Mayor’s Meeting Summary of the July 13th Town Council Meeting

Happy Summer!

With 700 youth conference attendees this week, we know its summer and are glad for it.

Our meetings were attended by approximately 26 guests, and we appreciated their being with us tonight. My summary follows below. Please remember you can view tonight’s meeting recording by CLICKING HERE.

Public Forum

  • Shirley Mitchell offered thanks to everyone involved in the July 4th activities, especially the parade success. We all agreed with Shirley and offered gratitude to staff and volunteers involved.

Council Meeting

  • After opening the meeting, I too offered congratulations and thanks to all involved for a great July 4th parade and other activities. I also informed everyone that the Town family has a new member- Etta June Brown. Sanitation specialist Drew Brown and his wife recently welcomed Etta to their family and ours.
  • Under Public Comments:
    • Letta Jean Taylor, speaking for Martha Campbell who is out of town, asked a series of financial questions about various subjects including paving cost to legal fees for the lodge/hotel suit. Because the questions were asked during Public Comments instead of the Public Forum, we were not able to respond. I asked Interim Town Manager Ben Blackburn to meet with Letta Jean after the meeting to offer responses to the questions.
    • Heath Tensley asked a question regarding the Comprehensive Plan, questioning why there was no reference to the issue of revenues in the same context that was in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan under section 3.3.3 and suggested it be included in the new Plan.
  • Under New Business:
    • We held a Public Hearing for input on the Montreat Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan. As we got started, I first thanked the Steering Committee, including John Casper, Richard DuBose, Maggie Elliott, Mari Gramling, Daniel Hewitt, Paul Maurer, and Bill Seaman. I then reminded the audience that the purpose of a Public Hearing is to hear public comments, but The Council is not able to respond to the comments.
      • Priscilla Hayner thanked the Steering Committee and others involved for their work in completing this important project. She then offered various changes to the Development Vision Statement and Objectives to emphasize historical preservation in the Town. She also suggested that reference be made to the importance of revenue development similar to section 3.3.3 in the 2008 Plan.
      • Shirley Mitchell questioned a date reference in the Community Context section. We will check into it.
      • Rusty Douglas urged that the Special Use Permit conditions in the current Zoning Ordinance not be changed with the adoption of the new plan, as he thinks they are very effective. He also spoke about the need for MRA to pay a different “tax” for non-religious groups, such as pickleballers, than for religious organizations.
      • Powell Jones thanked the Steering Committee for their work. He urged the Council to take Priscilla Hayner’s suggested edits seriously. He also stated that interpretation of the Plan, especially Development Objectives 4 and 7, is critical for effective implementation of the Plan. Finally, he reiterated the remarks of others about the need to include revenue references in the Plan.
      • Brad Hestir commented on Environment Objective number 2, expressing concern about the Tree Board needing support in completing the objective. He was assured there will be support in doing so.
    • The Council then discussed the Comprehensive Plan. Commissioner Widmer asked why there was no reference to revenue pressure in the Plan. I commented that the major reason is that we are all very aware of this important point. Further, Commissioners, as well as staff, are working to increase non- tax revenues. We discussed the issue further, and agreed that no reference to specific options should be included because state statutes change frequently. We also agreed that we will meet again between now and the August meeting to discuss any changes/additions. I asked the Conmissioners to review the Plan and share their thoughts for edits in advance of our getting together.
    • We then heard from MPD Officer Jennifer Johnson on the proposed body camera policy. After discussion, the Commission passed the policy unanimously.
    • Mayor Pro Tem Blake then reviewed issues involving the Solid Waste Ordinance, largely about problems related to intrusion by bears into trash receptacles. He pointed out, among other issues, a proposed fee of $250 per hour if Town staff have to clean up property owners’ trash.
    • We had a short discussion on the parking problem on lower Texas Road near the tennis courts and Lookout Road. It turns out that since the June meeting when the issue was brought up, the parking problems have been resolved and it is now up to police enforcement.
  • During the second Public Comment session:
    • Shirley Mitchell expressed concern over construction noise at a nearby home; asked how much the Town paid MS Consultants for their work on the Comprehensive Plan (Approx. $40,000); and expressed gratitude for their work.
    • Mari Gramling asked who to contact about a poisonous snake in her yard (Jason at the Ranger Hut or the MPD); expressed concern about bears getting into unsecured trash; and stated that her street, Alabama Terrace, has become a traffic thoroughfare.
    • Letta Jean Taylor thanked the staff for the excellent work they do and their dedication; commented on Town Clerk Angie Murphy’s role as a Co-Grand Marshall in the parade; expressed appreciation for the new paving on Oklahoma Terrace, but expressed concern for the condition and need for repaving of other roads in Montreat and suggested a tax increase to help pay for the paving.
    • Daniel Hewitt expressed concern for speeding on Greybeard Trail and made recommendations where new speed limit signs should be posted. He also made a recommendation of a new speed limit sign at the Gate Welcome sign.
  • Under Commissioners’ Communications:
    • Commissioner Fouche reminded everyone about the PHC Ice Cream Social on July 22 from 2-4 at the PHC. She also suggested the Council have another planning workshop. Everyone agreed.
    • Commissioner Alexander reminded everyone of the Cottagers meeting, also on July 22 at 10 in Upper Anderson
    • Commissioner Otto said that due to all the issues we are dealing with regarding bears, we should revisit the entire issue to come up with plans on how to better control them and move them elsewhere.

One final point that was not mentioned at the meeting: I’m pleased to tell you that we ended the fiscal year (June 30) with a healthy surplus of income over expenses. Many thanks to Town staff for controlling expenses in an uncertain economic time.

We thank you for your encouragement in the Council’s work. It means a great deal to us. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please write me at [email protected] or call me at 828/669-3852.

Mayor Tim Helms on behalf of the Town Council