Black Mountain Town Council hears BearWise, golf course presentations

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
The Black Mountain Town Council hear a BearWise presentation Nov. 14.

Mayor Larry Harris opened Nov. 14’s Black Mountain Town Council meeting by congratulating Council member-elect Alice Berry and mayor-elect Mike Sobol. He also congratulated council member Bill Christy who ran for reelection and is currently 33 votes ahead of Rick Earley. Harris expressed gratitude toward Vice Mayor Ryan Stone and his service to the town. Stone did not run for reelection and will leave office in January.

Council then heard a presentation from Ashley Hobbs, assistant black bear and furbear biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Hobbs said that 34% of all human-bear interactions in the state last year came from Buncombe County. On average, this number is closer to 42%, she said.

Hobbs came before Town Council to present BearWise, a national program that is “science-based, shows ways to prevent conflicts, provide resources to resolve problems and encourages community initiative to keep bears wild.”

The program was created in 2018 in the Southeast and expanded nationally last year.

Hobbs said Black Mountain had the second official BearWise community in the nation, in the downtown area.

Hobbs said she wanted to urge that bears were not just an Asheville problem, as she has heard. Instead, as development moves outward from Asheville, so do bear interactions.

“This is not just an Asheville problem anymore,” Hobbs said. “This is in Black Mountain.”

Following Hobbs’ presentation, Planning Director Jessica Trotman presented on post-construction stormwater inspection requirements. She said that the team is working with permit owners to help them understand that they need to get inspections and how to get them. Trotman said a “small number” of owners refused the required inspections, but it is a town ordinance and they will be fined should they continue to refuse.

Town Attorney Ron Sneed said the town must enforce these ordinances because the town is fined if it is not in compliance.

Trotman said a workshop will be help in January to give more information to the permit owners.

The council then heard the annual report from Black Mountain Golf Club Operations Manager Brent Miller.

Miller said golf club revenue was up $72,000 from projections for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Over the past three years, the club was averaging 24,000 rounds per year. This year, there were 32,000 rounds played.

Miller said daily fee play has grown, with 82% of play being in this category, as opposed to memberships. He said memberships are down. When asked by council member Doug Hay why he thinks this is, Miller said he believes there is more value in daily play for golfers who like to travel around to different courses.

After Miller’s presentation, Town Manager Josh Harrold moved to the consent agenda where the council moved to make budget amendments to increase the budgeted expenditure for stormwater master plan, increase salaries of part-time employee and increase funding for the Montreat Road bike boulevard.

A license agreement for Skyrunner Inc. to use town property for radio communication was on the agenda but was moved after Hay questioned the amount being paid by the company for leasing the property.

In new business, council voted to grant an easement to Duke Energy Progress for resident Fred Alexander to have power on his entire property. Because he had a financial conflict of interest, council member Archie Pertiller excused himself from discussion and vote. Sneed also excused himself.

There was no opposition to creating a capital project fund for the U.S. 70 waterline update.

Town Manager Josh Harrold speaks to Town Council Nov. 14.

Council also voted with no opposition to transfer funds from ARPA to the general fund to cover $500,000 each for the U.S. 70 waterline update and to the Tomahawk Dam repair.

Town Council heard a presentation of turning Honeycutt Street into a one-way street going westbound from West Street to Montreat Road. Parking is to remain on the south side of the street. The reasoning behind making the street one way is it is heavily used by emergency vehicles. Stone was the sole “no” in voting.  

All council members voted to allow Bounty & Soul using the Carver Center kitchen to host cooking classes for middle school-aged children and their families.

Amy Pate was appointed to one vacancy on the historic preservation commission. Her term will end June 30, 2025.

All council members voted not to renew the lease of the billboard at the community garden.

Sneed told the council approximately 25 years ago the town made an effort to remove large billboards around town but could not do anything about the community garden billboard because it was on federal land at the time.

The original lease agreement was for the company to pay the town $925 a year. The lease is now expired.

“I would much rather not have a billboard in the park than have $925 a year,” Hay said. “This feels like such little money.”

As council moved to not renew the lease, the company is in charge of moving the equipment.

The council moved to direct Harrold to take a comprehensive look at the Broadway Avenue crosswalk project before they voted on the issue.

Closing out the meeting, each council member expressed their gratitude to Harris and Stone for their service to the town.

Hay thanked those who voted and those who ran.

“It’s been a pleasure,” council member Pam King said. “I’ve enjoyed two years of civil discourse and guidance and support. Both of you have been so helpful.”