Armed with a federal grant, North Salt Lake demolished several homes this week in the Springhill landslide area, a step toward turning the site into a park.
The houses that were torn down on Monday and Tuesday were among 11 that have been irreparably damaged by shifting ground. Six others in the neighborhood that also were uninhabitable were demolished in the past several years.
The remaining houses are expected to be razed in the coming months, according to City Manager Barry Edwards. North Salt Lake has either bought or signed offers on all but one of the houses, he said, and the city committed to tearing down a house within 90 days of purchasing it.
As the houses come down, North Salt Lake officials are trying to find more money for the project, which will shore up the land and create an open space park.
Since 1997, the landslide has split foundations and retaining walls and buckled streets and sidewalks, making the homes uninhabitable. Homeowner insurance does not cover the damage.
The federal government awarded $1,855,512 to the city in June under the FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Competitive Grant Program to stabilize the area and help homeowners. The grant requires a local match of $618,504.
North Salt Lake Mayor Len Arave said the city will apply for other grants, hold fundraisers and use some park funds to get the matching money. In addition, state Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who represents the city, is considering legislation to help out.
Weiler said the federal funds will be "substantially" exhausted by the time all of the homes are purchased and more money will be needed to complete the project. The neighborhood was built in the 1970s before geologic studies were required for development and the businesses that constructed the houses are long gone, he said.
"The city is left holding the bag," Weiler said.
He said one possibility is legislation that would make a municipality eligible for state disaster relief funds if federal money is not sufficient to cover damage caused by a natural disaster. Another approach would be to ask the Legislature to make a one-time appropriation to North Salt Lake, he said.
Some financial help already has come from Project Springhill, which was organized several years ago to collect donations.
The nonprofit El NiÃ±o Foundation, which is overseeing the project, has used $100,000 to help with some relocation and down payment costs for the owners of the first six houses that were demolished.