We were thankful for the 18 people who attended the meeting. Here’s a summary of the discussions. As you know, a full overview will be in the official meeting minutes in April’s agenda packet.
- Public Forum questions/comments included:
- Sally Stansil expressed her continued concerns about high noise levels from traffic near the entrance. She summarized her previous comments to the Council and explained her personal monitoring of the noise levels. She requested that the Council and Town staff do their own measurement, compile the data, and determine if Town Ordinances are being violated.
- Elizabeth Bryan and her spouse, Spence Foscue, emphasized the noise problem, with Spence adding that there is an odor problem related to trucks idling in the gate parking area for more than 30 minutes at a time. He asked for a limit on parked vehicle idling.
- Wade Burns gave an updated report on the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) development issue off Greybeard Trail. Wade did an extensive study in 2013 on the ETJ and provided a summary of that report as well as updated information. He asked that the Council learn more about the issues and continue to have discussions about development of the Greybeard ETJ.
- Mike Sonnenberg offered four points: first, he commented that emergency vehicles don’t need to make such high noise levels as they are coming through the entrance; second, he said the intersection of Louisiana and Assembly Drive is dangerous and could benefit from a mirror reflecting opposing traffic; third, he has noticed that some of the recently paved roads have cracks and the Public Works staff should fill the cracks with tar in the summer so ice doesn’t form and break up the surface in the winter; fourth, he suggested the town develop and publicize a coronavirus plan. I responded to Mike on this point saying Alex is in contact with other municipalities and agencies re. this issue and the Council will be addressing the issue later in the meeting.
- Montreat College’s Brian Gingrich informed everyone that the College is extending spring break another week due to the coronavirus and a decision about future plans will be made this time next week.
- After the Town Council Meeting was called to order, I told everyone that the Greybeard Trail construction project was beginning to wrap up, with the road ready to be re-opened sometime around March 20. I also gave a quick update on progress of the Town Hall, which remains ahead of schedule. I wrapped up my comments saying that meeting cancellations and other information about coronavirus updates will be posted to the website(www.townofmontreat.org).
- Town Administrator, Alex Carmichael, stated that we did not receive any proposals for the audit services RFP. We will re-advertise the opportunity. He also said we are continuing to make progress on our 75% reimbursement of funds from the state of NC for damage done by Tropical Storm Alberto in May 2018. He also added to my Greybeard Trail report saying that the road will reopen but likely will not be paved until later. He also said wooden guardrails like those on the Blue Ridge Parkway will be installed next week.
- During the Public Comment period:
- Nancy Midgett gave an update on the Firewise risk assessment conducted on March 3 by the NC Forest Service. Nancy accompanied the Forest Service staff and learned a great deal about assessing fire risk and prevention measures. The assessors shared with Nancy that Montreat is at an elevated risk for wildfires and we need to take particular care in clearing our properties of flammable material which feeds wildfires. She also stated that we have completed three of five steps to become a FIrewise community, and we are diligently working on the other two steps. Many thanks to Nancy for her hard work on this important initiative. Contact Nancy to find out what you can do to protect your property.
- Mary Standaert read a resolution passed by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners affirming the right of Buncombe County residents to vote in municipal elections. She also reiterated her opinion on the decision by the Council to lengthen current terms as part of the decision to move to even year elections.
- Richard Dubose shared that he and his MRA staff have been monitoring the coronavirus situation since January and making plans for managing the dilemma. In their preparations, MRA has found that there are generally two types of people in dealing with coronavirus: those that are very anxious and those that are not at all anxious. The challenge is for leaders to be non-anxious but proactive in managing plans. It is a difficult balance as leaders can be seen as swinging too far one way or the other and causing a crisis of trust. He pledged MRA’s cooperation with the Town in planning for and dealing with the growing crisis.
- Wade Burns recommended No Parking signs indicate the fine for violating parking rules and indicating that emergency vehicles are unable to pass with other vehicles illegally parked.
- Under Old Business, the Council had a lengthy discussion on establishing a Tow Away zone on Lookout Road near the trailheads. After discussion, the Council voted 3-2 to not adopt a resolution establishing a Tow Away Zone on Lookout Terrace.
- Under New Business, the Commission discussed and acted on the following:
- Approved a motion for a budget amendment in the amount of $98,286.67 to pay the first mortgage payment for the new Town Hall on June 10.
- Approved a motion for a budget amendment transferring funds in the amount of $22,248.95 from the Streets Department to the Public Works Building capital project.
- Approved a motion to negotiate an offer to purchase the Florida Terrace lot in the amount of $121,000 and engage in the “upset bid” process. As an aside, we voted last month to list the property with a real estate broker. It took less than one month to obtain an offer for the lot.
- Approved a resolution endorsing Buncombe County’s declaration of a local state of emergency due to the coronavirus and consent to its application in Montreat.
In Commissioner communications, Commissioner Fouche recently found questions submitted by residents during the 2015 election and answered the questions. Commissioner Lentz provided an update on Tree Board and Landcare activities including a to be rescheduled meeting with Duke Power and the upcoming Native Plant Sale on April 25.
I reviewed the upcoming meeting schedule then we adjourned into Closed Session to discuss a personnel matter.
As you can tell, there was a great deal of discussion about the coronavirus crisis. Please know that we are working hard ourselves and with other partners in planning for and dealing with the situation. We will keep you informed of any developments pertinent to our community. If you have questions, please contact me, Alex Carmichael, or any of the Commissioners. Contact information can be found on the town website (www.townofmontreat.org). Thank you for your confidence in the Commission.
Have a safe weekend,
Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council