Historic preservation commission won't re-hear Trestle Crossing matter

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

The Black Mountain Historic Preservation Commission on Oct. 4 voted against rehearing a request to let the controversial Trestle Crossing project go forward after an attorney for the husband of one of the commissioners contended the board had no legal standing to rehear the matter.

The meeting, held at Town Hall, also saw the commissioner, Shanda Richardson, recuse herself from any commission matters concerning Trestle Crossing. 

Joe Cordell, a part-time Black Mountain resident, hopes to build a restaurant and three-story building with shops and short-term rentals on his Broadway Avenue property that currently houses Dobra Tea and the former Ginko Tree Gallery. Cordell's project, designed by a team of local professionals, has met with significant opposition from residents concerned about the project's impact on the historic downtown district. 

On Sept. 20, Cordell's request for a certificate of appropriateness - needed to build in the historic district - was heard by the Historic Preservation Commission. The commission tabled his request after his attorney, Mike Begley, argued that Richardson should not participate in the commission's decision because her husband, John Richardson, owns property next to Trestle Crossing. 

The commission adjourned the meeting until Oct. 4. Shanda Richardson did not attend that meeting. Commission chairwoman Debra Wooton read a letter from Richardson in which Richardson stated that “after much thought and talking to the town attorney, because of my husband's property interests, both adjacent to and across the street from the proposed Trestle Crossing project, I have decided to recuse myself from consideration for any new or revised application for a certificate of appropriateness for this project, including the petition to re-hear this matter scheduled for consideration on Oct. 4."

Dozens filled the board room in Town Hall Oct. 4 to hear the Historic Preservation Commission consider whether to rehear the Trestle Crossing matter.

With Richardson's absence explained, the meeting quickly turned to another letter, one written by John Richardson's attorney Bob Oast, a former attorney for the cities of Greenville and Asheville. Begley, who said he received a copy of the letter “about an hour” before the meeting, told the commission the letter presented “good arguments” why the board couldn’t take up the matter that night.

Mike Begley, left, the attorney for the Trestle Crossing development, and project architect Maury Hurt present their case to the Historic Preservation Commission.

Oast's letter states that the commission has no legal standing to rehear a request because the board, at its Sept. 20 meeting, approved the minutes of its Aug. 16 meeting in which the commission denied Cordell's application for a certificate of appropriateness.

The commission's rules, Oast contended, do not "provide for reopening or supplementation of an already concluded hearing." The board's guidelines allow for a denied applicant to submit a new application only if substantial changes are made to the plans, he wrote.

Oast maintained that a denied applicant must "revise and submit a new application" or "appeal to the Board of Adjustment." The commission, he argued, has "no authority to consider the request to rehear, and that to do anything other than to dismiss or deny the request would be legal error."

Oast also contended that John Richardson, owner of Black Mountain Ale House, was “clearly an interested person" in Cordell's development because his properties - 117 Cherry St. and 131 Broadway Ave. - will be "directly and adversely affected" by Trestle Project "as proposed.” Begley made a similar argument Sept. 20 when he argued that Shanda Richardson should recuse herself.

Oast's letter cited a loss of views and diminished property value as negative effects the development would have on his client. 

Begley said the rehearing was "not worth arguing over" and indicated he would accept whatever decision the board made. 

"If we're going to end up in front of the Board of Adjustment anyway, we're not going to strenuously object if you've got a good argument for not having the hearing," he told the commission. "We're not going to press for that result. We're satisfied if the other path we have to take is where we need to go."

The commission voted 2-2, on Wooton's motion to deny the request for a rehearing. Commissioner Monica Hayden also voted for the denial. Shannon-Heather Wall and Lauronda Teeple voted against the motion.

Historic Preservation Commission chairwoman Debra Wooton considers the Trestle Crossing case next to a the empty seat normally filed by commissioner Shanda Richardson.

Bill Morgan, sitting in for town attorney Ron Sneed, told the board that the tie vote meant that the rehearing request did not pass and the matter would not be reheard by the board. "In effect, (the request) got denied," he said.

Cordell can appeal the denial to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, a quasi-judicial commission. He would be successful if four of its five members vote in his favor.