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fr jacksonregsJackson County’s planning board is knee-deep in a page-by-page rewrite of the county’s steep slope rules — a controversial process that seems destined to rekindle past disputes over protecting the mountainsides versus stymieing development.

A sweeping slate of mountain building regulations passed by Jackson County commissioners nearly six years ago were both commended and condemned as some of the most restrictive in the state. They took aim at unsafe building practices on steep slopes, but also reined in over-zealous development some feared would mar the mountainsides.

SEE ALSO: Changing the rules: Jackson re-writing development standards amid new economic realities

coverBy Becky Johnson & Andrew Kasper • Staff Writers

For two years now, Jackson County’s planning board has systematically combed over and rewritten some of its development rules once hailed as the most protective — yet restrictive — in the state.

Aimed at reining in the previously unbridled and laissez-fare construction industry, the regulations put on the books six years ago ushered in a new era of oversight and standards.

fr landslideAfter four major landslides, one death, several destroyed and damaged homes, washed out roads, and a $50,000 clean-up bill, steep slope construction rules are coming to Maggie Valley.

Not long ago Kristina and Bruce Oliver invited a local couple they’d met in nearby Franklin to come play cards with them at their newly constructed house in Diamond Falls Estates.

The phone rang about the time the visitors were expected to arrive at the subdivision, a 285-acre development in the Cartoogechaye area of Macon County bordered on three sides by the Nantahala National Forest.

The local couple apologized and said they’d misunderstood the Olivers’ directions. They had driven somewhere else by mistake. They were lost in a construction zone and weren’t sure where they were or which way to go next. Not to worry, Kristina assured them after getting a description of what the couple saw from their vehicle’s windows. Just keep going, Kristina said, that house on the hill a short distance ahead was indeed the Olivers’ new home.

Drive into Diamond Falls Estate, just out of sight of the entrance gate and the ubiquitous-to-every-mountain-development clubhouse, past the perfectly manicured expanse of lawns, and you might understand why that visiting couple was confused. The subdivision does indeed in places resemble a construction zone, even now some two years after buyers started handing over dollars for lots in what the developer touted as “North Carolina’s latest green community.”

“The primary issue is the roads. We were all told that they would be paved,” Oliver said. She and her husband paid $61,000 for their lot and built a two-story house that was completed last fall.

“We’ve put a good chunk of our retirement savings into this,” said Oliver, a former financial controller and vice president of finances for a specialty store chain.

On this rainy day the roads in Diamond Falls Estates were rough quagmires of gravel, red subsoil mud and pools of water. Without four-wheel drive, they would be impassible. The Olivers, who live fulltime in Birmingham, Ala., purchased a full-sized Nissan four-wheel drive pickup truck because, they said, of the poor condition of the subdivision’s roads.

 

‘A bill of goods?’

Michelle Masta and L.C. Jones of Franklin represent Diamond Falls Estates’ developer, Shirley Buafo. A message left with Buofo’s secretary at her workplace Monday in Macon, Ga., went unreturned as of press time.

To hear Masta tell it, Oliver is a bad apple spoiling an entire barrel of subdivision fun. Masta flat out accused Oliver of “telling lies” about the true situation in the subdivision. Masta said that there aren’t any issues with the roads in Diamond Falls Estates. At least, she said, on the part of the developer of Diamond Falls Estates. The real estate company that might have made promises buyers relied on? Well, that’s a different matter.

“I don’t appreciate Kristina Oliver making accusations that aren’t true,” Masta said. “We are doing everything we can out there. If a real estate agent told them something that was not true, we have no control over that – they need to go after the real estate company or report it to the N.C. Real Estate Commission.”

Masta said, not entirely accurately, that Oliver is the only one of 65 lot owners in Diamond Falls who “has a problem.” In fact, other homeowners besides Oliver are also concerned about the roads.

“We were sold a bill of goods,” lot owner Mark Moore of Atlanta said bluntly in a telephone interview.

But, Masta is correct in noting that not every lot owner is unhappy about the subdivision’s progress. Catherine Shea of Florida, who with her husband owns two lots in Diamond Falls Estates and is building on one of them next to Oliver, said she has found Masta and Jones responsive to issues and complaints.

“I’m not concerned yet; I’m really not,” Shea said.

Not that she’s A-OK with the condition of roads in the subdivision, either, however.

“The real culprit in planting a seed of negativity in Diamond Falls was the real estate company,” Shea said. “They out and out lied.”

That would be the group that marketed Diamond Falls on Oct. 4, 2010, when many of the lot owners first saw the Macon County subdivision.

“We’re not the bad guys,” Masta said of the development side of Diamond Falls Estates.

 

Expect tenacity

The chirpy advertising slogans that worked to attract buyers in 2010 sound so inviting: “indulge in an oasis away from the everyday;” “pure natural beauty preserved for the fortunate few.”

And there’s this paragraph in the online sales literature: “Have peace of mind knowing that protective, yet simple, building covenants will help maintain the overall beauty, theme and value at Diamond Falls Estates.”

Oliver finds it difficult to overlook the audacity of that sort of sales pitch. But, you are mistaken if you believe she’s angry. Oliver isn’t a woman who wastes much time on anger: a member of Mensa International, the high IQ society, she’s marshalling her facts and figures and laying out a strategy for moving forward. She and husband Bruce are members together in the society, a fact that was mentioned incidentally when the discussion turned to Western North Carolina’s own serial bomber, Eric Robert Rudolph, who blew up an abortion clinic in Birmingham. The Olivers, it turned out, were in Mensa with nurse Emily Lyons, who was disfigured in the explosion.

Moore said those involved have likely just crossed paths with one very intelligent woman who will work without respite to hold them accountable. Moore said he and some others in the development rely on Oliver to keep them abreast on what, for now, they claim is a lack of development in the development.

 

Few regs, big loopholes?

Some of the roads in the subdivision are an undeniable mess. But it could have been worse, Oliver told commissioners during a public hearing last week on planning issues (see accompanying article). That’s because the county’s subdivision ordinance will require the development company to pave the roads in at least a portion of Diamond Falls Estates, she said.

Development in Diamond Falls Estates was divided into two phases. The second phase, which included Oliver’s lot and house, was bonded, ensuring that the road will eventually be paved. This thanks to the subdivision ordinance, which was passed, enacted and amended by the time she and her husband bought a lot there last year.

A void in planning regulations is hampering development in Macon County, Oliver said. Not, as developers and anti-planning forces claim, the other way around.

“And there are a million regulations that are imposed by the developer on home owners,” Oliver said. “They just don’t want any imposed on them.”

Dan Kelley, another lot owner in Diamond Falls Estates, made a similar argument in an email sent to planning board member Al Slagle that was provided to Macon County commissioners.  

“I know of four other houses (in addition to his) that would currently be under construction if not for the lack of development in Diamond Falls,” Kelley wrote. “My position on this and others within Diamond Falls is the quickest way to stifle business is for the word to get out that promises are not being honored.”

That said, Kelley wrote a follow up the next day via an email. Masta provided Kelley’s follow up to The Smoky Mountain News. That second email noted: “I do expect promises to be kept but at the same time I believe that L.C. (Jones) has acted in good faith to comply with owners’ needs.”

Kelley noted that he believes “the main issue” involves the original real estate company “promising roads completion and then when people go to Diamond Falls and see that no roads have been asphalted that leads to suspicion and people drawing conclusions.”

For his part, however, Moore is refusing to build until there is clarity about whether the roads will or will not be paved in Diamond Falls Estates.

“I’ve always wanted to have a house back up in the mountains,” the Atlanta resident said by phone late last week. “This looked perfect, and I loved the lot.”

Moore planned on building a 2,700-square-foot house, initially to serve as a second home and ultimately to become a retirement destination. Moore has the architect’s design already in hand. He estimated that it would probably cost him a total of $700,000 to build, which isn’t chump change to local builders and contractors struggling to survive in a dour economy.

“But I’m just not going to spend that kind of money until the roads are done,” Moore said. “It’s crazy — those are four-wheel dirt tracks.”

The construction downturn has led Haywood County to lay off its steep slope engineer, a position created during the heyday of mountainside home building.

The county can no longer justify having an engineer on its payroll to oversee steep slope regulations, according to County Manager Marty Stamey.

“Because of the downturn in the economy and construction and development, there wasn’t enough work to support a fulltime county engineer,” Stamey said.

The county brought an in-house engineer on board in 2007, shortly after passing steep slope building regulations. When the rules were being mulled over and hashed out, the construction and building industry contended that the county would need an engineer to oversee the technical aspects of the ordinance.

But then came the building crash.

“It just tapered off and slowed down so much,” said Mark Shumpert, the former county engineer who has landed a new position with an engineering firm in Greensboro.

Over the past two years, Shumpert estimates fewer than 10 mountainside construction projects have been subject to the county’s steep slope ordinance.

The county engineer isn’t the only one laid off by the county because of the construction slowdown. Fewer homes being built means fewer septic tanks to inspect, fewer building permits to issue, fewer land deed transactions to record, fewer construction sites to monitor for erosion. Nine county employees who interfaced with the building and real estate industry have been laid off over the past three years as a result. In addition, several employees in related departments have seen their work weeks cut to only 36 hours.

As a certified engineer, Shumpert was among the 10 highest paid workers in the county, with an annual salary of $75,000.

The job of overseeing steep slope construction will now fall to Marc Pruett, the head of the erosion control department.

“With Marc’s expertise, I feel very comfortable with his knowledge and staff being able to do it,” Stamey said.

Builders, earth-movers and contractors were nervous at first about working within the guidelines, fearing they would stymie development. That’s not the case anymore, Pruett said.

“I think the grading community and the contracting community has gotten used to it after all these years,” Pruett said.

The standards only kick in when slopes exceed a certain threshold — namely being too tall and too steep. Judging by the number of construction projects that actually meet that threshold, it has proven fairly liberal. Very little mountainside construction exceeds the too-steep or too-tall threshold to trigger the slope ordinance.

“People are building under the threshold,” Pruett said.

In the rare case the ordinance is triggered, it doesn’t make the particular slope off-limits for building. It simply requires the builder or grader to submit a slope plan penned by an engineer or similar professional — intended to make sure the construction is done in a safe way and won’t collapse.

Initially, the theory was that a certified engineer was needed to inspect plans being submitted by builders and their respective engineers.

While it turned out not to be as complicated — or restrictive — as feared by the development industry, it was helpful to have an engineer overseeing the ordinance the first couple years, Shumpert said.

“We ironed out a lot of kinks,” Shumpert said. “It had to be put into effect and worked with.”

Part of Shumpert’s job was simply meeting with developers and builders to explain the regulations.

“A lot of it is an education to let folks know what is acceptable,” Pruett said.

Having an in-house engineer also came in handy when landslides hit, but the county can always hire an engineer on an as-needed basis, Shumpert said. The same holds true if a big mountainside subdivision comes along needing a higher level of critique.

“There are ways around it without having a fulltime person there,” Shumpert said.

There’s likely another reason an in-house engineer didn’t turn out to be such a necessity after all. The steep-slope ordinance was watered down by county commissioners serving at the time of its passage. What was ultimately passed was a weaker version of the rules initially suggested by the county’s planning board, meaning fewer mountainside construction projects actually meet the threshold for slope review.

Over the past year, Shumpert ended up working almost fulltime for the county’s landfill operation. The landfill was being expanded, and Shumpert oversaw the excavations, as well as designing the best configuration for trash deposits.

Pruett said Shumpert was always fair to developers while making sure the ordinance was followed.

“He was a good person to work with. He was a real honest straight up person,” Pruett said.

Macon County commissioners decided last week that they needed more time to study whether to implement construction guidelines recommended by the county’s planning board.

During a workshop on the issue, commissioners heard a stern warning from a licensed engineer and PhD that if they planned on weakening the regulations beyond their current form, then they pretty much shouldn’t bother to implement them at all.

“These standards right here are about as close to nothing as you can get,” Dan Marks of Asheville told commissioners. “If you water it down, you’re not going to have anything. … If you are going to pass this thing, please don’t take it down another notch  — and I think you need to go back up a notch.”

The planning board was originally tasked two years ago with developing rules for steep-slope development but got bogged down and instead settled on so-called “construction guidelines” as a means of salvaging a few of the more salient building rules. The guidelines include stipulations that limit how high and steep cut-and-fill slopes can be and require compaction of fill dirt.

Planning Board Chairman Lewis Penland told commissioners they have a “responsibility to protect property owners from substandard development.”

“People who might otherwise invest in Macon County don’t feel like they’re investing in land that’s secure, and they don’t feel like they have all the best available information to make wise decisions,” Penland said.

Penland said residents and move-ins to Macon County need some assurances there are “basic public safeguards” on the books.

Commissioners indicated they would hold another meeting to again review the planning board’s construction guidelines.

Macon County’s embattled planning board has agreed on a handful of basic construction guidelines for developers building houses and roads. This sets up a possible showdown between land-planning advocates and opponents to play out before the county commissioners.

Last week, the planning board voted almost unanimously in support of rules that would limit how high and steep cut-and-fill slopes can be. The planning board will call upon the county commissioners to adopt the rules.

“I hope they realize we need to address these issues,” Planning Board Chairman Lewis Penland said in anticipation of commissioners taking up the issue in September.

It marks the second time in two years the planning board has voted on such measures and sent them to commissioners. Last winter, the planning board approved a similar set of regulations — billed at the time as “guiding principles” intended to lay the groundwork for a much more comprehensive steep-slope ordinance. County commissioners signed off and gave the planning board the green light to move forward.

But the steep slope ordinance proved too controversial and was ultimately abandon by the planning board, which settled instead for the simpler guidelines — which will once again be sent to commissioners for approval.

Contacted after last week’s meeting, Penland said that in the hubbub surrounding the steep slope ordinance, he’d forgotten the planning board and previous board of commissioners had approved the principles one time before.

“It is almost like they got us chasing our tail,” he said.

Three of the five county commissioners have been replaced since the last time around, however, flipping the board from a Democratic majority to Republican majority.

But the regulations at least stand a chance of getting passed.

The most conservative of the new commissioners has indicated he’d support reasonable regulations. Commissioner Ron Haven, who vigorously campaigned against the adoption of a steep-slope ordinance when running last fall for public office, has told The Smoky Mountain News that he believes there must be some rules in place to guide builders and protect homeowners. It remains to be seen, of course, whether he and other commissioners will consider the planning board’s suggestions “reasonable.”

Commissioners Bobby Kuppers and Ronnie Beale, the two held-over Democrats, are already on the record last year voting for the principles. Commissioner Kevin Corbin has said he needs to review what the planning board presents before staking out a position; Chairman Brian McClellan hasn’t indicated which way he’s likely to vote, but he has pushed for the planning board to meet a September deadline, which it now has.

The planning board’s guidelines set general parameters for earth moving.

Before the shift from steep slope, discussions had disintegrated into arguments by planning board members over the validity of state landslide hazard maps, among other things.

That same volatility surfaced at last week’s meeting, too, leading Kuppers, who serves as liaison to the planning board, to caution members to “take a big, old, deep breath.”

Penland questioned why fellow planning board member Lamar Sprinkle took the podium during the public comment period at a recent county commissioners meeting and complained about other members of the planning board.

Sprinkle, a local surveyor who has consistently attempted to block efforts to develop either a steep-slope ordinance or general construction guidelines, described planning board members he disagreed with as “extreme ideologists” who were pushing a liberal agenda. He urged commissioners to derail the attempt to develop construction guidelines, a suggestion commissioners ignored.

Sprinkle defended going over the planning board’s head and publicly complaining to commissioners.

“I believe when a man continually uses his position to push his ideals, he’s not helping anything,” a recalcitrant Sprinkle said to Penland.

Planning-board veteran Susan Ervin fired back at Sprinkle, telling him: “I think it’s not appropriate to go to county commissioners and ask them to subvert the process we have agreed on.”

Sprinkle then made it clear that his main complaint — at least when it came to leftist agendas and leftist-agenda makers — was about Ervin.

“If you want to get into appropriate, we can get into appropriate … if you want to call names, we can call names,” Sprinkle responded. “I was talking about you, Susan.”

Though Sprinkle also told Penland, “I just think things have not been handled right — you’ve tried to suppress opposition.”

Jimmy Goodman, a point of past strife on the board and a historic opponent of planning efforts, emerged suddenly in a new, hitherto unsuspected guise as planning-board peacemaker.

Goodman urged the planning board to move on to actual planning-related discussions, a suggestion eventually followed. Kuppers encouraged Goodman with a hail-fellow-well-met of “Jimmy, I’m with you 100 percent — when you’re right, you’re right.”

And when he’s wrong? Kuppers didn’t touch on that.

A new group has formed to counteract a recent landslide of opposition to steep-slope regulations in Macon County.

“We realized that there are a lot of people out there who don’t go to these meetings — and I count myself among them — and who aren’t real vocal, but who have strong feelings about these issues,” Kathy Tinsley, spokeswoman for MaconSense.org, said Tuesday.

The new organization has created a website with information about the issue, and launched a petition to encourage Macon County residents to express support for a steep-slope ordinance.

Tinsley said six to eight people organized MaconSense.org. She expects more in the county to join as word gets out. Tinsley’s brother is Al Slagle, a planning board member. Slagle chaired the steep slope subcommittee tasked by commissioners to write a recommendations for an ordinance, a project it spent two years on.

A news release this week issued by MaconSense.org noted the group also plans to organize petition drives, plan public events and run public-service advertisements.

The new group is not limiting itself to the slope development issue, according to Tinsley. It hopes to bring together citizens “of all walks of life and political persuasions to advocate for common sense solutions to important issues facing the county,” the news release stated.    

“Regular people have been pushed out of the process by all the heated rhetoric,” Tinsley said. “That’s a shame. We need our elected officials to move past partisan bickering and get back to serving the public interest. The only way that is going to happen is if citizens feel like they have a say in the direction of our county.”

MaconSense.org has a steep slope of its own to overcome the momentum built already by opponents of planning regulation. At the website www.propertyownersofamerica.org, Macon County residents are warned they could “lose the right to build on your own land” if regulations were passed; and that such regulations would add at least $8,000 to the cost of building.

 

Mission of MaconSense.org

“The Macon County Planning Board recently voted to table the slope ordinance. Many have asked how the planning board’s decision impacts our campaign to build public support for the ordinance? The simple answer is — it doesn’t. The problem still exists and the solution is still the same. Our task is to send a clear message that the people of Macon County support a slope ordinance. Period. That doesn’t change no matter what political procedures are employed.”

According to MaconSense.org, a slope ordinance would benefit the county by:

• Protecting property rights.

• Promoting economic development.

• Supporting local business.

• Reducing the risk of catastrophe.

• Preserving our valuable resources.

Source: MaconSense.org website.

“Finishing the conversation” has become something of a catchphrase lately in Macon County. It’s a really diplomatic way of saying that while the planning board should keep plugging away at construction guidelines, there’s no guarantee the building regulations they develop will do anything more than sit on a shelf and gather dust.

County Planner Derek Roland created a new twist to the now-well worn phrase, however, when asked whether he believes his beleaguered planning board can accomplish anything at all.

“This gives us a new starting point to continue that conversation,” Roland said in a recent interview.

After more than two years of developing a steep slope ordinance, the Macon County planning board decided to table the work. It salvaged a few of the more salient building rules in a set of construction guidelines, such as hillside excavation and compaction of fill dirt.

County commissioners last week approved the planning board’s change of course.

Before commissioners made their decision, however, Planning Board Member Lamar Sprinkle, a local surveyor, took advantage of the county commissioner’s public session to lob a few grenades at those he disagrees with on the planning board.

He described them as “extreme ideologists … who have their own agenda they want to put forward.”

“The planning board is irreconcilably divided at this time,” Sprinkle said, adding that in his opinion, commissioners should shoot down any attempt by the planning board to work on general construction guidelines.

“It would be really difficult for us to sit down and come up with standards for the county,” Sprinkle said.

Additionally, Sprinkle told commissioners, developing standards such as these should be the work of professionals in the construction field and not be left to amateurs on the planning board lacking the necessary expertise.

Planning Board Chairman Lewis Penland has described the 13-member board as a hung jury unable to reach consensus on a possible steep-slope ordinance. Penland hopes by steering clear of the more controversial parts of a steep-slope ordinance — the very name, the state landslide maps that were used as a baseline, the steepness of slopes triggering regulations, whether Wildflower subdivision’s roads are being unfairly targeted as bad just because a couple fell off the mountain — he can steer the planning board through the more basic construction guidelines.

Commissioner Bobby Kuppers, liaison to the planning board and creator of that popular phrase, “finishing the conversation,” told his fellow commissioners he supported altering the group’s direction.

“We need to allow them to finish the job,” Kuppers said in a new twist on the original.

Commissioner Ron Haven asked what timeframe the planning board would now be on, and Kuppers replied that he believes the board would still be able to report back to commissioners in September, as instructed.

Chairman Brian McClellan reiterated that point, saying, “We’re still looking for September recommendations.”

The planning board is set to meet again Thursday, Aug. 18, beginning at 5 p.m. in the meeting room at the county’s public health center.

Roland, asked to predict what could hang up the 13-member board this time, said he believes compaction will prove a big issue, and “that cuts and fills will certainly be something we’ll discuss.”

That, of course, pretty much covers the guts of the proposed general construction guidelines in Macon County.

 

Condensed general construction guidelines

• Fill material must be free of organic or other degradable materials and properly compacted before building.

• No excavated slope can be taller than 30 feet in vertical height.

• For cut slopes more than 8 feet and 30 feet in vertical height, the slopes can’t exceed 1.0 vertical to 1.5 horizontal.

• For fill slopes between 5 feet and 30 feet in vertical height, the slopes can’t exceed 1.0 vertical to 2.0 horizontal.

• A bench with a minimum width of 5 feet must be constructed at the toe of any fill slope greater than 5 feet in vertical height. Fills greater than 10 feet in vertical height must have a bench at the toe of the fill with a minimum width of 10 feet, and an additional 5 foot wide bench for each additional 5 feet in vertical height.

• The planning office can waive rules if justified by an engineer.

The state might have pulled the plug on a long-range project to map landslide prone areas in the mountains, but Haywood County hopes to take matters into its own hands.

Shortly after Republican lawmakers axed the state’s landslide mapping unit and laid off a team of five state geologists, Gordon Small, a longtime volunteer with Haywood Waterways Association, began pondering how to continue on.

Small hopes to raise grant money to hire the geologists on a contract basis to do the maps for Haywood County, a project that could take 18 months and cost more than $500,000.

Haywood County commissioners this week pledged unanimous support for the idea if funding could be found.

“I’m proud of my county,” Small said afterwards. “Now the big deal is raising the bucks. The fact that the county unanimously supported it is a big, big help.”

Haywood County has had its share of landslides and destroyed homes where the occupants narrowly escaped death. Emergency workers have found themselves digging people out of rubble in pitch-black rain storms, unsure whether more of the mountain could still collapse.

“For emergency preparedness it is critical you have this in place,” said County Manager Marty Stamey.

Commissioner Bill Upton said if he was buying property or building a house, he would want to know if there was a high landslide risk.

Commissioner Kevin Ensley, a surveyor and the only Republican on the board, said the maps would hopefully encourage smart building.

“I occasionally have clients that want to develop in areas and I have basically told them they shouldn’t but they do anyway,” Ensley said.

If the county had maps like these, it could at least require more detailed engineering.

“There needs to be enough sets of eyes or a different type of development criteria for those areas,” Ensley said.

Landslide hazard mapping has faced opposition from some development and real estate interests, who fear the stigma of landslides would unfairly blacklist property.

That’s exactly what happened in Macon County, the first of just a few counties to receive landslide hazard maps. An attempt by a planning group tasked with writing recommendations for a steep-slope ordinance derailed, in part, because they used the maps as indicators of where builders might need more regulatory oversight — triggering a backlash that the maps were not accurate and were confusing.

Marc Pruett, the soil and erosion control officer for Haywood County, doesn’t understand why the landslide hazard mapping was seen as controversial.

“Wouldn’t you want to know if your brake fluid was low before you run your car down the highway at 60 miles per hour,” Pruett said.

Small thinks as a whole, buyers will look more favorably on buying somewhere if they have access to landslide risks.

“I do believe in the long term that counties that have this information will have an advantage in the real estate market,” Small said.

Opponents also feared the landslide hazard maps were a backdoor for development regulations.

Small said he was pleased that county commissioners put public safety and common sense first.

Three of the laid-off state geologists came with Small to the commissioners’ meeting this week. They were pleased to see a community openly value their work after being shot down by the state.

“We have seen more landslides than anyone else in the state, and possibly the east coast, and we hope to continue using this expertise to benefit WNC,” said Stephen Fuemmeler, one of the geologists.

Jennifer Bauer, another of the state geologists, hopes Haywood Waterways can raise the funds, not just so she will have a job but so that the work will carry on.

“Making the citizens of Western North Carolina aware of landslide hazards is something I’m passionate about,” Bauer said.

The state landslide mapping team was created in 2005 with the mission of mapping landslide hazards in every mountain county. The team only finished four counties: Macon, Buncombe, Henderson and Watauga.

The unit was working on Jackson County when it was halted in its tracks. Haywood County was next in line for landslide mapping when the program was killed.

To get involved or contribute, contact Haywood Waterways Association or Small at 828.734.9538.

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