Woodfin – The Town of Woodfin Commissioners Board took the opportunity not once, not twice, but three times to go into executive closed session at their December meeting (Dec. 15). An unusual move given that executive closed sessions, which are used to consult with the town attorney over legal matters, usually come only once a meeting.
The commissioners’ meeting opened normally enough with commissioners then moving one of the agenda items before approving the agenda for the evening and minutes from the last meeting. Then the board immediately dismissed into the first of the three closed sessions. “We need to have, on the advice of our attorney, a short closed session rather than wait til the end of the meeting,” said Woodfin Mayor Jerry VeHaun to the audience and those watching via video. He then called for a move to go into the closed session and for the vote and then the board retired to the conference room for about five minutes.
Once back, the commissioners tackled items one through three on the agenda which all pertained to a Water Resources Development grant on new business.
The presentation was made by Linda Giltz, a community planner, facilitator, project manager that gave an overview of what she believed was the “best opportunity” for a $200,000 grant from the NC Department of Environment Quality’s Water Resources Divison, which has to be applied to before the end of the year. Commissioners approved all three of the items.
Next, the board looked at an appeal by a developer to develop property on West City View after being turned down by the town’s planning and zoning board. The 17-acre property is zoned to be able to allow 144 units according to the developer’s attorney David Matney III, who presented the appeal, but only 59 single-family homes are on the plans by the developer.
Matney, in the hearing, presented two witnesses to the commissioners, Mike Anderson, an engineer and a traffic engineer named Mark Teague. Both of which testified, after some modifications to the plans, that the development met the town’s ordinances. Woodfin Fire Chief Jeff Angel testified that the roads were too narrow for a fire engine to pass safely. He also said getting water to the area to fight fires would be difficult. Adding the fire department would have to draw water from the French Broad River and either lay firehose to the area or shuttle water in tankers.
Several residents of the community spoke against the development; among them was Kelly Cowan, who was concerned over construction and material staging as well as stormwater management. Miles Alexander spoke of concerns of the narrowness of the subdivision’s current roads leading to the developed property. Gorden Mayberry worried about the depletion of tree covering and access to the property. Kennedy Young worried an economic downturn could leave the community with an uncompleted development like happened in 2008.
Matney addressed each of the concerns. “Your ordinance requires it [the project] to be bonded once you approve it…the things I heard was stormwater, I hear slope, I hear traffic and roads. Well, your ordinances and staff require that stormwater be taken care of. Require slope to be taken care of. The real issue I hear is traffic and roads.” Matney said it’s not the roads in the new development but roads leading to the new development, which he said they could not do anything about as they are public roads. He did pledge $30,000 to help with those public roads once the town went to improve them.
After hearing all the testimony, the commissioners, for a second time, went into executive session. Coming back from the session, Commissioner Don Hensley made a motion to approve the project with Vice Mayor Debbie Geizentanner seconding. The commissioners voted 5-1 to approve, with Commissioner Jim Angel being the lone ‘no’ vote.
The commissioners also took a third executive session at the end of the meeting.