Montreat, MRA respond to petitioners' brief on proposed lodge

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Lodge renderings show it will incorporate various designs related to other Montreat architecture.

Responses to a petitioners’ brief concerning the proposed Mountain Retreat Association lodge in Montreat have be filled with the Buncombe County Superior Court.

Both the town of Montreat and the MRA filed responses to the original petitioners’ brief that named both parties.

The petitioners’ brief said the Jan. 6, 2022, decision by the Montreat Board of Adjustment allowing the lodge to move forward should be overturned as the decision was “arbitrary and capricious, and violated Petitioners’ due process rights.”

More:Brief filed in Superior Court against MRA, town of Montreat

Both Montreat and MRA responses said this is not true.

The MRA response outlines the plans for the project and said the proposal would remove the Lord Apartments, Chestnut Lodge, Galax House and some “accessory structures.” These buildings would be replaced by a single two-story structure with a parking garage beneath.

The MRA plans to replace the old and dilapidated apartments with a new and larger lodge.

The Montreat response said the petitioners’ brief incorrectly asserts there were undisclosed financial donations between members of the Board of Adjustment and the MRA as well as undisclosed communications.

The response said that while some Board of Adjustment members had made donations to the MRA in the past, “none of the contributions were made directly in support” of the lodge, nor did any member have a “financial interest in the outcome.”

Montreat’s response said one of the board members who voted against the lodge was also one of the members who had made donations.

The response also stated that preventing anyone who had donated to the MRA from serving on the Board of Adjustment would disqualify “a significant portion of personas eligible and willing to serve” and would be “impractical.”

The petitioners’ brief said a member of the board communicated with the MRA, but Montreat’s response said this communication occurred in March 2021 while the application to build the lodge was not submitted until July of the same year.

More:Updated with reaction: MRA lodge is approved after nearly 50 hours of hearings

The original brief also said new members of the board were asked to vote on the lodge while they had not been on the board during the hearing, but the Montreat response said these members were not being asked to vote on whether the permit should be approved, but instead whether or not the order correctly documented the board’s previous decision.

The MRA response said they “satisfied” the burden of proof by providing a traffic and property value study that showed the lodge would abide by all town ordinances.

The response said the Board of Adjustment did in fact deliberate the contested facts.

"Even a cursory review of the record and of the written decision shows affirmatively that the (Board of Adjustment) engaged in extensive and detailed deliberation as to each of the required findings," the MRA response said. "Deliberations consume some 89 pages of the transcript ... and took over two hours."