'Amazed': 346 Montreat residents give input on comprehensive plan

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
The Montreat Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee nears the update phase of the project after hearing the results of a town survey.

MONTREAT - Montreat nears the refurbishing phase of updating the town's comprehensive plan after five months of planning and surveying the community.

The Montreat Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee met virtually June 21 after having to postpone a previous meeting scheduled for earlier in June.

"I know it's moving a little slow for some of you, but we're involved as a steering committee and our job is to steer, not so much do all the work, That's what MS (Consultants) is for," said Mayor Tim Helms, committee chair. 

Katie Sieb, Drew Draper and Shannon Fergus returned to appear before the committee, representing MS Consultants, a firm hired by the town to manage the comprehensive plan update. Jessica Trotman, the planning director for Black Mountain, was also present as a sub-consultant for the project, representing her own firm, Trillium Planning.

Various stakeholders sit on the steering committee including Paul Maurer, president of Montreat College, Richard DuBose, president of the Mountain Retreat Association, and a handful of local residents. 

More:Montreat Steering Committee talks town comprehensive plan over Mad Libs and stickers

Sieb presented the results of a town survey, gathered from Montreat residents to determine priorities for the comprehensive plan. As of June 21, 346 residents had responded to the survey, roughly one third of the town's population.

"I'm just amazed at 346 responses, that's a tremendous database for the questions you've asked," said Bill Seaman, steering committee member. 

The consultants' survey found support for sustainable policies such as compact housing, proportional stormwater fees and a ban on construction that may disturb waterways. A majority of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed with supporting increased tourism in town.

The committee agreed to continue to promote the survey through July 4, expecting more people to come to town to celebrate Independence Day.

Katie Sieb, a representative from MS Consultants, facilitates a discussion of goals for Montreat's updated comprehensive plan on March 21.

Currently, the project remains on schedule in Phase 3: Community Engagement. The next phase will involve working on the plan update itself. The finalized plan is scheduled to be drafted and ready in December.

More:Montreat Steering Committee holds first meeting to update town comprehensive plan

As the process continues, Sieb encouraged committee members to meet with residents and stakeholders in small groups to continue to foster ideas.

"MS will give you a sheet of topics to discuss and then you can gather that information and feed it back," Helms said. "It's just another way of reaching out to the community."

Helms said he spoke with the consultants after committee members had told him they wanted to see more community involvement in the project. 

With Sieb's help, committee members will hold space for the community to discuss land use. Though the consultants asked that land use be the main topic of discussion among community and committee members, Sieb said general room for improvement would also be welcome.

"A steering committee is extremely important," Sieb said. "One, because you represent your community and you understand what some of the needs and challenges are, and you can help guide us but also you can listen to people."

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.