Woodfin – Woodfin Town Council started the new year with a full January agenda, including Tuesday’s three public hearings (January 17th).
The meeting started with the consent agenda, which included changing the town’s facility rental agreement not to allow alcohol on the premises during rentals, several changes to the personnel policy, including the hours of the work week, accruing leave hours, and allowing new employees to retain their seniority when leaving for other businesses to help in recruiting employees.
It also included two resolutions. One is to apply for an IMD feasibility study grant through the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and the other is to apply for a French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization Unified Planning Work Program Feasibility Studies Grant. The consent agenda also reappointed Kimberly Hunter to the Woodfin Planning Board.
The first vote on the consent agenda garnered one dissenting vote from Councilman Ronnie Lunsford, as he did not like the removal of the alcohol permit for the community center. Lunsford said he was under the impression there was a police officer that had to be hired when alcohol was being served. He was also worried about the loss of revenue.
Woodfin Town Manager Shannon Tuch said that was the case, but they were outside the building, and by the time the officer got inside, the incidents were usually out of hand. On the basis of further information about the rentals of the facilities with alcohol, it was learned that of the 35 times the community center was rented last year, only about four or five times it was with an alcohol permit, and three of those times there was property damage. After learning more information, the vote was retaken, and it was unanimous.
During public comment, Remona and Clarence English of Crest Mountain wondered why the town was not picking up their trash and that of others in their condominium since they are residents of the town. Remona said, “[They] have received Woodfin trash for more than 12 years until now. We pay Woodfin taxes… We have never seen the Woodfin Police in 12 years. We as residential taxpayers of Woodfin, would like to continue to have our trash service.” According to the English, Waste Pro will not service their area because it is in Woodfin, and Woodfin will not sign a contract with Waste Pro.
One other couple, the Thompsons, also spoke about the matter, saying the pickup of their trash by Woodfin had been done for years by “very punctual, pleasant, and nice” employees. They complained about Tuch not calling them back after leaving several messages.
The discussion continued later in the meeting, with Tuch saying the reason the town was no longer picking up the trash there was that it was a multi-family unit and the town did not pick up trash at multi-family units.
Tuch then introduced Nate Baker, with Quantum Consultants Inc., whose company is developing the Woodfin Comprehensive Plan. They started their work this week with what he called stakeholders (people with special interests) in the community, but input from the public is planned for later this month and running through February, with the plan finalized by the end of the year.
Tuch then gave her report to the board with one new contract with River Link for $24,000 and short reports on planning, stormwater, public works, and police.
The council then started the first of three public hearings. First was a public hearing on a “request to conditionally rezone 19.58 acres located off Olivette Road from open use (Buncombe County zoning) to Mountain Village—Conditional Zoning.” The property owners are Olivette Development, LLC, and Bridges at French Broad, LLC, and the project contact is Scott Austin. The presentation was given by Woodfin Planning Director Ricky Hurley, who said 11 home sites are planned. None of the council members had any questions, and none spoke at the public hearing. The rezoning was approved.
The second hearing was “a request to conditionally rezone 5.13 acres located off Sweet Fern Parkway from open use (Buncombe County zoning) to Mountain Village-Conditional Zoning. The property owner is also Olivette Development, LLC. After Hurley presented it to the board and said four home sites were planned for this area, no one spoke, and the rezoning was also approved.
The third and final hearing did not go as smoothly as the first two. The final hearing was “a request to conditionally rezone 16.94 acres from community shopping and Mountain Village (MV) to community shopping-conditional Zoning and was made by the property owner of the Tree Houses of Serenity, LLC, Michael and Caroline Parrish.
Hurley explained several unique treehouses and a small 16th-century village area planned for nearly 17 acres. He also said if this development were operating under the new steep slope ordinance, it would not be allowed as the grading work would require nearly twice (five acres or 30 percent) as much grading as permitted under the new rules.
Developer Michael Parrish was on hand to answer any questions and spoke during the public hearing, touting the quality and compliments they had received numerous times. “We’ve got over 2,000 five-star reviews.”
Tuch said the reason for the request was that short-term rentals are not allowed in mountain village zoning and that Parrish wants to “formally and conclusively clarify that these projects are approved.”
While Parrish was very upbeat about the development, not all council members were. Councilwoman Elisabeth Ervin explained her concern: “The ridge line has been stripped of trees. It’s entirely visible. I’m concerned that these are going to sit right on top of that ridge, where we’ll have no trees. What will be done to disguise the retaining walls? We already have the big monstrosity on top of the mountain that’s visible from across town.” She added, “What stands out about Woodfin is that we’ve stripped the landscape there.”
Parrish responded that he plans to plant as many maple trees as possible to give the mountain a lot of color in the fall. Parrish said he gets the credit for removing the trees, but neighboring landholders have removed trees also.
The council decided to hold off on any action until they could see a plan from Parrish about the trees. The meeting was continued until their fall retreat on January 26th at the YMCA in Woodfin.