We need to know more about the town's plan to lease land to day care

Elaine Loutzenheiser
Guest columnist
Elaine Loutzenheiser

How do you feel about the Town of Black Mountain going into the day care business without your input? 

This is what the Board of Aldermen (BOA) are apparently doing without open discussion in (many) regular meetings.  

In a special call meeting on December 4, 2017, at Town Hall, the board met with members of Children and Friends to discuss a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Town of Black Mountain and Children and Friends. 

It might be assumed from the facts presented at this meeting that, prior to the meeting, at least two "someones" had been discussing the possibility of this venture outside of publicly announced meetings. There were too many details in the MOU presented to the board at this meeting for there not to have been some discussion by at least several people prior to the meeting.

The site chosen for this day care center is on town property on White Pine Street, a single lane, dead-end road south off Blue Ridge Road almost opposite Blue Ridge Assembly Drive. 

The Town has a Fire Department substation, the Grey Eagle Recreation Building and the community garden  on White Pine Street.  

All of these require parking and the Grey Eagle has traffic coming and going as does the public garden, which has subplots rented by numerous people during the growing season. 

There is often a serious traffic problem when there is an emergency at the fire station and Grey Eagle has incoming or exiting traffic for the fire truck to get out.  The board  wants to add a day care with up to 170 children being dropped off and picked up into this traffic situation on a one-lane road.

When the town entered into a three year lease with the Swannanoa Valley Montessori School at the Carver Recreation Center, they spent several months in open sessions discussing the details of that lease. That was with the Town already owning the building.

This lease, which would apparently result from the general terms of the MOU, has only been discussed in one special call meeting with little advance notice. When the property was rezoned to accommodate a day care on June 12, 2017, there were numerous neighbors who spoke at the public hearing to express their alarm at the proposed additional traffic to an already burdened road situation. 

They were obviously ignored as the plans are proceeding.

Adding to this traffic situation will be the future N.C. Department of Transportation plans to establish a new I-40 interchange at the intersection of Blue Ridge Road and U.S. 70. 

This will put more traffic on Blue Ridge Road.

By law, the town can only contract a lease for under 10 years, with option to renew,which would mean tying future boards to the question of renewing a lease on town land for someone else's building. 

The town is experiencing growth to the south.  Should the need arise to enlarge the fire station or add anything for the town, would enough land be available?  What does the town do with a business leased on town land?  If Children and Friends sit on town land, they do not pay property taxes on land they only lease.

No one would deny the need for day care but there has to be other options to consider than one with so many drawbacks. Knowledge of at least two offers were made to Children and Friends with possibilities of easy in, easy out and plenty parking room but both were turned down.  Why must this one spot be the only site they seem to want?

This issue is understood to be on the agenda for the regular July 8, 2019 meeting.  Due to the way the calendar falls in July, the regular agenda meeting would have been on Thursday, July 4,  therefore, the board is holding the agenda meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday July 8, with the regular meeting following at 6 p.m. 

If you are interested, please plan to attend.