Black Mountain approves stormwater utility, updates greenway project

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
Black Mountain will move forward with the development of a stormwater utility following a June 14 vote.

Black Mountain will be moving forward with the development of a stormwater utility following a June 14 Town Council vote. 

The utility will be used to “provide for the management, protection, control, regulation, use, construction and enhancement of the town’s stormwater system and facilities.” 

Planning director Jessica Trotman that the utility would allow the town to comply with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems permit.

Though Town Council approved an ordinance outlining the utility, the vote serves as the town “taking baby steps” toward developing the utility for future use, Vice Mayor Ryan Stone said.

“I do think that this is a very good first step in addressing something we’ve heard over and over again,” Stone said.

Consideration for the utility follows a 2020 audit by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and a violation issued to the town. It is complemented by local concerns regarding stormwater runoff and enhanced federal regulation, like the audit, Trotman added.

The utility will function with a flat-tiered system “based on the intensity of the principle use of each parcel.” Trotman says the town has already moved forward with assigning each parcel to one of five tiers and admits that, moving forward, any mistakes will be addressed.

An estimated monthly payment for a $250,000 home would be $6, or $72 annually, Trotman said following an inquiry by council member Pam King.

Only 88 of 111 MS4 municipalities operate stormwater utilities, Trotman added, including Asheville and Hendersonville as the only municipalities in Western North Carolina doing so.

Mayor Larry Harris said the town was effectively forced to construct the utility.

“We really had no option here,” Harris said. Other in-state towns were mandated to make the same decisions, he added.

Funding to comply with NCDES regulations is unknown, though it has been estimated through the two North Carolina municipalities that passed the audit. Prices range from $63.78 per capita in Greenville to $112.95 per capita in Clemmons.

While approving the utility, the town recognizes its vote as "baby steps" toward its adoption and use.

An estimated budget to fund the utility with these averages ranged between $540,000-$956,000.

In response to the averages proposed by Trotman at the utility’s initial proposal, Harris said the costs are “outrageous.”

Trotman sympathized.

“Everybody is going through what we’re going through,” Trotman said. “It’s no small task.”

Riverwalk Greenway update

An effort to complete the Riverwalk Greenway via Hemphill Road is still on hold, Town Manager Josh Harrold says. 

The road is only for public use up until the railroad crossing, owned by Norfolk Southern Railway, as the area by a town-owned water tank cannot be used for public access. An easement through Norfolk Southern is held by the nearby property owners to cross the railroad, Harrold said.

Letters have been sent to both the property owners and Norfolk Southern regarding the site.

“We’re still attempting to get information from the railroad, and I just don’t have a timeline on when that’s going to happen,” Harrold said.

Harris noted that he was “concerned” about the town’s lack of progress moving forward with the Hemphill Road route.

“I’m a little concerned that … we’re not going to get anywhere with trying to go through the Hemphill property and taking that route,” Harris said. “I think we could take two, three or four years and not be anywhere. I think that’s the risk.”

Harris proposed the town drop the Hemphill Road project in favor of an alternate route as “it’s too much time, it’s too much unknown.”

Tim Raines steps down

Councilmember Tim Raines was recognized by Harris and the town during his final Town Council meeting. 

Raines was appointed in 2018 to fill a vacant then-alderman seat previously held by Jeremie Konegni. Prior to a 2019 decision to move elections to even-numbered years, Raines would have completed his term in 2021.

Raines announced during a May 27 special call meeting that he and his wife will be moving from Black Mountain.

“I just want to thank everybody for this great honor that I’ve had,” Raines said. “It’s not an easy decision to leave, but I enjoyed my time on the board and I thank everybody.”

Complemented by his time on the town’s governing body, Raines served as a teacher at his alma mater, Owen High School, for 25 years prior to retiring in 2017. He served as the school’s head coach for the girls basketball and junior varsity football teams.

Following his retirement, Raines later returned to the school in 2020 as an assistant coach with both teams.

Harris said the town will continue to see Raines as family.

“We know you’re going to be here for the warm months in the mountains,” Harris said. “We’ll all get Tim’s address and go see him when it gets cold up here.”