Newport man fighting to save home after December 2015 landslide

Roland Taylor is fighting to save his home following a landslide last year and a plan by Newport and FEMA to buy the properties and remove the houses. (KPTV)

A sudden landslide forced families to grab what they could and run. The shifting ground swallowed a car whole before the entire garage came down the hillside on top of it.

Those were the dramatic events out of Newport last winter after heavy rains slammed the coast for days. The damage was so severe that city officials say it might never be safe for those families to come home.

The City of Newport informed FOX 12 that seven homes were impacted by the landslide, and city leaders have made arrangements with FEMA to buy most of the homes still standing.

But there is one homeowner who's holding out hope he'll be able to find a way to not just keep his home, but continue living in it.

For 19 years, Roland Taylor and his wife have lived on Northeast 70th Street. Taylor is confined to a wheelchair, so the home was custom built to accommodate his every need.

"You strive all your life to find a home you can live in, and now this is it," he explained.

Mother Nature threw the couple quite the curve ball last December, though, one that nearly took their home right from under them.

"The fire department knocked on our door and told us we were in imminent danger and had to leave," Taylor added.

The ground was slipping away all around them. A neighbor's car was swallowed by a sinkhole seconds before the entire garage came crashing down the hillside with it.

Another home split in half and dangled off the hillside by a thread before it snapped and slid down the slope, too.

"That hillside slid like Mt St Helens gave way,” Taylor recalled. “It was so fast, it pulled on our property and then it stopped."

The Taylors were lucky. Their home remained intact, but the ground underneath it had shifted so much the City of Newport told them it was unsafe for them to stay.

"We've had to stay in a motel that's wheelchair friendly, which is expensive," he added.

That's what they've been doing since December, along with a handful of other homeowners on the block, who aren't staying with family.

"It's been difficult for everyone one of them,” Derrick Tokos with the City of Newport said. “There's a couple that's now in Washington with family and one down in New Mexico living with family.”

Tokos told FOX 12 he's been working alongside engineers and geologists to figure out what to do with the seven properties that were impacted.

"There's enough concern, from their standpoint, that their advice is to get these homes off of the property and level off the slope and maintain those lots as open space,” he said.

Tokos said he just got the green light to move forward with those plans after FEMA decided to help shoulder the cost.

"These homeowners will get 75 cents on the dollar pre-landslide value, and the city will end up purchasing the properties from them and accept the deed with restrictions that prohibit anyone from building there," he added.

If all goes according to plan, these homes will be demolished by the fall, and no one will ever be allowed to build on the street again.

"Our desire is to get this wrapped up by October, because if it slips much past that we may not have the weather to do it," Tokos explained.

Taylor is not giving up on his home that easy, though. He has hired a third-party geologist and contractor to develop plans to save his house.

"I built my home right on the back of the ridge and it's on solid ground," he said.

The idea is to build a retaining wall and divert all water off of his property, something he said is doable, and the city just has to agree.

"As long as we dot the I’s and cross the T’s, the city will abide by that," he added.

Tokos told FOX 12 the city has reviewed and considered Taylor's plan, and it appears to be up to code, so he'll likely get to stay in his home.

City officials say in the next couple of weeks, they hope to break down each manufactured home and store them at the town's airport. Eventually, the goal is to repurpose each home and donate them to local nonprofits.

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