Polk works toward erosion, ridgetop ordinances

Published 4:54 pm Thursday, February 5, 2009

Polk County commissioners are seeking ordinances to better enforce erosion rules and restrict mountainside development. Commissioners say the state doesn&39;t have enough personnel to take care of sedimentation and erosion enforcement throughout the state. The county is now considering enacting its own erosion ordinance to enforce locally.

County commissioners met Monday and approved sending a draft sedimentation and erosion control ordinance to the county planning board. Commissioners also officially requested the planning board to recommend a mountainside and ridgeline protection ordinance.

The planning board has been working on developing methods of regulating mountainside and ridgeline development since July, but commissioners officially requested the work on Monday. The board asked the planning board to come up with written recommendations for both ordinances within 60 days.

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During the discussion Monday, which was placed on the agenda by commissioner Ren´e McDermott with suggestions of how the county can proceed with such ordinances, several residents offered support of the ordinances. The development on Chocolate Drop was mentioned on several occassions, with residents saying the county should have its own regulations so something of that nature cannot occur again. Chocolate Drop, which is in Columbus, has recently suffered erosion issues. Since its initial development a couple of years ago, the problems at Chocolate Drop have caused a public outcry of residents wanting more strict regulations to protect the area&39;s mountainsides against erosion and other problems.

Dave Maxwell said that North Carolina has more miles of trout stream than any other state in the nation and North Carolina is ranked the worst in terms of erosion and sedimentation. He urged commissioners to enact a sedimentation and erosion control ordinance as well as a mountainside and ridgeline ordinance.

Others who urged the new ordinances included Katharine Smith, Roulettei Gildersleeve,&bsp; Eric Gass, Chris Price, Mary Hardvall, David Weiss, Jack Lingafelter, Kathleen Kent,&bsp; Jerry Hardvall and Phyllis Martin.

Martin asked why such ordinances haven&squo;t been enacted before in Polk County.

&dquo;I think this is absolutely necessary,&dquo; said Martin. &dquo;Every time I come to Columbus I have to look at Chocolate Drop.&dquo;

She said she wonders since we have been in a drought what might have happened with Chocolate Drop if the area had normal or excessive rainfall.

Lingafelter, a former Polk County commissioner, said his board did approve a sedimentation and erosion control ordinance but the next board of commissioners rescinded the ordinance, saying that the county shouldn&squo;t have to pay for something the state already provides. Lingafelter said the state is woefully undermanned and has problems just dealing with emergencies. Lingafelter suggested that the county apppoint an erosion and sedimentation control board in order to interpret the county&squo;s ordinance so as not to overload the county&squo;s planning board.

Commissioner McDermott said she and board chair Walker recently visited Henderson County employees who enforce Henderson County&squo;s sedimentation and erosion control ordinance. She said those employees indicated they are interested in partnering with Polk County for enforcement.

McDermott also mentioned&bsp; Polk residents&squo; responses to two public input surveys done over the last several years which indicated that residents strongly support regulations for stormwater control as well as protecting the county&squo;s scenic views, preserving well water, preventing the wholesale leveling of mountains and limiting development on mountainsides and ridges.

McDermott gave commissioners draft ordinances for both erosion and sedimentation control and mountainside and ridgeline protection to send to the planning board.