Jackson County planning and code enforcement staff will be pouring through two years’ worth of building permits and retroactively inspecting certain projects after learning no one has been enforcing the county’s Mountain and Hillside Development ordinance for more than two years.
When Jackson County commissioners halted the controversial rewrite of the steep slope development rules earlier this year, critics were both pleased and skeptical.
Pleased that a rollback of the county’s steep slope rules wouldn’t be pushed to the finish line before November’s election, but skeptical that the sitting commissioners would really stop work on the rollback. Instead, many thought the incumbents were trying to save their own re-election chances and would pick up where they left off after November.
Controlling mountainside development is a universal issue grappled with across Western North Carolina.
But Jackson County’s residents have wrestled more passionately, more vocally, more extensively and more heatedly over mountainside development than almost any other county in the region.
The public hearing on Jackson County’s steep slope regulations struck Dave Waldrop as special.
“It was so unbelievable,” Waldrop said.
Public outcry over a proposal to weaken steep slope rules in Jackson County has led to the creation of an online planning portal so the public can follow along, virtually, with what the planning board is up to.
The groundswell of opposition to steep slope changes this year revealed that the average Joe in Jackson County has a bigger appetite than most for the sausage-making of planning policies.
I think Jack Debnam was wise to delay action on the rewrite of the Jackson County steep slope rules until after the November election, but I don’t believe that will take politics out of the final decision on this issue.
No, to the contrary, the county board’s decision to delay action has provided voters with at least one issue to discuss and dissect ad infinitum in the coming election season. Sitting commissioners and candidates alike will be forced to stake out their position, and by the time voters step into the booth on Election Day, they will know where each candidate stands.
A controversial proposal to roll back Jackson County’s steep slope rules has become politically charged in the countdown to county commissioner elections this fall — prompting the sitting commissioners to delay their discussion of it until after November.
A proposal to loosen steep slope development rules in Jackson County is headed back to the drawing board.
A large and vocal crowd opposing the rollback of mountainside protections in Jackson County packed a public hearing earlier this month. Given the outcry, the Jackson County Planning Board decided to reconsider some of its initial recommendations.
By Clark Lipkin • Guest Columnist
I am the vice chairman of the Jackson County Planning Board. I presided over the public meeting to discuss the proposed revisions to the Mountain and Hillside Development Ordinance (MHDO) at last week’s Jackson County Planning Board meeting. I have some thoughts that I think are important to share with the public about that meeting, and about the proposed revisions. These thoughts are my own, and I do not speak for the planning board as a whole, or any other member of the board.
I think the biggest lesson I take from my experience on the board is how difficult it is to understand another person’s viewpoint. I saw a lot of people struggling with it at the public meeting. Many people who spoke failed to understand that two rational, honest people can have entirely different opinions about what’s best for Jackson County. Mature people know this, and then do two things: explain their position, and listen and attempt to understand what the “other side” has to say. People who can’t do this hurl threats and accusations of greed, corruption and ignorance at people whose opinions differ from their own. I saw both kinds of people that night.
A standing-room only crowd turned out for a public hearing on steep slope rules in Jackson County last week and implored county leaders to uphold existing protections against mountainside development.