Soils tests are required for future Heeney lot owners |

Soils tests are required for future Heeney lot owners

SUMMIT COUNTY – Before you build in Heeney, Summit County Government wants you to take a good look at the condition of the soil.

While there’s been no significant land movement since the Bureau of Reclamation started monitoring the area last summer, county workers are taking a better-to-be-safe-than-sorry approach.

The 80-plus homes in Heeney are all in a historic slide zone. The last active slide there occurred during the winter of 1962 when the reservoir was drawn down rapidly for maintenance. Because of recent drought, reservoir levels dropped dramatically again last summer. In July, fears of re-triggering the slide prompted Bureau of Reclamation officials to stop lowering the reservoir and start monitoring the earth for movement.

They have found nothing earth shattering, said bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb. One of 29 pins set in the ground to check for geologic stability moved seven-tenths of an inch, she said. That’s not anything she considers significant or surprising.

Assistant county manager Steve Hill agreed that there’s little to be alarmed about, so far. The movement could potentially cause “limited damage to property in the Heeney area but presents little or no threat to the public’s health and safety,” he wrote in a memo to the Summit Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

Nevertheless, the possibility of a landslide merits not only more study, but also detailed engineering geology reports on the remaining 66 undeveloped Heeney-area lots, county officials agreed. The county will ask for those studies when a lot owner requests a building permit.

None of this should alarm Heeney residents, said County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom, who said he’s heard a wide range of rumors – including that pipe lines have sheared off as the earth moves, and that the county plans to impose a building moratorium.

“To the best of my knowledge, all of the rumors in the Green Mountain area are unfounded,” he said.

If there is no movement, however, Heeney-area resident Dale Mitchener isn’t sure why the geologic study is required. Perhaps, he said, the soil is equally unstable in other parts of the county.

“If it’s not abnormal for this whole county, then they shouldn’t impose special regulations for one area,” he said.

Real estate broker Keats Scott, who lives in Heeney, said she’s not concerned with the commissioners’ decision.

“I’m fine with that,” she said. “I would appreciate something official to give my customers.”

She’s is, however, worried about Front Range media coverage of the issue.

“I’m probably going to die out there because I love it so much,” Scott said. “But I’m worried about all the press, (and that, as a result) insurance companies won’t give policies and lenders won’t loan money. We don’t want it to hurt people’s property values.”

So far, there isn’t enough evidence to show that’s happening.

“Property values have dropped all over Summit County,” said County Commissioner Tom Long, “so there’s no definitive drop we could blame on the rumors of Heeney going into the reservoir.”

Portions of the land underneath Heeney and along Green Mountain Reservoir have been moving for decades, Lamb believes, “just very slowly.”

“Before the reservoir was ever built, presumably, there was some sliding there,” she said.

Nevertheless, the bureau isn’t calling their study done. This winter, bureau employees have been drilling a series of holes to monitor underground water pressure and see how the land has formed.

“We will collect that data and analyze it and see what, if any, correlations we can see,” she said. “We hope this data will help us develop a long-term solution.”

Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

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