Global Plan for Montreat talks continue on land use and MRA pavilion

MONTREAT — The Montreat Global Plan Steering Committee continued its discussions on July 28, two days after holding several community engagement sessions.

“We were able to debate some controversial and difficult topics in a healthy way,” said Katie Sieb, project coordinator for MS Consultants, an outside firm helping the city update the overall plan. “There were good levels of denial and dissent. We need to be able to talk about these difficult things.”

Sieb said 40 community members attended the two workshop sessions on July 26. She added that at this stage, the consultants do not want to make final decisions but rather listen to the city and the needs of the community.

In a recent online survey of the city conducted by the consultancy, Sieb said nearly 350 community members responded.

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Specific topics of discussion included land use, the Mountain Retreat Association’s new lodge project, traffic issues and solar panels. Many members of the steering committee were present for the workshops.

“People seemed really excited and excited to be in the room and to be part of the process,” said committee member Bill Seaman.

Committee member Bill Seaman said he was happy to see community members getting involved and contributing to the overall plan.

Although almost every member of the committee was present at the meetings or facilitated in some way, Mayor Tim Helms, chair of the committee, deliberately excused himself from the community discussion, saying his presence could potentially suffocate the community.

In light of division MRA lodge debate, committee members brought the topic up for discussion. Some committee members said they did not want to discuss the lodge debate during the workshops as it would detract from the overall discussion and community members might be motivated to provide comments that could impact the lodge.

Richard DuBose, MRA President and Steering Committee member, questioned whether or not the lodge debate would interfere with the brainstorming for the full plan update due to discussions resulting from the community workshops.

Since the lodge’s special use permit, approved by the city, is pending appeal in county superior court, Sieb said she doesn’t think the lodge project will be impacted.

“This plan is separate and independent,” Sieb said. “The plan that was adopted at the time the development was proposed is the guideline at that time.”

Shannon Fergus, a certified planner with the consulting firm, said one of the main topics of discussion was land use. She said the consultants wanted to look at land use as a guide for future growth, asking residents if they wanted to see commercial growth and how to preserve the town’s natural history and beauty.

Helms said with growth comes new homes, but each new property only brings in about $4,000 a year. He said with just a few new homes, it doesn’t add a lot of money to the city budget.

“Most of the space belongs to MRA or the college,” Helms said. “The only way to grow is when someone builds a new house here.”

In addition to the growth, feedback from community members during the workshops reflected a need for reduced road speeds and greater availability of parking. DuBose said Montreat Police Chief David Arrant approached the MRA about creating a three-way stop at Georgia Terrace and Assembly Drive, but found many community members were against it. the idea.

Katie Sieb, a representative from MS Consultants, led the steering committee in a discussion of the recent community workshop.

Drew Draper, project manager for MS Consultants, said traffic studies in other areas have shown a large amount of traffic results from drivers looking for parking. He said the same car would often drive around an area in an effort to find additional parking that may not exist.

“It increases traffic, but it’s still the same person,” Draper said. “If they knew where they had to go at all times, you could start reducing and easing some traffic jams.”

Although MS Consultants does not intend to conduct a traffic study in Montreat, Draper stated that this type of traffic situation could be present.

Finally, the committee looked at community responses to the idea of ​​solar panels and other climate change inhibitors. Sieb said the responses were broadly supportive of solar panels as long as they remain unobtrusive. She said those respondents were happy to see signs on rooftops but not in fields.

In previous discussions, the consultants encouraged committee members to participate in “mini-meetings” of community members to gather information and set priorities for the overall plan. Helms said committee members should simply facilitate these meetings, stimulating conversation rather than dictating the topics to be discussed.

“You have to facilitate meetings and keep the conversation going, even if it’s tough topics,” Helms said.

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Contact him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribe.