A group of Macon County citizens have announced the launch of a public outreach campaign to build support for a steep slope ordinance in the county.
Called www.MaconSense.org, the new organization has created a website with information about the issue, an online petition and other tools to allow the community to express their support for a slop ordinance. Additionally, they plan to reach out to Macon County citizens by organizing petition drives, planning public events and running public service advertisements on local media outlets.
“For too long special interest groups have dominated the converstation about steep slope development in Macon County,” said Kathy Tinsley, a spokesperson for the group. “MaconSense.org was created,” Tinsley continued, “to make sure that everyday people have a voice in the future of their county.”
The new group is not limiting itself to the slope development issue, according to Tinsley, and hopes to bring together citizens of all walks of life and political persuasions to advocated for common sense solutions to important issues facing the county.
“Regular people have been pushed out of the process by all the heated rhetoric,” said Tinsley. “That's a shame. We need our elected officials to move past partisan bickering and get back to serving the public interest. The only way that is going to happen is if citizens feel like they have a say in the direction of our County.”
The most active opposition to a slope ordinance has come from property rights groups who oppose any land use regulation. MaconSense.org contends that protecting citizens property rights is one of the main reasons the county needs to take action.
Tinsley points to the story of Macon County resident Harry Yoder as an example of why the county needs a slope ordinance.
“We sustained massive damage to our property from a landslide after a heavy rain,” said Yoder. “Dozens of trees were toppled and large amounts of dirt and sediment thundered down on our property. The slide came from a new home above us,” Yoder continued. “As a property owner, I am very concerned about the lack of regulation to prevent this type of event from occurring again anywhere in Macon County.
The group maintains that a slope ordinance would not only protect citizens, but would be good for the local economy. To back up that claim, they offer a side by side comparison of new developments in Macon County and neighboring Jackson County has actually outperformed Macon County in new development since adopting its ordinance.
“The stats alone make a compelling case that the local economy will, at the very least, not be negatively impacted by a slope ordinance, but that's not the whole story,” said Tinsley. “We have good local businesses in our county who know the right was to build on slopes. Unfortunatly, as it stands now, they can be under bid by people willing to take short cuts. We can't have honest local businesses competing on an unfair playing field. A slope ordinance will make it a fair fight.”
According to Tinsley, the coalition feels that a meaningful slope ordinance would not only provide safeguards for building on the steepest slopes, but also protect people who are building in areas down slope of potentially hazardous areas.
“This is really about the will of the people. We have an opportunity here in Macon County to pass as ordinance that is a model of efficient and effective planning. Something that will benefit all of our citizens. In the end our expectation is that the board will do the right thing and stand with the people of Macon County.”