Erosion adds twist to subdivision foreclosures in Middle Georgia

Unlike developers, banks aren't accustomed to moving dirt.

But as the ongoing real estate meltdown leads some developers and builders to forfeit properties or declare bankruptcy, banks are finding themselves the owners of partially developed neighborhoods where Georgia clay is washing into roads and streams.

State laws hold property owners responsible for erosion leaving their land or clogging waterways. In most urban counties, county officials are in charge of monitoring construction sites for erosion.

Usually, Bibb County officials have forced violators to fix problems by using stop-work orders. But when work has already stopped, there are fewer options. The county can also fine violators – if they can figure out exactly who to fine.

"It's hard to track down the people who are responsible," said Ken Sheets, director of the Bibb County Engineering Department. "They act like: 'We don’t know what we can do.’ But when we pressure them, we find someone at the bank."

For the first time this winter, Bibb County started having to approach banks about fixing erosion problems at developments after foreclosures or, in one case, when the developer lacked funds to maintain erosion controls.

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