Town's role ends with The Settings

Fred McCormick

Black Mountain's economic health is “very good,” Mayor Michael Sobol said, citing 12 houses under construction in The Settings of Black Mountain as proof.

Development in The Settings is an indicator of economic health in Black Mountain, according to mayor Michael Sobol.

The board of aldermen met Jan. 9 for its regular meeting and passed an ordinance allowing the town’s involvement in the project to be closed out.

The high-end housing development on N.C. 9 was left unfinished by developers in 2008, prompting a 2012 lawsuit by homeowners and the town against Lexon Insurance Co. and Bond Safeguard Insurance Co.

A Buncombe County Superior Court judge found in favor of the plaintiffs in 2014 and awarded $1.5 million to the plaintiffs for further developing The Settings' infrastructure. That ruling was upheld later in the year by the N.C. Court of Appeals.

"The town's been working with The Settings the past couple of years, with this bond issue,” Sobol said at the beginning of the meeting. “There have been several people that have stepped forward and started construction. We now have 12 houses going up in The Settings, and the total value of those homes is over $8 million.”

Construction in the development impacts the town as whole, according the mayor.

“It’s good for the town base because we basically need $20 million of new construction every year to cover the increase in costs that come with medicine, health care, trucks, cars or salaries,” Sobol said.

Town manager Matt Settlemyer told the board the money awarded to the town in the lawsuit had been expended on roads, engineering work and legal fees, which the town put up on the front end of the suit.

“Those moneys have all been reimbursed to the town and no tax dollars were expended,” he said. “We were the holders of the funds for the bond proceeds, and we’ve spent that portion of the funding. There is still additional work to be done there, but that will be managed and maintained by the homeowners association and no longer involve the bond proceeds.”

The board also took action during the meeting to revise the town’s summer camp refund policy and camp fees, making deposits nonrefundable.

“Not a lot of people, but a handful of people, will reserve every week of summer camp and wait and see what they want to do. Then they’ll have their deposit refunded,” Settlemyer said, explaining the need for the policy revision. Last-minute cancellations leave others on the list little time to make preparations when openings finally become available, he added.

The camps are so popular that revising the refund policy is necessary to give "all the residents of Black Mountain a fair shot,” Settlemyer said.

The final action taken by the board during the meeting was the adoption of a capital project fund, which will fund improvements to the embankment along Tomahawk Branch, a stream that feeds into Lake Tomahawk.

A $73,500 grant from N.C. Water Resources will be used to fund half of the project, according to Settlemyer, with the town matching the amount. A future grant from the Pigeon River Fund should reimburse the town for half of its contribution, according to Settlemyer.

Work on the section of stream between Ninth Street and Laurel Circle will likely begin in the coming months.