clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


While building a home in the foothills along the Wasatch Front sounds inviting, problems may arise.

"I always hoped I could build up in the foothills - it is a very special spot for me. I love the view," said Ruth Kartchner, who owns a home in the Oakhills subdivision in Provo. "But there are a few problems we encounter."Architectural problems people run into can raise the cost of building, said Leland Gamette, Provo city director of community services.

"Some of the most exclusive homes are built in the foothills, and lot prices are substantial. Foothill property is classified as sensitive lands, and people who buy that property need to make sure that their design fits the lot. Sometimes that ends up costing even more," Gam-ette said.

Foothill homeowners encounter other problems as well. With winter approaching, Kartchner and other foothill homeowners find deer coming down into lower elevations, grazing in their yards and eating their plants.

"A lot of the areas where building has taken place used to provide critical habitat and food for deer and other wildlife," said Gary Cornell, state fire management coordinator. "Because a lot of this has been destroyed, the wildlife cannot maintain their numbers because of food shortage. Also, wildlife bother homeowners by chewing up shrubbery and orchards."

Catherine Quinn, habitat coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife, said wildlife will disappear if foothills development continues.

As this year's fire season comes to an end, retrospect indicates that foothill homeowners must also be aware of fire hazards. One home in the foothills of Alpine was saved during a fire this summer because of safety precautions taken, said Loyal Clark, director of public affairs at Uinta National Forest.

"Especially during the dry seasons, fire is really a scare. We have to be so careful with fireworks and matches," Kartchner said.

Many people living in or near wildland areas don't seem to be aware that their presence could potentially divert firefighting resources from the surrounding forest and that even one improperly protected home puts an entire community at risk, Clark said.

"Once trees and ground cover have been burned away, little is left to hold soil in place on steep slopes and hillsides," Clark said. "If heavy rains follow a major fire, other natural disasters can occur, including landslides, mudflows and floods."

Some of the areas where homes are being built may have other natural hazards like rock falls, Cornell said.

"Also, water sources are recharged by snow being able to work its way down the mountain. If homes are built, vegetation that absorbs the water that refurbishes the water source is taken away. This could end up destroying a drinking water source," Cornell said.

In Provo, an ordinance calls for a geo-technical investigation for all homes built in the foothills. Engineers look for several hazards including collapsible soils, expansive soils, slope stability problems and location of the property with regard to faults in the area. The engineers then provide mitigating measures and recommendations for foundation design, said Ralph Rollins, civil engineer.

To most foothill homebuilders, the trouble is worth it."I love it so much up here, I hardly notice the problems," Kartchner said.