Large crowd cheers Polk’s new rules for erosion control, ridgeline protection

Published 4:46 pm Thursday, June 25, 2009

After commissioners unanimously approved the ordinances, the crowd cheered and clapped, shouting &dquo;finally,&dquo; and &dquo;thank you.&dquo; The public hearing and discussion by commissioners took about two hours of the county&squo;s meeting Monday.

Polk County commissioner Tommy Melton gave credit for the new regulations to Lisa Krolack and Save Our Slopes, an organization with more than 1,000 members that has rallied and attended local government meetings for a few years in order to get more protection from development.

Residents mentioned the development of Chocolate Drop several times, saying if the county approved the new ordinances another development such as Chocolate Drop could possibly be avoided in the future.

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Katharine Smith said she has lived on slopes in the past and has had to be evacuated because of mudslides. She said she has known people to be killed because of landslides.&bsp; &dquo;We don&squo;t need it,&dquo; she said, urging commissioners to approve all three ordinances.

Rebecca Kemp, Pacolet Area Conservancy president, said the effects of deforestation have been studied for years.

&dquo;We did not have to have Chocolate Drop Mountain to know what happens,&dquo; she said. &dquo;The time is right for this commission to do the right thing. Polk County will forever thank you for this.&dquo;

Bill Smith said he strongly supports the approval of the ordinances to avoid future Chocolate Drops. He also said the new ordinance will help the frequent stonewalling by large corporate developers against citizens downhill of a development.

&dquo;Chocolate Drop is a full scale example of erosion control gone bad,&dquo; said Smith.

Madelon Wallace, a local real estate agent, said people come to Polk County for its natural resources, ridgetops and streams. She said the county&squo;s biggest asset is its natural resources and the county needs to protect them.

Anna Conner spoke of the change she&squo;s seen over the years and the changes her family has seen over the 250 years since they&squo;ve been in Polk County.

&dquo;Chopping down mountains and polluting streams is not acceptable,&dquo; Conner said. &dquo;This is the time to make those choices. You can&squo;t unring the bell.&dquo;

But Craig Ray, a local grading contractor, said the erosion ordinance doesn&squo;t address the real problem and it won&squo;t stop another Chocolate Drop from occurring. He also said the ordinance will require funding from the county, which will cost residents higher taxes and permit fees.

&dquo;You&squo;re going to have erosion problems even if you implement this plan,&dquo; Ray said. &dquo;This will burden you as well as the rest of the citizens of Polk County.&dquo;

Ray also said the mountain and ridgeline ordinances will make it almost impossible for anyone to build on a mountain given the setback requirements. At that comment, some people in the audience said, &dquo;good.&dquo;

Keith Holbert asked what the cost would be for someone building on a mountain and what it&squo;s going to cost the county to hire an engineer to enforce the new ordinances.

Commissioners invited representatives from the Henderson County erosion department to speak about the benefits of having a local ordinance rather than have the state enforce erosion control. Natalie Berry of&bsp; Henderson County said there are many advantages, including better customer service, better educated residents and developers and quicker response to problems and review of plans.

Polk County plans to work out a contract with Henderson County to enforce Polk&squo;s erosion and sedimentation control ordinance. Polk County will likely institute the same charges charges as in Henderson for erosion plan permits, which are $10 for any disturbance under one acre and $400 per acre for any disturbance over an acre.