Voices So Far

Black Mountain News

May 6, 2022


Letter to the Editor by Jane Warner:

"Mountain Retreat Association should reimburse town of Montreat for legal costs"

Black Mountain News

& Asheville Citizen-Times

April 28, 2022


Letter to the Editor by Monroe Gilmour:

"Community should have been more involved in lodge proposal"

Black Mountain News

May 19, 2022

"Legal fees and politics: Montreat Board of Commissioners hears concerns from public"


https://www.blackmountainnews.com/story/news/2022/05/13/montreat-board-commissioners-addresses-concerns-monthly-meeting/9747789002/

Legal fees and politics: Montreat Board of Commissioners hears concerns from public


Ezra Maille

Black Mountain News


MONTREAT - Discussions of fees, budgets and governmental systems made up the majority of the Montreat Board of Commissioners meeting May 12.


The commissioners also completed two appointments to town boards at the meeting.


"The legal battle over the lodge is draining the finances of this town," said Philip Arnold, a member of the town audit committee, addressing the board. "I have watched as the town has had to write check after check to lawyers, spending money we don't have, money that's not in the town budget."


At the Board of Commissioners meeting in April, Mayor Tim Helms announced the cost of legal fees for the town for the Mountain Retreat Association's lodge hearings totaled more than $100,000.


The Montreat Board of Adjustment on Jan. 6 approved a special use permit for the MRA to build a new lodge. Since then, the opposition to the lodge has stated intentions to fight the decision.


As the opposition continues to work on an appeal of the Board of Adjustment's decision with superior county court, community members such as Arnold have reservations about mounting legal fees.


"I know this council does not want to raise our property taxes," Arnold said. "We're a little town with limited resources."


Arnold proposed the idea that for the future, the opposition to the lodge reimburse the town for legal expenses incurred as hearings continue.


Other community members also addressed the board about the town's current budgetary needs, citing concerns of a late audit. In December, Montreat was placed on the state treasurer's Unit Assistance List due to the town having not submitted an annual audit for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.


"We're in this position financially in part because our cash reserves, our fund balance, seem to have dropped quite a lot," said Mary Standaert, a Montreat resident who addressed the board. "Under normal circumstances, we would have the 35% that was mandated by this council in cash reserves."


Although the current budget has yet to be finalized, Ben Blackburn, interim town administrator, said the town has estimated that the cash reserves will be at 32%. This fund pays for expenses such as the legal fees incurred during the MRA hearings.


Regardless of the Board of Adjustment's decision on the lodge hearings, Commissioner Kent Otto encouraged the public to treat the board members favorably. He said since the Board of Adjustment is made up of volunteers, they should be treated with respect as members of the Montreat community.


"It frustrates me when we don't have our house in order," Otto said. "I'm disappointed with some of the attacks that we've had."


Community members also raised concerns over the new system of government the town has been considering, moving from a Board of Commissioners and town administrator system to a Town Council and town manager system. Community members questioned if the new system would influence the political landscape.


Helms explained that currently, the town functions nearly identically to a council-manager system with very few differences.


"Right now, if I were influenced politically, I could steer a lot of things the way the government is set up now but I don't do that," Helms said. "The previous mayor didn't do that."


Historically, the town has trained town administrators to go on to become town managers. Helms said he hopes the new system will attract a more permanent position for potential town managers.


Finally, the commissioners completed two new appointments to town boards: Allen Crawford to the Planning and Zoning Commission and Danny Sharp from alternate to full time member of the Board of Adjustment.


The Montreat Board of Commissioners plans to meet May 26 at 6 p.m. for a budget workshop to continue to discuss finances.

Black Mountain News

April 15, 2022


'This is sobering': Montreat Board of Commissioners approves 6 budget amendments


https://www.blackmountainnews.com/story/news/2022/04/15/town-montreat-reallocates-budget-cover-legal-fees/7330208001/

'This is sobering': Montreat Board of Commissioners approves 6 budget amendments


Ezra Maille

Black Mountain News


Montreat Mayor Tim Helms delivered information concerning the town's legal fees at the April 14 Board of Commissioners meeting.


The Montreat Board of Commissioners approved six budget amendments at its April 14 meeting, covering legal fees and reallocating funds to various departments.


"This is sobering," commented Mayor Pro Tem Tom Widmer after all the amendments had been approved.


These amendments covered increased expenses incurred by the sanitation department, salaries and wages and additional legal fees pertaining to the Board of Adjustment hearings to grant the Mountain Retreat Association a special use permit for its new lodge.


Prior to the Board of Commissioners meeting, the town's bill for legal fees pertaining to the hearings was $74,000. Mayor Tim Helms announced the town just received another bill for $25,763, putting the total cost at more than $100,000.


Pay for the town employees present throughout the hearing process totaled $14,792, according to Helms.


As the opponents of the new lodge file an appeal of the Board of Adjustment's decision with superior court, the town anticipates additional legal fees. Helms read an estimation, saying after superior court, the total legal fees could range from $121,555 to $124,555 of taxpayer money.


"We're trying to serve this community and not raise taxes," said Commissioner Kent Otto.


Darlene Carrasquillo, the town's finance officer, said after the town received this most recent bill for legal fees, more funds needed to be reallocated. She said the budget money comes from revenues that were underbudgeted.


"While we underbudgeted expenses, fortunate for us, we also underbudgeted some of the revenues," Carrasquillo said. "We're now able to take some of the money we said we needed for revenues and move it in these expenses."


Carrasquillo informed the board the town required $80,000 to cover legal fees as the Board of Adjustment appeal moves to superior court. She said this amount will factor into the total estimation provided by Helms.


"We need an additional $80,000 just to get us through what we know is coming in legal fees," Carrasquillo said. "Anything over and above that we're going to have to also address but for now, $80,000 more is a given."


The board also approved two budget amendments to pay for increased expenses incurred by sanitation. According to Carrasquillo, by the end of February, 99% of the department's budget had been used.


For the first amendment, Carrasquillo said the money would come out of the police department's budget. She said Chief David Arrant had been helpful in accommodating for funding to be moved from his department's budget to sanitation.


Due to increased gas prices, the sanitation department was hit especially hard. For expenses applied to gasoline and auto supplies, salaries and wages and a dumpster contract, $10,300.58 was required to be moved the police department's budget.


"These costs are fixed," Carrasquillo said. "We can't not have dumpster service; we can't not have gasoline."


For all the various budget amendments, Carrasquillo said the town would not have to dip into the general fund, the main operating fund for Montreat.


Carrasquillo expressed her appreciation to the various departments that had lent a hand in reallocating budgets. She said for the next fiscal year, after seeing how well staff worked together, things should go more smoothly.


"These budget amendments may be confusing but it's putting money where it's supposed to be and can be payed out properly without the auditors going crazy," Helms said.


Asheville Citizen-Times

April 5, 2022

"Montreat Stewards appeal Board of Adjustment decision to allow MRA lodge"

https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2022/04/05/mountain-retreat-association-lodge-opponents-appeal-superior-court/9463366002/


Montreat Stewards appeal Board of Adjustment decision to allow MRA lodge

Opponents to the Mountain Retreat Association's new lodge have announced intent to file an appeal of a decision by the Montreat Board of Adjustment to grant the MRA a special use permit.

The appeal will need to be submitted to the Buncombe County Superior Court based in Asheville within the next three weeks.

The opposition made up of Kate Hayner and the Jones family, whose properties sit adjacent to the site of the lodge, released a statement from the Montreat Stewards, a group of Montreaters organized by the Hayner family to oppose the lodge.

"There is a very strong legal case to overturn the board’s decision," the statement read. "Procedurally, the Board of Adjustment committed numerous due process violations."

The Stewards say the board failed to make its decision based on the evidence presented during the hearings and came as a result of a discussion that ignored expert testimony. Additionally, Stewards say the written order of the board's decision contains significant errors and "misrepresentations" of the board's deliberations.

"We certainly wouldn’t be appealing the case if we did not believe firmly that the evidence is absolutely in our favor, based on what was presented in the hearing," Priscilla Hayner, sister to Kate Hayner, said in an email.

The Board of Adjustment reached its decision Jan. 6 after roughly 50 hours of hearings spanning four months and eight sessions. The board voted 5-2 to approve the special use permit.

The written order of the board's decision was delivered March 25. According to Marc Shimberg, trial court administrator for Buncombe County, the opponents have 30 days to file an overall appeal to superior court.

"Then we have to get a transcript of the hearing," Shimberg said. "Once the transcript is filed, we basically can go ahead and set that for hearing."

Shimberg said the court will hear arguments from both parties before ruling on the appeal. Although he said the county doesn't received many appeals of this nature, and with the other cases already in its docket, it could be a while before the appeal is heard.

The Stewards say the appeal process will likely extend into the fall.

This latest announcement by the opposition came just three weeks after the Board of Adjustment dismissed an appeal of specific testimony heard during the hearings. On March 16, the board voted to dismiss an appeal of Town Zoning Administrator Scott Adams' testimony without hearing it.

"The parties in opposition to the MRA hotel are greatly disappointed in the process and the outcome of the lengthy BoA hearing," the Stewards stated.

In January, MRA President Richard DuBose said while the organization hoped it wouldn't come to an appeal, the MRA was prepared in the event it did.

"The essential question is whether the town of Montreat is going to allow us to develop this lodge on property that we've used for decades for lodging our guests for our mission and ministry," DuBose added. "That question was answered."

The site of the lodge, situated between Assembly Drive and Georgia Terrace, would do away with three original structures on the MRA property: Galax House, Chestnut Lodge and Lord Apartments. Although 60 trees will need to be removed to accommodate the lodge, the MRA plans to replant 80.

The lodge itself, outlined at 40,000 square feet, includes 40 guest rooms with private baths, a courtyard area and a 30-space parking garage.

The Stewards say more than 1,200 people signed a petition voicing opposition to the lodge.

"To allow this unjust decision to stand would be unacceptable," the Stewards wrote. "The large, modern construction that the MRA envisions would do unmeasurable damage to Montreat."

Black Mountain News

February 3, 2022


Letter to the Editor by Anna Cannon: "Good Neighbors?"


Black Mountain News,

January 20, 2022


3 Letters to the Editor:

  • David Kirk: "Board kicks the can on lodge decision"

  • Sarah Williams: "Thoughts on the lodge"

  • Eleanor Peters: "What does 'enjoyment' mean to you?"


Black Mountain News,

January 20, 2022


Opponents file appeal after recent MRG lodge approval


Also available online at:

https://www.blackmountainnews.com/story/news/2022/01/13/mra-lodge-opposition-considering-appeal/9172553002/

Black Mountain News,

January 13, 2022


Letter to the Editor by John Gregg McMaster III


"Preserve the Montreat cottages and their charm"

Black Mountain News,

January 13, 2022


MRA lodge is approved after nearly 50 hours of hearings


Available online at

https://www.blackmountainnews.com/story/news/2022/01/07/mra-lodge-approved-montreat-board-after-50-hours-hearings/9128546002/

Black Mountain News,

January 6, 2022


Letter to the Editor by David Kirk


"Unpleasant possible consequences of lodge"

Asheville Citizen-Times

December 22, 2021


and


Black Mountain News,

December 23, 2021


Letter to the Editor by Jane Warner


"Montreat may be at risk"

Black Mountain News,

December 23, 2021


Two MRA lodge hearings conducted in one week

BMN Two Lodge Hearings 12-23.pdf

Black Mountain News,

December 9, 2021


Letter to the Editor by Brendan Hayner-Slattery


"We all have a stake in Montreat's permit outcome"

Black Mountain News,

November 25, 2021


Montreat MRA lodge hearing postponed until Dec. 13

Black Mountain News,

November 11, 2021


Lodge hearings continue...again

Black Mountain News,

November 11, 2021


2 Letters to the Editor:


James Alexander: Keep Montreat's charm

&

Jay Flowers: Questions about proposed lodge


Asheville Citizen-Times,

November 5, 2021


Letter to the Editor by James Alexander:


Montreat lodge project doesn't say 'welcome'

Black Mountain News,

November 4, 2021


MRA lodge proposal hearing continued once again

Black Mountain News,

November 4, 2021


Mountain Retreat Association must meet all criteria for a new lodge permit

Radio Interview: "The Real Deal with Ryan Marshall" October 29, 2021


Listen to the recording here:

"Topic: Montreat Hotel Controversy"


Priscilla Hayner & Emmie Alexander Hancock

Priscilla Hayner and Emmie Alexander Hancock were interviewed for the show "The Real Deal with Ryan Marshall," which focuses on real estate issues in the WNC region. The show's host learned of the story when he visited Montreat and saw all the yard signs, and was curious to know what was behind them. The recording of the 40-minute interview is available as a podcast.

Black Mountain News,

October 28, 2021


MRA lodge hearing

continued to Oct. 28 with

no resolution

Black Mountain News,

October 28, 2021


Letter to the Editor by Emmie Alexander Hancock:


Retreat or Resort?


Black Mountain News,

October 28, 2021


Letter to the Editor by Frances Wade Crozier:


Real or virtual Montreat?

Black Mountain News,

October 21, 2021


Letter to the Editor by Anna Cannon:


Montreat, how I love you


Black Mountain News,

October 21, 2021


Letter to the Editor by Frances Wade Crozier:


Is lodge project a 'good fit' for Montreat?

Asheville Citizen Times, October 17, 2021:

Guest Column by Margaret Berry:

Hotel development threatens Montreat


Black Mountain News, October 14, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Neil Davis:

Can we push the reset button?


Black Mountain News, October 14, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Martha Pate Teters and family:

Save the building


Black Mountain News, October 7, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Angela Drummond:

A sign of the future?


Black Mountain News, September 30, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Leighton Chapman:

Montreat under siege?


Black Mountain News, September 30, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Laura Hoover:

What could come next?


Black Mountain News, September 23, 2021:

Board of Adjustment set to hold hearing for Montreat lodge proposal

But quasi-judicial event has been rescheduled


Black Mountain News, September 23, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Jane Warner:

Dismayed by potential loss of trees

Black Mountain News, September 23, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Eleanor and Mike Peters:

Is proposed lodge 'in harmony' with area?

Black Mountain News, September 23, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Frances Wade Crozier:

Montreat or Monsort?

Black Mountain News, September 23, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Luke Hinson:

A prayer for Montreat

Asheville Citizen Times,

September 17, 2021:

and Black Mountain News, September 23, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Harry T. Jones:

What is a better way forward for Montreat: village or hotel?

Black Mountain News, September 16, 2021:

Special Column by Bob Warner:

Montreat cottage owner weighs in on MRA lodge debate

Black Mountain News, September 16, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Dan and Julie Schell:

Concerned about 'hotel'

Black Mountain News, September 9, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Priscilla Hayner:

Considering Montreat plans

Black Mountain News, August 12, 2021:

Guest Column by Kate Hayner:

Trees to be cut down are essential to Montreat

Black Mountain News, August 5, 2021:

Looking inside the permit application submitted for proposed new lodge

Black Mountain News, August 5, 2021

Montreat locals outline 'village alternative' to Mountain Retreat Association lodge proposal

Black Mountain News, July 15, 2021:

Alternative to new Montreat lodge discussed

Black Mountain News, July 8, 2021:

Guest Column by Bryant McEntire:

Construction of a new lodge is poor timing

Black Mountain News, July 8, 2021:

How does Montreat Conference Center move forward with a new lodge?

Black Mountain News, July 1, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Nancy Fox:

How will the Mountain Retreat Association be viewed in the future?

Black Mountain News, June 17, 2021:

Roughly one-third of residents in Montreat homes oppose new lodge, petition says

Asheville Citizen-Times, Page 3A, May 30, 2021:

Open Letter to the Mayor and Town Council of Montreat, North Carolina

Black Mountain News, May 27, 2021:

What is the historical significance of the Lord Apartments building?

Black Mountain News, May 27, 2021:

Montreat Conference Center evaluating lodge site

Black Mountain News, May 6, 2021:

Guest Column by Heather Williams:

Save Montreat and the MRA

Black Mountain News, May 6, 2021:

Letter to the Editor by Jeff Richey:

Lodge may not square with Montreat's commitment to conservation

Page 1 Full page

Petition page 1

Petition cont p3

Concerns page 1

Concerns p6

Black Mountain News, April 22, 2021:

'Your Turn' Guest Column by Bob Warner:

Consider use of land in Montreat very carefully

Black Mountain News, April 22, 2021:

Timing of revisions to Montreat zoning ordinances is coincidental, Hayner family says

Black Mountain News, April 1, 2021: Two front page articles:

  • Inside Montreat Conference Center's decision to replace three of its lodges

  • How were Montreat residents notified?

Page 1 Full page

Lodges page 1

Lodges cont p6

Montreat page 1

Montreat cont p6

Black Mountain News, March 10, 2021:

Proposed Montreat development is 'a lodge, not a hotel'; neighbors continue to have concerns about impact of project

Asheville Citizen-Times, March 1, 2021:

Montreat Conference Center proposes new lodge