Council puts off slope protections
Posted on January 10, 2022
Updated on January 15, 2022
James Smith deploys a prop to show that a 25-degree slope insn't all that steep.
CLAYTON — No one who rose to speak wanted the Town Council to protect gently sloping land from development.
Not James Smith, who brought a prop showing that a 25-degree slope — the likely starting point for protection — isn’t all that steep. He doubted the benefits of slope protection would exceed the harm done to property owners.
“I think you’ll find that you are affecting a lot of people and restricting a lot of land and you’re not getting any benefit, or very little benefit, at this slope,” Smith said.
He said the council might want to revisit the starting point for slope protection. “Put some more thought into it,” Smith said, adding that slope protection wasn’t a pressing issue in Clayton. “It’s not a disaster waiting to happen. It’s not something that has to happen immediately.”
The Clayton Planning Board has laid out four options for protecting steep slopes, some more restrictive than others. The board favors option 2, which would protect steep slopes if they are directly connected to a 100-year floodplain, wetland or stream buffer.
Alsey Gilbert said if Clayton had been protecting steep slopes all along, some development in town would not have been possible. “If you go with option 1 or 2, the whole area at Culver’s, CVS and all that would not be here today,” he said.
Steven Ferrell said the council was poised to go too far. “It seems like to me it’s overkill,” he said. “We have slopes. We’d like to develop the property.”
When no one spoke in support of slope protections, Councilwoman Andria Archer felt compelled to. Archer said she had heard from many people with problems on their sloping land. “I did want to let my fellow council members know that since that part of the discussion didn’t get represented here in person tonight,” she said.
A council majority appears inclined to adopt some slope protections.
“I think we need to do something,” Councilman Casey Porter said.
But only Councilman Avery Everett was ready to move forward. “I’m totally in favor of option 2,” he said.
Others said they needed more time.
“I don’t feel comfortable right now picking from the options that we have at the moment,” Archer said.
Councilman Jason Thompson said he could vote for any option a council majority favored as long as it was unambiguous. “I don’t want gray areas,” he said. “I don’t want it to be a staff interpretation.”
Any rule will have an impact, Councilman Mike Sims said. “At the end of the day, no one is going to win in this,” he said. “Somebody’s going to be affected. I think all of us as Town Council just have to make the best decision that we feel is going to benefit overall.”
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