The Montreat Conference Center (MRA) is planning to build a 40 room hotel with meeting rooms and an underground parking garage on Assembly Drive in the center of Montreat, directly across from Robert Lake Park. We are strongly opposed. A permit was granted by the Montreat Board of Adjustment, and is now under appeal in Superior Court.
The Struggle to Stop the Hotel: Where It Stands
The Montreat Conference Center (MRA) is attempting to move forward with plans to demolish three historic homes and build a 40,000-sq.-ft. hotel and underground parking garage in the center of Montreat, directly uphill from a stream and children’s playground. In addition to destroying the homes — one of which is the oldest in Montreat — and cutting down sixty mature trees, experts say the proposal would pollute the stream with stormwater runoff.
Throughout 2021 neighbors and others who love Montreat spoke out against the hotel, many of us gathering under the name “Montreat Stewards.” We met with the MCC to seek a win-win solution, presenting an alternative proposal for development at the site that would leave the historic buildings intact. Yet the MCC rejected this alternative, closing off discussion as they moved forward with their hotel plan.
In July 2021 the MCC applied for a Special Use Permit, without which the hotel is prohibited under Montreat zoning law. Over eight hearing sessions from October to January, both the MCC and opposing neighbors presented evidence before the Board of Adjustment as to whether the planned hotel meets the requirements for a permit — which include conforming with Montreat’s Comprehensive Plan and not harming public health or welfare. Key testimony against the hotel came from a stormwater expert who spoke about the pollution it would cause, an engineer who highlighted the risk to the foundation of nearby homes, and an architectural historian who explained how the crucial goal of preserving historic structures is clearly laid out in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.
After roughly 50 hours of hearing, however, the Board deliberated for merely two hours before voting 5-2 to approve the permit. This perfunctory discussion failed to engage with the vast majority of evidence against the hotel or make the findings of fact that the law requires. What’s more, the written order of the Board’s decision starkly misrepresented the contents of their deliberations and improperly sought to alter the requirements of the Town’s ordinance.
For these reasons and more, neighbors who were parties in the hearing have appealed the Board’s decision to the Superior Court of Buncombe County. The appeals process will likely extend into the fall of 2022, but the legal case for revoking the permit is strong and the community’s opposition to the hotel has never been higher.
Special Use Permit Granted; Appeal to Superior Court Announced
In July 2021 the MRA submitted to Montreat's Board of Adjustment a request for a Special Use Permit to build the proposed hotel. The permit hearing lasted for about 50 hours over eight sessions, beginning on October 21, 2021 and coming to an end on January 6, 2022, when the Board voted to grant the permit.
The Board's perfunctory, two-hour deliberation did not do justice to the prior hours of the hearing; they failed to consider the ample evidence that opposing lawyers presented or make the findings of fact that the law requires. Now, the MRA has the zoning permit they need to go forward with demolition and construction. This would have terrible repercussions for Montreat, changing the town and its environment in ways that could not be undone: a polluted creek, loss of 60 mature trees, demolition of three historic structures, damage to neighboring homes. All of this was shown plainly in the hearing.
On April 1, 2022, opponents to the proposed hotel announced that they will be appealing to the Superior Court to overturn the Board's decision to grant the permit. On April 22 a legal Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed in the Superior Court of Buncombe County by attorneys for the opposition. Full details are available on the Appeals page.
Current view: Galax House on Assembly Drive
Proposed Hotel from Assembly Drive
Proposed Hotel from Georgia Terrace
Neighbors are concerned this hotel project would:
Irrevocably change the look and feel of the center of Montreat with the scale of the project
Increase traffic substantially in an already congested location
Diminish a historic neighborhood and destroy two of the oldest buildings in Montreat
The Conference Center never reached out to inform or consult with neighbors about the project. However in mid February, 2021, immediate neighbors of the project indirectly learned of the plans. We have since met several times with the Conference Center, raising our concerns and proposing alternative plans for development of the area, but they have refused to change course. In July the MRA applied for a Special Use Permit, without which they cannot build the hotel.
We continue to strongly believe that the scale of the project is far out of proportion to the space, and to the style and needs of Montreat, and that it in fact contradicts the Town mission: "To seek ways to maintain and improve the quality of life, preserve the natural beauty and promote responsible growth while maintaining our community image, heritage and traditions."
On this website you can find information on
The Special Use Permit hearing before the Board of Adjustment
The "village concept" — an alternate plan proposed by neighbors to preserve and restore the historic lodges while adding smaller new construction
Voices so far, including letters from the community and articles in the Black Mountain News and Asheville Citizen Times
If you want to join an email list to stay updated on the hotel project, please contact us.
The mission of the Town of Montreat:
To seek ways to maintain and improve the quality of life, preserve the natural beauty and promote responsible growth while maintaining our community image, heritage and traditions.
Montreat Stewards is a group of Montreat residents and friends dedicated to preserving and protecting the beauty, history and peace of Montreat, North Carolina.