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Wednesday, 25 July 2007 00:00

Moratorium gives Macon time to develop floodplain rules

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The developer of a proposed upscale RV community alongside Cartoogechaye Creek in Macon County says a moratorium on floodplain and watershed development hasn’t nixed or changed his plans.

The project is still being studied and mapped out, said Peter Shipps, who is based in North Point, Fla. An eight-month delay — the length of the moratorium imposed last week by the county to allow time to revise existing regulations — won’t hinder that process.

“We’re still very much in the planning process anyway,” Shipps said.

The initial plan calls for 185 RV sites on 48 acres about 1.6 miles upstream from where the town of Franklin collects drinking water for its residents. Sites would sell for between $80,000 and $200,000, with deed restrictions mandating that only top-of-the-line, Class A RVs be allowed.

Class A RVs are built on a specially designed chassis and range in length from 21 to 40 feet, with some luxury coaches extending to 45 feet. Most include “side outs” that can add an extra 3 feet or so to the standard 96- to 102-inch width.

Shipps also has proposed building a community lodge with a dining hall, exercise facility, sauna and other amenities.

“I think we’re on the same page as the county as far as concerns,” he said. “Our main mission is to do this thing completely right.”

The Florida developer’s plans sparked concerns in Macon County because of the community’s close proximity to Cartoogechaye Creek. In addition to fears about possible contamination to the town’s drinking-water supply, safety concerns about a development of this size in an area that has experienced flooding resulted in a unanimous vote by commissioners in support of the moratorium.

County Manager Sam Greenwood said Macon County has reached the point where land that can be easily developed, has been developed.

“The prime land has been consumed,” he said. “They are moving to the steeper slopes and down into the river basins.”

The pace of development outdistanced the county’s regulations, which don’t address RV parks. The county also has been working with nearly three-decade-old floodplain maps, and was unable to access newer studies conducted by the state. Late last week, thanks to efforts by area legislators, Macon County learned it would receive the new maps in early August instead of the end of the year as had been previously discussed, Greenwood said.

The county manager said that next month’s release of the maps might help expedite the review process. However, County Planner Stacey Guffey’s explanation of the knotty process required to revise the regulations doesn’t bode well for a quick review.

A 10-member group — the Watershed Council — will formulate the revisions, Guffey said. Another six-member group, the Watershed Review Board, must approve the council’s changes. Then, the proposed revisions must go before the Macon County Board of Commissioners for its OK.

“I think it will take all of the eight months, for sure,” Guffey said.

The county planner said he was unable, at this juncture, to discuss possible revisions because there is simply no framework in the existing regulations governing RV parks.

“There’s nothing dealing with them specifically,” he said. “We’re looking to deal with them fairly.”

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