Front Porch Blog

A Council’s Courage

My town turned a corner this week.

By a vote of 4-1 the Boone Town Council passed a measure that limits enormous ugly apartments from being built on steep slopes.

Seems smart doesnt it? Well, developers threw every weapon that had, including vicious personal attacks, at the Town Council. I once ran for that office, and each one of the current members I count as extremely respected friends. To the four members who voted to help protect the economy, ecology, and environment where I live. Bunk Spann, Janet Pepin, Rennie Brantz, and Lynn Mason, I hope today finds you standing tall.

We beat the developers.

The W-S Journal nails it:

It would have been easy for the Boone Town Council to bow to loud and angry opposition from property owners Monday and reject measures to regulate development on steep slopes. Instead, the council voted 4-1 for regulation – a gutsy move that was in the best interest of both the environment and business.

The vote was the outcome of a process prompted by two events in the last few years, as Monte Mitchell reported in Tuesday’s Journal. A development, The Village at Meadowview, marred the view on a slope above U.S. 321. And there was a scare when some homes in the White Laurel development, visible from U.S. 421, shifted on their foundations during hurricane-related rains.

The Boone Steep Slope Development and Multi-Family Task Force went to work, coming up with proposals for commercial and residential development on slopes.

Eventually, council members listened to critics and revised. The measures that the council approved Monday were less restrictive than original proposals. But many of the nearly 100 people who packed the council chambers were still angry that the measures passed. Councilman Dempsey Wilcox, the sole vote against the measures, said that the new rules are an attack on some private-property owners and would be bad for the local building economy.

But the measures leave plenty of room for development.

What the measures do is regulate building on land that is more than 100 feet above, and visible from, the nearest major traffic corridor. And those who build on very steep slopes, slopes with an angle of 50 percent or more, will need a geologic analysis conducted by a state-licensed geologist, among other requirements. People building on slopes of 30 percent to 50 percent would need such an analysis only if a town administrator determines their property has a geologic hazard.

Council members said they’d heard from several people who supported the measures but were afraid to speak out for them. Those people shouldn’t have been afraid. It’s hard to believe anyone was going to physically attack them over this issue, although they might lose customers and friends for vocal support of slope regulation.

And council members face the threat of losing votes.

Maybe a few of their critics on slope regulation will calm down and realize that, in the long run, the best way to keep tourists and second-home buyers coming to Boone is to preserve much of that wonderful scenery, instead of building haphazardly on it. The council majority acted wisely and courageously.





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