The slope ordinance requires developers to hire an engineer to certify the stability of cut-and-fill slopes above a certain threshold. The threshold that triggers oversight was relaxed substantially by the commissioners after they were lobbied by the real estate and development industry.
Commissioner pledged to revisit the threshold and tighten it up if it proves too loose to ensure mountainside development is being done safely and properly.
Commissioner Larry Ammons suggested a report every 90 days from the county planning office on whether the ordinance is working.
“If we see a pattern start to develop as we monitor this every three months, we may need to tighten that thing up a little bit,” Ammons said. “It may work fine this way, but if it isn’t we want to zero our sights in on this thing and get it closer to what we hoped to accomplish when we started this.”
To oversee the ordinance, the county is hiring a licensed engineer with a salary range around $60,000 to $70,000 to work in the planning office to review development plans that exceed the slope threshold in the ordinance. The county is also looking for applicants for an engineer review board — a spectrum including citizens mindful of mountainside development as well as specific roles like a surveyor and an engineer. The volunteer board will meet once a month to review slope development plans.
Haywood is the first county west of Asheville to implement slope development regulations, but additional counties could be close behind. Jackson County commissioners have instructed their planning board to start working on a slope development ordinance. Macon County’s planning board wrote a slope ordinance last year, but final approval by the commissioners has temporarily stalled. Swain County commissioners have indicated they want to appoint a planning board to write a slope development ordinance sometime soon as well.
Anyone interested in applying for the county engineer job or the engineer review board should call the county office at 828.452.6625 for an application.
— By Becky Johnson