Hillsides and steep slopes pose unique conditions which can both benefit and cause problems for a community.
A hillside or slope is considered steep if its gradient is 12% or greater.
Hillsides offer important view corridors (viewsheds) and access to significant and scenic landscapes. Hillside preservation is an important component to a healthy environment and maintaining property values. Hillsides will often have unique ecosystems with plants specific to that land gradient that have remained relatively untouched because of impediments to development. In many cases, property owners at the summit of a hill have beautiful, scenic views of other property which is not their own. They experience and benefit from what is called a “borrowed landscape.” Property beneath them or on the opposite valley may be altered through development and the placement of buildings that change these views. Equitable development restrictions and balanced growth planning can be used together to serve the public good and needs of the community.
Importance and Value
- Steep hillsides are prone to soil erosion, especially when disturbed, which can damage waterways.
- Destabilized steep slopes can greatly affect stormwater runoff and lead to significant flooding issues.
- Hillside slippage can cause property damage or a reduction in property values due to loss of land.
Recommendations for Communities and Landowners
To protect the physical integrity of a slope as well as its beautiful vista, communities can adopt hillside regulations related to construction:
- Conduct an engineering assessment on a community-wide basis as part of a comprehensive plan.
- Determine the types of soils present and integrate this information into slope restrictions and requirements.
- Establish Hillside Protection Zones.
- Expand stream setback requirements based on degree of adjacent slope, or slope analysis including slope length, soil erodibility, and existing vegetation.
- Restrict construction on ridge lines.
- Establish design requirements or standards for new construction and building renovation on size, shape, orientation and aesthetic look of structures in order to protect views and vistas.
- Encourage innovative planning, design, and construction techniques for development in hillside areas.
- Restrict mass grading of slopes or require “contour or landform grading.”
- Limit vegetation removal.
- Require buffers for steep slopes to limit hillside disturbance.
- Expand stream buffers in steep slope areas.
- Adopt emerging practices for coastal erosion prevention and management.
Resources for More Information
- Balanced Growth Ohio – an initiative of the state of Ohio that encompasses a voluntary and incentive-based strategy to protect and restore Lake Erie through linking land use planning to the health of watersheds. Visit the website best local land use practices including a chapter on steep slope protection
- OEPA Standards for stormwater management, land development and urban stream protection. Chapter 7 of this document, Soil Stabilization, provides specific recommendations for stabilizing soils.
- ODNR Coastal Management Plan provides guidance on erosion prevention.
- NOAA Living Shorelines describes living shoreline techniques for shoreline stabilization.
- CRPW Model Ordinances for Erosion and Sediment Control – is a document with several examples of model ordinances provided by Chagrin River Watershed Partners.
- USDA Web Soil Survey – provides soil maps and data available online for more than 95 percent of the nation’s counties.
- ODNR Coastal Management Erosion Control Loans – funding resource for owners of property in Ohio’s designated Coastal Erosion Area (CEA) along the shore of Lake Erie who may be eligible for a low interest loan to cover the cost of constructing a shore erosion control measure.
- ODNR Coastal Management Assistance Grants – funding resource for projects for a variety of purposes such as improving water quality, coastal planning, education programs, land acquisition, research, improving public access, habitat restoration and innovative projects.