Commissioners get slope ordinance from planners

Haywood County commissioners are examining a slope development ordinance that would regulate the safety of cut and fill slopes for home sites and roads in mountainside subdivisions.

The Haywood County planning board drafted the ordinance at the commissioners’ request. The ordinance was presented at a meeting Monday (March 27) where several contractors and graders showed up to hear what was said.

The slope development regulations would not ban or limit development on steep slopes but would require checks and balances once a slope reaches a certain height or steepness. Currently, anyone with a bulldozer and backhoe can carve homesites and roads into the mountainside. Lack of proper engineering is causing homes and roads to slide down the mountain throughout the county, said Marc Pruett, Haywood County soil and erosion control officer, who gave a slideshow with dozens of such examples.

When it comes time to vote on the ordinance, commissioners will have to weigh the value of safer construction versus developers’ complaints about the added cost of regulation.

“We are at a point in history where we have the chance to say how much of it is about the money and how much of it is about stability,” Pruett said.

Kevin Alford, an engineer in Maggie Valley, said proper planning will become more important as development pushes onto even steeper, more marginal land in coming years.

“All I can safely say is the good land is taken,” Alford said.

The ordinance would require engineering, soil samples and compaction of fill slopes on the steepest of grades.

“The intention of the document is not to stymie development or cut back on densities,” said Patrick Bradshaw, an engineer who is a member of the planning board. “What it basically does is establish a threshold that says when you cross these particular slopes and heights on the cut and fill, you have to have another set of eyes looking at it.”

Jo Ann Woodall, a homeowner in Jonathan Creek, said she was glad to see the county address slope safety.

“I’m concerned when some of these buildings are above my house if they don’t have any regulations they have to follow,” Woodall said after the meeting.

Jim Cinque, a resident from White Oak, said the county needs to act before it is too late.

“You can pour water in a gallon jug, but when it reaches capacity, it will eventually overflow,” Cinque said after the meeting. “How much is enough?”

Colin Edwards, a grader in Maggie Valley, was one of the few in the audience who said anything negative about the ordinance.

“It will slow down development to have all these slopes engineered,” said Edwards. Edwards said graders should use common sense.

But the ordinance isn’t for those doing a good job already. It’s for the lowest common denominator.

“We have become disadvantaged as a group and everybody is going to pay for the lesser folks out there,” Bradshaw said.

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