Zoning Board of Adjustments to consider appeal on Harwood property

Black Mountain News

The Zoning Board of Adjustments will decide on Thursday, Dec. 14 whether to hear an appeal about zoning administrator Jennifer Tipton's decision to grant a building permit to the owner of Harwood Home for Funerals, 208 West State St. 

Black Mountain resident Susan Leive has asked the board to overturn the permit, which Tipton granted Aug. 24 and was paid for by applicant Rick Harwood on Aug. 25. 

A town resident has filed an appeal contesting the town's decision to rezone the Harwood Home for Funerals property.

The appeal will be presented when the board convenes at 6 p.m. The five-member board will be presented with the appeal and then will decide whether to hear it. Leive’s appeal, dated Oct. 31, was filed well after the 30-day deadline required by the town. 

The permit allows Harwood to build a showroom, as well as space for a crematory and offices on the second floor of the existing structure. Leive filed a citizen complaint that was received by the town on Oct. 3. In the complaint she asked on which basis the zoning administrator issued the permit. 

The day after Leive filed her complaint, Tipton responded with an email detailing seven reasons for granting the permit. She attached an email from David W. Owens, professor of public law and government at the school of government at UNC Chapel Hill. In his email, Owens states in part that he agrees with Black Mountain town staff’s interpretation of a state statute that allows a crematory to be built “on, or adjacent to, any cemetery, or adjacent to any funeral establishment that is zoned commercial or industrial.” 

Town aldermen in November 2016 rezoned Harwood Home for Funeral's property at 208 West State St. from central business district to highway business district. Funeral homes are permitted by right in the town’s highway business district. 

“This is the basis in which the zoning approval was granted to Mr. Harwood for a commercial addition at 208 West State Street,” Tipton said in her response to Leive’s complaint. 

The decision to rezone the property last year was met with resistance from a group of community members collectively calling themselves The Merchant and Resident Coalition to Preserve Our Town. Last November an attorney representing the group asked the board of aldermen to deny Harwood’s rezoning request. 

Aldermen ruled unanimously to rezone the property. At the time alderman Larry Harris stated the issue was not about the crematory, but instead was a "matter of zoning." He, with former alderman Carlos Showers, believed the property was zoned incorrectly in 2010 when the current zoning districts were adopted by the town.