‘Small use plan’ could guide Blue Ridge Road’s future

Framework for handling growth presented to board of aldermen

Fred McCormick

Residents of the Blue Ridge Road area love the rural nature of their home, but they're concerned about changes coming with the development of Black Mountain Commerce Park by Avadim Technologies and a planned Interstate 40 interchange on Blue Ridge Road, consultants told town aldermen April 10.

The way to alleviate their concerns while planning for future growth in the area is a "small area plan" that focuses on development in the Blue Ridge Road area, consultant J.M Teague Engineering & Planning told the town board.

The small area plan was one of three it recommended the town undertake to plan for growth. It also recommended plans be created for the Montreat Road corridor and around Montreat College's proposed expansion on Vance Avenue.

Black Mountain’s small town charm - the thing that makes it desirable as a place to live and do business - is also likely to continue to attract people and businesses. Balancing growth and character takes planning, which is why the town asked J.M Teague Engineering & Planning to work with it on a growth plan, something that has been happening for the last year and a half.

Kristy Carter of J.M. Teague presented aldermen with the the land use map, the product of a steering committee composed of her, town planning director Josh Harrold, three members of the planning board and a community member. The town hosted three community meetings last November to gather input from residents along Montreat Road and Blue Ridge Road and in the community at-large.

The town in 2014 updated its comprehensive plan, the document officials rely on to guide the town's growth. One chapter of the eight-chapter document focuses on housing and land use and calls for the development of a map that identifies areas where the town can grow, as well as sections it should preserve.

“We took into consideration the future of Blue Ridge Road (which) we know is going to change,” Harrold said. “Montreat Road has been something that’s been discussed long before I got here, and that’s an important discussion to have because I think there’s going to be growth pushing up that road up toward Montreat.”

The consultants recommended a small area plan be created, with community input, to guide growth along Montreat Road between First Street and the North Fork Road.

At the community meetings, residents of the Blue Ridge Road area indicated they value the rural feel of the area, despite its proximity to Interstate 40 and U.S. 70, the planned interchange and the coming development of Black Mountain Commerce Park. Balancing progress and the existing nature of the Blue Ridge Road area is the town’s biggest “sticky wicket,” Carter said.

“The community meeting out there was understandably frustrating for some,” she said. “There are a lot of things changing (in that area), but it’s kind of in the beginning stages, so people want answers and there aren’t answers to be given at this point.”

The consultants recommended a small area plan be created for the Blue Ridge Road area once more information about the area's future becomes available. They recommended a plan also for the neighborhood around Montreat College’s Black Mountain campus, which the college announced last year would one day be used for its expansion.

The map also identified three neighborhoods - Walker Cove off North Cove Road, east of South Blue Ridge Road and the northernmost section of Flat Creek Road - as potential areas for increased residential density. Mayor Mike Sobol asked Carter if J.M. Teague's calculations included figures on the impact of those proposals.

"I think it's necessary to have some idea about the number of people you'll have," Sobol said. "Because it impacts the roads and the utilities."

Carter told the mayor that those numbers were not included in the document, but could be researched.

Alderman Ryan Stone moved to delay the vote on adopting the consultants' recommendations until detailed numbers about increased density could be included. His motion passed unanimously.

Even if aldermen adopt the future land use map, they are not required to follow its recommendations, town manager Matt Settlemyer said. Instead they could use the document to help ease growing pains in the future.

"The town is growing, and it's growing relatively quickly compared to how it has in the past," Settlemyer said. "I think there can be a perception that the town is only interested in growth.

"Comprehensive plans, these land use maps, transportation studies, speed studies, all accomplish one thing, which is to figure out how to grow in a way that takes into account the needs of the community that's here right now."