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Ray Trine eased past the gatehouse guarding the entrance of a Cashiers development and turned up a gentle road landscaped with boulders, ferns and rhododendrons that give way to the forest.

A group of Realtors and developers challenging the legality of Jackson County’s five-month moratorium on new subdivisions lost the first round in court Thursday (May 24).

How much open space should be required in new developments?

That question has caused the most contention among Jackson County planning board members over the past four months as they have hammered out a revolutionary array of new development regulations.

For the second week in a row, the Jackson County planning board watered down proposed development regulations following rounds of public comment.

A group of Realtors and developers challenging the legality of Jackson County’s five-month moratorium on new subdivisions lost the first round in court Thursday (May 24.)

As public comments rolled in to the Jackson County planning office on a proposed steep slope ordinance, one provision that seemed to cause the most ire was already a moot point.

Proposed development regulations in Jackson County were made later this week after dozens of written public comments flooded the planning office expressing concerns.

A group of Realtors and developers filed a lawsuit against Jackson County this week over a subdivision moratorium imposed by the county in February.

• The ordinance only applies to development on slopes greater than 30 percent.

• Developers must file a hydrology report, geotechnical analysis and a tree survey and reforestation plan. They must also provide an assessment describing the impact of the development on the environment of the mountain.

• Earth moving should be limited to the minimum required for the footprint of the foundation, driveways and roads.

• The roofline of a home cannot must be at least 20 feet below any ridgeline.

• No wholesale clearing of trees in front of a home for views. Natural vegetation must be retained to screen at least 50 percent of a the face of a building when viewed from the nearest public road.

• Homes should use natural, earth-tone color pallettes.

• Outside light should be muted and kept from spilling onto neighboring properties.

• To avoid excessive cut-and-fill slopes for building pads, homes on hillsides should “step-down” the mountain with a split foundation to conform to the natural contour of the slope.

• Cut slopes cannot exceed a 1:1 ratio and fill slopes cannot exceed a 1.5:1 ratio. Cut-and-fill slopes greater than 35 feet in vertical height shall be benched at 35 foot intervals.

• Density follows a sliding scale based on the slope. Lots must be a minimum of two acres on slopes with a 30 to 35 percent grade; 2.5 acres on slopes with a 35 to 39 percent grade; 5 acres on slopes with a 40 to 44 percent grade, and 10 acres on slopes great than 45 percent.

The Jackson County planning board is accepting written public comment through May 14 on the latest version of a draft steep slope ordinance.

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