In Brief BoS Revisiting Conservation Ordinances January 22, 2008 Waldo Jaquith 9 Comments The new Democratic majority on the BoS is taking another shot at conservation ordinances.
9 thoughts on “BoS Revisiting Conservation Ordinances”
Waldo, I think you meant the BOS not council. (After all, it’d be big news if there wasn’t a Democratic Majority on council…)
The stream thing sounds fine, but the other 2 proposals need some tweaking.
If someone wants to build on a steep slope, there should be exemptions for things like pole buildings (built on stilts, like a beach house), which have very modest footprints and involve no earthmoving beyond digging a few holes of about 12″ in diameter. This kind of low-impact foundation should be encouraged rather than inadvertently banned.
As for the emergency vehicle access for all new driveways, the idea of designing every private driveway such that it would allow a fire truck to turn around is incredibly burdensome. Everyone would have to have a parking area the size of a standard suburban intersection (which are designed to allow fire trucks to turn around for lack of an efficient block layout of streets). Getting the fire truck up there to respond to a call is one thing but I think backing it out should be an option.
You may want to reread the ordinances. First of all, building on a critical slope is already not allowed under the current ordinance. The proposed ordinances wouldn’t affect that in the slightest (They only affect driveways, and even then the proposal has been mostly gutted due to public comment). Plus Hurricane Camille long ago showed the dangers of building lots of houses on steep slopes. Even with the best design, these slopes can give way in storms causing massive loss of life.
That is an interesting point about the firetrucks though… I certainly hope they aren’t requiring there to be enough space for a firetruck to turn around, as that’d be a massive amount of driveway.
Thanks for that correction, Lonnie.
Also, I just got an email today written by Jim and Janet Stern, angry Democrats in Sally Thomas’ district, who are trying to start a “campaign to remove Sally Thomas from office” because of this whole Rural Protection issue. They also seek to see “what [they] can do about her behavior until then.” They are apparently calling a special meeting about it tonight.
Wow… I knew that this issue was going to cause sparks, but apparently it’s going to be more like that fight out at Fashion Square mall. (In fact, I now wonder if that’s what the fight really was about!) Anyway, looks like to be an exciting year in local politics…
If there’s still this much confusion about what’s in the oft-re-written ordinances, wouldn’t it be of greater sense not to vote on the altered ones this afternoon and merely discuss the pros and cons of the revisions? It may help people keep their seats in the next election if people don’t feel something sneaky is going on.
It was my understanding that the steep slope driveway has been changed to apply to 16% slopes rather than 25%. Also, what is the effect on a family trying to sell their subdivided property if they are about to lose it because of mortgage woes? Would having to wait four years be a hardship?
While I think they could have waited a day or so more, I think this latest argument is just an attempt from Dorrier and Boyd to stall the vote. After all, the vote could have been held the day of the meeting, and actually I believe Sally Thomas even asked for a vote the day following the meeting but Boyd wanted to wait until after the election. It’s now after the election… Boyd has now asked for a public meeting on each individual section, which is certainly overkill. I think its called being a sore loser.
Also the slope privision is actually less strict. It’s been stripped of all critical slope requirements (i.e. the natural slope of the land). The 16% is referring to the grade, which can be done on steep slopes using cut and fill. In other words, there’s no longer a restriction on where your driveway can go, you just have to build it to be safe and accessible for emergency vehicles.
The emergency vehicles have to go up and down greater grades of 16% to get to the property, why would it have difficluty traveling the rest of the way? We have steeper grades in the City and they seem to make it okay even in an ice storm. Since grading is expensive, I guess the property owner will have to snake the road to his door.
It is my understanding that substantial changes were made to some of the ordinances following the October meeting. Although they have the same name and maybe the same purposes, they are different ordinances. Here’s the process in the City:
1) Have a public hearing on the “Animal Protection” ordinance which says all cats will have to have a leg amputated so that their owners will keep them in the house.”
2) 40,000 people show up to oppose.
3) Change the ordinance to read “dogs” instead of “cats”
4) Declare that a public hearing has been held and Council vote it in.
Of course, it’s not quite that bad but you get my opinion what is bad, but not illegal government action. I did not say they needed to have another public hearing, although that would be nice. I’m saying have a board discussion in public to determine the ramifications of the new ordinances with old names and vote on it the next time. The public will have a better opportunity to understand the changes (many did not know there were changes) and can still contact the BoS before the vote. I believe most people do not get upset if they think they have had a fair hearing even if they do not get their way. In the City, our Coucilors sit there cow-faced, trying to figure out how to justify public comments with what they’re going to follow Gary O’Connell in doing in the first place. Our public hearings are usually nothing but an opportunity for hot air. It has not appeared that way in the County and I think that’s worth preserving.
Frankly, I don’t know what the majorities reason for haste was. Perhaps due to the election results, they thought they should just go ahead resolve the issue in a timely fashion to show voters that they got “results”.
If you take them at their word, then normally they would have heard public comment, adjusted the policy and voted all at the same meeting. Because it stretched out so long these three tasks could not be done all at once. Also, their point is that these requirements are less restrictive than the previous ones and thus need no futher comment or input. Only if they’d added additional requirements (i.e. dogs instead of cats) then they’d have to do a new public comment. In my understanding from being at the original meeting, the safety part was already part of the previous ordinance, they just removed the critical slopes part.
Sure, would it have killed them to wait a few more days? Probably not. Then again this is politics, and they probably didn’t want to give Dorrier and Boyd any significant amount of time to come up with a new strategy for killing these last few remaining fragments of the original Mountain Protection ordinace that’s been fifteen years in the making. Of course, by not waiting they’ve given them a new strategy nonetheless…
Of course, almost none of the people I’ve heard gripe about these ordinances would have been satisfied if they had more time to think about it, or if even there were additional compromises. Most are satisfied with nothing less than no rural protections at all. After all, the original ordinances have practically be compromised into non-existance. As I said, we all knew that Boyd and Dorrier were not going to go silently and just accept defeat. It was obvious that no matter what happened there was going to be a really big fight about it… and here it is!
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