Planning Commission looks toward future regulations

By Megan R. Harrell

   While discussing storm water run off, the Planning Commission during its monthly meeting Tuesday touched on the need for conformity of all regulations in the county.
   Chris Shuettler, Director of Planning and Zoning noted the importance of making storm water ordinances apply to both urban and non-urban areas in the county. "The only way you can do it is if you do it county wide," Shuettler said.
   The law mandates the county develop storm water ordinances for all areas with more than 500 people per square mile, which means most of Carter County. Communities in Hampton, Hunter, Lynn Valley, Range, and Biltmore all currently fall within the state requirements for storm water regulations.
   The county will be responsible for covering the cost of developing and enforcing storm water ordinances. Shuettler said residents typically are asked to pay a nominal fee to cover the costs. He said the national average is approximately $1.19 per resident, but that the fee would most likely be lower in Carter County.
   Under the direction of federal law, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring counties to develop comprehensive storm water ordinances, and a Storm Water Phase II permit must be filed by March of 2003.
   While trying to comply with state and federal mandates, the planning commission could run into complications in developing ordinances countywide because the entire county currently does not fall under zoning regulations.
   The lack of uniform regulation in the county brought up the issue of developing a systematic plan for the future. Vice Chairman, Jerry Pearman, inquired about the Planning Commission's overall approach for the future.
   The Private Act of 1972 requires the Planning Commission adopt a general plan of development for the county. The act states the plan should include maps and charts that outline potential physical development.
   Looking toward developing a plan for the future, County Executive, Dale Fair would like for the county to have exhaustive regulations in all areas.
   "I'd like to see the whole county under the same plan. What is good for one part of Carter County is good for all of Carter County," Fair said. "That way we can move forward with these regulations."
   The lack of zoning in certain areas in the county makes it difficult for the planning commission to enforce rules in areas other than storm water. Shuettler said mobile home parks and junkyards are only things the county has jurisdiction over in un-zoned areas of the county.
   "We are limited by our rules and regulations as to what we can enforce," Shuettler said.
   Shuettler added the state is recommending county governments adopt land use planning/zoning countywide. He said the regulations help the community to be better prepared.
   "Zoning or land use planning does not correct existing problems. What it does is correct future problems. It curtails them," Shuettler said.
   In the meantime, Shuettler said property owners are finding loopholes in state and county regulations.
   The Planning Commission is currently working to clean up several properties in the Stoney Creek community off U.S. Hwy. 91. If the owners of the properties do not come into compliance with county regulations before Dec. 1, they will be summoned to court.
   In other business, the commission is working toward adopting a private act that would require homes along Watauga Lake be set back further. The home's septic systems run close to the water and could eventually run into the lake.