Victims of Cascade Shores landslide file suit against Nevada County
March 7, 2018
Homeowners in Cascade Shores who were forced out of their homes by a landslide last year have filed suit against the county, alleging the county was aware of the potential danger and, in fact, exacerbated the situation that led to the landslide.
Irene Masteller, Stephen Halpert and Richard Lau filed suit against Nevada County and the county's sanitation district, seeking damages because the February 2017 landslide on county-owned property spread uphill to their properties and damaged their homes. The plaintiffs are also seeking a court order to force the agencies to stabilize the slopes so as to prevent further damage to their homes and 33 other Cascade Shores homes that are threatened.
The suit alleges that Nevada County was aware of the potential landslide danger on their property, but did not warn nearby residents nor take any action to reduce the danger.
According to a press release issued by the plaintiffs' attorney, P. Scott Browne, the county already is dealing with a similar landslide that occurred in 2005. That landslide seriously damaged the county's Cascade Shore waste treatment plant and resulted in major fines from the state that are ongoing.
The county purchased additional land, which is only a few hundred yards from the site of the 2005 landslide, to build a new community leach field system intended to replace the failing wastewater treatment plant. Plaintiffs believe Nevada County downplayed the landslide risk on this new property in order to muffle any concern that could prevent the county from getting funding from the state for the project.
According to the lawsuit, the Feb. 18, 2017 landslide originated on the county property and spread up into the adjoining Cascade Shores subdivision. The county ordered immediate evacuation of 10 homes in Cascades Shores on Mountain View Drive and Pasquale Road.
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The county has not taken any responsibility for the landslide and is requiring all affected property owners to repair their damage (none of which is covered by any insurance) and obtain expensive geotechnical reports, Browne said. One year later, Masteller and her neighbors, Michael and Edna Saigh, are still unable to return to their homes. Lau and Halpert have only been allowed back in on a provisional basis after making required repairs. They still have the burden of proving to the county that their parcel is safe, Browne added.
According to Browne, the county still considers the area at risk for further landslides, but is not publicizing it, apparently to avoid jeopardizing the leach field project moving forward on the site.
"The site of the proposed county leach field is less than 1,000 feet downhill from our home and other homes damaged by the 2017 landslide," Halpert said in the release. "There are large tension cracks in the hillside from the landslide. We are deeply concerned that the ground disturbance from excavation and construction … and insertion of large amounts of sewer water into the subsoil downhill from us will increase the risk of landslides.
"We want a better sewage disposal system for our community, but we do not wish other homeowners to experience what we have gone through. The county needs to openly acknowledge the landslide risk and make the safety of Cascade Shores homeowners a priority. It needs to take responsibility to fix the problem instead of making it worse."