Weaverville – In the age of COVID-19, remote meetings via apps like Zoom have become commonplace. Now that in-person meetings are coming back in style, at least one town plans to expand online access for citizens.
Back in August, the Town Council of Weaverville voted to spend $12,500 on equipment and infrastructure to take their meetings online. After months of installation, the town is ready to implement the infrastructure necessary for online meetings.
While Weaverville used the Zoom app to hold council meetings during the pandemic, it’s only been via individual council members using the app from their homes, and not as a group. Neighbors to the south, the Woodfin Town Commissioners, have both held group meetings via Zoom and never stopped meeting in person since the pandemic began.
First meeting to be aired
The first meeting aired was the December Weaverville Council meeting—the council sent it out via a link this past Monday, Dec. 20 (see story page 6). Users of the new technology viewed the proceedings, including the board’s decision on whether to recommend the annexation of a 25-acre tract of land along Ollie Weaver Road. At least one group took advantage of the new communication method and let their members know about the new avenue of connection to local government—James Heinl of SaveIvyRiver.com, a group opposing the expansion of the Weaverville Water Treatment Plant located along the Ivy River. Currently, the plant draws up to 1.5 million gallons of water per day out of the river for use by residents of the Weaverville Water system. The town is looking to expand that capacity to three million gallons per day. They likely would have already voted to do so if not for the sticker shock they received from their engineering firm; the price tag of the expansion skyrocketed from about seven million dollars to over $13 million.
Heinl told his followers via email about the link to view the meeting. If annexed, Heinl says the Ollie Weaver project would burden the water system and push the town toward expansion.
In the email, Heinl “highlighted” actions of the town council and the planning and zoning board. “At last month’s meeting the Clerk reported that the annexation petition was found to be sufficient and Town Council voted to send the zoning map amendment to the Planning Board for review and recommendation. The Planning Board met on December 7 and with majority, not unanimous, votes found the proposed R-12 zoning to be consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and reasonable. A water commitment application has also been submitted related to the proposed development. Decisions on that request should not be made until the Public Works Director (serving as the Town’s Engineer) has determined if there is available capacity within the water system and the Town Manager has had an opportunity to submit a recommendation. COUNCIL ACTION REQUESTED: Should the Town Council wish to proceed with the annexation, the next steps would be to set public hearings on the annexation and the zoning map amendment,” Heinl wrote.
Heinl told the Tribune, “I personally do not agree with the planning board that this specific R-12 zoning (high-density residential mainly apartments) aligns with the comprehensive land-use plan. This is one of many R-12 developments in the works as it is not balanced with mixed-use, lower-density residential, commercial, or industrial,” he said. “It also seems to misalign with the message from the mayor about retaining the town’s small-town feel, which is mirrored by several of the council members.”
How to access the new remote meeting system
To access the remote online meetings go to weavervillenc.org. On the top right-hand side of the web page, there is an events tab. Click on that, which brings up a calendar of events and then click on the event you want to see, which gives you a link on the page. Remember the meeting will not be accessible until the time of the event.