QUESTION: Did a Graham-based homebuilder fail to obtain the proper county-level permits to construct three high-dollar dwellings on lots that lie partially within a floodplain that hugs the Haw River near Swepsonville? What does the county intend to do about the homebuilder’s alleged oversight?
ANSWER: Since the spring of 2022, Graham-based DCI Homes has been erecting three stately dwellings along a stretch of Geneva Albright Road that veers within spitting distance of the right bank of the Haw.
According to the county’s planning department, at least two of these homes are located on lots that required special floodplain development permits, which DCI apparently never obtained before it broke ground on the homes. In spite of this oversight, the county’s inspections department issued building permits for each of the lots in 2022 – effectively greenlighting DCI’s work on the homes, which are now in various stages of completion.
The absence of the necessary permits isn’t merely water under the bridge for the county officials who are tasked with enforcing the state-level rules which apply to development within floodplains. Yet, it also remains to be seen just what the county will do about this apparent lapse in the development process.
The regulations themselves aren’t in doubt for Matthew Hoagland, who took over as Alamance County’s planning director earlier this month. Hoagland, who had previously held a comparable post in Caswell County, concedes that the applicable state standards don’t necessarily prohibit development within floodplains as long as the property owner goes about it in the right way.
“You may build structures. But you have to flood proof them first, and there are verification requirements that go along with flood-proofing. There is also an exemption for roadways and utilities. But my understanding is if you develop in a floodplain at all, it requires permitting even if it’s just a road or a telephone pole.”
Hoagland nevertheless admitted his lack of familiarity with the specifics of DCI’s case, which predate his arrival in Alamance County. Even so, the county’s own mapping software suggests that the state’s floodplain regulations are relevant to most, if not all, of the lots that DCI has developed along the Haw River.
Located at 1350, 1360, and 1370 Geneva Albright Road, these three parcels are served by a roadway that the county’s mapping software puts squarely inside a floodplain that FEMA established along the Haw River in 2020.
According to a staff member within the county’s planning department, the parcels at 1360 and 1370 Geneva Albright Road are close enough to the water’s edge to require floodplain development permits. The third lot at 1350 Geneva Albright Road apparently lies outside the scope of this mandate. The same staff member went on to confirm that DCI hasn’t applied for floodplain development permits for any of these lots. Even so, the county’s inspections department has issued building permits for all three of the parcels – including the two that lack the obligatory floodplain development permits.
According to the county’s inspection records, DCI initially obtained a building permit for the lot at 1370 Geneva Albright Road on March 16, 2022. Later that month, DCI sold this same parcel to Randy and Veronica Teer for $125,000 – a substantial increase over the $20,000 that it apparently paid for the same property a month earlier. Since the Teers acquired this land, workers have completed the 2,779-square-foot colonial home, which the county’s tax office currently values at $746,617.
In the meantime, DCI Homes has also broken ground on two more residences at 1360 and 1350 Geneva Albright Road. The county’s inspection records indicate that DCI received building permits for both of these lots on October 5, 2022. According to the county’s tax records, both of these dwellings are roughly 60 percent complete and are credited with tax values of $590,195 and $447,768, respectively.
[Story continues below photos of houses along Geneva Albright Road.]
Hoagland told The Alamance News that the regulatory imbroglio surrounding these parcels has been “bumped up” to the county’s legal department. This state of affairs was confirmed by Alamance County’s attorney Rik Stevens, who admitted that he hasn’t had a chance to delve very deep into this matter since it appeared on his desk.
In the meantime, a second front in the county’s response has been opened under assistant county manager Bryan Baker. According to Baker, the whole brouhaha over DCI’s floodplain development permits can probably be resolved with some after-the-fact finagling rather than any legal action on the part of the county.
“The portion of these properties that is crossed by the floodplain is a very small piece where the driveway is connected to the road,” he added. “The homes themselves are not in the floodplain. So, it’s fine. They’ll still to get a permit for the small part that’s in the floodplain, but we can do that retroactively.”
Mark Dyer, the proprietor of DCI Homes, didn’t respond to a request for a comment before press time on Wednesday.
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