Blount County commissioners beef up erosion control authority

Blount County commissioners shored up the authority of the county’s stormwater coordinator and added erosion control standards to the county’s zoning regulations at the Sept. 17 commission meeting.

The majority of the audience members speaking to the issue said the commission not only gave more authority to a department that isn’t needed on the county level, but voted “against the rural area of this county.”

“You commissioners have voted against the rural area of this county,” said Linda King with Citizens for Blount County’s Future. “The elimination of the stormwater department could save thousands in wages and benefits. Stand for personal property,” she said.

Commissioners said they understood the residents’ perspective, but saw things a different way. Their vote, 17-1-1 with commissioner Mark Hasty voting no and commissioner Monika Murrell abstaining, added the erosion control to zoning regulations and gave Justin Teague, stormwater coordinator, authority regarding erosion control at any building project requiring a permit. Teague also now has the authority to inspect work sites and the erosion control measures on those sites.

Larry Shore of Calderwood Highway echoed King’s thoughts on the sanctity of property owners’ rights and called for the commission to disband the stormwater department. “We’ve got developers and personal property owners doing a good job of taking care of water. The developers have state requirements they have to meet,” Shore said.

“Why do we have to duplicate that and have extra laws and requirements and permits?” Shore asked. “Our property rights are being taken away from us in many ways. I don’t feel like Blount County government needs to be involved in this. Let the state and civil laws take care of it.”

Carol Ross said the county didn’t need to duplicate the state’s job. “Clean water is an admirable goal, but do we need duplication? Why does the Blount County Planning Commission want us to pay for duplication of services? Is the state unable to do its job?” she said.

Commissioner David Graham said if the state were called in some instances, they would say the tracts in question were too small for them to deal with. Graham said it would be easier for residents to work through the county government rather than state government. “I prefer to call the county rather than the state,” he said.

Commission Mark Hasty said he had a problem with the wording of the regulation. Commissioner Gary Farmer said the regulation would deal only with construction of subdivisions with four or more lots. “This is for the development of a subdivision,” Farmer said.

Commissioner Steve Hargis said he and fellow district VII commissioner Graham had heard several complaints about erosion. “I realize this is an unusual year with a large amount of water,” he said. “Something has to be done, and I think we’re going in the right direction by doing this.”

Commissioner Wendy Pitts Reeves agreed and said that while some neighbors are good, others, through carelessness or ignorance, cause erosion that affects their neighbors. “In this particular situation, we need this,” she said.

Reeves praised stormwater coordinator Teague for his professionalism. “Right now Justin has no authority to help us. Every time I have called the Stormwater Department, I’ve received nothing but most a courteous answer. He’s gone out of his way to help. That department has been very professional,” she said.

Commissioner Brad Harrison said he was on the same page as the other commissioners on the need for erosion control regulation. “If we don’t have this type of water control, people can do anything to our rivers and creeks,” he said. “I think this is important. As a county we need this. It’s not taking away our property rights.”

In parliamentary matters, the commissioners re-elected commissioner Steve Samples chair, Farmer was voted in as chair pro-tem, and Mike Lewis was voted parliamentarian.

“I appreciate your confidence,” Samples said. “Thank you very much.”

In budget matters the commission allocated $337,416 to the Education department for capital projects.

Commissioners opted to cancel the commission agenda workshop because many of the commissioners will be away on fall break with family.

The scheduled commission meeting for October was canceled because the courthouse will be closed for the Foothills Fall Festival.

The next commission agenda/workshop will be at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10. The next scheduled commission meeting will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 19.

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