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Blending a House in with our Mountain Environment

Several folks that have read my previous articles on the real estate growth in Black Mountain have asked me if I am not concerned about the negative impact of that growth. This feedback has inspired me to write a few articles on the topic during 2007.

Controlling the impact of development, mitigating the impact of growth, controlling growth are all difficult topics without an easy solution. I decided to write this month's article on a topic that to me is easy to write as well as to implement: blending your house into the mountain.

As an avid trail runner and hiker, I am often disappointed by a new house that impacts my view. Instead of more mountain ridges I am seeing more and more homes, rather than trees and mountains. All of us that live in a house have impacted the mountain scenery, so we are all guilty of disturbing nature. But everyone can do a few easy things to try to blend our houses into the environment.

In this article, I've included a picture of a brochure that offers suggestions to blend your house into the woods. The brochure is available at the Chamber of Commerce, many real estate offices and several area banks. 

The brochure gives several simple steps toward making sure your home does not disturb the incredible beauty of our region.  It recommends fitting the home to the natural contours of the property, building below the ridgeline, curving the driveway if possible, and choosing building materials that enhance the existing natural elements.

It's amazing the impact that something as easy as choice of paint color can have on camouflaging a home.  The accompanying photo has six or seven homes that literally pop out at you because of the light color choice of the homeowners.  There are actually 16 homes within this photo, but those with darker colored exteriors actually blend right into the surrounding landscape.

One area I've been impressed with is Laurel Ridge. The development has extensive architectural restrictions aimed at blending homes into the mountains. It isn't perfect. What was a pristine mountain cove is now dotted with homes and roads. The architectural review process, however, has helped mitigate the negative impact of the development on our views. Especially once the leaves are on the trees, it is difficult to find the 50 plus homes in Laurel Ridge.

To ensure new homes meet the guidelines, the development has an Architectural Review Committee (ARC) that must approve all plans prior to construction.  Failure to be in compliance results in fines and possibly legal action. The process toward compliance includes three facets: design, landscape and construction guidelines.

Included in the design aspect are specifics such as set-backs, building style and materials, height restrictions and even exterior lighting.  Landscape guidelines include identification of existing vegetation and post-construction work.  For example, approval is required prior to the cutting of any tree over 2" in diameter.  Construction requirements include erosion control and litter containers on site.

For David Begley, president of the Laurel Ridge ARC for 14 years, the impact of his committee is positive.  "It has worked pretty well and in general been well-received," he says.  "We require a site survey, and the setback is the hardest part to comply with.  Also, the colors, making sure it blends in, can be a challenge.  Sometimes people use lighter colors than desired."

Often times, I think we lose sight of the beautiful countryside in which we live.  I think it is worth a little of our time to consider how our homes impact that land.  The next time you have a chance to look around your neighborhood, consider the color choices, the landscaping, and the building materials of the various homes.  It seems a small step to take to preserve the incredible majesty of the Black Mountain area.   

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