Montreat Stewards appeal Board of Adjustment decision to allow MRA lodge
Opponents to the Mountain Retreat Association's new lodge have announced intent to file an appeal of a decision by the Montreat Board of Adjustment to grant the MRA a special use permit.
The appeal will need to be submitted to the Buncombe County Superior Court based in Asheville within the next three weeks.
The opposition made up of Kate Hayner and the Jones family, whose properties sit adjacent to the site of the lodge, released a statement from the Montreat Stewards, a group of Montreaters organized by the Hayner family to oppose the lodge.
"There is a very strong legal case to overturn the board’s decision," the statement read. "Procedurally, the Board of Adjustment committed numerous due process violations."
The Stewards say the board failed to make its decision based on the evidence presented during the hearings and came as a result of a discussion that ignored expert testimony. Additionally, Stewards say the written order of the board's decision contains significant errors and "misrepresentations" of the board's deliberations.
"We certainly wouldn’t be appealing the case if we did not believe firmly that the evidence is absolutely in our favor, based on what was presented in the hearing," Priscilla Hayner, sister to Kate Hayner, said in an email.
The Board of Adjustment reached its decision Jan. 6 after roughly 50 hours of hearings spanning four months and eight sessions. The board voted 5-2 to approve the special use permit.
The written order of the board's decision was delivered March 25. According to Marc Shimberg, trial court administrator for Buncombe County, the opponents have 30 days to file an overall appeal to superior court.
"Then we have to get a transcript of the hearing," Shimberg said. "Once the transcript is filed, we basically can go ahead and set that for hearing."
Shimberg said the court will hear arguments from both parties before ruling on the appeal. Although he said the county doesn't received many appeals of this nature, and with the other cases already in its docket, it could be a while before the appeal is heard.
The Stewards say the appeal process will likely extend into the fall.
This latest announcement by the opposition came just three weeks after the Board of Adjustment dismissed an appeal of specific testimony heard during the hearings. On March 16, the board voted to dismiss an appeal of Town Zoning Administrator Scott Adams' testimony without hearing it.
"The parties in opposition to the MRA hotel are greatly disappointed in the process and the outcome of the lengthy BoA hearing," the Stewards stated.
In January, MRA President Richard DuBose said while the organization hoped it wouldn't come to an appeal, the MRA was prepared in the event it did.
"The essential question is whether the town of Montreat is going to allow us to develop this lodge on property that we've used for decades for lodging our guests for our mission and ministry," DuBose added. "That question was answered."
The site of the lodge, situated between Assembly Drive and Georgia Terrace, would do away with three original structures on the MRA property: Galax House, Chestnut Lodge and Lord Apartments. Although 60 trees will need to be removed to accommodate the lodge, the MRA plans to replant 80.
The lodge itself, outlined at 40,000 square feet, includes 40 guest rooms with private baths, a courtyard area and a 30-space parking garage.
The Stewards say more than 1,200 people signed a petition voicing opposition to the lodge.
"To allow this unjust decision to stand would be unacceptable," the Stewards wrote. "The large, modern construction that the MRA envisions would do unmeasurable damage to Montreat."
Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.