Weaverville – By Clint Parker
Holding true to their word that they will remain conservative when it comes to supplying water outside the town’s limits, the Weaverville Town Council came through with a no action for a water request at the April meeting Monday (April 25th). Pleasant Grove Townhomes on Reems Creek Road’s project consisted of 54 residential units to be built on just slightly over 10 acres with an estimated 22,000 gallons of water usage per day.
The town’s water system, which is currently under review, was on track to double water production by expanding the water treatment plant. However, a $13 million plus price tag caused the town to pause from moving forward on its expansion. In essence, this results in a moratorium on supplying water to anything but town residents, developers already within town limits and requests by individuals for water if outside the town limits.
Weaverville Public Works Director Dale Pennell told the board a water line already runs past the development. “That line has more than adequate capacity to serve this request. It would not have “any adverse effect on the town’s water system.” However, Pennell’s information did not affect the board’s decision to not take action.
Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons asked the request applicant, Warren Sugg, who walked to the podium while the board made its decision not to make a move either way on the request, was asked if he’d like to speak? Sugg proceeded with a short presentation of the project, adding, “It [the development] is needed… it’s a good revenue source.” He also wanted more information on the implications concerning the council’s “no action” decision. “Does that mean 30 days, 60 days, six months a year? I need to be able to tell my client where we’re headed.”
“I think I speak for the rest of the council,” Fitzsimmons began, “… please correct me if I’m wrong … we are hesitant to provide any water to any project until we complete the water research project.” The research project Fitzsimmons refers to was discussed earlier in the meeting. Its research effort revolves on find suitable partners for the water system and establishing a regional water authority.
Weaverville Councilman Andrew Nagle said he realizes the state’s figures used to calculate the 22,000 gallons is misleading. The projects were based on each unit using 400 gallons a day of water, when the actual number is closer to 100 gallons per unit per day. Driving the point more poignantly, Nagle pointed out that the town stands to lose about $12,000 a month in water revenue.
Councilwoman Catherine Cordell asked Sugg’s client if they would be interested in being annexed into the town. Sugg replied, “We would be interested in entertaining all types of options. This first step is water.” He then requested being put on next month’s agenda. This is the second project in the last two months that the town has either turned down or took no action to supply water.
In other discussions at the meeting
The council considered making the road around Lake Louise one way, which attracted a lot of opposition earlier in the meeting during public comment from its lakeside residents.
At the beginning of the discussion, Fitzsimmons told the board they had heard from residents of the lake during public comment and was now asking how the board would like to proceed for its dialogue.
Cordell was the first to speak, and she directed her comments toward one of the lake’s residents, Thomas Veasy, who spoke very passionately against the one-way direction during public comment.
“What I’d like to say is, Thomas,…we didn’t come up with this idea. We have been presented this idea by people who go to the lake and walk around the lake and feel like they are putting people’s lives in danger when they drive around the lake. And so the reason it’s on the agenda, in my opinion, and I can’t speak for everybody, is because we have heard it for the last five or six years. Somebody comes to us every year and says we should think about that. And so, because we’ve been asked to think about it, I think we decided we should at least put it on the agenda, and we should listen to the goods and “bads” and what everybody else has to say about it.”
Veasy, who approached the stand while Cordell was speaking, said if the speed limit of 25 mph were reduced to 15 mph and were enforced, this would not be an issue. He also cited people running and jogging in the road, not on the trail that encircles the lake. He also recommended traffic calming devices like speed bumps. Councilwoman Michele Wood talked about the problem and indicated she would be in favor for some changes at the lake.
Pennell spoke about the detrimental effects, with either a one-way road or speed bumps, would have on his department trucks which use the road more than 100 times a day. Weaverville Police Chief Ron Davis also presented that there had been five motor vehicle accidents that resulted in one minor injury in the last ten years. Furthermore, there had been no reported injuries to pedestrians in the 10 years prior. He also stated that either change to the road could hinder emergency vehicles’ response times. Davis included a recent traffic count that had been taken at the lake. 410 cars passed in front of the community center at the lake. “We don’t have any statistics that would suggest the roadway, although it might feel unsafe, [actually] is unsafe.” Veasy tried to approach the podium again to speak, but Fitzsimmons cut him off.
Councilman Doug Jackson said that, based on the public comment and the reports from its staff, he would be against making the road one-way. He said it might be more dangerous to change the traffic pattern because “when people are used to something, and you make a change, you’re going to have the chance of more accidents.”
Vice Mayor Jeff McKenna asked Pennell about the possibility of some traffic calming measures such as speed bumps. Pennell said at present, there are no speed bumps in the town. To which Cordell interjected, “There needs to be some.” To which Pennell responded, “Point taken and debated.” He went on to say that public works had a look at speed bumps for the subject had been brought up several times, and said that the fire department confirmed it delayed their response times. Ironically enough, he also said it had an inverse effect since it motorists tend to increase speeds between speed bumps to offset their intended slow-down effect.
Nagle concluded that he didn’t think the council “…had a solution tonight…” Wood asked about devices that could separate the road from the sidewalk and the walking trail. Councilman John Chase inquired about having a recent committee on pedestrians and bikers to look at the problem. Wood added that most people using the lake for exercise believe motorists are going too fast.
Chief Davis said that his officers are routinely doing that but added manpower is an issue and dispensing tickets for such minor infractions of only two and three miles an hour over might present an inevitable problem for the judicial system. Using radar at such low speed is also a problem. The speed limit is nationally recognized as a very low-speed limit. He said that 85 percent of drivers obey the speed limit.
Fitzsimmons asked if there is any action the board needed to take at that meeting. Cordell asked that the staff continue looking at traffic calming measures. “If we all knew there was going to be a kid who died every year and we don’t know which kid that’s going to be… I’m asking you, as a team, what can we do to solve this? What can we do to where this child is not killed…I think it’s better to have a slowed-down response time than dead kids in the road.” Fitzsimmons asked for the staff to look deeper into calming measures.