The vision statement in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), adopted by the village council in 2013, says:
Vision: Preservation of Flat Rock as a small, quiet historic village situated in a wooded scenic landscape blending quality residential homes and open spaces.
This underscores the Flat Rock village council’s commitment to the village’s historic past and to its cultural landscape. But how were the CLUP goals with their specific action items determined, and are they reflective of what residents want or need, especially on transportation issues?
The Village of Flat Rock was incorporated in 1995. In 2004 and in 2010, the village conducted surveys of residents to gather information on what residents might want to see in the village.
In previous posts, we looked at the 2004 survey and the 2010 survey. In this post, we will look at the Transportation section of the CLUP (pages 13-16) and see if it reflects information gathered from the 2004 survey. Because the 2010 survey results were too small to be representative and did not address any transportation issues, that survey will not be considered.
The bottom line: No, the Transportation section of the CLUP does not reflect the information gathered from the 2004 survey or from any other village-wide outreach.
The goal of the Transportation section seems appropriate for the village: Maintain and improve transportation infrastructure and choices within the Village that respect and reinforce Village character.
And the description that follows reflects a genuine understanding of our cultural landscape:
“Flat Rock is traversed by many two lane roads. They thread through forests, wend around hills and rocks, and rise and fall to the tempo of the land. Roadsides are graced by historic homes, private drives, inns, rhododendrons, and quaint stores. Travelers enjoy views of Connemara, Glassy Mountain, lakes, ponds and streams, and the big flat rock that gave the Village its name. Our roadways help tell our story. They encourage us to slow down, breathe deeper, and relax. They beckon travelers to stop and stay a while. . . The Village has a critical, vested interest in making sure that future improvements to Greenville Highway and other roads within the Village respect the character of the Village, especially our unique history, trees and scenic vistas.”
Yet at the end of this description, we read:
“While most of the focus on transportation within the Village has been on moving automobiles, there is increasing demand and need for a transportation network that addresses the needs of cyclists and pedestrians as well.”
There is no indication of where this “increasing demand” or “need” came from. Certainly not from the 2004 survey, where respondents were split 50/50 on more sidewalks, trails, and pathways, and were opposed to bike lanes by 52%. And there has been no community-wide survey since then that has addressed these issues.
Does this “increasing demand” come from village residents, from village merchants, from Henderson County, from the Tourism Development Authority, from the French Broad River MPO, from NCDOT, or from the Henderson County biking community? We don’t know.
Under the Transportation goal, there is a list of objectives with action items associated with each objective.
One action item (4.1) is to work closely with NCDOT to improve roads and “transportation systems for vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians consistent with Village policy and planning goals.”
How much community involvement was included in figuring out what the village policy and planning goals were? Did that involvement include more than just the council and other village standing committees? Did it include a representative cross-section of residents so that all sides were heard? The CLUP doesn’t say.
The final objective under the Transportation goal is to “create and expand alternative transportation systems and existing bike routes.”
This objective lists multiple action items that involve:
- Developing sidewalks and multiuse paths
- Developing a greenways, trails, and sidewalk master plan
- Connecting any greenways in Flat Rock to neighboring jurisdictions
It also advocates for changing village policies to enhance sidewalk, trail, and bicycle lane features in all future development. Yet once again, these action items do not appear to be backed up by community support and their origin is unknown.
The Cultural Landscape Group:Flat Rock is asking that a survey of the Flat Rock community be done this year so all residents have a chance to express their preferences on these important issues.
The survey information should also include questions on any cost factors. If village residents decide trails, pathways, and bike lanes are desired, how will they be paid for? Village taxes, private donations, government grants, municipal bonds?
And costs not just for the construction of any sidewalks, pathways, or bike lanes, but their on-going maintenance as well. The village has a small staff and contracts out any public works jobs. Will this require the village to add staff, buy equipment, and/or increase the budget?
If a property owner does not want to give up their land for a trail, will the village or NCDOT use eminent domain?
These are all important questions that will impact the village for decades, if not centuries, to come.
CLG:Flat Rock is not opposed to trails, pathways, and bike lanes in theory if that is what most residents in Flat Rock want and are willing to pay for, but anything done should be in keeping with the historic character of the village. And it’s in the details that danger lies.
Sidewalks, pathways, and bike lanes may be things that Flat Rock residents want or they may be things that Flat Rock residents don’t want. The problem is, no one knows because there is currently no data or data-driven methodology that can be used to help direct the village council on these issues.
* “Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.” – from The Adventure of the Copper Beeches by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle