From the Times-News online:
Hendersonville City Council stood behind the North Highland Lake Road project during its meeting Thursday night.
Flat Rock residents descended on Hendersonville City Hall as the council endorsed the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plan to make improvements to North Highland Lake Road and add a multiuse path and sidewalks.
The road runs mostly through Flat Rock, but the easternmost portion falls within the Hendersonville city limits, including Ingles and CVS. Hendersonville was prompted to take a position on the project after the Flat Rock Village Council passed a resolution in December formally requesting NCDOT abandon the project.
Flat Rock’s resolution will be presented to the French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization Board during its Jan. 23 meeting. The board is made up of 28 voting members across Henderson, Buncombe, Transylvania, Haywood and Madison counties. If Flat Rock’s request is approved by the MPO, it will then be presented to the NCDOT for a final decision.
Hendersonville has one member on the MPO board: newly elected member Jennifer Hensley. Hensley asked for the council’s input on the project ahead of the meeting.
Although a formal resolution was drafted in support, City Council opted instead for Hensley to vote for the project, encouraging NCDOT to work with Flat Rock officials to minimalize any impact.
The city hall chamber was packed to standing room only with Flat Rock residents, as well as current and former Village Council members. Twenty-six people spoke during public comment on the project, 21 of them against the road project.
Many speakers in favor were current and former Village Council members who stood behind their original vote to approve the project.
Village Councilwoman Sheryl Jamerson said it was a good project, making the road safer, easing congestion and adding a multi-use path that will contribute to the county’s greenway master plan.
Opponents who spoke brought up the results of the recent election in Flat Rock where the main issue was the North Highland Lake Road project. Residents asked Hendersonville to step aside and not interfere with the wishes of Flat Rock.
Village Councilwoman Anne Coletta noted that the majority of the road lies within the village and said it’s overreach for Hendersonville to interfere with Flat Rock and its residents.
Following public comment, Hendersonville council members told the audience they are not trying to circumvent Flat Rock’s wishes, but noted they have a vote on the MPO as well and needed to come to a consensus before the vote.
“This has been on our radar for many years,” said Mayor Barbara Volk. “It has been funded for several years and in the past the city has supported the project because there’s advantages to the city portion of the road we would like to see continue. I don’t see my opinion on the road project has changed even though the opinion of the city of Flat Rock has changed.”
City Councilman Jeff Miller said a resolution may be too heavy. He suggested that Hensley tell the MPO that Hendersonville supports the project. The council also encouraged NCDOT to work with Flat Rock on any concessions that could be made.
Hensley noted that it appears NCDOT has already made as many concessions as they can on the project.
The Henderson County Transportation Advisory Committee will discuss the issue during its Jan. 13 meeting.
Flat Rock council pledges not to sell its land to NCDOT
Thursday morning, the Flat Rock Village Council passed a motion declining to enter into any agreement to sell or convey any village-owned property, including land part of The Park at Flat Rock, to NCDOT for the purposes of the North Highland Lake Road project.
The resolution means that any village-owned land that NCDOT must purchase for the project must go through eminent domain.
“As owners and steward of The Park at Flat Rock, we intend to protect this critical resource of our village,” the motion item reads.
“We believe this motion supports and solidifies our earlier action of Dec. 12 when we voted to request the NCDOT abandon the North Highland Lake Road project and of December 30 when we approved a resolution calling for such,” Coletta said in an email.