Polk ordinance bans commercial developments in Saluda Township

Published 6:56 pm Monday, September 20, 2010

An application for permission to create an RV park and campground off Holbert’s Cove Road may have uncovered a glitch in the countys new mountainside and ridgeline protection ordinance.

The ordinance prohibits any commercial developments above 1,650 feet elevation. All of Saluda Township is above 1,650 feet, so commercial developments appear to be banned in any part of Saluda Township that is not inside Saluda city limits, where city regulations apply. The ban does not apply to “customary home occupations.”

The issue arose recently when Zachary Waldbillig sought an application to construct an RV park and campground off Holberts Cove Road in Saluda Township. The property is in the countys multiple use zoning district, but falls under the mountain and ridgeline ordinance because of its elevation.

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Waldbilligs propertys low point is about 1,980 ft in elevation and its high point is over 2,000 ft., according to Polk County GIS records.

Waldbillig has petitioned the City of Saluda for voluntary annexation, which would put the property city regulations, which do not specifically prohibit such development.

Saluda City Council directed the city clerk last Monday to investigate the voluntary annexation application. A public hearing will be required before Saluda decides whether to annex the property.

Waldbillig is proposing a 3.1-acre campground with 40 to 50 sites, a well site for water and a dump site for sewage.&bsp; He says he plans to build a pool as well.

Campground plans also include about 10 yurts or cabins for rental, included in the total site number. Yurts are portable, felt-covered, wood lattice-framed dwelling structures traditionally used by nomads that are more home-like than a tent, with thicker walls.

Waldbillig says the campground will work with local whitewater outfitters for guests to participate in river sports.

The city will consider the satellite annexation and likely decide on a public hearing date next month. The zoning of the parcel would be R-3, which allows mobile homes.

Polk County is now researching its mountain and ridgeline ordinance with regard to this restriction, and officials say they have not decided what to do about the issue.

County building inspector Steve Jones, who is also the administrator of the mountain and ridgeline ordinance, is looking into the issue. The countys planning board or newly appoined Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Committee would likely also consider the issue if commissioners decide changes need to be made.

The countys mountainside and ridgeline protection ordinance restricts building of all types at elevations of 1,650 ft. and above. It includes two ordinances, one for zoned townships and another for unzoned townships. Saluda Township is zoned, as are Tryon, Columbus and Green Creek townships, while Coopers Gap and White Oak townships remain unzoned.

The ordinance also includes increased restrictions at higher elevations, such as 2,250 and above.

The ordinance for the zoned areas states under its restrictions section that unless (and only to the extent) an exemption granted by Section 8 applies, permitted uses of property situated in protected mountain terrain shall be limited to single family residences, accessory buildings, guest houses, private clubs (serving exclusively the residents of a specific subdivision and their guests), customary home occupations and public utility buildings and facilities, as those terms are defined in the Polk County Zoning Ordinance.

Polk County adopted the ordinance in June, 2009 following public outcry as a result of Chocolate Drop, a development on the side of the mountain now in Columbus where much clearing was done and erosion problems followed.

At the same time, the county also adopted an erosion ordinance, but it has not yet begun enforcing it because of funding issues.