September 20, 2002

Room with a View

Image by Jim Morton

Last week I decided to go to 'town' a different way, meaning down a different dirt road through Floyd County. One wouldn't want to get in a rut, so to speak. Taking various paths to and from helps one keep their finger on the 'throbbing pulse of our bustling county', I used to say, tongue in cheek. It surprised me, then, to find that, quite literally, change had sprung up in our back yard practically overnight.

With our soured national economy, more people are putting their money into housing. The number of new homes (including a rather alarming number of double-wides) are springing up in the remote high pastures and woodlands in our neck of the woods. Many of them, viewed from some distance, appear to be attractive retirement homes for the growing throng from the extremes of south and north who find our mid-latitude climate agreeable. This is all good for the construction and building supply houses, and for the local economy.

Floyd County is characterized by rolling hills overlooking gentle valleys. The views from the low ridges are not spectacular by some standards, but are nevertheless pleasant, and one could see for 10 or more miles from some of them. Not a few of the new homes I saw on my backroad ramble were being constructed very conspicuously on the tops of highly visible ridges. I am sure the view for the owners, sipping their coffee on their summer decks, is wonderful. But I am having flash-backs of driving through Avery County (Boone-Blowing Rock) North Carolina, and even more alarmingly, of "Sugartop".

After the most demanding trail 'climb' (hike is to wimpy a word here) to just short of the top of Grandfather Mountain many years ago, I looked south, and this is what I saw. Breathtakingly beautiful. A few hundred feet more, and finally I reached the very top of the gnarled granite ridge, to see the view to the North for the first time. There, to my absolute horror, stood Sugartop (pictured above).

This abomination lead to the passing of the 1983 "Ridgetop law". Restrictions were placed on multistory buildings on ridges of greater than 3000 feet. The ordinance states

[...] The construction of tall or major buildings and structures on the ridges and higher elevations of North Carolina's mountains in an inappropriate or badly designed manner can cause unusual problems and hazards to the residents of and to visitors to the mountains... Providing fire protection may be difficult given the lack of water supply and pressure and the possibility that fire will be fanned by high winds. Extremes of weather can endanger buildings, structures, vehicles, and persons. Tall or major buildings and structures located on ridges are a hazard to air navigation and persons on the ground and detract from the natural beauty of the mountains. [...]

We lack the high-relief ridges of the North Carolina mountains. I doubt that there will ever be a 'ridge law' in Floyd County. What I do hope is that more will follow the approach I observed in one of the new ridgetop houses: it's roof was earthtone, not bright blue, as in another I had the misfortunate to see, not far away. It's roof did not extend above the natural treeline; and they chose to maximize for a view to the west, leaving a border of trees to conceal the house from the east. These homeowners and considerate citizens got their view, and the rest of us are largely spared seeing their rectilinear bump on the rolling ridges that give our place its natural beauty.

Posted by fred1st at September 20, 2002 06:22 AM

What the hell?!?!

What an eyesore! At first I thought it was the hospital in Marion. Did it not occur to anyone how out of place this thing would look, perched on top of the mountain like that? Oh yeah, I forgot...anything in the name of commerce. Who cares about aesthetics when there's money to be made?


Posted by: Curt at September 20, 2002 09:42 AM

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