Mayor’s Meeting Summary of October 13, 2022

Greetings Montreat friends,

The Council, staff and a handful of visitors convened for the Public Forum and Council meeting. Read on for my summary of the meeting. You can read the complete, official summary in the meeting minutes that will be published next month. Or if you would like to view the recording, CLICK HERE.

Public Forum

  • Jim Gibbs, President of the Mt. Mitchell Bear Hunters Club, stated that Montreat doesn’t have a bear dog problem, but a bear problem. He thought we were sensationalizing the incident from last year and are over reacting to the problem. He asked that we hold off passing the ordinances tonight and instead see how things go this season (bear season begins Monday, Oct. 17). Several of us commented back that we appreciate the Club’s willingness to work with us and the partnership between the Club and the Town, but it is our responsibility to protect residents and guests. We’ll see how this year goes and re-evaluate for future years.
  • Arrington Cox told us that the Montreat Landcare Committee is working toward making Montreat a Bearwise Community, which will hopefully make our mutual living with the bears safer for all of us including the bears.

Council Meeting

  • After I opened the meeting, Interim Town Manager Ben Blackburn gave a “shout out” to the Town’s Public Works staff and the Police Department for their significant preparations for Hurricane Ian. Fortunately, all we had was a bit of much needed rain. But we are grateful to our staff for their work of readiness.
  • Commissioners had questions about the administrative reports:
    • Regarding the MRA hotel lawsuit status, Ben stated we have heard nothing from the judge about a date to hear the appeal. Responses to the many discovery questions have been submitted.
    • Ben also stated the 2022 audit, due October 31, is on schedule and will be submitted within the state’s timeline. Commissioner Blake thanked the staff for working hard handling financial issues in light of the current short staffing, with special thanks to Angie Murphy and Debbie Taylor.
    • Likewise, we are on schedule for the submission of the Storm Water Plan to the state by Oct. 31.
    • There has been a slight drop in the quantity of trash and recycle pickup, but it is still higher than in the past due to more people living here.
  • There were no Public Comments.
  • Under New Business
    • The Council had a lengthy discussion about the five ordinances (three new, two revised) related to the bear/hunting dog/bear hunters issue the Council has been working on since January. After discussion and debate, all five ordinances were passed. The subject matter of the five ordinances is:
      • New ordinance prohibiting release of hunting dogs
      • New trespass ordinance
      • New ordinance prohibiting feeding of bears
      • Revisions to dog control ordinance
      • Revisions to sold waste disposal and collection ordinance

Attached to this meeting summary I have included a summary of each of the five ordinances. I strongly recommend you review them so you are aware of your rights and responsibilities. And, please come to the Town Forum on Monday, October 17 at 6:30pm in the Town Hall to learn more. This is a significant issue that has been addressed and we are all affected by it.  

  • The Council approved the appointment of Mari Gramling to the Board of Adjustment.
    • The Council heard from Zoning Administrator, Kayla DiCristina, about a lot that does not have direct access to a street, but instead is adjacent to a greenway off Harmony Lane. After much discussion of issues related to greenways, the Council directed Kayla to confirm the rules of granting easements across greenways and to consult with MRA about the situation.
    • The Council approved the appointment of Kayla DiCristina as Review Officer for the Town of Montreat.
  • In the second Public Comments period, Gary Higgins, the prospective purchaser of the lot described above, appreciated the Council’s attention to the matter and willingness to investigate the possibility of granting an easement so he could access and build upon the lot he is considering purchasing.
  • In Commissioners’ Communications:
    • Commissioner Fouche reminded everyone about the Presbyterian Heritage Center’s Reformation Lecture on Saturday night, which is free
    • Mayor Pro Tem Widmer reminded everyone about the Town Forum on Monday evening, October 17, at 6:30 in the Town Hall to discuss all the measures taken regarding bears, hunting dogs and bear hunters in Montreat. There will be time for questions and answers as well.
    • Commissioner Otto urged everyone to support all the Montreat College sports teams. The college has 22 sports teams, so there is something for everyone—inside or outside.
  • The Council then adjourned into Closed Session for a personnel matter. Upon concluding the Closed Session, I reopened the meeting, announced that we are making an offer to a candidate for Town Manager, then adjourned the meeting.

Thanks for your interest in and encouragement of the work of the Town. If you have any questions about this meeting summary or other town topics, please write me at [email protected] or call me at 828/669-3852. And please attend the Town Forum to learn what has been done to protect Montreaters.

Thank you for your support,

Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council