Mayor’s Meeting Summary 2/8/24

Hello Montreaters!

It may be winter here in Montreat, but an enthusiastic group of 20+ people turned out for tonight’s meeting. My meeting summary follows below, but the official minutes will be in next month’s agenda packet. And remember that you can view tonight’s meeting recording by CLICKING HERE.

Public Forum

  • Gary Higgins introduced himself and shared the situation on his Harmony Road property that the Council was to take action on during the Town Council meeting. He reviewed the circumstances and stated he would work hard to have minimal disturbance in constructing the driveway to his property, that there are no other solutions to access his property besides crossing Little Piney Branch.
  • Brad Hestir, Tree Board Chair, explained background on the demise of the American chestnut tree and efforts being taken to revive a new strain of the beloved tree. He handed out information about the American Chestnut Foundation Planting Workshop on March 19 and urged Montreaters to attend to be better informed in helping bring the chestnut tree back to Montreat.
  • Mary Standaert asked if Montreaters will have difficulty voting in the primary election next month given we have Black Mountain town addresses on our voter registration cards and Montreat town addresses on our photo IDs. I said that is a good question, and we will look into it. She also asked if we pass the ordinance amendment for the driveway during the regular meeting, are we setting a precedent for the future. I responded yes, such a change to the ordinance applies to everyone and not just Mr. Higgins.
  • Shirley Mitchell stated that when Mr. Higgins sought his easement to get to his property, there was mention of other future homeowners using his driveway to access their properties instead of each building driveways across the creek. I and staff responded that given the ordinance and properties, it really is not an option.

Council Meeting

  • After I opened the meeting, I announced that I have appointed Commissioner Grant Dasher to work with staff to find a solution to the cell tower near the South Carolina Home that has lost nearly all of its original camouflage branches due to wind and time. Hopefully we can get it back to where it blends in with the trees and environment.
  • During the Town Manager’s report, Savannah Parrish gave an update on implementation efforts of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan that was passed last fall. During a fall planning retreat, the Council discussed various initiatives in the Plan. The Planning and Zoning Commission, which has responsibility for a large number of the initiatives, has developed an implementation calendar.
  •  In discussing the Administrative Reports, Commissioner Widmer asked why water production for January was one million gallons higher than last year, at 3.9 million gallons vs. 2.9 million in 2023. Public Works Director, Barry Creasman, stated that there were at least six breaks in six inch water main lines, which meant that the water was lost revenue. This is a sign of winter (when ground heaves with the cold) and an aging water infrastructure.
  • Public Comments included:
    • Mary Standaert offered thanks for Commissioner Dasher and staff working on the cell tower aesthetics issue.
    • Martha Campell urged the Town Council to maintain the Fund Balance threshold at 35% of annual expenditures to handle any emergencies and other special needs.
  • Under New Business:
    • The Council approved joining the Swannanoa Valley Tree Alliance Treasure Tree program after Ed Kramer, a member of the Tree Board, made a presentation about the Treasure Tree program. See the Board packet for details on the program.
    • The Council approved the Landcare Committee’s grant application to the Swannanoa Valley Endowment Fund for Flat Creek Crossing funding.
    • A Public Hearing was held regarding proposed text amendments to the Stormwater Ordinance. Three residents offered their opinions on the amendments.
    • The Council approved delaying action on the text amendments to the Stormwater Ordinance with one Commissioner dissenting. It will be heard at the March 14 Council meeting.
    • The Council approved the appointment of Ed Kramer as a regular member to the Board of Adjustment for a three year term expiring January 31, 2027. We are grateful to Ed for his willingness to serve.
    • The Council discussed the pending Fund Balance Policy, which will be acted upon at a future meeting.
    • After discussion, the Council approved the revised Personnel Policy.
  • During Public Comments:
    • Grace Nichols thanked Savannah Parrish for her work with Patti Pyle on Flat Creek Crossing and commended the Town Council for our careful and thorough work. We appreciate Grace’s comments.
    • Shirley Mitchell thanked Ed Kramer for his work on the Treasure Tree project and his willingness to serve on the Board of Adjustment.
    • Gary Higgins expressed hope that the Stormwater Ordinance text amendment would be passed at the March meeting, as his window for beginning construction is getting short.

As I frequently say, thank you for your encouragement in our work. It means a great deal to each of us on the Council.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please write me at [email protected] or call me at 828/669-3852.

Mayor Tim Helms for the Town Council