Buncombe commissioners enact tougher steep-slope development rules

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, Buncombe County’s Board of Commissioners met and took the following actions:

• By a 5-0 vote, approved county staff’s recommendation to adopt stricter rules for development on steep slopes. The Planning Board had recommended that stricter rules kick in for slopes with a 30-percent grade or higher; staff recommended 25 percent. Commissioners went the latter.

• In a separate but related public hearing, commissioners also voted 5-0 to adopt other steep-slope development regulations.

Xpress reporter Jake Frankel covered the meeting. His live text messages via Twitter are below:

4:43 p.m. Things are getting started here at the Buncombe Commisioners meeting with a proclamation declaring Oct. 30 “kids voting day.”

4:47 p.m. The chambers are packed, with most folks likely drawn for the scheduled public hearing on revisions to steep slope rules.

4:51 p.m. Commissioners will consider toughening rules on new subdivisions above 2,500 feet. For more on the issue: http://bit.ly/aIm3ch

5:05 p.m. Planning Board Chair Scott Hughes: We’ve worked for the last two years to be fair, but you can’t please everybody.

5:08 p.m. Hughes: no doubt that changes will make development more expensive. … This is extremely political.

5:13 p.m. Hughes: Planning board recommends stricter rules for slopes starting at 30 percent. Planning staff recommends stricter rules kick in at 25 percent.

5:15 p.m. Hughes: It’s going to be years before we no the effect of these changes to the rules.

5:18 p.m. John Creighton takes the podium to present a slide show on revisions: The area has seen the biggest growth since the gold rush.

5:19 p.m. John Creighton: Landslides are a major danger and a big reason why we need stricter development rules.

5:35 p.m. County Attorney Michael Frue: If board passes new rules, developers can ask for exemptions or variances on a case-by-case basis.

5:38 p.m. Frue: We recommend passing staff version of subdivision ordinance.

5:47 p.m. Public hearing: Mac Swicegood, representing CIBO, says local developers weren’t informed of proposed revisions.

5:51 p.m. Former City Council candidate Elaine Lite: I hope these rules are just the start.  We need to protect the beauty of our mountains.

5:58 p.m. Local representative from the Sierra Club urges commissioners to pass staff proposal, says the local economy relies on protecting beauty of mountains

6:11 p.m. Several new Buncombe residents speak out to say that the beauty of mountains is what inspired them to move here.

6:17 p.m. Mike Butrum from the Asheville Board of Realtors says about half of the group supports new rules and half against.

6:19 p.m. Butrum: Builders get vilified a bit too much, restrictions manifest into higher costs.

6:27 p.m. Aaron Penland from Arden: We can’t put a dollar figure on beauty of mountains, houses should not be allowed on tops of ridges.

6:30 p.m. Buncombe resident Albert Sneed: Decision shouldn’t be made by emotion and fear. Commisioners should pass planning board’s recommendation.

6:32 p.m. Arden resident Tate McQueen berates commissioners over cleanup of CTS site, says they’ve been impotent.

6:36 p.m. RT @RussBowenNews13: Most speakers want the stricter slope development recommended by staff, as opposed to planning board.

6:49 p.m. Commissioners Chair David Gantt: We have a moral obligation. God has entrusted us with these mountains and we’ve got to take care of them.

6:50 p.m. Commission passes motion to pass stricter staff proposal on steep slope development 5-0.

6:50 p.m. Gantt: The rules will impact people who have no respect or regard for the mountains. This ordinance will leave this community safer.

7:04 p.m. Board now holding another public hearing on a related resolution on zoning overlays on steep slopes.

7:08 p.m. Local real estate appraiser: These new rules are going to have a big impact on property appraisals and tax assessments.

7:15 p.m. Order something for me too pretty please? RT @RussBowenNews13: I’m going to have to ask for a food delivery to this meeting.

7:18 p.m. Board passes additional steep slopes zoning ordinance amendments recommended by county staff 5-0.

7:26 p.m. Board thanks Nypro’s General Manager Joe Freitas for expanding company in Asheville, adding jobs to local economy.

7:32 p.m. Conservative activist Mike Fryar takes the podium during general comment period to discuss Sheriff Van Duncan’s budget.

7:40 p.m. Fryar alleges that Duncan has spent too much money on new deputies, other uneccessary expenses.

7:42 p.m. Fryar also alleges that Duncan and several deputies break the law by using county vehicles for personal use.

7:47 p.m. Meeting adjourned(!) (thanks for the offer) RT @RussBowenNews13: @JakeFrankel ur still there? Maybe I should order u food.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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