McDermott issues statement on proposal for replacing MRPO

Published 6:12 pm Friday, May 11, 2012

Editor’s note: Polk commissioner Renée McDermott issued the following statement about proposed changes to the MRPO:
I’m concerned that the proponents of Henry Bright’s proposal to replace the current Mountain and Ridgeline Protection Ordinance with a slope-only ordinance that would apply to the entire county have not thought out its consequences. For instance, Mr. Bright was not aware that his proposal would result in the ability of anyone to place almost any commercial development, other than a landfill or asphalt plant, in Polk County’s beautiful mountains.
Nor was Mr. Bright aware that under his proposal, anyone and everyone can have a home business that includes building up to an 8,000-square-foot building on a mountain lot, in addition to his home. How will Polk County’s mountains look with unlimited commercial exploitation and a proliferation of 8,000-square-foot metal buildings?
Yet Mr. Bright’s group, who apparently hatched their proposal outside any Unified Development Committee meeting, without sharing it with the entire committee, rushed ahead, refusing to agree to a request for just one more meeting to consider or study his proposal. No written copy of Mr. Bright’s proposal was circulated to the committee, or even to his own group, prior to the meeting.  And Mr. Bright did not even bring enough copies of his proposal to allow all committee members to read it, even if only a few minutes, before a vote was forced.
In fact, Mr. Bright admitted that even he himself did not have a complete copy of his proposal as little as two hours before the UDO committee meeting.
The selection of the criteria in Mr. Bright’s proposal are contrary to the input of North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the State Geologist when the Mountain and Ridgeline Protection Ordinances were written.  It appears that Mr. Bright and his group were not aware of the scientific findings upon which the MRPOs were based, for example, that land is less stable and landslides are more likely at 25-percent slopes, blindly and arbitrarily choosing 30-percent slope as their criterion.
Mr. Bright’s proposal, which takes Polk County back to its situation before the Mountain and Ridgeline Protection Ordinances were adopted, was rushed through the UDO committee on one night, without any prior notification and without any opportunity to determine its full implications. Years of scientific and environmental study were rejected with no basis at all.
The seeds of the Mountain and Ridgeline Protection Ordinances’ destruction were sown and reaped in just one night. It is an affront to the 81 percent or more of Polk County’s citizens who asked for protection for Polk County’s precious mountains as part of the 20/20 Visioning Plan. It is an affront to anyone who believes in fairness and due process.

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