Limits on mountainside development and standards for steep slope building are once again in the spotlight in Jackson County.
The Jackson County planning board has spent the past 14 months rewriting steep slopes regulations first put in place seven years ago.
They were more restrictive than anywhere else in the mountains at the time. The watered-down version that has emerged from the rewrite is still far more protective than most mountain counties.
The steep slope hearing scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13 has been moved to Thursday, Feb. 20.
Who shows up and speaks out at a steep slope public hearing in Jackson County next week could alter what mountainside development looks like for decades to come.
David Brooks grew up dirt poor. His dad farmed corn, apples and tobacco, always with a plow and mule, never with a tractor. Brooks’ mom and five siblings were often left to tend to the 100-acre hillside farm in Jackson County when his dad journeyed in search of cash-paying jobs — taking him as far as Washington state during summers to work as a logger.
“I guess it was poverty, but we didn’t know it at the time,” Brooks said.
Controls on mountainside development in Jackson County could be loosened following a year-long line-by-line rewrite of steep slope rules by the Jackson County planning board.
Developers of a large college student housing complex in Cullowhee got an OK from the Jackson County Planning Board to deviate from engineering rules on man-made slopes.
Jackson County commissioners will discuss two sets of proposed planning regulations at an upcoming workshop at 2 p.m. on June 17 in the county’s Justice and Administration Building.
One of the items being considered is a new ordinance that was written addressing groundwater recharge in the county.
Regulations previously existed as part of a larger ordinance but have been separated out into their own draft ordinance. The recharge ordinance addresses issues like requiring impervious surfaces for development to ensure precipitation can be re-absorbed by the ground.
The other item on the agenda is a set of proposed changes to a section of the county’s subdivision ordinance that dictates how much of a development must be left in open space. The proposed changes are generally less stringent than what the county currently has on the books.
Although the changes have been approved by the county’s planning board, any changes to the laws must be passed by commissioners. The drafts of these ordinances were completed last fall, but commissioners have not taken them up until now. A public hearing on the proposed changes could be held as early as the commission’s second meeting in July and voted on that same day.
Jackson County Planning Board members discussed axing part of the steep slope rules aimed at protecting mountain viewsheds.
The viewshed provisions stipulate new mountainside construction should not be readily visible from public right of ways or public lands.
The Jackson County Planning Board voted last Thursday to eliminate a pivotal component of the county’s steep slope building rules.
The planning board wants to do away with a controversial limits on how many homes can be built on steep slopes. It is one of the most stringent parts of Jackson’s steep slope rules, and the most stringent of its kind in the region.
Jackson County planning board members are considering whether to re-start a landslide hazard mapping initiative that was axed by the state two years ago.
A team of state geologists had been creating landslide hazard maps for every mountain county. They had just started working on Jackson two years ago when conservative state lawmakers terminated the project, due both to state budget constraints and controversial aspects of the landslide maps.
A rewrite of Jackson County’s development regulations are well underway by the Jackson County Planning Board. It will be several more months before they finish, and final changes are ultimately up to the county commissioners.