Want to buy a landslide?

Building on steep slopes is a pretty slippery topic in the mountains these days. Accordingly, the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources has scheduled a regional hearing for Thursday, Jan. 10, to solicit public input on the state Legislature’s Safe Artificial Slope Construction Act (H1756).

Three primary sponsors—all from Western North Carolina—introduced the bill during the 2007 legislative session: Rep. Ray Rapp of Madison County, Rep. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County, and Rep. Phil Haire of Jackson County. In its current form, the bill would require local governments to adopt ordinances regulating site planning and management in mountainous areas. People selling property would have to disclose to potential purchasers any landslide hazards identified by North Carolina Geological Survey maps. The bill would also establish a Sedimentation Control Commission under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The proposed law has since been referred to committee for additional study. “What we want to do is get input from as many different stakeholders as we possibly can before we go any further with this bill,” says Fisher, explaining that the bill’s main goal is to “give guidance to the localities to make their own plans for steep-slope development.”

Both Asheville and Buncombe County adopted steep-slope ordinances in 2007, but a number of WNC counties and municipalities have no regulations in place. The proposed bill aims to reduce the likelihood of slope failures on developed or disturbed land, ultimately protecting “human safety and property.”

Mars Hill resident Lynne Vogel, who’s been working to boost awareness of the issue, believes disclosure lies at the heart of it. “It’s the right to know,” she says. And while various development interests may argue about restrictive slope regulations, notes Vogel, “I don’t think that has anything to do with the public knowing in advance how risky buying property in Western North Carolina really is.”

The Jan. 10 hearing will run from 4 to 7 p.m. in the A-B Tech’s Simpson Auditorium (main campus on Victoria Road).

Visit www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles to view the current copy of the proposed legislation (H1756).

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