By Julie Watts

FOLSOM (CBS13) — With more Bay Area transplants, the building market in Greater Sacramento is booming. But what does that mean for homes already in place?

Homeowners in a new Folsom Ranch subdivision say they gladly paid a lot premium for the view of a beautiful oak tree sitting on a hill in preserved open space next to their cul-de-sac.

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Less than two years later, the view has changed as a new subdivision is being built between them and the tree, but losing the view is now the least of their worries as a developer is set to start dynamite blasting for new lots just a few hundred feet from their homes.

Some of the neighbors say previous blasts from farther away have already caused cracks in their patios. They fear environmental impacts from closer blasting and potential hidden foundation damage that they might not notice right away.

Residents initially turned to the city in hopes of stopping the blasting, but CBS13 has learned that there is no blasting ordinance in Folsom.

According to Steve Krahn, Folsom City Engineer, “There does not appear to be a specific minimum distance that blasting can occur near an existing residence. There does not appear to be a hearing process.”

In fact, according to the permit requirements, it does not appear that a blasting contractor even needs to notify a homeowner before blasting next door. According to the city, a blasting contractor must simply, “notify the City of Folsom Police and Fire Departments 45 minutes prior to blasting.”

Krahn says there have been more than 100 blasts without damage in Folsom Ranch so far. However, CBS13 covered a concerning blast that shook houses there last year.

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During a Zoom presentation this week, the blasting contractor acknowledged that they did make a mistake in October 2019. However, the contractor insisted that blasting is safe.

In the hour-long Zoom presentation Thursday, hosted by representatives from Folsom Ranch and Folsom Mayor Sarah Aquino, the blasting contractor and a representative from a seismic engineering firm presented an in-depth history of residential blasting to a group of concerned Folsom Ranch neighbors.

The Zoom was organized by Mayor Aquino in response to residents who presented a list of questions and concerns to the city council earlier in the week. They had expected to have the opportunity to ask questions during the Zoom and they selected one neighbor to speak on behalf of the rest.

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Instead, the residents were muted throughout the Zoom and no one was given the opportunity to speak. The list of questions they presented to the mayor, and written questions posed in the chat box, were largely ignored.

Among them, neighbors wanted to know why all the blasting was not done at once, before their homes were built. They also asked about an alternative to blasting so close to their homes and who would cover potential damage if the blasting voids their new home warranties.

Taylor Morrison built their existing homes and provided a 10 year warranty. However, it was the master developer, WestLand Capital, that hired the Hawaii-based blasting contractor, Blasting Technology Inc. (BTI) to cut the new lots for a different builder, Signature Homes. BTI hired a seismic engineering firm out of Austin, VibraTech, to help with mitigation and ensure there’s no damage.

“Everyone involved in that blasting would be potentially liable for that damage,” consumer attorney Stuart Talley said.

He says residents can sue for any damage from the blasting even if they don’t notice it right away.  The hard part, according to Talley, is proving it.

He says with two different builders, there’s likely to be finger-pointing and he suggests hiring an independent housing inspector before and after the blasting to document any damage.

VibraTech left notes on residents’ doors offering to inspect their homes before and after the blasting. However, many are concerned about a conflict of interest and some say they have not been able to get in contact with VibraTech representatives.

CBS13 repeatedly reached out to WestLand Capital and Folsom Ranch this week. Neither has responded to our questions. Among them, we asked if they would reimburse residents who hired an independent housing inspector.

Following the Zoom presentation, Folsom Ranch representatives asked residents to email questions directly to Folsom Ranch.

As of Friday night they had not responded to the residents questions, but a representative from Folsom Ranch did send an email to some indicating they would provide answers next week, adding that “The project crews indicated they will not be conducting any blasting operations until those answers have been provided.”

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As for the view that homeowners say they paid a premium for and have now lost, “There’s potentially a claim against your agent for negligence,” Talley said. He says a good realtor should have checked the zoning and plans and calls this a cautionary tale for any home surrounded by undeveloped land.

Julie Watts