A steep order: New accountable-development group

The Mountain Council for Accountable Development, a coalition of local homebuilders and real-estate agents, was created in response to Asheville and Buncombe County’s steep-slope ordinances and related land-use controls. An offshoot of the Asheville Board of Realtors and the Asheville Homebuilders Association, MCAD says it doesn’t aim to scuttle the ordinances but to make them better.

Members of the newly formed lobbying group say they support restrictions on mountainside development but believe the local ordinances are too restrictive.

“The original issue [in deciding to form the group] was in trying to find middle ground,” says Mike Butram, MCAD’s government-affairs director.

For many, the desire to protect hillsides from unchecked development is an emotional one, he maintains. “Our mission is to try and bring fact, backed up with science, to these issues,” says Butram. “And then bring the parties together, or join with the parties, in an effort to try and find the best solution to the problems. We endorse the steep-slope [ordinance] … but we think it’s too restrictive. … We have a vested interest in protecting [the slopes], as anyone does.”

A major problem with the ordinances, says Butram, is the lack of a clearly defined purpose. Is it safety concerns, aesthetics—or both? Either way, MCAD believes that more time and more reasoned, scientific analysis of the complex issues raised by steep-slope development is vital to creating ordinances that protect not only the real-estate industry but also residents, the environment and the area’s natural beauty.

The group is looking to involve others as affiliate members, including mortgage bankers, architects, surveyors, inspectors and “anyone related to any one of those groups that service” the homebuying or homebuilding industries, says Butram.

In order to adequately consider all sides of the issues, MCAD representative Corina Round says the group is forming an “opinions council” with representatives of all concerned groups—not just those in the real-estate industry.

At its heart, however, MCAD sees itself as a trade organization that will be ready to go to bat for the real-estate industry locally on sundry issues—not just the steep-slope rules.

“Anytime there is an ordinance that comes up that will affect, positively or negatively, the building industry and the real-estate industry, it would be a reason to get involved with it,” says Butram, who adds that the new coalition is based on a successful model started several years ago in Mecklenburg County. “In this case, the steep-slope [ordinance] became the catalyst, because we’re brand new and the steep-slope issue was basically brand new.”

For more information on MCAD or to become an affiliate member, contact Butram at 275-2422. Those who wish to be included in its “opinions council” should contact Corina Round at 255-8505.

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