Archived Story

Columbus looks to Henderson County for local soil & erosion control

Published 4:47pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Columbus has its own soil and erosion control ordinance but currently no one qualified to enforce it so the town is looking outside the county for assistance.

Columbus Town Council met Thursday, Aug. 18 and decided to request the services of Henderson County to enforce its ordinance.

Polk County has also considered in the past contracting with Henderson County to enforce its soil and erosion control ordinance adopted in 2009. County commissioners agreed in 2010 to hold off on local enforcement saying at the time it would cost too much money to hire an enforcement officer given the limited development that was taking place.

Columbus Town Manager Jonathan Kanipe said in 2008 the town approved a local soil and erosion control policy that essentially took control away from the state. He said Columbus’ manager at the time, Tim Holloman, was a licensed building inspector and the town then had a full-time planner.

Unfortunately, Kanipe said, the town is not currently in the same position. He said if someone came in with a soil and erosion plan today, he is the employee who should look at it and he doesn’t feel qualified.

Columbus’ current projects are few and far between, Kanipe said, with two active projects and three total in the past two years. He said the fees received for the projects wouldn’t cover the costs associated with training and/or hiring staff to competently manage the program.

“To date, we do not have any outstanding liability that would arise from any approved plans,” Kanipe said. “Mr. (Larry) Traber (the town’s former part-time planner) had signed off on the last plans approved, and the last state inspection revealed the town was in fine shape with the program overall.

“One site in particular needed increased inspections, but overall, the program was fine. In many respects, the town is fortunate there are not many projects requiring [us] to issue and inspect these permits.”

Kanipe said the town has a few options, including for he and public works director Robert Rosseter to get training, contract with Henderson County or give control back to the state.

Councilwoman Margaret Metcalf said the town remembers Chocolate Drop, which she called “a mess.” Metcalf said Chocolate Drop developers got popped on the hand and told to fix the problems.

“And that was under the state’s watch,” Kanipe added.

Metcalf said she doesn’t think Columbus should send soil and erosion control back to the state’s enforcement.

“Sending it back to the state I don’t feel is the answer,” said Metcalf.

Councilwoman Ernie Kan said Chocolate Drop is “a lesson learned.”

Kanipe said he and Rosseter met with Henderson County initially to see if they have interest in enforcing Columbus’ ordinance and they were receptive to the idea.

Kanipe also said Columbus’ permit fees are a little higher than Henderson County’s fees, so the town could handle Henderson County’s fees to Columbus through its own permit fees.

Turning enforcement back to the state, Kanipe said, could result in the town not seeing a lot of inspections because the state only has one inspector for 19 counties in the western part of the state.

Council also discussed hiring its own soil and erosion control inspector, but decided the town doesn’t have enough development at this time to pay the person through permit fees. Council said if development warrants the town hiring an employee in the future they could consider that, but for now the town’s best option is Henderson County.

Kanipe said his thoughts are for the town to have business cards created with the Henderson County inspector’s name on them.

Council agreed for Kanipe to set up a meeting and for Henderson County officials to come to the town’s August meeting if possible.

The contract would have to be agreed upon by Columbus, Henderson County and the state’s soil and erosion control board.

Columbus’ local soil, erosion and sedimentation ordinance can be viewed on the town’s website at www.columbusnc.org by clicking on the “Columbus Town code and zoning ordinance” icon which takes users to an external site. The soil and erosion ordinance is under “land usage.”

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