Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 2017 Update

It has been four and a half years since the construction of the berm designed to halt the limited soils movement affecting only two buildings within Gardens South Condos and the hotel and restaurant located below.    During the past 18 months Geotechnical Testing Services (GTS) has conducted three more inclinometer tests to monitor the stability of the specific slide area that affects only buildings L & M. at Gardens South.   All other buildings with the project appear  to be unaffected as evidenced by 30 years of occupancy.   We have yet to receive an official written analysis but the preliminary data from GTS is very encouraging and indicates that the berm is quite stable and has been successful in halting the slide.  We will post the latest report once we receive it.

GTS is now finalizing it's recommendations to make the berm a permanent structure and to increase the safety factor so that the affected properties can be repaired or replaced.   The preliminary plan may involve digging below the toe of the berm behind the Dairy Queen building and installing several layers of geo-grid to further stabilize the slide plane and raise the safety factor from 1.25 to over 1.5 which meets current building codes.   The design will most likely also require spraying a concrete gunite coating over the face of the berm to prevent future erosion or sun damage to the geo-grid.   Once we have the final design recommendations we will meet with the adjoining property owners to discuss sharing the cost.  Then hopefully we can then move forward with the final construction involving the berm.

Gardens South Condos will then determine the feasibility of repairing buildings L & M.  We will commission a design plan from both a structural and geo-technical engineer that can be approved by the City.   Once a design solution is approved we can then obtain construction bids and determine the cost feasibility of making the repairs.   Our preliminary estimates are encouraging and we are  optimistic that the two buildings can be eventually repaired within the budget resources currently forecasted.  

In the meantime, other improvements to Gardens South are being made.  During the past year Gardens South HOA was able to pay off the balance of the loan owed to the City for the construction of the berm in 2012.  The blanket lien was removed by the City providing clear title for all units not affected by the slide.   The HOA is financially healthy and is setting aside additional funds to make other capital improvements to the project, including refurbishing the 30 year old pool and installing  new high speed fiber optic internet service to each unit.   We will be one of the first condo projects in St. George to enjoy fast fiber optic service (no copper) with speeds up to 1 GB, a $90/mo value, which will be included in the current HOA fees.   We hope to have these improvements completed by May.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September 2015 Update

Further testing was conducted by Geotechnical Testing Services during the summer of 2015 to determine if any further earth movement could be detected in the area affecting buildings  L & M.  The summary letter of their findings is posted below.   The HOA board will continue to monitor the situation and seek counsel as to what the future options might be for the community and the homeowners directly affected.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

January 29, 2015 Update

If you are new to Gardens South Condominiums, this blog is a running history of the challenges created by a small landslide that affected 20 of the 111 total units in the community, as well as neighboring properties (Dairy Queen, hotel, etc.).   Only buildings L & M within the Gardens South project have been affected.  All of the other buildings in Gardens South have not experienced any structural damage related to the slide and appear to be safe.    In late 2012 an earthen berm of nearly 60,000 tons of soil was constructed at the base of the slide.    It is our hope that the berm, which was designed to counter balance and stabilize the 400 foot wide landslide area, will perform as planned.  

Below is the latest communication from the geotechnical engineer tasked with monitoring movements in the slope.   Both the city,  the HOA, and the homeowners who were forced out of their condos are waiting to determine if the site can be stabilized enough to justify making repairs to the damaged buildings so they can be inhabited once again.    

It takes a couple of years for the dirt to fully settle and determine if there has been further slide activity which may pose a threat.   Some slight movement has been detected which is most likely caused by normal settling of the berm, but overall the berm, so far, appears to be doing what it was designed to do.   One major concern however was a recent break in the main sewer trunk that services the residents of the unaffected building N as well as M.   This was most likely caused by the slide prior to the construction of the berm and it's not certain how long the pipe was broken.   The HOA spent nearly $50,000 in November to construct a sewage pumping system to service building N.  Although building M is not currently connected to any city utilities, including sewer, the pump system is designed with enough capacity to also service building M if and when it can be repaired.

The geotechnical firm will conduct another reading in June, 2015 and hopefully by then they should have enough history and information to make a recommendation as to whether or not the site is safe so that a determination as to the economic feasibility of reconstruction can be made.    In the meantime, all we can do is continue to wait, monitor and hope that the slide has been sufficiently stabilized as a result of the efforts made so far.

If you have visited Gardens South recently, you will notice that the community is looking much better.   All of the asphalt has been recently sealed and protected.  This is a two step process and the second coat will be applied in the spring of 2015.   Improvements to the landscaping are constantly being made to reduce water consumption and take care of maintenance issues.   The HOA payment of $280 per month per unit may be higher than some other projects but you should be aware that it includes funds that are being set aside for capital expenditures and extra damage caused by the landslide, such as the sewer repairs. If the damaged buildings L & M can be feasibly reconstructed or if the city requires demolition, a additional special assessment may be required of all owners.   Anyone contemplating purchasing or selling a unit in Gardens South should be aware of this possibility.  



Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 2014 Update

Attached is an update from the HOA board president, Bill Cornelius, regarding the status of the landslide abatement attempts.    In the fall of 2012, upon the recommendation of soils engineers, affected land owners joined in the construction of a large earthen berm with the hope that the slide could be stabilized.   The readings a year later appear positive (i.e. very little movement) since the construction of the berm, but until we experience substantial rain it cannot be determined if the slide has been halted.  It will most likely be summer of 2015 before further conclusive readings can be taken.   If after substantial rains and further testing it can be determined that the berm is effective in halting the slide the HOA board will continue to work with the city to decide whether to repair or demolish the damaged buildings and infrastructure.    In any case, owners (or prospective owners) can expect future addition special assessments until the situation is stabilized and the affected buildings are either demolished or repaired.


 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Annual Meeting -- Gardens South HOA

The following minutes are in DRAFT form and have not yet been formally approved by the Board but I was instructed to post them so that those not in attendance would be better informed.


GARDENS SOUTH
HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION
ANNUAL MEETING
MINUTES
December 8, 2012
Lexington Hotel Conference Center
Meeting was Called To Order by Jason Schall. Board members in attendance were Dwaine Hatch and Chip Bair. Kimberly Graff represented the Management Company.
Welcome to All Owners present. We want to extend a thank you to Dan Steurer and Terry Brotherson, due to other commitments they have resigned from the Board. Their participation on the Board and assisted in the berm project.
Year in Review: Jason Schall reviewed topics that the Board had been working to resolve this last year.
  • -  A repair was made to the asphalt next to the pool
  • -  A Crack in the pool plaster was repaired
  • -  Wooden steps and handrails, repaired and in some areas replaced
  • -  Fence by the swimming pool completely replaced
  • -  A few issue were dealt with this last year:
o Fire in C building
o Water damage in a few units o Broken water lines repaired
  • -  The board had the sewer at the front of L & M scoped. The units that sit above all drain down towards L & M buildings we wanted to be sure that the earth movement had not effected the main sewer line.
  • -  Another hurdle to overcome before anything could be determined on the demolition of the southern half of L building was dealing with HUD. One unit was owned by them and the time it took to track down someone that was willing to make a decision took months and we needed titles before we could destroy the property.
  • -  This Board has attended many, many meetings with the City Attorney, our own HOA Attorney, and the other two Owners with their Attorneys to move this project forward. The Board has logged 100’s of hours; 1000’s of travel miles to keep this project moving forward. The restaurant is not participating and we had to make adjustments to assure we were not encroaching upon his property.
  • -  The berm project is moving forward, it took longer than any one of us thought. It was not the intent to not inform Owners of progress, but when it had only been progress of the contracts/agreements between the Attorneys, the Board felt that it was menial information. We still couldn’t provide a date of commencement. It is projected to move with demolition this next week.
    Report from Attorney: Joseph Hood, Vial Fotheringham
  • -  Introduction of Joe Hood, he has been assisting with this berm project this last
    year and he would like to publicly thank Jason for all his hard work.
  • -  We have been dealing with many agreements for this berm project
o Easement agreements: from the DQ land owner, the motel, and the section between Gardens South and the DQ. All easement agreements have been signed.
o Cost Share Agreement: Each participating Owner contributed their % of land interest in the shared expense to make this berm possible. This agreement has been signed
  • -  All funds have been collected.
  • -  The last step that Owners here today must vote for is a waiver/release and
    Indemnification. Barco for liability reasons (insurance) needs to be waived of any damage that may be caused due to land movement while they are on the property during this construction. The waiver does not release Barco from damage caused due to their neglect, but if the land was to move (any natural earth movement) while they are there and damage is caused they cannot be held responsible.
o It is noted that per the By-laws a quorum is present; Quorum is those Owners present at such meeting shall constitute a quorum. Vote is passed with a 50% majority vote of a quorum.
o Question was asked how much more money is this going to cost us. This waiver and moving forward with the berm is not going to cost any more funds. We have collected the funds necessary to this point. Future reconstruction of L and M is a different matter.
o Homeowner indicated that more communication is needed. They don’t live there and don’t know as to how things are moving. It was noted by the Board.
o Question was asked regarding the bidding and if localized to the St. George area. The City solicited the bids and chose the winning bid. The HOA did not have an opinion.
o Vote was taken with a raise of hands, all present in favor. Vote was counted 49 total Owners in person or by proxy.
Insurance Review: LaMond Woods from Sentry West
  • -  LaMond reviewed, last year the association was very fortunate that we were able
    to acquire low quotes, this last year due to several claims and over $250,000 in damage the insurance company was not going to renew. After several months of contact with underwriters, and the deductible increasing we acquired a quote. The insurance premium double from last year.
  • -  Review of coverage and Owner responsibility.
    Election of Board of Trustees: Two positions on the Board have come up for election. Nominees included Brooke Gleave, Chip Bair, and Dwaine Hatch. Open nominations from the floor. Ballots to be filled out and pass to center of isles. Collection and counting of ballots by Karen Hatch.
    Review of Finances: Kimberly Graff, Association Manager. Review of the 2012 Income/Expense statement and Balance Sheet. The 2013 Budget was reviewed, broken down as to how much an individual pays each month for water, trash, and cable. Please note that nothing was increased in the monthly expenses except Insurance.
- Concern expressed about number of rentals within the Community. The problem with that is knowing exactly which units are renting vs. family use. If you know of rentals in your building please report so that we can account for units that are in violation.
LANDSLIDE ISSUE:
- Question as to how long are we expected to wait before we know if renovations can be done

to L & M building. We do not have a time frame from the City but they have hinted at 1 year to monitor.
Election Results: The results from those present elected Dwaine Hatch and Chip Bair to serve 2- year terms.
MEETING ADJOURNED 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Merry Christmas !


Demolition of the Knights Inn building began this week
It's been a long and difficult six months since the last posting but finally we have something positive to report.  Who would have thought it would take a year and a half of negotiations and legal work to bring people and their money together to try to save their property.  As I reviewed the many blog entries since the emergency owners meeting held in June 2011 we all expected things to happen much more quickly than they have.   A couple of months ago we were close to despair!  Thanks to the hard work of the GSC board (particularly Jason Schall), attorneys Bruce Jenkins and Joe Hood, and with the help of the City of St. George, cost sharing agreements have now been signed between GSC and the owners (and lenders) of Knights Inn Hotel and the Dairy Queen properties.   The owner of the Claim Jumper restaurant has refused to financially participate or allow cooperative access across a small corner of his parking lot which added to the delay as negotiations continued to drag on among the affected property owners.  The owner of Monster Storage, Dennis Lyman, has agreed to let us take dirt from his site which is located nearby for which we are grateful.

Construction on the toe berm began this week as equipment arrived and the west section of hotel building is demolished.  The east side of GSC building L (the four units now owned by the HOA) is next to disappear.  The trucks will be rolling to haul off the debris and begin hauling in dirt which will be placed in 24" high layers with geo-grid fabric installed between each layer and wrapped up the leading edge of the berm.  Dirt will continue to be imported until the height of the berm reaches approximately 23 ft.  There will be a drainage pipe installed vertically through the berm to capture water from the roofs and area surrounding GSC buildings L and M.  This pipe will be tied into an existing 12" line that protrudes through the base of the hotel retaining wall and will be extended under the berm to flow, as it currently does, onto the parking lot which slopes to Bluff Street.

The expenditures relating to the landslide mitigation efforts now exceed $300,000 with Garden South eventually contributing nearly $240,000 including the money spent on past geotechnical studies and legal fees.  The City of St. George is lending $70,000 towards the project which is to be repaid over the next few years by the participating owners.   The increased insurance costs to owners continues to be a burden as insurance companies consider the higher risks of insuring the problem properties.  Insurance premiums have doubled in the past year.   Garden South has enough in reserves to fund it's share of the current known costs.   The future is still uncertain as we have yet to address the costs of restoration of the condemned buildings and some of the deferred maintenance throughout the community.
23 ft. of compacted dirt will replace the building.

Will it work ??? ... that is the big question.  The science and math says that the berm is designed with a 20% safety factor which is less than the 50% typically required by code for new construction.  The safety factor is like an airplane which is required to have enough fuel on board to reach its destination, PLUS extra fuel in case there is a need to reach an alternate airport.   In theory, there will be enough dirt placed at the toe of the slide to counterbalance the slippery ice cream scoop effect of the slide with an extra 20% to spare.   However, no one can or will guarantee that this design will permanently fix the problem.  For the slope to be declared safe by the engineers and city, it will need to be monitored and demonstrated that there has been no more movement.  This will take some time.  It will still be months before owners who are willing to invest in repairing the damage to existing buildings can begin restoration.

We will take this one step at a time, within the current budget that all owners have agreed on.  We looked at many options.   Quotes for proven landslide stabilization methods used by the DOT on mountain roads ranged from $3.500,000 to more than $6,000,000.  At that price, the owners group decided that it did not make economic sense to use the more expensive stabilization methods.  Attempts to secure government funding proved fruitless.  The only option was for private owners to band together using private funds to do what they can to save their properties.    The toe berm design has proven successful in some instances and we determined it was worth the investment to try and save the homes and business properties affected by this slow moving natural disaster given the limited financial resources available.

Monday, July 23, 2012

One Step Forward, Two Back...

Since the last posting there has been some progress and some regression.
    
A meeting with the EDG Group, owners of the land on which the Dairy Queen sits, is scheduled the first of next week to review the cost sharing agreement and seek to resolve their demands and concerns.   If EDG and the hotel both agree to contribute the amounts budgeted, along with the loan from the city, there is a good chance the berm can still be constructed by simplifying the design and reducing some of the costs even though we now have a budget shortfall of nearly $50K from what we originally had hoped to raise.  
To date, Gardens South has funded 100% of the engineering studies and legal efforts related to the landslide.   Even if Gardens South homeowners could come up with all of the money necessary to construct the berm, without signed easements granted by the hotel and EDG to use a portion of their land for the berm, it will not be possible to construct the berm .   Even if the two neighboring property owners agree to participate,  Gardens South will still shoulder nearly two thirds of the total cost.   I'm still hopeful that we can work through the legal issues but it has been more than a year since the first meetings were held among the various owners and we have yet to see signed agreements or actual funds to pay for the construction of the berm.    

Friday, May 4, 2012

Another hurdle...


On Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM, Dan Steurer wrote:
I just met with Barco Excavation this morning at the site to review the latest changes to the design.  They will need to cross the corner of the restaurant parking lot property with the trucks to
build the berm.  The city is requiring the property owner sign an easement.  If he refuses to sign the easement for truck access and the install drainage system I don't know what our options are.  His parking lot is already destroyed because the storm water from the hill has been sheet flowing
across the asphalt for years.  With the new drainage system, his parking asphalt will have a much longer life expectancy once repaired. 

The free dirt at Monster Storage is quickly disappearing and if we need to pull dirt from elsewhere it will cost more.  I'm getting a bid for the storm drainage system ... just sent a bill for another $2K for the cost of the engineer who designed it.  I will then revise the construction budget and determine the latest total cost estimates to make sure we have enough money committed.

 I think only the following items must be accomplished to get started:
1.  Signed easement from the restaurant owner (and his financial participation agreement)
2.  Signed cost sharing and budget/escrow agreement by all parties... draft agreements have been sent.
3.  All parties must deposit money into escrow account prior to construction.    If we don't have the signatures and money, then the deal may fall apart.

I haven't given up, but I didn't count on the long legal delays and short-sightedness of certain property owners.  This has been a very frustrating week...we're so close.    We'll know what happens in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Delays... But Still Making Progress

Attorneys for the various parties are still working on finalizing the cost sharing agreement but we have yet to see monies from other property owners deposited to the trust account.   An agreement with the city regarding the use and repayment of funds contributed by the city is also being included in the cost sharing agreement.   The drainage design is complete but has yet to be approved by the city.   Draining water properly will increase the probability of the berm's success and is something that was not included in the AGEC berm design.  The city is also now requesting that the owner of the restaurant grant an access easement and storm drain easement.  This particular owner has yet to commit to participate in the landslide mitigation efforts despite the fact that the back of the restaurant is now caving in due to the slide.  We will need to work through these challenges in the coming days.   I am having to revise the budget for the berm construction to include the added drainage system costs once we have a final bid submitted.   I still think we will be within the total budget originally estimated but there will no longer be any cushion for unforeseen expenses.   This is a two steps forward, one step back process that has been frustrating for all concerned but we must continue to work through the issues if we have any hope of reducing the damages caused by this tragic slide.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Getting Closer

A meeting was held recently at the city offices to iron out any remaining issues regarding the construction of the berm.  All consents, easements, and releases from property owners and lenders have yet to be signed and collected.   The issue of drainage was discussed and the city wants to see a drainage plan included in the berm design specifications.  I met with a local civil engineer this week who submitted a quote for the design and has begun working on the project.  We should have something to submit to the city for approval within ten business days.   The attorneys are drafting an escrow agreement and requesting that all property owners contribute their share of the costs to a trust account prior to construction.  Gardens South has collected most of the special assessment that was approved by the homeowners and is ready to pay its share.   As soon as the money is collected from the other owners we should finally be ready to begin construction on the berm.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What's Happening???

Multiple bids have been solicited during the past two months from several contractors to construct a "toe berm" as designed by AGEC.   Costs are somewhat higher than originally projected but it appears that there will be sufficient funds if all property owners, including the commercial property owners who have agreed to participate, pay the pro-rata share.  A meeting is now scheduled for March 1, 2012 with the City attorney, representatives of each participating property and attorneys to finalize the cost sharing agreement, collect the necessary funds and deposit to a trust account, and work out any other issues.  We are still waiting for HUD to sign a consent/release form to allow the demolition of the condo unit they own in building L, but even if the consent is delayed we plan to continue forward with the demolition of the hotel and the construction of the berm.  All other required consents appear to be signed.  No work will begin until all funds are deposited by the participating parties (Garden South Condos, Knights Inn Hotel, Dairy Queen (EDG Group), and Claim Jumper) so that we have the assurance of being able to pay the contractors and geotech engineers.  If money is funded this month, construction can be expected to start within a week or two.
This project is the least expensive ($250K) of the possible remedies to attempt to halt the landslide and preserve property.  The engineer's math estimates that the berm should halt the slide with at 20% fudge factor of certainty.   Ideally, a 50% safety margin is desired but to achieve that the cost would be possibly more than $3 million to stabilize both slide planes down to the 40 ft. depth.  We met with two other contractors last month who specialize in stabilizing landslides across the country to obtain rough estimates.   The berm is designed as a temporary solution but given the limited resources of property owners, it may be the only economically feasible solution.
Property owners are wondering how long after the berm in completed repairs can be made on the affected buildings.   That will be determined after a period of monitoring the movement of the buildings to determine if in fact the berm is successful in achieving the desired result.  The buildings will need to be inspected and a list of repairs will need to be made to assure that they can be made safe.  If all appears to be safe and stable then it may be possible to make the buildings habitable again.   The utilities will need to be reconnected and sidewalks and gangways will need to be replaced or repaired along with any other cosmetic repairs.   All costs of repairs to the condos will need to be born by the homeowners of Garden South which may require additional assessments to raise the funds necessary.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Annual HOA Meeting Very Positive

On Saturday, Nov. 19th, 31 of the 111 units were represented by more than 50 attendees at the annual meeting of homeowners.  Many thanks to those owners who took time to attend the meeting, many from out of town.   Nominations for representation on the Board were taken to fill the 3 available two year terms.  Terry Brotherson accepted the nomination and was elected together with Dan Steurer and Jason Schall who agreed to extend their terms of service.

A report of the financial condition of the HOA was given and concern was voiced about the number of non-paying owners (currently 14) which causes a cash flow challenge for the HOA.  The HOA has the powers of a community government and the HOA fees are like taxes.  It was explained that the HOA has the right to file a lien and foreclose for non-payment of fees.   Additionally, services can be curtailed (such as cable TV service).

Those in attendance expressed gratitude for the service rendered by the board members.   A spirit of volunteerism is emerging once again as Richard Evans announced a community effort to repaint the entrance wall and signage.  Those wishing to spend a few hours to help pressure wash and paint should contact Richard who will organize the effort.  A number of maintenance and landscaping concerns were brought to the attention of the board.  If owners are aware of any issues, call or better yet, email Kimberly at C.A.M. to report items or concerns.

Lamond Woods, from Century West Insurance explained that the HOA policy covers the buildings and  everything that is "attached"(including cabinets, carpeting, etc.).  He taught why each owner should obtain personal property coverage to cover not only personal, "un-attached", property but also to cover the exposure of having to pay a $10,000 deductible should a claim be made against the HOA insurance policy.

The majority of the meeting time was spent discussing the current status and progress of the landslide abatment efforts.  Attorney Joseph Hood explained the progress made in negotiating a cost sharing agreement with commercial landowners also affected by the slide.   Homeowners received recently notification of a general assessment of $650 per unit to help fund the construction of an earthen buttress designed to halt the progress of the slide.  Copies of the recent report  and engineered designs are available at the following links:

Buttress Design Letter Link
Buttress Design Illustrations 1 - 4

We will need to get revised construction bids to see if this design is within the draft budget.   We have received permission from the owner of Monster Storage to take dirt at no cost from his site nearby.  There is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 yards available and it’s a short haul to our location.   If we run out, the BLM site behind the BeeHive property on Tonaquint is available for the taking.  This should help reduce the cost of obtaining suitable fill dirt.

The buttress is design to be faced with a black geotech fabric which is layered every 18".  However, the fabric as shown on the design will eventually deteriorate due to UV exposure (5 years?).   The design has morphed from being a temporary stop gap to a more permanent structure.    A more expensive option is to face the buttress with gravel filled wire cages which will add about about $6 per sq. ft. to the cost . Once we know the cost we can decide if we can afford to use the wire cages.   The consensus at the meeting was to do it right even if it cost a little more.

Because of the need to keep the drive-thru lane open at the DQ, the design provides only a 20% "safety factor". After meeting with Jim Nordquist this week, I think I now know how to explain what the “safety factor” percentage means.  The design is expected to halt the slide according to the math.  The 20% margin is the extra “fudge factor” in the design to account for some of the unknown or unaccounted for possibilities.  This is the percentage that the design is over-engineered.   The problem here is that the building code (hence, the City)  typically requires a 40% to 50% safety factor before buildings are allowed to be constructed (or reconstructed) on such soil.  What this means is that even if the berm is successful in halting the slide, AGEC is not willing to certify that the site is safe for re-construction or permanent occupancy until the safety factor is increased.  We have asked AGEC to provide a draft design that would provide for an increase the safety factor so that we can obtain a cost estimate and determine how to increase this factor so that we can make repairs to the buildings and satisfy code requirements.  This has to be figured out before evicted residents will be allowed to re-occupy their homes.

In a perfect world we would not do the berm now but try to move quickly to do the 50% safety factor design, organize the improvement district and fund the more sure solution.  Given the fact that the slide is accelerating and that it’s taken 5 months for the various land owners to agree to share costs for just the berm requires that we do the most expedient option which is to build the buttress in hopes that further property damage can be halted.  

Currently, there is an agreement in principle to share costs related only to the buttress based on the pro-rata share of assessed valuation:
•EDG Group (DQ, Pier 49)              14%
•Knights Inn Motel                           20%
•Claim Jumper Restaurant                 11%
•Gardens South HOA                       55%

Until now, Gardens South has shouldered 100% of the burden.   Having the commercial owners agree to share in the costs an allowing the berm to be built on their property is a huge step in the right direction.  It is uncertain if the initial budget of $190,000 for the berm is sufficient, especially if the more expensive option of using the wire cages to face the buttress is chosen.  The draft budget at the moment includes the following anticipated expenses:

DRAFT BUTTRESS BUDGET

  Demolition and Buttress Construction:                 $125,000
  Engineering and testing:                                      $  40,000
  Asphalt Replacement:                                         $  20,000
  Legal:                                                                $    5,000

    Total:                                                               $190,000

Gardens South HOA has about $40,000 in a reserve account set aside for landslide abatement costs.  If the $650/unit special assessment is passed, another $60,000 needs to be raised to help meet the nearly $100,000 obligation that the HOA will have in funding the buttress construction.  If the assessment is not approved, the board will be forced to take action to raise the funds by increasing the monthly dues and making a mandatory assessment as allowed by the CC&Rs and HOA By-laws.   Because the funds are needed immediately, passing the $650 assessment is in the best interest of the homeowners.   Owners will be given the option of paying the total amount or splitting up the payments over three months beginning January 1st. 

We're getting really close to seeing dirt fly and stopping the slide as soon as we accomplish the following:

1.  Obtain construction bids for the buttress as designed and for the wire cage option
2.  Obtain the remaining signed releases and consents from all affected property owners
3.  Finalize and sign the cost sharing agreement among the commercial property owners
4.  All participants fund the costs construction, probably by placing monies in a neutral escrow account prior to  authorizing the start of construction.
5.  Finalize the participation of the city in assisting with the demolition and waiver of land fill fees.
6.  Award the contract to construct the earthen buttress

Again, thanks to all who have contributed to this joint abatement effort and for the cooperative spirit that seems to be forming among the various owners affected by this unfortunate freak of nature.   



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Property Taxes Lower for 2011

The county assessor has again reduced the 2011 assessed value for most of the properties associated with Gardens South due to the impact of the landslide on values.   The actual property tax bill for most owners is $100’s less than a few years ago.   Just within the last year, there has been a reduction of more than $26,000 in total taxes charged to Gardens South owners.   

The HOA Board will need to raise the monies to fund the association’s share of the landslide abatement costs as well as the future repair costs to Buildings L and M.   It has been suggested that by paying what we’ve been accustomed to paying before values dropped, some to the county and the balance to the HOA, it should greatly ease any financial hardships on property owners.   If owners would pay to the HOA the difference of what  they used to pay when values were higher, the association would have less need to raise dues or make burdensome special assessments.  It may be years before values rebound, but unless funds are raised and the slide halted, more properties will be affected and the damages and costs will escalate.   Condo owners should plan to budget for more special assessments so that the HOA can meet its obligations and so that property values can once again stabilize.   It's in everyone's best interest to fix the problems so that public and lender confidence can be restored and property values increase.  

Landslide Abatement Update


After nearly four months of negotiations, attorneys for the various property owners affected by the slide have finally reached an agreement in principle as to the sharing of costs associated with demolition of affected buildings and the construction of an earthen berm.  Final design specifications for the earthen berm are being prepared by Jim Nordquist of AGEC who has been retained by Gardens South as the primary geotechnical  consulting engineering firm.   The purpose of the berm is to add substantial weight to the bottom toe area of the slide area in hopes that it will slow or possibly stop the property damage caused by the slide.  AGEC assures that the berm is the most expedient solution to arresting the movement of the hillside.  
The proposed budget for the demolition and berming is as follows: 

Total: $190,000
Engineering: $40,000
Demolition:  $30,000
Asphalt Repair:  $20,000
Miscellaneous: $5,000
Berming:  $95,000 or less.

The plan is to demolish the condemned east half of Building “L” of Gardens South Condos and the condemned hotel building located behind the Claim Jumper restaurant and construct the berm where the hotel now stands and behind the Dairy Queen property.    The hope is for the earthen berm to be more permanent than temporary.  The property owners want to give it their best shot to stop the hillside movement with the berm. 
As to the Dairy Queen side, there is an agreement with the EDG Group and the DQ Group as to the placement the berm at a line approx. 23' north of the existing retaining wall.  The line is painted on the asphalt and has some curvature to it.  The berm behind DQ is to be stepped with a 5-6 foot initial lift and about a 6 foot step back before the next lift.  DQ does not want access to the drive through blocked during construction.  Most of the work may need to come through the Motel side.

As to the Motel, the berm has no similar restrictions and can go next to the North-South running building, though there may need to be rock cages or concrete blocks stacked near the North end of the building to achieve the necessary height.  The berm can then fill the area where the hotel building was.  The design will need to make sure the ally between this building and the Claim Jumper Restaurant is preserved. 
Because it is a stretch for all parties to raise the necessary cash, the most effective yet fiscally conservative berm design is desired.  Once the design is finalized, bids obtained and approved, and all consents signed by the various owners and other parties affected, the work should begin hopefully before the end of the year.  

Monies will need to be collected from the property owners and deposited to an escrow account for disbursement as work progresses. If the berm is successful in arresting the movement of the slide, each of the major property owners will then be responsible for the repairs to their respective properties.



For Gardens South, the cost will need to be spread among all condo owners.  As to the repairs of Buildings M and L, there will need to be sufficient time and evidence proving that the slide has stabilized before the City will permit work to be done on restoring the buildings.  At present, it appears that the buildings may be saved from demolition and eventually repaired.  However, the City will require that all utilities be exposed, inspected and that a structural engineer certify that the buildings are safe for occupancy before anyone can move in again.  Monies will need to be raised to fund the repairs by special assessment so that funds are available to make the repairs.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Agreement Hopeful

The City of St. George has agreed to assist in reducing the cost of demolishing the west hotel building and half of bldg. "L" of the condos by waiving the landfill fees (nearly $20k).   We are now into the third month of trying to obtain a consensus among the various property owners as to how to fairly split the costs of constructing a large berm where the hotel now stands and behind the Dairy Queen.   The total cost of demolition, berm construction, engineering fees and asphalt repair is estimated to be about $200,000. Using the assessed valuations of each parcel, Gardens South would be responsible for about 54% and the balance would be divided among the other four property owners according to their pro-rata share.   Numerous meetings with the owners and their attorneys have been held since July with little progress.  Another meeting was held on Monday, Oct. 10th and we think we are closer to an agreement.  The city has imposed a deadline of another week to see if all parties can agree.    Once all owners are in agreement, the plan forward is to demolish the buildings and construct the berm.  The theory behind the berm design is that by adding weight and mass to the bottom of the the slide area, it will help to stabilize and slow the movement. With a little luck it may even halt the movement entirely.  There has been continued movement during the last 90 days and there is more damage to "M" building that did not exist 120 days ago.   If the berm is successful in halting the slide, it may be feasible to eventually repair the damages to "M" and possibly the west half of "L".  Funding the cost of the berm for Gardens South will be a matter of discussion at the annual meeting of homeowners scheduled for November 19th.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Date Of Annual Meeting Announced

The Gardens South Annual HOA Meeting will be held on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 10 a.m. at the Lexington Hotel (previously Holiday Inn) on Bluff St.    We encourage all owners to attend this important meeting during which many issues concerning the HOA will be discussed.
Property owners are welcome to attend the monthly Board meetings which are usually held at 5pm on the third Tuesday of each month at the offices of Condominium Association Mgmt. on the corner of Tabernacle and 400 E. in St. George.  If you have a concern or particular item to discuss, please notify the Mgmt. Company at least a week in advance so that they can schedule time on the agenda.  Call to confirm the meeting time and date as occasionally the meeting date must be changed in the event of a conflict.

Property Tax Notices ... the good and bad news

Property owners recently received the property tax assessment notices from the Washington County Assessors Office and those within Garden South should have noticed a nearly 50% reduction in the market and assessed values.  The County Assessor has discounted the values to reflect the depressed market values caused by the uncertainties and extra costs that property owners are expected to incur as a result of the landslide.  I noticed that the owners of Building M may want to formally appeal the value of their units next year to further reduce the amount of taxes charged as the Assessor has not recognized the condemnation action in the current values.  You can learn more about the appeal process by pressing HERE.

The good news is that we will all pay less property taxes this year.  The bad news is that is property values in Gardens South are WAY down, even more than the market in general making it very difficult for owners to sell, especially if they have a mortgage.  There are about 14 owners out of the 111 that are seriously delinquent in the payment of their HOA fees and this is affecting the ability for the HOA to meet its monthly obligations.  Unlike the federal gov't which can issue debt or print more money, a HOA is a small government that must spend no more than it receives.   The total of non-payers and late payers has created about a $5,000 per month short fall in operating revenues.  The Board voted to temporarily use for operations some of the funds that would otherwise be deposited into our savings account for future repairs and maintenance until such time as the monies owed to the association can be collected which now total nearly $40,000 in receivables.  The HOA Board will have no other choice but to raise fees or cut services in order to protect the interests of all property owners.

The HOA is granted legal authority to file and foreclose a lien against any property that is delinquent.  Even those in the two condemned buildings M and L are required to pay HOA fees because it is viewed as a monthly tax or assessment that is used to pay the obligations for the common ownership of property.  Those who dismiss their mortgage obligation by foreclosure are still are liable for the HOA fees and a personal judgment is often sought even after a foreclosure is filed.

There is another problem that may arise as a result of the recent property devaluations by the County Assessor :   In order to form a Special Assessment District and sell bonds to finance the costs to permanently stop the landslide, investor lenders look for at least a five to one ratio of debt to assessed value.  The total assessed values (which is less than the market value) for Gardens South Condos and the commercial properties (Dairy Queen, Knights Inn Hotel, Claim Jumper, Pier 49 Pizza, etc.) was approximately $10,000,000 last year.  This year the total valuation has dropped to about $5,500,000 which may make it more challenging to obtain financing.  Of course, once the landslide is stabilized and property damage is repaired, values should rebound (and taxes increase) as a result of renewed market confidence.


What's happened lately?

After the evacuation of Building M, many are wondering what has happened behind the scenes during the past six weeks.  The recommendation from the geotechnical engineers was to immediately remove the north building of Knights Inn hotel and construct a large berm of compacted earth at the base of the hill where the hotel now stands and also in the parking lot behind the Dairy Queen.   Picture an ice cream scoop where a bite has been taken out of the front of the scoop... the weight of the remaining ice cream tends to slide down to take it's place.     By placing dirt, and we're talking A LOT OF DIRT (600 truck loads), at the toe of the slide, the extra weight is expected to dramatically slow the movement of the slide.

After six weeks of meetings, emails, and discussions to resolve legal and practical issues, draft agreements with the various property owners, obtain easements, etc. we are just now thinking that it might possibly happen.  Bids were recently obtained from several excavation contractors and the cost of demolition and building the berm exceeded $100,000.   The City of St. George has been very helpful in trying to reduce this cost and may even agree to help loan some of the funds to accomplish the demolition.  

The City has decided it may be best for them to take charge of the demolition portion of the job to save money and seek repayment from the property owners involved through property taxes.  It has been decided to tear down at least the south half of Building L in addition to the hotel building.   A structural engineer from Las Vegas was hired by Gardens South last week to inspect the north half of Bldg. L and he determined that the building is still structurally sound and could be repaired.   The city building dept. is in the process of making their own inspection this week and will decide if they agree with the engineers observations.  Tearing down any or all of the condominium buildings will do nothing to slow the movement of the landslide as the weight of the buildings is nothing compared to the total weight of the saturated earth that is actually causing the earth to move.  


A temporary water line has been connected to service Building N and will need to be either buried or somehow freeze protected (sand bags?) before winter sets in.  A major concern is whether or not the slide has damaged the main sewer line that services not only Buildings N, M, & L but also service the upper tiered buildings including P & Q.    If the sewer is damaged, this will be a major expense to repair and will delay the occupancy of M and L owners.   The other utilities (gas, electric, water, phone, and cable) are relatively secure and easily re-connected to Building M.


Assuming the legal and financial issues can be resolved soon, the demolition and construction of the berm will the first physical attempt to slow the landslide and attempt to halt the damages to property.  It will take several months of observation to determine if the earthen berm is successful in halting the slide.    This is viewed as a temporary, stop gap measure and is not expected to be the ultimate solution.   However, if it appears that the slide has stopped as a result of the berm construction,  we will approach the city to inspect the facilities and re-attach utilities to allow residents of M to re-occupy their homes.    Realistically, this will not happen until sometime next year.    Owners who wish to enter their homes in the meantime to remove personal possessions must obtain permission from the city building department to do so.  The city and HOA are concerned about the safety issues of condemned buildings and will not be responsible if anyone is hurt as a result of trespassing or entering Buildings L and M.    





Monday, July 11, 2011

Landslide Problems Attract Media Attention

Both newspaper and television reporters were invited by condo owner Garry "Bud" Thomas and Dairy Queen proprietor, Ken Webster, to investigate the issues surrounding the landslide.  Neither reporter chose to review this blog,  interview the geotechnical scientists involved, or talk to representatives of the condo association board or the other commercial property owners who might have given a more objective slant to the story.
Building M residents were officially notified on July 1, 2011 by the City of St. George to evacuate their units because the building was judged no longer safe to inhabit due to the risk of utility lines breaking as a consequence of the slow moving slide.   Four of the twelve units were occupied by full-time residents who were required to find alternative housing.  The other eight units are owned by non-residents as vacation or investment properties.   Three of the units in "M" were purchased at a deep discount within the last year from foreclosure sales.  Purchasers had full disclosure of the landslide issues prior to closing.
Further meetings with those representing the four commercial property owners and the condo HOA were held on July 5th, to discuss a possible cost sharing agreement and to obtain a consensus among owners regarding the implementation of recommendations from the geo-technical engineers to remove ASAP the condemned section of Knights Inn Motel and 1/2 of condo building "L" and place approx. 6,000 tons of dirt at the toe of the slide.  The added weight at the bottom of the slide is expected to slow the advancement of the slide.  Mr. Webster does not agree with the engineer's recommendations and is objecting to the placement of dirt on the parking lot for fear that it may affect his business.   Negotiations will continue with the goal of protecting all property owners involved.
Meanwhile, a more permanent fix is being designed so that construction bids and financing can be obtained to halt the slide and make repairs to the buildings affected.

Links to the news reports are found below:

Channel 2 News report, July 8, 2011

The Spectrum newspaper article of July 2, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Emergency Property Owners Meeting, June 28, 2011

About 60 people, including property owners or their representatives, attended an emergency meeting held at 393 E. Riverside Dr. 3A at 12 noon.   The properties represented at the meeting included:  Gardens South Condominiums, EDG (Dairy Queen and Pier 49 buildings), Knights Inn Motel, and the Claim Jumper Restaurant.
Mr. Jim Nordquist, President of AGEC, presented scientific evidence describing the slide and his recommendations for abatement.
Mr. Bruce Jenkins, Attorney, then presented information about the proposed formation of a Special Assessment District among affected property owners to raise the required funds to stop the slide and repair the damages to property.

Summary of Mr. Nordquist's presentation:

1.  The slide is part of a much larger ancient landslide that has been moving for a long, long time.
2.  Multiple slide planes were found to be moving, one 6.5 ft. below the DQ parking lot and other at 35 ft. below ground.  The soils are naturally saturated and the natural water table is high (within several feet of the surface).   These soil characteristics are true for most of the southern part of the airport hill.
3.  The structural strength of the soil is very weak.  Once it begins to move, it continues to weaken and move at a faster rate.
4.  The rate of movement has been slow over the last 20 years (about 1 inch per year), however, within the past year the rate of movement on the surface is increasing.   Nearly five inches of movement has occurred within the past 6 months.  One inch in less than a week.
5.  The slide is caused by the shear weight of the saturated soils.  By comparison, the weight of the buildings represents less than 1% of the total mass weight.   Hence, removing buildings will not stop the slide.
6.  The slide is causing the properties (Motel, DQ, and Restaurant) located at the "toe", or bottom, to lift and heave as dirt is pushed up along the slide planes.   Buildings "L" and "M" of the condo project are experiencing lateral movement as well as some heaving.
7.  The slide, if not stopped, will continue to migrate up the hill affecting properties higher on the hill and causing the lower properties to heave.
8.  Recommendations:
         a)  Immediately place approx. 6000 yds. of soil at the base of the slide to add weight.  This should dramatically slow the rate of movement.
         b)  a more permanent fix would be to drill and install large diameter (4 ft.?) concrete piers below the slide plane (60 ft?) and also drill laterally into the slope several hundred feet to install tie-back piers to hold back the slide.  Cost estimates are being compiled for both recommendations.

You may view segments of the video-taped presentation by clicking on the following links:

Geotechnical Presentation, part 1

Geotechnical Presentation, part 2

Mr. Bruce Jenkins then explained the proposed creation of a Special Assessment District so that bonds could be sold to finance the construction and property repairs.  Property owners would vote to tax themselves and repay the obligation over time rather than having to each come up with the money immediately.   It is estimated that about $2 million will be required, however, owners will have an opportunity to vote on the exact amount once the costs are actually determined.  The following steps need to occur:

1.  The property owners must sign a petition and formally serve the City of St. George requesting the city to accept or deny the petition to create a Special District.  We expect the city to deny the petition.
2.  Each property owner must then be given a opportunity to vote (sign a petition) to form the SSD.  If 67% or more of the owners sign, then a formal election can be avoided and the process is accelerated.
3.  Once the costs to fix the problem are known, property owners will then vote to approve the assessment amount and if approved, the funding process is initiated by creating and selling bonds to raise the money.
4.  The bonds become a tax obligation and owners will receive a separate tax bill in addition to the regular property tax from the county.


A meeting with city officials was held at 2:30 pm during which Mr. Nordquist presented an abbreviated version of his findings. The city expressed a desire to help the property owners within the scope of its powers  and to help expedite the process to minimize further damage.   Concern was expressed for the safety of residents of Bldg. M of GSC and the hotel patrons and DQ customers and steps will be taken to minimize bodily harm until the slide can be stabilized.   Residents of "M" will be asked to find temporary housing until such time as the buildings are approved for occupancy once again.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rate of Movement Increasing



From: Jim Nordquist [mailto:nord@agecinc.com]
Sent: Saturday, June 18, 2011 6:14 AM
To: Dan Steurer
Subject: RE: schedule

Good morning Dan -

Based on our measurements yesterday -
  • Building "L"
    • The east side of the buliding appears to have moved 0.8" in the last three months.  It had moved about 0.7" in the prior 3 years.
    • The west side of the building appears to have not moved.
  • Bulding "M"
    • The only good reading we have in the area of Builidng "M" is on the south end.   It appears to be moving at only a slight increase (during the last 3 months) from what it has been doing over the past 2.8 years.
    • The other inclinometers by building "M" and "L" have sheared off, so that we are not able to measure the actual movement

My suggestion is still to place soil (or something else really heavy like concrete blocks, rocks, etc.) east of the retaining wall behind DQ and also east of the wall in the area of the motel.  This would be the fastest way to help improve the situation.  The more that can be placed the better.  I will try and do some analysis to see the relative impact of placing 5, 10 and 15 feet of soil.

Good luck today!

Jim


    


From: Dan Steurer [Dan@sunwestdev.com]
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 4:59 PM
To: Jim Nordquist
Cc: Bruce C. Jenkins; Jason Schall; Karen Hatch; Terry R. Brotherson; Chip Bair; Kimberly Graff - Community Association Mgmt.
Subject: RE: schedule
Ok… we’ll get started on the legal petitions with group A.   I assume that group B “static and seismic conductions” means that they are impacted only in the event of a seismic event?   Shoring up the 400 ft. that is actively moving and damaging group A property wouldn’t benefit B properties unless the shoring efforts extended eastward, correct?
It sounds like placing soil behind the retaining wall is something that probably should have been done when it was built.  It will involve the neighbors below.   The city agreed to let us run a temporary power line to restore power to “M” today and do the repair next week.  This will allow the residents to get through the weekend (several are elderly and not able to easily make other arrangements).   The water line should be repaired by tonight.  

From: Jim Nordquist [mailto:nord@agecinc.com]
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 3:34 PM
To: Dan Steurer
Subject: RE: schedule

Dan –

A.   The areas of immediate impact appear to be (as you listed) the following:
·         Garden South
·         Soon Wilmette Trust
·         EDG Group LC
·         Park Dae Won
·         Richard Ringwood

This group would be impacted if the area of current movement were to continue.


B.   The next level of potential impact includes:
·         Family Circle Limited Partnership
·         The Bluffs, Phase 1
·         Black Ridge Terrace A, Commercial Condominiums
·         Black Ridge Commercial Center Condominiums, Phase 2
·         Jenkins Oil Co., Inc.
·         South Bluff Plaza Condominiums

This group would likely “fight” inclusion into the SSD.  Their risk is under static and seismic conductions.

C.            The next level of potential impact includes:
·         The areas developed on the geologically mapped landslide.
·         Their risk is likely tied to seismic activity at a level required by current code.
·         This group would definitely “fight” inclusion into the SSD.

I hope that this will help you – in such an eventful time.

If you need to quickly reduce the potential for movement, soil could be placed in front of the retaining wall west of the DQ.  The more soil, the better.  An option would be to place jersey barriers to maintain some access, and then placing soil between the retaining wall and the jersey barriers.    This may not help a lot, but some help or assistance would be beneficial.

Thanks,

Jim



From: Dan Steurer [mailto:Dan@sunwestdev.com]
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 3:15 PM
To: Jim Nordquist
Cc: Jason Schall; Karen Hatch; Terry R. Brotherson; Chip Bair; Bruce C. Jenkins
Subject: RE: schedule

  
There is increased urgency and a need to really expedite the process.   We had another lateral main water line to Building M break (yesterday?) and it wasn’t discovered until the sidewalk collapsed this morning and water began surfacing below at the DQ.   The M building has moved about four inches more in the last month, more than in the past 15 years.   The sewer lines on the west end of M are back-draining because the building has dropped.  This morning the electric lines were pulled away from the transformer and the 600 amp panel on the building was fried.  We have 8 units without power and water.  
I tried reaching both you and Arnold this morning but couldn’t, so I called Dave Black from Rosenberg to take a look and see if there is immediate danger.   I haven’t heard back from him yet but he said he would grab Walt Jones and have a look today.   We don’t want anyone to get hurt.  The west 8 units of Bldg M are moving intact with the foundation secure and the building does not appear to be leaning as much or coming off the foundation like building L.   The east end four units of M have moved less and therefore there is a widening split occurring at the fire wall where the 8 units are separating from the 4 unit section.   It’s been a busy day.   We’ve got a plumber trying to find the leak and an electrician trying to restore power as I write this  The city repaired the transformer and will need to reinspect the service panel repair  before they will allow power back on which means we will have 8 more owners displaced if they decide to condemn the building.   Is mother nature going to win this one before we can get manpower and money together?  
Are we safe to assume that only the GSC, DQ, Hotel, Steak House, and tax strip properties are involved?   If so, we’ll start the legal process and petition the city and owners to form an SSD.   I think we should also notify formally the owners of M building how serious the problems are and prepare them for the fact that they may possibly be evicted if the units are judged unsafe.    We’re trying to be proactive and keep the communication lines open to avoid stupid lawsuits.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Steps Required to Form a Services District for Funding

We are still waiting on AGEC to finalize their analysis of the landslide and provide us with a description of the properties affected and the estimated cost to stabilize the hillside.   Once we have this report, a meeting of all affected property owners will be held to evaluate the recommendations and formulate a plan for halting the continuing damage to property caused by the landslide.  
Meanwhile we did receive from attorney Mark Anderson information as to the steps required to form a Special Assessment District so that the affected property owners can vote whether or not to sell a type of municipal bond to raise the funds required to pay for the landslide abatement and property repairs.  The bonds would be repaid over time by a separate property tax collected by the Special District of property owners.   The amount assessed to each property owner would be based on the assessed value of each parcel as a percentage of the total assessed value of the combined properties forming the Special Assessment District.  This appears to be the least costly and fairest way to apportion the costs of stabilizing the hillside and repairing the damaged properties among the various property owners.

Here is a link to the Memorandum from Mark Anderson that details the steps required.
Funding Memorandum Link