Downhill run

Members of the Buncombe County Planning Board agreed last week to split into two subgroups to devise proposals for a hillside-development ordinance and community-based planning districts.

Most of the hourlong Dec. 2 meeting was devoted to granting developers’ requests for three variances and approving a revised request for a preliminary plat. On the policy end, however, board members went along with Chairman Jim McElduff‘s suggestion that they divide into working groups to hammer out proposals for the full board to consider at its next meeting.

“All we’d be doing is develop a target to be shot at,” joked board member Karl Koon.

The lighthearted comment nonetheless hinted at the perennially hot-button nature of land-use issues in Buncombe County. And though countywide zoning appears to be off the table for the moment, the county commissioners have asked the Planning Board to come up with a recommendation on community-based planning — which would enable residents of a specific area to come up with their own local land-use rules.

Also last week, landscape architect Bob Grasso, president of the Asheville-based Land Planning Collaborative — who’s serving as a free consultant on the hillside-development ordinance — gave board members requested technical information and reiterated that he favors a flexible ordinance that would encourage good design.

“I don’t know you legislate common sense,” commented Grasso.

County Planner Jim Coman countered that an ordinance must be written to address the lowest-quality developer that’s out there.

The board meets again on Monday, Dec. 16 at 9:30 a.m. in the county’s Training Room, 199 College St. in downtown Asheville. Meetings are open to the public.

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