Mayor’s Summary of the September 14, 2023 Town Council Meeting

Hello Montreaters,

A small but engaged crowd joined the Council and staff for our September meeting, and we were glad they came to participate.

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

  • Peter Williams shared about the dramatic increase in vehicular traffic near the Wynne-Lithia spring. He is concerned for people getting injured due to the traffic. Although he stated there is no easy solution, he noted that the spring is now a public nuisance. I told him we will continue to monitor the situation and work to resolve it.

Council Meeting

  • After opening the meeting, I commented on several items:
    • I announced that I have taken a short term appointment as the Executive Director of the Black Mount Chamber of Commerce. Their previous Executive Director retired in August and I began my duties in early September. I will work through the end of the year.
    • I also announced that long time residents John and JoAnn Ellington will be moving to Johnson City this weekend to be closer to their children. John taught at Montreat College for more than 15 years, and they were missionaries prior to returning to Montreat in 2005. We will miss them, especially seeing John walking all over Montreat. We wish them the best.

  • Town Manager, Savannah Parrish:
    • Thanked the Council, staff and residents for the wonderful welcome she has felt since starting last month. She is looking forward to her time at Montreat.
    • Told us the auditors have been at the Town Hall for the past two days doing fieldwork for the annual audit, and it will be delivered on time.
    • Stated that a Town Council and staff planning retreat has been scheduled for October 24. More details will follow.
  • Under Public Comments:
    • Jean Norris stated that she was coming down Kanawa and was escorted by the new flock of Guinea fowl—nine of them. She heartily recommended that they be declared the official bird of Montreat. I chuckled that their master, Walter Somerville, has been lobbying me to proclaim the same thing!
    • Richard DuBose stated that he has reviewed the latest set of proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan after his comments last month and believes them to be good changes. He also said he appreciated that the Council heard his concerns and made changes as a result of his comments.
  • Under New Business:
    • We held a third Public Hearing on the Montreat Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan and there was no public input. Commissioner Widmer reviewed the suggested changes, and the Council voted to adopt the changes. They then voted to adopt the entire Comprehensive Plan.
             After the vote, I took a moment to thank the Steering Committee, including John Casper, Richard DuBose, Maggie Elliott, Mari Gramling, Daniel Hewitt, Paul Maurer, and Bill Seaman, for their dedicated and high level of work. It is an excellent plan and one that will help direct Montreat’s future for years to come. To read the plan, CLICK HERE. Note: tonight’s minor changes will not be reflected.
    • I administered the Oath of Office to new Town Manager, Savannah Parrish.
    • The Council approved updates on bank signature cards
    • After hearing from Zoning Administrator Kayla DiChristina and MRA VP Tanner Pickett, the Council approved proposed Greybeard Mountain trailhead parking signs.
    • Upon hearing considerable information and testimony on a request to close a right-of-way on Florida Terrace, the Council tabled the motion pending additional information and study. We hope to address it at the next Council meeting.
    • Although very disappointing, the Council agreed to not proceed in accepting the grant from the Land of Sky Regional Council Metropolitan Planning Organization to rehabilitate the Texas Road Bridge. We learned that the original estimate of $191,000, the amount of the grant, had risen to $900,000. We will seek support elsewhere.
  • Under Commissioners’ Communications:
    • Commissioner Fouche warned Montreaters that bears have started attacking yellow jacket nests to get to the larvae. One incident involved bears tearing off the house siding and insulation in order to get to a yellow jacket nest.
    • Commissioner Blake:
      • Apologized for missing the October Council meeting due to travel.
      • Announced that we are seeking new counsel to handle the remaining work on the Lodge/Hotel appeal. Our former attorney has left the firm.
      • Announced that state representative Eric Ager will be in Montreat on October 19 from 4:30pm to 6:00pm to review results of this year’s legislative session and to answer questions. Everyone is invited.
    • Commissioner Otto regretfully resigned his position as Commissioner, effective September 15. After selling their Montreat home and living in a guest house here for nearly two years, he and his wife, Nickie, were unable to find a suitable home in Montreat and have bought in Black Mountain. He said it has been an honor to serve and thanked everyone for trusting him with the responsibility of governing.
              I commented that we will miss Kent. He brought a commonsense approach to the Board and was known for his conservative approach to dealing with town fiscal resources.

On that down note, we adjourned. As I often say, 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