Mayor’s Meeting Summary of the August 10th Town Council Meeting

Greetings friends,

We began our meeting tonight with approximately 16 people in attendance. We always appreciate our guests- seeing and talking with new and familiar friends is a special part about Montreat.

My summary follows below. The official minutes will be in next month’s agenda packet. Please remember you can view tonight’s meeting recording by CLICKING HERE.

Public Forum

  • Kay Clegg objected to her son having been towed on Lookout Road. He had parked there for several days and nothing happened, but on the third day he was towed. She also said she thinks we created a problem by making so much no parking on Lookout. I responded that she should work with Zoning Administrator, Kayla DiCristina, to come up with a solution to her parking issues.
  • Richard DuBose asked where the language for the proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan came from. Commissioner Widmer responded that he had authored the changes after speaking with the individual commissioners. Richard said he would return during the Public Comments session.
  • Kay Kennerly said she recently returned to Montreat after a long absence. She wanted us to know that she loves Montreat and wants it to stay just as it is.

Council Meeting

  • After opening the meeting, I commented on the fact that even though it’s only August 10, summer is winding down in Montreat. We need to be ready and welcoming to the college students, but we also need to watch the increased traffic.
  • Interim Town Manager, Ben Blackburn, told us that financial information is being gathered and analyzed by the auditor for the annual audit due October 31. He sees no problem in meeting the state imposed deadline.
  • Under Public Comments:
    • Richard DuBose offered feedback on the Council’s proposed language for Next Steps in the Comprehensive Plan, saying there are two problems with the suggested addition. First, the Town is not solely dependent upon the residential tax base. MRA is the largest single tax payer, and pays the town a voluntary community service fee. Secondly, there are many services MRA provides for free that the Town does not have to pay for, such as parks and trails. He would like to see the language revised to be more accurate to the facts and situation.
  • Under New Business:
    • We held a second Public Hearing for input on the Montreat Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan after the first hearing last month.
      • Liz Johnson stated she is a multiple generation resident of Montreat. Her grandfather, Thomas Spence (Spence Hall) taught her the importance of Montreat’s heritage. She asked the Council to make sure the Comp Plan takes care to preserve and protect the heritage of Montreat.
      • Shirley Mitchell thanked MRA for their contributions to Montreat, but voiced her disappointment in Montreat College President Paul Maurer’s multiple comments that the college will not provide support to the Town.
    • The Council then discussed the Comprehensive Plan.
      • Commissioner Widmer explained his reasons for not including Priscilla Hayner’s suggestions for changes to the plan. He said he felt the Comp Plan Steering Committee and the P&Z Commission did an excellent job and not much else was needed. He also said he does not feel it’s right to legislate preservation. People will naturally respect the heritage of their homes without forcing a historic district upon the Town.
      • Commissioner Fouche agreed with Commissioner Widmer and does not want Montreat to be a historic district.
      • Commissioner Otto agreed, saying he does not want this Council to “handcuff” future residents and Councils with controversial mandates. He is open to looking at the Council’s other proposed changes.
      • Commissioner Blake doesn’t want to enact a historic district, but let the heritage of Montreat be the check and balance of retaining historical values.
      • Commissioner Alexander is not in favor of historic preservation rules. She does think that both the Development vision statement and the suggested revisions on Development Objective 7 adequately emphasize the importance of Montreat heritage in its buildings.
      • I stepped down from my role as mayor to comment that I believe the plan is perfect the way it is right now.
    • The Council agreed to appoint Tyler Smith to be a regular member of the Montreat Tree Board
    • The Council agreed to appoint Bill Tucker to be a regular member of the Planning and Zoning Commission
    • After explanations and discussion, the Council approved updates on the Fee Schedule and changes to the institutional water rates
    • The Council agreed to hire Savannah Parrish as the Town Manager effective August 16 at a salary of $90,000
    • The Council approved changes to the Bear Ordinance
    • The Council approved the addendum to the Tax Collection Agreement
    • The Council approved a new Order of Collection
    • The Council agreed to appoint Town Finance Administrator Rachel Eddings as Tax Collector
  • During the second Public Comment session, Mary Kennerly asked what the status was of a historical district in Montreat. She is used to one living in Charleston and thinks it would be good for Montreat.
  • Under Commissioners’ Communications:
    • Interim Town Manager Ben Blackburn (even though he isn’t a Commissioner!) stated this is likely to be his last meeting in Montreat. He “bragged” on the Council and staff, the many volunteers that make things happen and the various partnerships he’s seen. He said all of this makes Montreat the very special place it is. He feels privileged to have worked here.
    • Commissioner Fouche reminded everyone about the PHC Tour of Homes this coming Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 to 6:00pm.
    • Commissioner Otto told Ben he really appreciated his work and passion as Interim Town Manager. He also commented that he hoped MRA wrapped up their summer well and that it is a joy to see summer visitors come into Montreat and enjoy themselves. And, he brought up the issue of bears, saying they are a nuisance and we need to be creative in how to move them out.
  • The Council then adjourned into Closed Session to discuss a legal issue.

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