Carolina Public Press continues series on mountaintop development

From Carolina Public Press

In [a] special two-part report from Carolina Public Press, we take an in-depth look at how ridge-top development in 24 mountain counties turned on a dime following the passage of the Mountain Ridge Protection Act of 1983, which was enacted 30 years ago this month. The law signaled a change in mountain politics regarding conservation — and this two-part series explores the impact that single law has had on Western North Carolina’s politics, landscape and economy. …

On a blustery November afternoon, there are no views from the 5,000-foot summit of Little Sugar Mountain in Avery County. Situated on the knob is Sugar Top, the 10-story steel-and-concrete structure is veiled in a blanket of fog. Three decades ago, the construction of this very building launched a public debate on how the state should protect one of its most valuable resources: mountain views.

Ironically, the legislation this high-rise inspired — the Mountain Ridge Protection Act (of 1983), which banned certain tall buildings on ridge lines above 3,000 feet — gave Sugar Top an exclusive mountain apex location, making it an even easier sell by its developer, the Columbia, S.C.-based developer U.S. Capital Corp. …

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