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Jackson gives final OK to new development regulations

Jackson County commissioners have given final approval to what are generally regarded as the state’s toughest subdivision and steep slope ordinances.

The approval of the ordinances was followed by a lifting of the controversial moratorium on new subdivisions that was enacted in February to provide county planners time to develop the new ordinances.

Chairman Brian McMahan was the only commissioner to vote against the ordinances. He gave a long statement in which he professed agreement with their intent but argued that they went too far.

“Everyone I’ve talked to is in favor of enacting regulations of some type. I believe in regulating for health and safety, but for aesthetics, no,” McMahan said, referring to portions of the ordinance that require homes on mountainsides to be screened by trees and provides recommended house colors.

“This is going to be an administrative nightmare,” said McMahan.

The other four commissioners were equally adamant about the need to enact strong ordinances to help Jackson County through a period of intense growth and development.

“Some say we didn’t go far enough while others say these are too strong. That tells me we’ve come up with a pretty good compromise,” said Commissioner Tom Massie, who has been among the strongest proponents of the ordinances.

Commissioner William Shelton, a fourth-generation Whittier farmer, said he does not believe the regulations will hurt Jackson County’s economy, which has been a common criticism from the ordinances’ opponents.

“I don’t share in the belief that growth, development and building is going to stop due to this ordinance or any ordinance,” said Shelton. “To the contrary, I believe that at this point in history this is going to help Jackson County.”

All the commissioners who supported the ordinance made a point of saying the ordinances can be modified in the future.

“This is a beginning document, much as the U.S. Constitution was a beginning document in 1789, because you have to adapt,” said Commissioner Vice Chairman Joe Cowan.

“When we see problems we will have to make changes to make it palatable and to stay true to our mission of trying to protecting Jackson County,” said Cowan.

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