Board of Aldermen discuss changes to town charter, approve Blue Ridge Road plan

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
Black Mountain Town Hall

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Mayor Larry Harris opened a discussion of the town charter “for educational purposes” during a Sept. 14 Board of Aldermen meeting. He said the discussion’s purpose was to let the public know what changes could be made, “not for the intention of there being any particular action taken.”

Harris was prompted to open discussion following comments made to the board after appointments of Harris and Archie Pertiller Jr. to mayor and alderman, respectively, during the board’s Aug. 10 meeting.

The town charter states that if a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor or alderman, “it shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term by the remaining members of the board of aldermen.”

Harris said he would be open to change but wanted to provide the public an opportunity to understand what changes could be made.

“I think it’s a rather complicated topic,” Harris said. “I thought it would be good for (Ron Sneed) and (Josh Harrold) just to provide some information so that the public, as well as the current board, will be aware of some of the nuts and bolts as to how that might work.”

Sneed, the town attorney, referenced Chapter 160A, Article 5 of the state’s general statutes that says if an appointment is made more than 90 days from the next election date, the appointed official would serve until the next election.

This differs from the town charter that says the appointed official would serve until the end of the seat's initial term.

He says the town should refer to the statute when considering any future changes, specifically in reference to term length for appointments.

“Nothing tells you how to do it,” he said. “One thing you probably want to look at down the road is picking one and locking it in, ‘This is the way we’re going to do it.’”

Tim Raines, appointed in 2018 to the board, would have served until 2020 under the statute. By the town charter, Raines will serve until 2022 after a 2019 amendment moving town elections to even-numbered years.

Regardless of term length, the statute says if “a vacancy occurs in an elective office of a city,” it would still “be filled by appointment of the city council.” Special elections for open seats are not authorized by the statute or the town charter.

Harris, who said that he would be “perfectly fine” with the process of having applicants file for the position, says a special election would “(leave) a seat open way long for the good of how government should work in town.”

“To me, that’s an ordinance issue, not a charter issue,” Harris said.

Reference to special elections for appointed officials follows the March appointment of Jennifer Willet to Carlos Showers’ seat. Contrasted by the two-week process of Willet’s appointment, both Harris and Pertiller were appointed immediately following former Mayor Don Collins’ Aug. 10 resignation.

Both Sneed and Harris agreed that a change to the town charter would be unnecessary and that the board should focus on an ordinance proposing term length and appointment regulations.

A process of amending the charter through state legislation, Harris said, would be “awkward.”

Blue Ridge Road Small Area Plan

The board voted unanimously in favor of approving the town’s small area plan for Blue Ridge Road. This is a “long-range land use and transportation plan” looking ahead 10-20 years for the area.

Following a December 2018 vote in favor of a two roundabout interchange connecting Blue Ridge Road and Interstate 40, the town provided input for the future of the surrounding area in a March 2019 meeting.

Subject area for the town's Blue Ridge Road Small Area Plan, including the future interchange by the top-left corner.

Black Mountain recognizes the interchange, with a construction date now postponed to 2025, as a “future growth area” while “exploring independent land use and transportation opportunities” along the road, the town’s website says.

Drew Draper, planning manager with Raleigh’s Weatherill Engineering, says the plan will be used by the town as a reference in future decision making for developing land by the road.

He says public input supports maintaining the town’s heritage.

“They do not want to be a quick stop for people’s trip over to Asheville, they want to be a destination,” Draper said.

The plan recommends two-lane roadways with a curb and gutter, a sidewalk on the southside and a multiuse path on the north connecting to a greenway. Additional roundabouts were also supported as an alternative for high traffic areas.

Traffic for the area will increase by 2040, Draper said, with current road traffic of 4,500 vehicles per day compared to 13,000 per day following the completion of the interchange.

A completed small area plan can be viewed by the public via the town’s website.

Bridge and sedimentation repair

Budget amendments were approved for repairs to be made at Black Mountain Golf Club and Lake Tomahawk. 

A bridge by hole No. 12 on the golf course was damaged by flooding in early August, with repairs estimated at $28,000. Additional flooding in 2018 caused damage to the north end of Lake Tomahawk where Tomahawk Creek enters the lake.

Public works crews drained Lake Tomahawk throughout the week to prepare for the arrival of Tropical Storm Florence on Sept. 15.

Complemented with flooding damage, a pedestrian bridge was also damaged and requires repair. With an initial estimate at $72,000, the town is now requiring $50,000 of additional funding.

The additional funding will be used to develop a new retaining wall to the north of the lake after dredging out sediment.