Long ago, much of Greater Cincinnati was covered in glaciers. When they receded, they left us with soil that is susceptible to landslides. Michael Nyerges, Cincinnati Enquirer

What we reported:In March and April, The Enquirer reported on several homeownersfacing landslides on their private property.

In one case, about 40properties in Bellevue were caught up in a landslide threatening their yards and homes. Those homeowners had secured a federal grant to help fix the problem, but the multi-million-dollar project had stalled for years.

In North Avondale, a different landslide was threatening four houses. The damage was irreversible at one of the homes, which was evacuated, condemned and quickly demolished. The remaining homeowners were scrambling to come up with the $300,000 needed to build a new retaining wall.

Tom Gerrein stands in his Bellevue, Kentucky, backyard in February 2019. The yard used to be flat, Gerrein said, until a landslide started creeping closer and closer to his house.(Photo: The Enquirer/Meg Vogel)

Tom Gerrein first noticed the slide in his Bellevue backyard in 2010.He and his wife spent nearly $11,000 out-of-pocket for two studies that helped secure a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, but for years, the project sat idle.

Now, it looks like work will finally start this spring.

Weve had those hopes before, but we do have solid people in charge," Gerrein said. "It looks like if we keep plugging, hopefully we'll be a go."

It is a complicated project, though.

First, it had to be cut in half. There are about 40 homes involved, but this first phase of the project will only address 23.

Phase one will cost roughly $2.3 million, with FEMA picking up 87% of the tab and homeowners responsible for the remaining 13%.

That means each of the 23 homeowners will have to agree to pay nearly $13,000. It's a house-by-house decision, so if one property owner in the middle doesnt want to participate, for example, that could derail the whole project.

Its a good chunk of money, but relative to the value of your house, its well worth it, Gerrein said. Youre only paying 13% of what it costs if you would do it yourself.

The plan is to build two retaining walls now, covering the 23 homes, and to wait on the other two walls until more funding can be secured.

The second phase of the project is estimated to cost roughly $4 million.

Splitting the work wasn't ideal, but theFEMA grant just wasnt big enough to cover everything at once, said Bellevue City Administrator Frank Warnock.

Warnock worries about what might happen in the interim especially if its a particularly wet winter or spring but this was the only way to get going now with the money available, he said.

Its a problem for Northern Kentucky, Warnock said of landslide damage. Its all over Theres not a month that goes by that I dont receive a phone call: My yard has moved.

A buckling garage was the first sign of a landslide in North Avondale. The house in this photo ended up being evacuated, condemned and demolished.(Photo: Phil Didion)

In North Avondale, Richard McKenzie and Timothy Lane feel stuck.

Their neighbor's house was demolished, and the same landslide that wrecked her home is threatening theirs. Still, despite months of fundraising, hunting for grants and petitioning Cincinnati City Council for help, McKenzie and Lane don't have the roughly $330,000 they need to stabilize the hill.

McKenzies driveway has buckled as the landslide moves underneath his property, he said.

And Lanes backyard gets smaller and smaller every day as the hill creeps closer.

I think were a little bit starving for some empathy, McKenzie said. Its easy to say, Oh, gosh, that sucks. Glad were not you, and move on. We just want some empathy. And if that empathy leads to some solutions that dont put us in the poorhouse, thats a good thing.

Landslides are generally not covered by insurance, which means homeowners are on the hook. McKenzie and Lane have asked city council for help, but some council members are worried about setting up a precedent if the city steps in to help one group of homeowners, what about everyone else whose home needs a costly repair?

McKenzie and Lanefeel they've done all they can on their own. And they're worried about what might happen if another winter and spring passwithout a solution.

"It's time for someone else who has the power to do something greater to step in and help us," Lane said. "There's just times when people need help."

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Excerpt from:
'My yard has moved': Landslides are a big, expensive headache for homeowners. - The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Category: Retaining Wall