Proposed Montreat lodge is 'disrespectful', local petition says

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
A petition opposing a Montreat Conference Center development has reached 680 signatures in four weeks.

MONTREAT - An estimated 25% of Montreat properties have signed a petition opposing a proposed lodge to be built between Georgia Terrace and Assembly Drive, according to Priscilla Hayner. Those who have signed the petition account for 680 signatures.

This percentage is based on an estimated 400-home count for all of Montreat by the Hayner family and 96 addresses being listed on the petition.

Hayner, whose family released the petition March 25 through their website, “Montreat Stewards,” to voice opposition to the development, said signatures continue to come in.

“I’m sure some people haven’t seen it, but it’s increasingly daily,” Hayner said.

The petition reached 450 signatures in five days and added an average of just under 10 signatures per day between March 30 and April 23.

This petition complemented a postcard that was mailed out two weeks earlier, which offered suggestions to those opposed to the development on how to be more involved and urged those unaware to visit the Hayner website.

Of the comments submitted to the petition, some propose the development will “change the ambiance of the community” while others say “this proposal would be detrimental to everything that is desirable about Montreat.”

“This proposal absolutely does not fit Montreat,” one reads. “This is completely disrespectful of the residents and those that come for conferences and camps. The whole feel of the town will forever be negatively changed.”

A selection of comments was provided to Black Mountain News by managers of the “Montreat Stewards” website.

Petition data

The Hayner family has compiled two graphs to visualize the contents of the petition, primarily the location of opposed property owners and how each signature is represented in Montreat.

A bar graph created 12 days after the petition’s release, accounting for 556 of the now 680 signatures to show how each signature is represented, is dominated by families that own cottages with 231 signatures.

A bar graph outlining the location of each signature through 12 days of the petition being publicly available.

The next highest is “distinct properties in Montreat” with 91 signatures, followed by conference attendees at 61, Montreat residents at 49, local area residents outside of Montreat at 56 and Montreat College at 68.

A complementary plotted map of Montreat represents that while neighboring property owners are most concerned about the development, all of Montreat is represented, too, Hayner said.

The map features dotted points for each of the 96 homes represented in the petition.

A plot of each Montreat property that has signed the petition, accounting for an estimated 25% of Montreat.

A 'win-win'

Though Priscilla and her sister, Kate, say their “desire is to stop the project altogether,”  Priscilla says she hopes those opposed and Montreat Retreat Association, MCC’s corporate and original moniker, will be able to approach a “win-win” scenario.

“I hope they get to the place where they say, ‘listen, OK, we’ve heard you, let’s roll up our sleeves and work on this together,’” Priscilla said. “What are the options for us? Let’s look at the other sides, you all can be involved, we’ll all find a happy situation, or is there anything we can do at this (other) site that would work? That would be the win-win.”

A concept rendering of the proposed Assembly Drive lodge.

The Hayner family owns the “By-The-Way” home adjacent to Galax House, an MRA property to be replaced by the proposed lodge.

While hopeful, “there’s definitely no suggestion of that right now” that a “win-win” is possible, Priscilla added.

Those opposed are prepared for the possibility that the MRA will develop a property that functions against arguments outlined by the Hayner family and comments made to Montreat’s Board of Commissioners.

“We know that that’s definitely a large possibility,” Priscilla said. “The signs we’re getting are that they’re not slowing down or pausing as we’ve requested, so we absolutely assume that they may well move forward.”

Kate hired a lawyer in March who has been “very involved” in the process to oppose the development, Priscilla added.

“We are moving on as many fronts as we can,” Priscilla said. “We sent (the MRA) letters. It’s not just that we’re trying to do things publicly, we’re trying to communicate.”