Montreat Board of Adjustment sets new date for MRA lodge hearing

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
The debate over replacing the old MRA buildings with a new lodge waits until the hearing on Oct 21.

The Montreat Board of Adjustment chose a new date and location for the hearing to discuss a proposal for a new lodge by the Montreat Retreat Association. 

The rescheduled meeting is for Oct. 21 at Gaither Chapel on the campus of Montreat College, said Alex Carmichael, Montreat town administrator. The hearing originally was scheduled for Sept. 23 at Town Hall.

The new location for the Board of Adjustment hearing was chosen to accommodate COVID-19 concerns by the lawyers of all involved parties over holding the original meeting in such a small, confined space. For those unable to attend in-person, the town will provide an online option via Zoom. 

COVID-19 protocols will continue to be maintained for in-person attendees to the hearing. 

"Everybody's still going to wear a mask and they'll be social distanced," Carmichael said. 

The proposal for the new lodge, to be built between Assembly Drive and Georgia Terrace, includes 40 guest rooms with private baths, a large courtyard space and a parking garage holding 30 spaces. The lodge would require the removal of three of the original buildings on the MRA property: Lord Apartments, Galax House and Chestnut lodge. 

The lodge itself, minus the parking garage, is outlined at 29,000 square feet.

The new lodge has been the subject of debate among neighbors and residents of Montreat. The Montreat Stewards, a group lead primarily by the Hayner family whose property sits adjacent to the MRA, has headed a campaign in opposition to the new lodge.

"My impression is that the majority supports us, although not everyone is willing to say so publicly," said Priscilla Hayner.

Hayner said the new lodge will be too large and will do away with the old buildings on the MRA's property that have been there since the organization began. While the MRA addressed concerns, promising to replant more than 59 trees which will need to be removed for the project, the Stewards would prefer if the MRA would seek an alternative.

MRA President Richard DuBose said the organization has tried to compromise with the neighbors and has no intention of alienating residents. 

"Our aim is to be good neighbors," DuBose said. "We've done our best to be open minded to their concerns and to try to keep our eye on the ball to accomplish our goals for the project."