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.

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