Planning board works to replace elevation with slope in MRPOPublished 5:59pm Monday, June 11, 2012
Slope restrictions to apply across county
A subcommittee of the Polk County Planning Board held its first meeting on Thursday, June 7 and agreed it makes sense to apply slope restrictions throughout the entire county.
The planning board is specifically working to put slope restrictions in place of the current elevation restrictions in the county’s mountain and ridgeline protection ordinance (MRPO).
Board members agreed that whatever threshold is determined will apply in all sections of the county and that they all want scientific reasons for choosing at which slope more strict regulations begin. The county has discussed requiring studies before a structure can be built on land with a slope of 30 percent or greater, but planning board members are seeking input to determine that slope percentage.
Planning board member David Smith said he doesn’t want to knock anyone out of being able to build their own home, but the board does need to look at the restrictions from the point of groundwater recharge, septic systems and erosion.
“I want it based on fact,” Smith said. “I think we should go out and look and come up with what’s best for Polk County. The only way we can do it is get scientific experts to come in and tell us.”
Smith had done some research prior to the meeting with calculations on how to compute slope and data from other areas regarding building restrictions on slope. Smith said 24 percent was the average slope at which restrictions were implemented in areas he researched, but he specified that no one forbid building.
“The thing I got out of looking at all of this is just about everyone looks at percentage (of slope) but is careful to make sure everyone looks at the building envelope, and once you get above a certain percentage different building code kicks in,” Smith said. “It doesn’t forbid anyone from building.”
Polk County Planner Cathy Ruth showed a slideshow of pictures taken from the top of the Sanctuary development in Columbus Township to give people an idea of what a 30-percent slope looks like.
Board member Michael Axelrod said he looked at his property and places that had an 18-percent slope seemed logical to build on, but an area his family sleds on when it snows has a 32-percent slope, which seems too steep to build on.
“I’d have a hard time envisioning a house built into that (32-percent slope),” Alexrod said.
Board member Bill Ennis said if someone wants a basement and it’s 30 feet deep a contractor would need a 30 percent slope to build on. Ennis said what the planning board needs to decide is what they are trying to restrict. He asked whether the concern was landslides and erosion.
Erosion was another topic of the board’s meeting, with Wayne Horne discussing the importance of vegetation.
Horne said he was up at World’s Edge recently when a downpour hit the area. Where there was no vegetation on a 10-percent slope the water was moving gravel, Horne said.
“Where there was vegetation there was nothing,” Horne said. “If you’re disturbing more than a third of an acre something’s got to be done.”
Horne also gave his opinion on how strict the ordinance should be, saying he wants to ensure, “If Joe Citizen wants to build a house they can come in and not jump through a bunch of hoops.”
“I just don’t want to make the land worthless to someone that owns it,” Horne said.
The planning board is working to amend the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) draft, which includes mountain and ridgeline protections that currently restrict commercial development on elevations above 1,650 feet. The planning board will recommend the UDO ordinance to the Polk County Board of Commissioners for final approval.
The next planning board meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, June 14 at 5 p.m. Engineer Dave Odom is scheduled to speak to members, as is Karyl Fuller, a GIS planner with the Isothermal Planning and Development Commission, who will speak on viewsheds.
All planning board meetings allow public comment and are held in the second floor meeting room of the Womack building in Columbus.