The unanimous vote in Macon County also speaks volumes about the ability of a new board of commissioners to work together on a difficult issue.
The development in question may never come to fruition, but that is not the point. A company called Old Hemlock Cove Development reportedly wanted to construct a 10-story high-rise condominium project on a parcel of land between Highlands and Cashiers in Macon County. The couple who sold the parcel to the developers are challenging in court the right to build the condo project because they maintain their agreement was for ti to be developed into single-family residences.
No matter how that court case turns out, Macon County needs time to address the issue of high-rise development. A similar issue arose nearly three decades ago in Avery County when developers built what is now known as Sugartop, a high-rise condo project adjacent to the ski resort. Outrage led to a statewide ridgetop construction statute that bans mountaintop high-rises and gives counties several options to regulate high-rise construction
In response to the planned development in Macon County, commissioners passed an 11-month moratorium. That will provide them time to develop a comprehensive ordinance that addresses multiple scenarios. County Planner Stacey Guffey is well-respected and thoughtful, and there’s little doubt he will use this time wisely to come up with an ordinance that will address all aspects of this issue.
Moratoriums are a great tool for local governments. A quick review of recent history shows that they have become common. Last year Jackson County placed a 90-day moratorium on shooting ranges while it studied the issue; in 2003 Franklin passed a 6-month billboard moratorium after a couple of large signs went up in front of Franklin High School; in 2001 moratoriums were very popular as Jackson County passed a temporary ban on cell towers, Macon County passed a 6-month ban on certain high-impact development, and Cherokee passed a moratorium on development along a section of U.S. 19 while it remedied drainage and sewage issues.
In the end, Macon County made a wise decision that will give its leaders time to study this issue and develop a reasonable ordinance.