Black Mountain City Council Hears BearWise, Golf Course Presentations

Mayor Larry Harris opened the Black Mountain City Council meeting Nov. 14 by congratulating council member-elect Alice Berry and mayor-elect Mike Sobol. He also congratulated council member Bill Christy who ran for re-election and is currently 33 votes ahead of Rick Earley. Harris expressed his gratitude to Vice Mayor Ryan Stone and his service to the city. Stone did not run for office and will leave office in January.

The Board then heard a presentation from Ashley Hobbs, Assistant Black Bear and Furbear Biologist at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Hobbs said 34% of all human-bear interactions in the state last year came from Buncombe County. On average, that number is closer to 42%, she said.

Hobbs came before City Council to introduce BearWise, a nationwide program that is “based on science, shows ways to prevent conflict, provides resources to solve problems, and encourages community initiative to keep bears wild.”

The program was established in 2018 in the Southeast and expanded nationwide last year.

Hobbs said Black Mountain has the nation’s second official BearWise community, downtown.

Hobbs said she wanted to emphasize that the bears weren’t just an Asheville problem, as she heard. Instead, as development moves away from Asheville, so do bear interactions.

“It’s not just an Asheville problem anymore,” Hobbs said. “It’s at Black Mountain.”

Following Hobbs’ presentation, planning director Jessica Trotman presented post-construction stormwater inspection requirements. She said the team is working with licensees to help them understand that they need to get inspections and how to get them. Trotman said a “small number” of homeowners have refused required inspections, but it’s a city ordinance and they will be fined if they continue to refuse.

City Attorney Ron Sneed said the city must enforce those orders because the city is fined if it doesn’t comply.

Trotman said a workshop will be held in January to give permit owners more information.

The board then heard the annual report from Black Mountain Golf Club’s Director of Operations, Brent Miller.

Miller said golf club revenue was up $72,000 from projections for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Over the past three years, the club averaged 24,000 games a year. This year, 32,000 games were played.

Miller said daily paid play has increased, with 82% of play being in this category, as opposed to memberships. He said memberships were down. When asked by board member Doug Hay why he thought that was the case, Miller said he thought the daily game was more valuable to golfers who like to move around different courses.

After Miller’s presentation, City Manager Josh Harrold moved on to the consent agenda where the council proposed budget changes to increase budgeted spending for the stormwater master plan, increase employee salaries part-time jobs and increase funding for the Montreat Road cycle boulevard.

A licensing deal allowing Skyrunner Inc. to use city property for radio communications was on the agenda, but was moved after Hay questioned the amount the company paid for the rental of the property.

In new business, council voted to grant an easement to Duke Energy Progress for resident Fred Alexander to have power to his entire property. Because he had a financial conflict of interest, council member Archie Pertiller excused himself from the discussion and vote. Sneed also apologized.

There was no opposition to the creation of a capital project fund for the US 70 waterline update.

City Manager Josh Harrold addresses City Council on November 14.

The Board also voted unopposed to transfer funds from ARPA to the general fund to cover $500,000 each for the US 70 waterline update and for the Tomahawk Dam repair.

City Council heard a presentation on converting Honeycutt Street to a one-way street running west from West Street to Montreat Road. Parking must remain on the south side of the street. The reasoning behind making the street one-way is that it is heavily used by emergency vehicles. Stone was the only “no” in the vote.

All board members voted to allow Bounty & Soul to use the Carver Center kitchen to hold cooking classes for middle-aged children and their families.

Amy Pate has been appointed to a vacant position on the Historic Preservation Commission. His term will end on June 30, 2025.

All council members voted not to renew the lease of the community garden notice board.

Sneed told council about 25 years ago that the city had made an effort to remove large billboards around town, but could not do anything about the community garden billboard because it was located on federal land at the time.

The original lease contract called for the company to pay the city $925 per year. The lease has now expired.

“I would much rather not have a billboard in the park than have $925 a year,” Hay said. “It looks like so little money.”

As the council has decided not to renew the lease, the company is responsible for moving the equipment.

The council asked Harrold to take a comprehensive look at the proposed Broadway Avenue crosswalk before voting on the matter.

Closing the meeting, each council member expressed their gratitude to Harris and Stone for their service to the city.

Hay thanked those who voted and those who showed up.

“It was a pleasure,” said board member Pam King. “I have enjoyed two years of civil discourse, guidance and support. You have both been so helpful.

Denise W. Whigham