Planning board reviews residential development, housing

Wil Petty

March 10, 2014

The regularly scheduled meeting of the Ashe County Planning Board focused on residential development, housing and subdivisions.

It was the first meeting of six, focusing on specific topics of the Ashe County land use survey.

Kicking off the meeting, was discussing affordable housing throughout the county.

“Maintaining affordability is one of the issues,” Planning Director Adam Stumb said. “The solution at this point, since I felt like there were people on both sides of the fence, is to start a better record and tracking system of housing prices.”

Board member Arvil Scott asked if the county would be able to control house prices in their jurisdiction.

“Affordability is a relative term,” he said. “As far as that goes, wouldn’t the market pretty much control whether or not to build houses toward a particular income level? I don’t know how we would have much say on that.”

Stumb said the county needs to define what affordability is.

Board member Darrell Hamilton believes jobs are what is going to determine what is affordable.

“The real challenge with the housing, anyway you look at it, is the lack of jobs that produce income,” he said. “We are seeing what little bit of industry we’ve got leave the county.”

Hamilton said in order to keep housing costs down, the county is going to have to keep the costs of land and development down.

Stumb said the planning board is in a strong position of being able to decide what is built in Ashe County, including “working policies and ordinances.”

“You can make the procedures quicker, you can change fees to encourage certain types of developments,” he said.

Board chair Gene Hafer suggested they should look at other counties to see what ordinances they had, while Priscilla Cox encouraged a local tax credit. Hafer was unsure if the county could do a local tax credit “without General Assembly approval.”

For future growth, Hamilton suggested to extend utilities to areas to encourage growth.

Challenges brought up relating to housing include:

• Ashe County is going to grow

• Affordability with housing in the county

• Improving the infrastructure to help nurture growth.

Solutions the planning board came up with for housing include:

• Encouraging houses in areas were there are public utilities

• Suggesting flexible development for housing

• Looking to see if utilities can run outside the town limits of Jefferson and West Jefferson

• Keeping the fire departments and emergency services up to date on new housing.

The next meeting of the Ashe County Planning Board will take place Thursday March 20 and will focus on development along the U.S. 221 corridor.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.