Planning board okays UDO draft

Published 6:18 pm Thursday, August 16, 2012

Public hearing before county vote on Sept. 17
The Polk County Planning Board approved its draft of the unified development ordinance (UDO), which combines all county ordinances, and the document is now on its way to county commissioners for final approval.
The planning board met Wednesday, Aug. 15 and approved its draft by a vote of 5 to 2, with chair Lisa Krolak and members Susan Welsh, David Smith, Michael Axelrod and Harry Petersen in favor of the recommended UDO and members Bill Ennis and Wayne Horne against.
The planning board’s recommendation includes a 25-percent slope restriction, which will require testing and engineering before building on slopes of 25 percent or higher throughout the entire county. The slope restriction replaces the current elevation restriction in zoned townships from the mountainside and ridgeline protection ordinance (MRPO).
The UDO committee had recommended to the planning board that the slope restriction be for 30 percent slopes and higher; it is unclear what slope commissioners will choose.
Commissioners have set a public hearing and special meeting for comments on the UDO draft for Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. Commissioners said recently they could approve or disapprove the UDO during that special meeting.
Planning board members on Wednesday reviewed all the changes they had made in the UDO and tweaked several sections prior to voting on the final document. The planning board has decided to take out Article 25, which deals with ridgelines, and will work on that separately because planners say the work will be time-consuming.
During Wednesday’s meeting, board member Horne asked why other planning board members decided to set the slope restrictions at 25 percent instead of 30 percent.
“We already had 30 percent slope in here,” said Horne. “What came up to change it to 25 (percent)? I just want to know. I just thought it was 30 all the way through (the process).”
Welsh answered that the majority of members took information from county engineer Dave Odom and from research done by planning board member Smith and felt comfortable with 25 percent.
Horne said if Polk County looks at other surrounding areas, including Lake Lure, they all have 30 percent and they are closer (in proximity) to Polk County. Horne said he thinks 30 percent is not that steep and he’d personally rather it be 40 percent.
During the planning board’s meeting last Thursday, Aug. 9, the majority of planning board members set the slope threshold at 25 percent, with Horne, Ennis and Lee Bradley against. Ennis has mentioned he would also like to see the threshold at 40 percent, but those three members last week said they would have voted for 30 percent.
Public comments on Wednesday included a mix of those for and against what the planning board had decided on the UDO.
Rickie McFalls thanked Ennis for his letter published in the Bulletin this week and thanked Horne for representing the natives of Polk County.
McFalls said he doesn’t know anyone else on the planning board and he’s been here his entire life. He thanked the rest of the members and said, “Thanks for ramming this down our throats.”
William Day said his thoughts are similar to McFalls’. He thanked the planning board for their work, noting that the UDO is hard to read and hard to push through. He personally thanked the minority of members who “tried to make it clear and stuck up for liberty.”
David Maxwell mentioned an advertisement that ran in the Monday, Aug. 13 Bulletin and said he couldn’t help but chuckle at the ad, which wasn’t signed, he said.
“Whatever it was it took no accountability in what it said,” Maxwell said. “It talked about zoning two townships, which is incorrect.”
Maxwell also said Polk County needs to protect its mountains and any ordinances need to consider the current residents first.
Mark Byington, who was the chair of the UDO committee, thanked the planning board for its hard work and said some of the members have been working on this for several years.
“I know it’s not a perfect document,” Byington said. “No document is. Nobody is going to agree with everything. We all compromised.”
Craig Ray also thanked the planning board for considering what he recommended on cut and fill slopes, but said he feels they “made a grave mistake on the 25-percent slope.”
Ray said 25-percent slope is a 4-to-1 slope, which is easy to mow with a riding lawn mower. He said a 3-to-1 slope can be mowed.
“I think you missed the mark,” said Ray.
Commissioner chair Ray Gasperson also thanked the planning board for the work they’ve done. He also said he thinks at last week’s planning board meeting he saw a board that was ready to come together on the 30-percent slope and he felt it troubling that the 30-percent slope didn’t happen.
“It’s unfortunate because we would have had a unanimous vote going to commissioners,” Gasperson said. “That concerns me.”
He also commended the planning board for moving the UDO forward and really fine-tuning it. He said he will continue to focus on the slope and thinks it should have been left at 30 percent.
Christel Walter said Polk County’s population grew 51 percent from 1980 and 2008, which brought on a vision 20/20 plan, a moratorium, erosion and sedimentation ordinances and the MRPO.
She said in the last hurricane, someone came to her house in the middle of the night and evacuated her home because they were afraid the Lake Adger dam might break and those things could still happen.
Walter, who also served on the UDO committee, has continuously called Polk County’s mountains “gems,” and has encouraged the county to protect them.
The planning board is sending its recommended UDO to Holland Consultants, which will incorporate all the changes into the document. Once completed, the document will be sent to the board of commissioners for review. The document will be available for public viewing prior to the public hearing on Sept. 17. The planning board had another meeting scheduled for next Thursday, Aug. 23 but canceled that meeting.

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