoping this is just one of many more successful lawsuits to come.

And here’s a longer excerpt from Bobby Burns:

Little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

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