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Landslide Threatens Homes in Indian Head, Md. | Weather

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Landslide Threatens Homes in Indian Head, Md.
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Correction: The properties on Kearney Way in Indian Head where a landslide occurred are not in an area where a local town allowed construction to go forward without the appropriate state approvals and in violation of Maryland's Critical Area law. In fact, the properties affected by the landslide are on a neighboring parcel known as Riverwatch Commons which did not require approvals from Maryland's Critical Areas Commission before it was built.

The state does not allege that the landslide is related to the planning dispute on neighboring property known as Riverwatch.

The developer of Riverwatch Commons is acting quickly to stabilize and repair the landslide at no cost to the affected homeowners

ORIGINAL STORY:

INDIAN HEAD, Md (WUSA) -- A landslide is threatening at least 5 homes on Kearney Way, and homeowners are not laying all the blame on Mother Nature and record-setting rain.

"They have jeopardized the value of our homes," complains Colby Hostetler, a resident of the Riverwatch subdivision.  Hostetler believes the town's failure to comply with Maryland Critical Areas regulations when the development was planned may have played a role in the resulting unstable slope.

The Critical Areas Commission has disputed the town's handling of the development since 2007, according to state documents.  The Commission is still negotiating with the town over how to mitigate the planning violations.

According to a 2010 memo from the Commission to the town: "Construction of the Riverwatch development project was initiated without the appropriate state approvals and in violation of state law."

Even so, the state does not allege that the landslide is related to the planning dispute, according Assistant Attorney General Erin M. Fitzsimmons, the Special Assistant for the Environment.

Fitzsimmons explained that the town planned the development using the wrong density designation.

The state does not accuse the eventual developer of the property of any wrongdoing.

However, residents who have lost their rear yards to the slide remain deeply concerned.

"Every night when I go to bed ... I'm wondering whether or not the next morning I'm going to be laying down there," said Jackie Smith as she pointed to the eroded slope that is now just 5 feet from the back of her townhome.

Local building inspectors say the structures are safe.

Meanwhile, the developer of the homes has covered the area with plastic sheeting to stop more water from soaking the sinking soil and expects to begin a permanent stabilization of the hillside within days.

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