Merry Christmas, Montreaters
We were grateful for the 19 people who came out into the cold for this last meeting of the year. There was a lot of discussion, so here’s a summary. As you know, a full overview will be in the official meeting minutes in January’s agenda packet.
• Public Forum questions/comments included:
o Nancy Midgette, who heads Montreat’s Firewise program, gave an update about the program. Working with the NC Forest Service, Nancy said a fire risk assessment has been scheduled for Feb. 27, 2020. During the assessment, the Forest Service will evaluate public and private property to determine levels of fire risk. This is the first of three steps for us to be certified as a Firewise community. Perhaps the most challenging step will be amassing 620 volunteer hours within a one year period. Trimming trees, raking leaves, even leafwork done by Montreat College students qualifies toward our totals. Email Nancy (email@example.com) with your hours worked.
o Lila Ray thanked the town for the recent paving of her street, Kentucky Road. She asked why a small section had to be ripped up shortly after the paving. I told her there was a water leak from the mail water line into a home. The leak was easily remedied, and a blacktop repair was made shortly afterward.
o Several Montreaters, including Tom and Clare Frist and Shannon Ingersoll, asked for information and clarification on the situation surrounding the mediation involving the construction of the new home on Texas Road. I told them we couldn’t discuss details of the actual mediation process itself, but information about timeframe and events is public information. Shannon asked about a chronology of events. I asked Alex Carmichael to give a summary, which he did. Click Here for a copy of the summary.
o Wade Burns underscored Nancy Midgette’s point about the importance of fire risk. But for properties adjacent to conservation easements, there is friction about moving dead wood and shrubs to remove fire risk. Alex agreed to look into Wade’s comments.
o Mary Standaert questioned if tonight’s meetng was being livestreamed on Facebook and if it would be posted afterward. Alex responded that yes it was being livestreamed and a recording would be available on Facebook provided the technology works. She also asked that the audio file be posted on the website. (FYI, the purpose of the audio file is to enable accurate production of the minutes by the Clerk. Audio files are deleted after Council approves the previous month’s minutes.)
• The Council Meeting began with a Public Hearing about proposed amendments to four Zoning ordinances. Zoning Administrator Adrienne Isenhower explained the proposed changes. Planning and Zoning Commission chair Bill Scheu also explained that the requests were coming from the P&Z Commission in an attempt to simplify administrative processes and take some burden off staff. There were no public questions or comments. See the action taken on this subject later on in my summary.
• Commissioner Widmer clarified a point in last month’s meeting minutes. There was a statement summarizing remarks by Mary Standaert about the extended terms of the Council which inferred that she said Montreat followed Asheville, Black Mountain and Biltmore Forest in extending terms. Although it was a true statement which Mary has made in the past, she did not state it during last month’s meeting.
• Under New Business, the Commission discussed and acted on the following:
o Denied a motion to establish a three-way stop at Assembly Drive and Georgia Terrace. It was felt that we should try other less intrusive methods to slow traffic. The Montreat Police Department has done excellent work in slowing down traffic since the issue was raised in October.
o Tabled a motion until the March 2020 meeting regarding establishing a tow-away zone on Lookout Terrace near the Lookout/Rainbow trailheads. We decided to investigate other parking options and ramifications before creating the tow-away zone.
o Approved increases to the parking fee schedule, specifically to overtime parking, illegal parking, handicap parking and immobilization fees.
o Approved amendments to four Planning and Zoning ordinances that we discussed during the Public Hearing. The changes were largely related to eliminating the need for dual approval signatures on applications.
o Approved a contract for information technology and audio visual services and equipment for the new Town Hall in the amount of $60,464.
o Approved a contract for repairs to the water well adjacent to Welch Field in the amount of $16,884. This is the fourth well that has needed major repairs this year. Fortunately, there are budgeted funds for such situations.
• During the Public Comment period:
o Mary Nell Todd asked if the circumstances related to the Texas Road controversy could happen with others. I told her that anything is possible, as property owners have a right to protest, which was the case on Texas Road. But, if ordinances and building codes are followed, the chances of a similar situation are lessened, even though all ordinances were properly followed on Texas Road.
o Mary Standaert shared her opinion on the decision by the Council to lengthen current terms as part of the decision to move to even year elections.
o Clare Frist shared an opposing opinion of the decision by the Council to lengthen current terms. She also offered her gratitude to the Council for our service.
o Wade Burns recommended the Council be careful about parking decisions because all decisions reflect upon the Town and MRA. He asked that we discuss the ramifications of establishing tow-away zones and the effects upon residents and guests.
o Richard DuBose agreed with and added to Wade’s comments about parking, recommending we use discretion in what we do with parking regulations and enforcement of all parking regulations.
o Tom First capped the parking discussion recommending that the Council set parking as a planning priority and resolve this major issue for the future of Montreat.
• In Commissioner comments: o Alice Lentz confirmed that parking is a priority issue and that the Town needs to focus on communicating changes in parking rules. She also informed everyone about availability of the Tree Board’s Tree Management Guide, which was revised and released last month.
o Kent Otto offered appreciation to everyone for their support of the Council, shared how much the community means to him, and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.
o Tom Widmer thanked Judy Shuford, Beth Barker and Margo Smith for sharing their experiences and concerns about the Greybeard detour. He also asked that if anyone has other experiences with the detour, please share them with Town staff or Commissioners.
I wished everyone Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Like I’ve said before, thank you for your support of the Council and our Town staff. Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 919/801-8618 if you have any questions or comments regarding this summary or anything happening in the Town.
Merry Christmas, Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council