A proposed addition to Salt Lake County's zoning ordinance designed to protect property buyers from hidden geological hazards has received nothing but support at a planning commission public hearing.
The so-called natural hazards ordinance would require disclosure to potential buyers that property being considered for purchase lies within a "special study area" mapped for fault zones and avalanche paths.The ordinance would not require developers to give potential home buyers geologic hazard information about a specific lot and would apply only to future construction in the unincorporated county and not to any existing buildings.
But despite those limitations, the measure is receiving broad support.
"This will allow people to recognize hazardous conditions before they commit to new construction," said state geologist Genevieve Atwood, speaking in favor of approval of the ordinance.
"One thing we learned during '83 and '84 is that people don't realize they live in a hazardous area. Had some people in Bountiful known they were in a potential slide area, they could have spent $200 to sandbag their basement windows instead of spending $10,000 to clean up debris afterwards. This allows people to make decisions based on knowledge."
The ordinance will undergo some fine tuning before it comes again to the planning commission, which will recommend to county commissioners whether to approve or reject the measure.
Should the ordinance pass, the county will continue to map special study areas where geologic hazards are known or suspected. Many such areas have already been identified and mapped through a federal hazard reduction program.
Before any construction on property within a special study area can receive county approval, the proposed building site must be specifically studied for geologic hazards and a report made to the county's Development Services Division.
The report will be reviewed by the county geologist and other government agencies, and any geologic hazards must avoided or mitigated before county approval for construction will be given.
The measure would protect citizen's safety and property as well as limit government liability in the event of an earthquake or slide, said county geologist Craig Nelson.
Should such a disaster occur, local governments could be found negligent if they have allowed unrestrained development in a geologic hazard area, Nelson said. And if judgments are awarded, taxpayers ultimately would foot the bill.