Mayor Pro Tem’s Summary of the January 13, 2022 Town Council Meeting

Mayor Pro Tem’s Summary of the January 13, 2022 Town Council Meeting

Greetings Montreaters,

The Mayor was not available for the meeting and he sent his regrets. It was my honor to preside this evening.

Approximately 18 people joined the Council in the Town Hall tonight for the Forum and Council meeting. Others were live streaming. If you missed it and want to see the recording, CLICK HERE.

Here’s a summary of the meeting. Remember you can read the complete, official summary in the minutes that will be published next month.

  • In the Public Forum, the following comments were offered:
    • Tom Frist warned everyone about being hacked online. He was just involved in being hacked and said we cannot trust everything we read. So be aware of hacking. Tom also expressed admiration for the members of the Board of Adjustment (BOA) for dedicating more than 50 hours of time to hear and act on the Special Use Permit (SUP).
    • Ed Kramer expressed his disappointment in the deliberation of the BOA in the recent SUP hearing. He found it difficult to understand how the Board, after 50 hours of testimony, could deliberate and consider all the evidence in just two hours. He did not feel that it was a fair and impartial deliberation.
    • Shirley Mitchell requested the Council go back and listen to the last two hours of the SUP hearing when the Board was deliberating. She did not feel that facts were considered. She thanked the BOA for their time but felt they hurried their deliberations.
    • Commissioner Otto offered that he was disappointed in the way people treated one another during the SUP hearings, with negative statements being tossed about at members of the Board. He encouraged neighbors to respect one another’s opinions even though they may differ. Commissioner Blake agreed with Kent’s comments.
  • I called the Town Council Meeting to order at 7:00pm . In my comments, I too thanked the BOA for their time and dedication to seeing the hearings through. I also thanked the Town staff for sending out the new 2022 Sanitation Calendar. If you did not receive one in the mail, they are available in Angie’s office in the Town hall. I reminded everyone to note the new Police dispatch telephone number.
  • In his report, Town Administrator Alex Carmichael:
  • In Public Comments:
    • Shirley Mitchell expressed concern about the stormwater system proposed for the new hotel, as testimony during the hearing purported that the planned stormwater system is not adequate and runoff will go into our creek. She asked if Montreat could be sued if the system fails and spills untreated water into Flat Creek.
    • Shannon Ingersoll stated she hears bear hunting dogs at her home regularly during hunting season. She is concerned for everyone’s safety and feels that strong Town ordinances and education of residents are important factors in helping control the problem.
    • Mark and Joely Rogers related a harrowing experience of hunting dogs coming into their yard and driveway chasing and mauling a bear. They said there was little attempt by the hunters to control or remove the dogs from their property. Mark took a video to document the incident. They would like to see stronger laws regarding hunting and loose dogs running free within Town boundaries. They are new residents to Montreat and want to invest themselves into the community but are terribly concerned about the three incidents that have happened on their property in the past year.
    • Wade Burns stated that a combination of community education about bear hunting and working with the two bear hunting clubs nearby could help a lot in this situation.
  • There was no Old Business, so we moved immediately into New Business. Commissioners’ actions included:
    • A motion to ask the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider an R4 zoning district for the ETJ failed for lack of a second.
    • Approved a resolution ratifying a Memorandum of Understanding with Buncombe County to provide backup inspection and permitting services
    • Approved the appointment of Matt Ashley to the Metropolitan Sewerage District Board for two years. The Board then thanked Matt for his years of service and dedication.
    • Approved the following three year appointments to the Board of Adjustment:
      • Robert Sulaski
      • Martha Chastain
      • Arrington Cox
      • Beth Barker
      • Danny Sharpe (Alternate)
      • David Neel (Alternate)
    • Approved the following three year appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commission:
      • John Hinkle
      • Bill Scheu
      • Dan Dean
      • Julie Schell (2 year term)
      • Wade Burns
      • Liz Johnson
      • Sally Stansill (Alternate)
    • Approved the following three year appointments to the Tree Board:
      • Brad Hestir
      • Maggie Ray
      • Philip Arnold
    • Approved Mari Gramling to the Open Spaces Conservation Committee for a three year term
  • I commented that it was so inspiring to appoint 18 citizens to the various committees and to have the dedication of BOA members and citizens who participated in the 50 hours of  SUP hearings. It is an encouraging example of community involvement. We are fortunate to have such an engaged number of residents. Thanks to all who volunteer in Town work to help make Montreat a better place.
  • The Board then discussed the bear hunters and their dogs. I said it is not an issue about hunting, but an issue of public safety in our town. In addition to the comments we heard from Shannon Ingersoll and the Rogers (see above), we received a number of other complaints of dogs running loose in town and creating a nuisance and hazardous situation. I read an account from Erin and Jacob Thielman about dogs chasing a bear through their yard while their children were playing nearby.

Commissioner Blake stated that we have several ordinances, including one regarding unleashed dogs, that address the situation, but are somewhat difficult to enforce. He also offered several other ideas about what could be done with legislation as well as community education. I said we will have Capt. Andrew Melton of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission at our February meeting to hear about our situation, advise us of actions we can take and educate us about bear hunting. The president of the bear hunting club on the Old Toll Road has offered to meet with us to help us understand the issues and develop plans. We have many resources to help us, including MRA and their relationship with the bear hunters, the Landcare Committee, NCWRC, and members of the bear hunting club who are very respectful of Montreat and its citizens.

Commissioner Otto said he, too, is concerned about the bears, but reminded everyone that the hunters are important because they help control the bear population, which is increasing rapidly.

Stay tuned for more on this important subject.

  • There were no Commissioners’ communications, so we adjourned into a Closed Session to discuss several personnel matters. When we returned from closed session, the Commission voted to extend an offer of employment to Mr. Morgan Bocanegra as a Patrol Officer at an annual salary of $38,604.

If you have any questions or comments about this summary or any aspect of Town government, please write me at [email protected] or call me at 804/441-3679.

The Council appreciates your support and encouragement. Blessings to you.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Widmer on behalf of the Town Council