Chocolate Drop road closed for safety

Published 6:49 pm Monday, March 22, 2010

Owners of lots in the Chocolate Drop subdivision in Columbus will have a hard time getting to their properties now.
The Town of Columbus has closed the road into the subdivion to ensure public safety.
“The town is concerned about the stability of a portion of the roadbed due to severe erosion of the adjoining slope,” said the town in a press release issued Friday. “Also, silt has settled on a section of road near the subdivision entrance, making travel through that section difficult.”
The main road into the subdivision is covered with several inches of mud at a low point, which has been in the path of a steady flow of mud from higher slopes. At a higher elevation in the subdivision, a section of road is eroding and sliding down a steep slope, making it potentially dangerous to travel to any lots further up the mountain. Previously, in another area of the subdivision, erosion on a steep slope caused large boulders to move, crack and fall on part of a road.
The developer, LGI Land of Texas, began selling lots at Chocolate Drop in 2007 and had sold out by early 2008, shortly before the real estate market collapsed.
None of the property owners have built a house in the subdivision. A few of the property owners are currently trying to sell their lots.
The development has lawsuits from property owners and erosion control violations from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Last year the state fined LGI $116,000 for not properly stabilizing slopes and not producing a geotechnical report.
Since late 2008 the developer had spent considerable money trying to stabilize slopes and clean up erosion problems that left heavy silt in a pond on adjacent property below the subdivision.
LGI Land has sued the Town of Columbus, claiming that the town agreed to take over maintenance of the subdivision roads but failed to do so.
The lawsuit against Columbus claims that the town, by the acts, representations or admissions of its representatives and employees, “induced LGI to make substantial expenditures to construct the roads to meet the standards of the N.C. Department of Transportation” and to complete the required paving. “The town expressly and/or impliedly promised to LGI that the required paving needed to be completed in order for the town to accept permanent maintenance,” states the lawsuit.
Columbus Town Council denied taking over Chocolate Drops roads early last year. Council members said at the time they werent sure if the subdivisions roads were stable. The town had previously, in 2007, accepted the roads for maintenance with a one-year warranty period.
In the press release issued last week, the town says Chocolate Drop property owners who need to gain access to their property should call the Columbus Police Department (894-5464) or, as a back-up phone number, the Polk County Sheriffs Department (894-3001).

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