Swain makes appointments to first planning board

Swain County leaders took the first step toward regulating unchecked growth and development this week by appointing the county’s first-ever planning board.


A 10-member planning board was appointed by the county commissioners at their meeting Tuesday night. Each of the five county commissioners appointed two people to the planning board from a list of 38 volunteers who applied. The planning board will explore various development regulations in coming months.

“One of the first things this planning board will probably look at is trying to get some sort of a road ordinance,” predicted County Manager Kevin King.

Currently, anything goes when it comes to mountainside building in Swain County. Developers don’t even have to submit plans of subdivisions before they start carving out roads and selling off home sites.

Some county residents have asked for an emergency moratorium on development until an ordinance can be passed. If developers know regulations are coming, they will rush to buy tracts and start building before the regulations go into effect, warned Boyd Gunter, who has spearheaded citizen-based efforts to get the county to address growth.

The growth explosion in Western North Carolina has made its way to Swain County in the past few years, prompting concern and anger from long-time residents who don’t like what they are seeing. Gunter, along with several concerned residents, appealed to the county commissioners last July to tackle the issue of growth. They asked for the creation of a planning board and a moratorium on development until a subdivision ordinance could be passed.

The commissioners did not go for the moratorium idea but did agree to create a planning board. Within a few weeks, the county had been flooded with a whopping 38 applications from volunteers who wanted to be on the planning board. The board of county commissioners decided to wait to appoint a planning board until after the fall election. There would be at least two new county commissioners following the election. Chairman Glenn Jones said at the time it made more sense to wait until the new commissioners were on board to tackle the creation of a planning board, which is what they did this week.

Currently, Swain County has no county planning staff that could oversee a subdivision or slope ordinance if one was passed. If developers had to submit subdivision plans for approval, there’s no one to check them off or monitor the development for compliance.

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