Polk to revisit ridgetop, slope ordinances

Published 3:44 pm Thursday, July 10, 2008

Commissioners agreed to ask the planning board to consider lowering the cutoff at which steep slope regulations take effect from the current 50-percent slope to 30 percent. A cutoff at 30 percent would apply to more of the county&squo;s steep slopes. Commissioners also agreed to ask the planning board to consider creating an overlay district for protecting ridgetops from development.

Dave Maxwell, who questioned why the county chose a slope of 50 percent or greater, said he has brought up restrictions for mountainsides at meetings for the last two or three years and officials have always had an excuse to avoid taking action, such as waiting for the creation of a county GIS system.

&dquo;We&squo;ll see what excuse they come up with this time,&dquo; Maxwell said.

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Renee McDermott, a Democratic candidate for county commissioner, mentioned that the county&squo;s current steep slope restrictions apply only to Wildcat Spur since, according to the county&squo;s GIS, no other properties&bsp; have a slope of 50 percent or greater. Commissioner Tom Pack said he disagreed with that assertion.

&dquo;There&squo;s lots of places in the county,&dquo; Pack said. &dquo;I could take you and show you 500 places that it applies to.&dquo;

McDermott said she has taken a steep slope ordinance adopted by Jackson County last year and adapted it to fit Polk County. She handed a copy to county officials and asked that they consider that ordinance, which includes Polk&squo;s current restrictions for five- and seven-acre minimum lot sizes. McDermott also said the currently unzoned areas of Polk County do not have to be zoned to be required to adhere to the ordinance she created for Polk County.

Other residents, such as Lisa Krolack with Save Our Slopes and Cindy Walker, urged commissioners to adopt stricter steep slope, ridgetop and erosion and sedimentation ordinances quickly. Krolack suggested that Polk go with a 25-percent steep slope restriction as Jackson County did.

Throughout the meeting commissioners had brief discussions about whether the county needs its own sedimentation/erosion control ordinance and an officer to enforce the ordinance. Commissioners agreed to set up a workshop with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DNER) next month to discuss how the county can&bsp; get more enforcement for erosion control.

Commissioner Warren Watson said that the county may be able to put &dquo;more teeth&dquo; in what the county building inspections office can do on individual building sites and suggested that the county look into teaming up with the towns to possibly share costs for an enforcement officer for issues such as sedimentation and erosion control.

Polk County at one time had a sedimentation and erosion control ordinance, but a new board of commissioners in December, 2004 rescinded that ordinance. Current members Harry Denton, Ted Owens and Tom Pack voted to rescind the erosion and a previously enacted noise ordinance, saying then the problem was with enforcing both ordinances.

McDermott said that even if the previous erosion/sedimentation ordinance was not actively enforced, she thinks about 90 percent of the public would abide by it voluntarily.

Commissioners also agreed Monday that none of them wants big box developments such as Wal-Mart in Polk County, but commissioners did not take any further action on the issue.