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Wednesday, 18 October 2006 00:00

Slope proposal supported at hearing: Concerns raised, but most agree it’s time for steep slope laws

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Slope ordinance

Haywood County commissioners are considering a slope development ordinance with the following restrictions:

 

• Cut-and-fill slopes taller than 40 feet are not allowed.

• A slope stabilization plan developed by an engineer or certified professional is required for a cut-and-fill slope taller than 10 feet.

• A slope stabilization plan is required for a cut slope that exceeds a 1:1 ratio of run to rise or a fill slope that exceeds a 1.5:1 ratio of run to rise.

• Cut or fill slopes must be set back from adjacent property lines.

• Roads and road shoulders leading to multiple homes must be compacted.

On the books

Haywood County has two major ordinances already governing development: a soil and erosion ordinance and a subdivision ordinance.

The soil and erosion ordinance requires developers to file a soil and erosion control plan if more than half an acre is being disturbed. The plan must show all the creeks and springs on the property and describe measures the developer will use to keep sediment from washing into the waterways during construction. The plan must also show how developers will stop soil from washing off the property.

The subdivision ordinance regulates the slope and width of roads in developments.

 

A public hearing on a proposed slope development ordinance in Haywood County revealed what appears to be a shift in attitudes toward mountainside development.

Several years ago, a public hearing of that sort would have drawn crowds of angry protestors insisting on freedom to do what they pleased on their land. But no such comments were voiced. Instead, one speaker after the other — many from within the development community itself — agreed that it was time to regulate steep slope development.

The ordinance requires developers to submit a slope stabilization plan if a cut-and-fill slope exceeds certain thresholds (see info box). Currently, anyone with keys to heavy machinery can slice a road through the mountain or carve out a house site. The ordinance would require a certified professional — such as an engineer — to develop a slope stabilization plan for development that exceeds the threshold.

“We are all for safe and stable. I don’t think anyone can argue with that,” said Brent Whiteman with the Haywood County Board of Realtors.

Dawson Spano, a builder, said being against safe and stable slopes would be like a politician running for office saying they are against quality education.

The top concern among Realtors and the development lobby is the monetary cost of complying with the ordinance. That extra cost will be passed on to the homebuyer, Spano said.

The concern was echoed several times.

“The biggest consideration is the cost and the effect on the industry,” said Gary Hughes, a developer.

Kevin Alford, an engineer in Maggie Valley, said he is often hired to fix houses and roads that are falling down the mountain.

“I see some things you can’t imagine,” Alford said. Alford called some home sites an “accident waiting to happen.”

Alford agreed there are costs involved with a slope stabilization plan. But compare that to the six-figure price tag some homeowners have spent to fix a house that was slipping.

The ordinance calls for the creation of an engineering review board to evaluate the slope stabilization plans. In addition, the county will hire an engineering coordinator to police slope development.

Ellis Morris, a Realtor, said his top request was that the county hire enough new staff to handle the volume of plans that will be submitted under the new ordinance.

“I really don’t believe one engineer coordinator can handle the entire county,” agreed Randy Sisk, also a Realtor. “It’s one thing to pass the ordinance and another thing to enforce it.”

Ted Darrell Inman, an excavator who has worked in the mountains for more than 50 years, said he was concerned that some unlicensed graders would be unfairly penalized by the ordinance. Inman agreed that some graders do shoddy work. But others, like himself, are experienced and do good work, he said.

“Why not require the people who’s a doing it to buy insurance?” Inman asked. “Make them buy some insurance to clean up the mess they make and most of these people would find something else to do instead of being in the grading business.”

Ron Moser with Haywood Waterways Association said mountainside development is an economic engine in Haywood County.

“However, some of this development has put property, and in one case life, at risk. The key to mountainside development is we do it well,” Moser said.

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