Woodfin’s Plan Still Stirring Emotions - TribPapers

Woodfin’s Plan Still Stirring Emotions

Tempers flared at hearing over town’s Woodfin’s Comprehensive Plan.

Woodfin – Public comment got a little testy Tuesday night (Sept.21) at the Town of Woodfin Commissioners’ meeting during a public hearing on the town’s 2021 Comprehensive Plan. While only two people spoke, the second speaker sparked an avid exchange. The exchange came after Woodfin Town Administrator Eric Hardy announcing the hiring of Luke Williams, an engineer that worked at Evergreen Packing in Haywood County, as the town’s project and facilities manager. The Woodfin mayor then announced public comment at which no one spoke.

Award presentations 

Woodfin Police Chief Micheal Dykes then made two life-saving award presentations to Police Sargent Joshua Grier and Officer Matthew Buckner, who offered life-saving aid to a man stabbed in the neck (see story page 6). The board also appointed Hardy as the deputy finance officer.

Mayor VeHaun then opened the public comment for the comprehensive plan. 

Nathan Miller of Woodfin was the first to speak, saying, “I was hoping there would be a presentation of what was to be considered tonight as I was unable to attend the planning and zoning meeting…there are a lot of people like me who want to be in this neighborhood and in this town who want to be the know, especially in regards to this comprehensive plan.” 

Miller went on to relay his frustration about trying to understand the plan. He hopes that the process would be more than just an email or one meeting.

Next was a Mr. Wilcocks of the Richmond Hills area of Asheville, who spoke about the contentious 1,500-unit Bluffs project. He started by accusing the board of “unfairness” and, “The appearance of impropriety. We neighbors found out on December 16 that we had two weeks and that there was a development proposed for our backyards. And we had two weeks, over Christmas holiday during a pandemic, to put together a team to answer a lawyer and individual questions that were going to be brought up at the next meeting of the board two weeks later.” 

He then commented that the developer of the property (the projects known as the Bluffs) had 18 months to work on his plan and, “bragged about having an office within town hall for 18 months personally selling you people and we get two weeks to respond? So, that’s a basic unfairness and at least the appearance of impropriety.  Number one, what does he need to be here in person for? What does he need face-to-face time for? And we get two weeks. Let’s fix that.”

At that point, Commissioner Ronnie Lunsford spoke up and said he had “never met this man.” Which Wilcock responded, “All I know is what I heard, Which is what he [the deveopler] told a reporter.” 

Wilcock asked how many of the town commissioners, mayor or staff had met the developer, to which only two acknowledged meeting him. Hardy said that only he, the mayor and staff had offices at the town hall.

“So what does he need personal, face-to-face time for,” asked Wilcocks. Hardy responded, “I’m not going to get into that it’s a public building.” To which Wilcocks, elevating his voice, said, “It’s an appearance of impropriety!” At which point Wilcocks started walking away from the podium, saying, “You can fix that,” along with other comments as he went back to his seat. 

At this point, Wilcocks was gaveled down by Mayor VeHaun, saying, “You’re out of order, sir!” No one else spoke and the hearing was closed.

Woodfin Planning Director Adrienne Isenhower then gave an overview of the 2021 Comprehensive Plan to the board. As Isenhower started, a lawyer in the audience, retained by the town to help guide the town through the plan’s passage, interrupted and asked to speak with Isenhower, so Hardy joined the two. After some discussion, Isenhower continued with the presentation (see story page 3 for more plan details). The board made two motions, one to adopt the recommendation for the planning board and the other to adopt the plan. Both passed.

The board then heard reports before going into executive session and then dismissed for the night.

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