What's shakin'? Sounding out the Louisa County market

The earthquake on August 23 was big news for our area, especially for Louisa County residents who found themselves at the epicenter of the action. And as most of us know by now, preliminary reports stating that there was little damage turned out to be erroneous.

Estimates of damage to residences tops $14 million, and the damage estimate to the public schools has climbed to $57.5 million, exceeding the insurance cap by $7 million. Both the county high school and one of the elementary schools are closed for the remainder of the school year. At least 1,400 high school students have been moved to the adjacent middle school, where mobile classrooms are being added to accommodate the increased capacity, and 570 students from Thomas Jefferson Elementary have been moved 20 minutes away to Trevilians Elementary.

Students are attending classes on a schedule of alternating days that may last through the end of the school year, putting a kink in weekend sports participation and straining the already crowded calendars of families across the county.

According to the county, there have been more than 1,100 reports of damage caused by the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, with 680 of those reports assessed by late September. Frequent problems included shifted foundations and broken chimneys.

For those whose homes and businesses bore the brunt of the damage, there may be some relief available via section 58.1-3222 of the Virginia Code, which provides a tax abatement of levies on buildings "razed, destroyed or damaged by fortuitous happenings beyond the control of the owner.” 

There’s no question that the earthquake was beyond the control of the property owners; however, owners can apply for the tax abatement only after certain criteria are met. First, the property damage must be severe enough to render the building unfit for use and occupancy for at least 30 days during a calendar year. Second, application for the abatement must be made within six months of the date the damage was sustained, a potentially onerous timeframe given that many property owners may be unaware that such a provision even exists. And finally, application for tax abatement is not available unless damage to the affected property exceeds $500.  

For some property owners, the abatement may offer a modicum of relief as a result of obvious damages. For others, however, the harm may be evidenced in a more subtle fashion.

According to a recent post on the Charlottesville Bubble Blog, realcville.blogspot.com, the Louisa County housing market was showing painful signs of decline before the earthquake, with sales down 50 percent over pre-earthquake time last year. And there are a total of 212 homes currently on the market. With an average of 17 sales per month for the past three months, the Louisa market has more than a 12-month inventory, nearly double what real estate experts consider indicative of a "balanced" market. 

The discovery of a previously little-known fault line isn’t likely to help the situation, either, especially since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently released a report stating that the 5.8-magnitude quake exposed the North Anna power plant to twice the force it was designed to withstand. Though the NRC has since issued a statement maintaining that there’s no risk to the public, the two reactors have not yet been restarted, and Dominion Virginia Power has been busy installing new seismic monitoring equipment– undoubtedly to prevent future surprises from the fault line.

Add concerns over the shuffled school schedule to the mix, and the potential buyers who once looked to Louisa County properties for their affordability, lower taxes, and easy commute to both Charlottesville and Richmond may find themselves looking elsewhere for stable real estate investments.

Read more on: real estate market


Remember, the POTUS renamed Mineral, VA, Bush's Fault, VA. As CEO of the USA, FEMA is Obama's baby now, so I do hope he is man enough to accept the responsibility

Like Katrina? When the head of FEMA's only
experience was with horses?! Too funny--right?

BHO accepting responsibility? Name one thing he has accepted responsibiity for and not blamed on Bush, the Arab Spring, or the GOP?

What does any of that, particularly HarryD's lame attempt at humor, have to do with the situation in Louisa?

$14 million and the state cries to Washington for help? Couldn't some perfectly fine schools be built for $50 million? Aren't the people whining here the ones that think government is too big and wastes too much money?

CookieJar has it right. The tea baggers and apologists for Dominion have zero ground to stand on when asking for FEMA funds. The article is incorrect regarding the "previously little-known fault line". It's been known for a long time and Dominion covered it up and lied about it in the 70's. They were caught adn fined $32,000 for their lies.

Nuclear power is the MOST subsidized, most "socialist" power there is. It would not exist without huge federal loan guarantees and huge federal subsidies for research on potential waste storage.

The same wasteful spending on nuclear could be used to incentivize efficiency and conservation, saving families hundreds or thousands every year and eliminating the very high risk that comes with nuclear reactors, uranium mining, and radioactive waste. It's not like we don't have TEN cheaper and safer alternatives to generate electricity (wind, solar, CSP, hydro, pump storage, coal, natural gas, oil, biomass, MSW).

And don't give me that whiny nonsense about "base load power". The North Anna units have been shut down for almost 2 months. Have your lights gone out? We should follow the lead of Germany, Switzerland, and Japan and phase out nukes starting with North Anna 1 & 2.

Attempt at humor? I thought it was humor.

FEMA refused to work with the Louisa victims- the POTUS must accept responsibility for that. He appointed the Director.

Nothing to do with bigger government- it is an agency, and as long as they are a Federal agency, they should at least do what they are charged with doing.

Those Louisa business and property owners will do just fine without them- they have all of us out here to help as best we can.

Aw Radioctive...you just had to go an inject the point of fact into the conservative fantasy bubbles of HarryD and BHO Accepting Responsibility?

By the way, HarryD. The damage in Mineral/Louisa from the earthquake was, as far as natural disasters go, minimal. FEMA already had far bigger tragedies to deal with. So that begs the question, why hasn't Little Bobby McDonnell exerted some leadership and put state funds and services into use in Louisa, rather than just to try and stick the federal government with the bill?

And BHO Accepting Responsibility...are you honestly saying that huge unfunded tax cuts, two unfunded and badly managed wars, a broken economy and millions of off-shored jobs, and a political party (the Republicans) that cares more about protecting corporations and the rich than promoting the general welfare of the country, have NOT hampered economic growth? Really?

As The Washington Post reported not so long ago –– using public records: "Bush-era policies, meanwhile, account for more than $7 trillion and are a major contributor to the trillion-dollar annual budget deficits that are dominating the political debate."

And to make it even easier to comprehend, here's a nice little chart that clearly depicts the Bush2 legacy:


Sometimes BHO, a person just has to point the finger of blame and responsibility where it belongs and tell the truth.

"democracy"- "Little Bobby McDonnell" is obligated to ask the Feds to get involved prior to asking the Commonwealth to take over. It has to do with setting precedent.

Not sure why the Feds did not get involved- they are shovel ready.

"Bobby Socks" McDonnell or Eric "Honest Graft" Cantor: Who is more corrupt?

"log"- let's ask Chris Dodd and Barney Frank.

HarryD October 15th, 2011 | 5:23am
"Those Louisa business and property owners will do just fine without them- they have all of us out here to help as best we can."

Precisely why your comment about Obama accepting responsibility was so ridiculous. FEMA obviously has no reason to get involved since as you know, it's a situation that can be handled locally. McDonnell asked the Federal Government to get involved as you say he's obligated. They said "No" as they ought to have. Now it's time for McDonnell to get his ass in gear and do something.

Just because we can take care of ourselves does not mean in the least that the POTUS does not have to be responsible for their actions. He is the "boss", as he has so often reminded us.

One thing is for sure, he certainly did not force FEMA on Louisa County- which is so unlike him.

You are correct, it is time for the Governor to take care of business.