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 on January 6, 2022 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 legal process of gathering information ('discovery') extended through the fall of 2022, and on January 6, 2023 the Brief outlining our arguments for overturning the decision was filed with Superior Court. The full 28-page brief can be found on the Appeals page.
The Appeal hearing took place on May 3, 2023, and the legal case for revoking the permit was strong. The judge heard arguments from all sides, and is expected to reach a decision by the end of the month. Depending on his ruling, he could potentially send the case back to the Board of Adjustment for a new hearing under proper procedures, or overturn the Board's decision and revoke the Special Use Permit.
Background on the Special Use Hearing Process
Summaries of each hearing session were published in the Black Mountain News, available on the Voices So Far page. Video recordings of each of the permit hearing sessions and more about the process are available on our Permit Hearing 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
Details of the proposed hotel, including the Conference Center's application for a Special Use Permit, compared with current views of the site
Key concerns, including the historical preservation of the oldest buildings in Montreat and environmental issues around wildlife and the local watershed
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
What you can do to make your voice heard, including by donating or putting up yard signs and ribbons
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.