July 8 ~TC Planning Board Ordinance Questions

The current Planning Board ordinance proposal falls short of a complete and responsible ordinance, despite many months of consideration. Among the shortcomings, the lack of consideration to include places of worship as protected facilities, vague and arbitrary exemptions and definitions are notable.

Clearly, enacting no ordinance at all is a failure to move forward with both community protections and responsible economic development. Inaction opens the door to liability issues for the county for not fulfilling the purpose of the moratorium.

Download the 6/26/14 PB Approved DRAFT HII Ordinance

Download the draft High Impact Industry Ordinance submitted by People for Clean Mountains in June of 2013 

There are many issues with this proposed draft ordinance, as follows:

  • We find the lack of designation of places of worship as protected facilities from separation requirements misguided, at best.
  •  Similarly, too much latitude is being given to Planning Board and Enforcement Officer rather than relying on clear, enforceable ordinance language.

Section 8. Enforcement Officer

The Board of Commissioners shall appoint an Enforcement Officer. The Enforcement Officer or his appointee shall administer and enforce all provisions of this Ordinance.

What codified input does the public have? Who is the Enforcement Officer? What are the qualifications for an Enforcement Officer? Staff, a Planning Board member or volunteer citizen? What will the Enforcement Officer cost the county?

 Section 10. Preferred Locations for High-Impact Commercial Development

The Board of Commissioners prefers applicants to locate, site, and erect High-Impact Industries in the order of the following priorities:

          1. Adjacent to existing High-Impact Industries

           2. Adjacent to existing commercial or industrial businesses

          3. Brownfield or redevelopment sites

            4. Greenfield sites

This essentially opens any location in the County to a high impact, polluting industry. Instead of protections, it’s a list of places to locate industries.

 Section 12.1 D 8 stream setbacks, if applicable.

Who decides if applicable??

There are no further requirements for a setback beyond normal building construction. The Pisgah Forest Zoning Ordinance states 20’ from top of bank. Stream setbacks are stipulated distances determined by industry classifications in most ordinances in effect. We feel that a high impact polluting industry needs to be more than 20’ from our waters.

 Section 12.1 D 9 Safety fencing, if applicable

Who decides if applicable? What standards of fencing? Safety fencing is not required. This is a standard requirement in virtually every ordinance in use.

Section 13.1 Separation distances

In Section 13.1, the distances are understandable for airports and racetracks. However, the separation distances are inadequate for homeowners and existing businesses when it comes to other high impact industries. Also, and most importantly, places of worship are not considered protected facilities as defined in Section 6. Not calling for more separation for churches and other places of worship is very short sighted.

 Section 13.2- Buffer- All High Impact Industries shall maintain… a 50 foot buffer on all property lines abutting a public or private road right of way.

High impact industries, by their nature, require greater setbacks.

Section 13.3 Screening & Vegetative Buffer. Plants shall very between a minimum of 5′ to greater than 10′.

With our varying topography, will this block the view? Does it have to be replaced if damaged or destroyed? Do existing white pines count as greater than 10′? What percentage of this vegetative buffer should be evergreen? Only requirement is 15′ wide strip at maturity? There is no requirement for submitting a landscape plan per Section 12.2.

  • Section 14.2

Damage to nonconforming buildings… repairs may be made provided the square footage… is maintained.

Other ordinances in practice call for maintaining the original building footprint.

Section 15. Variances and Appeals

15.1 Where strict adherence to the provisions of this chapter would cause an unnecessary hardship, the Planning Board may authorize a variance.

15.2 A hardship, as used in the context of this section, shall be considered to be some unique or unusual character to the proposed site, including but not limited to unique, size, shape, contour, or distance requirement.

This is simply a loop hole to grant variances. “Including but not limited to unique, size, shape, contour or distance” sets no boundaries. How then does this regulate high impact polluting industries if variances are an option for essentially all of the sections of the proposed ordinance?

For all these reasons, we respectfully request an extension of the moratorium in order to allow for various boards and agencies to review as originally directed by the Board of Commissioners. This effort to maintain sanctity of our community from polluting industries is not over until Transylvania County has an effective ordinance in place.

Please attend the Board of Commissions meeting on July 14, 2014 at 7:00 at the Transylvania County Courthouse and voice your opinions and concerns during the public hearing. The future of our community needs and depends on your input.

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