SEARCH

Entries in Neighborhoods (2)

Wednesday
May292013

North Carolina Neighborhood Built on Landfill Is Sinking

ABC News(HAVELOCK, N.C.) -- Warren Salter's yard had yielded more problems than dandelions. Just inches below the surface, he's dug up glass, spark plugs, even the hood to an old truck.

Salter bought his house in Havelock, N.C., in 2001, but by 2003 he realized that something was wrong.

"Everybody's yard is dropping," Salter told ABC News. "What used to be flat land for the kids to play football in is now big sunken areas."

"Trees I planted about five years ago, now you look at them and they're tilted downhill toward where everything is sinking," he said.

The reason, he said, is because the neighborhood was built on an old landfill, one that Salter said was last used in the 1940s and 1950s. The city of Havelock began building out in the 1960s and Salter's home was constructed in 1973.

"My neighbor knew of the dump before this area was built out. He actually remembers where an old school bus is buried," said Salter. That bus in now believed to be under someone's backyard.

Salter told ABC News that he only has to dig inches in his yard to find traces of the dump like steel, glass or the truck hood.

Salter put a call in to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2003 after he realized there was a problem, and they directed him to the North Carolina Division of Waste Management. He said the state conducted studies on the neighborhood around 2005. It was discovered during these inspections that some cavities, or land voids, are a mere two feet below the soil, believed to be caused by now decomposed garbage, he said.

"I get the feeling that it won't be long before I'm coming home, driving my truck up to my driveway and will sink right through," he said.

Neighbor Shannon Richards moved into her 1975 house in 2001 and learned about the landfill a year later.

"My problem is with my house settling. I have cracks in my drywall. I even have some doors that won't close anymore. A couple of years ago, I had a pipe that snapped. That was before we knew of the landfill...now I realize that was probably due to that," Richards said.

"My dog has pulled glass out of the backyard," she said.

Richards said the city of Havelock should be held somewhat responsible.

"[The city] issued the permits to the builders. We'd like for them to come in and properly clean it up. If they can't do that, we'd like for them to buy us out," she said.

Havelock city attorney Warden Smith told ABC News that a city meeting is scheduled for June 10, but Salter and his neighbors may find it a bit "anticlimactic."

"As a practical matter, the meeting on the 10th is simply for our office to report the board of commissioners our findings...for these citizens, it may be a fairly disappointing meeting," Smith said.

"My answer as the city attorney is that the city of Havelock has no liability at all," Smith said. "It wasn't done on their watch."

Smith explained that the landfill and the dumping predated the establishment of the city. He said, "Private property owners will have to deal with it themselves."

The North Carolina Division of Waste Management said in a statement Wednesday, "We are investigating the site to determine the nature and extent of the waste and any health risks due to the presence of metals on-site. Through preliminary soil testing, we have determined the presence of metals in the soils, but those levels are not considered to be an immediate health risk to people living in the community."

Salter said that he is having "a hard time" finding legal representation. He even put in a call to environmental activist Erin Brockovich, but has yet to hear back.

"The house is settling. My back yard is dropping. My neighbor's yard is dropping quickly." Salter said. "We have a mess out here and we're not getting the attention we deserve to get it cleaned up."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep272011

Neighbors Nix Man's Plan to Fly Helicopter over Home

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BURLINGTON, Conn.) -- When Paul Blanchette, 56, moved into his new home in Burlington, Conn., last August, he thought he was moving into a friendly neighborhood. But instead of receiving warm cookies and welcoming hellos, Blanchette was met by a flurry of protests intent on disallowing his favorite hobby -- flying his beloved chopper.

Blanchette's hobby is not illegal -- he is within his rights to fly his chopper over his house. A state regulation says only that he can't take off from residential land more than 36 times a year, the equivalent of 18 roundtrips.

But a group of his neighbors, calling itself the Burlington Residential Airspace Safety Organization, wants to outlaw Blanchette's hobby and plans to file an ordinance to restrict aviation activity in residential areas at a board meeting Tuesday night.

Paul Stadler, one of Blanchette's neighbors and a pilot himself, said that safety is the crux of the issue.

"The town zoning board doesn't have any aviation ordinances. We don't want a helicopter creating risk," Stadler said.

All the protest has taken Blanchette by surprise. In his former Taine Mountain neighborhood in nearby Bristol, he flew his helicopter regularly and said his neighbors never complained.

"Taine Mountain is a nice neighborhood, and I assumed it would be the same kind of people here -- kind, considerate, neighborly," Blanchette told ABCNews.com. "I'm hurt, because no one ever approached me. No one." Blanchette said he first heard about his neighbors' objections from a letter Stadler had been stuffing into mailboxes. The letter, obtained by ABC News, read, "We will continually listen to the noise and be concerned about possible accidents, forest fires, possible loss of life and pollution of water tables."

Blanchette has had a commercial license to fly his chopper since 2004, and said he's used his whirlybird only for recreation and charitable purposes -- not to make money -- and keeps the helicopter parked at his registered helipad located at the Ultimate Companies in Bristol, where he works. He said he would never fly it over anyone's home.

Stadler, along with 180 other neighbors, said he just wants to get the town to evaluate any potential danger. Although Blanchette owns 4.5 acres, Stadler said the neighborhood is surrounded by a heavily wooded area that could easily catch fire in the event of an accident.

But Jeffrey Bond, spokesman for the Burlington Fire Department, said the risk of an accident is small.

"History has shown benefits of an aircraft, and if you look at examples, aircraft incidents are small and rarely occur with a helicopter," said Bond.

Blanchette said that if the ordinance is passed, he would of course comply with it. He just wants one of his neighbors to talk to him about it.

Blanchette said he and Stadler had exchanged emails in which each expressed his concern, with Stadler worrying mainly about the risk.

None of the neighbors ever took Blanchette up on his offer to meet with him -- or to take a ride on his helicopter.

"I do not feel the need to personally confront someone about activity if that activity endangers the neighborhood," said Stadler.

Select Woman Cathy Bergstrom, equivalent to the town's mayor, stepped in to work out a solution -- Blanchette said she was the first person to ever ask his opinion about the fracas. After an investigation, Bergstrom reiterated that Blanchette was within his legal rights to fly his aircraft over his new house, and that most of Stadler's worries over Blanchette's intentions were unfounded. She even consulted with a real estate company, which confirmed that a helicopter nearby would not affect property values -- one of Stadler's objections.

Bergstrom also learned there were two private planes in the town, and that no enforcement action had ever been taken against them.

She arranged for Stadler and his compatriots to attend Tuesday's meeting where they could address their grievances before the board decided whether to file an ordinance against Blanchette and his eggbeater.

Bergstrom only wished that Blanchette had had the opportunity to speak with his neighbors before it came to this.

But not all the neighbors oppose Blanchette. "What happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Philip Delldonna, Blanchette's next-door neighbor, asked. "He hasn't even landed the helicopter yet, and people are only hearing one side of it. … It's not right."

Deldonna was at home when Blanchette flew over his house for a test run. He said that by the time he figured out what the sound was, it was over.

"My house wasn't shaking, no glasses were falling off," he recalled. He is going to Tuesday night's meeting to support his neighbor.

And Blanchette certainly appreciates the neighborly support, which he said he's sorely missed.

"Never got the chance to get comfortable enough to do what neighbors do, like ask for a cup of sugar," Blanchette said. "I haven't even had the pleasure to meet anyone. That's what's so disheartening."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio