Saturday, November 22, 2014
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Ask Matt ... about Blue Ridge Mall

Q. I have heard rumors that Kohl's department store is moving into the K-Mart space at the Blue Ridge Mall. True or false?

Mall manager Tonya Jackson could not confirm for me the rumor about Kohl's moving into one of the anchor spots. Two new retailers are confirmed. In time for Christmas bling and Santa's bag for tots, stores opening this month are Toys "R" Us Express and Kay Jewelers.

Q. As tight as the state budget is with no raises for employees, where does the state get the money for parks like the new one in Flat Rock?
The Village of Flat Rock received a $475,000 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to help pay for the $1.15 million purchase of Highland Lake Golf Club for the new village park. Henderson County applied for a $500,000 PARTF grant to offset the county's $910,000 purchase of the Hendersonville Christian School property. It did not get funded. PARTF money came from two sources: the excise tax on real estate sales and fees for personalized license plates. But all that's been changed by our Legislature. Beginning this fiscal year, projects will be funded by a single appropriation of $11 million. For almost 20 years, the Trust Fund has been awarding matching (dollar-for-dollar) grants to local governments. The Trust Fund also provides money for state park projects. Over the years, Henderson County and all five of our municipalities have benefited with a combined $2.1 million for local parks and recreation projects. The cost to fund the state's share of the grant program comes to $1.13 for every man, woman and child in the state. Park funding comes from a variety of sources. Hendersonville voters will decided on Nov. 4 whether to authorize a $6 million bond issue to pay for improvements to Berkeley Park.

Q. They had those new caution lights working at Howard Gap Road and Tracy Grove Road but then they turned them off. Why?
According to DOT Traffic Engineer Scott Cook, the intersection will employ an "actuated flasher system" that will trigger the overhead caution lights anytime a vehicle enters the intersection from any direction. No traffic — no flashing lights. The project is not yet finished and the lights were probably switched off because the contractor is waiting for the power company to make final connections.
Q. I noticed a large advertising sign hanging on the side of an office building on Barnwell Street across from Wells Fargo Bank. Are those type signs allowed in the city?
Yes, but with limits. According to the Hendersonville zoning office, banners are permitted on a temporary basis for no more than four weeks. There is no size requirement for such banners.
Q. What is the best time to get my driver's license renewed at the DMV office?
There is no best time nor is there a best day of the week. Sometimes there is a 90-minute wait but other times you can walk right in and take the test. To save yourself time, simply make an appointment. Call 692-6915.
Q. How did little Mars Hill College get to be a university?

It's true. Mars Hill College became a university a few weeks ago. It seems that size has little to do with university status and there are no laws that restrict private colleges from becoming a university. In Mars Hill's case, it simply took a vote of the Board of Trustees. The Mars Hill University campus is 42 miles north of Hendersonville. You may remember that Mars Hill President Dan Lunsford was superintendent of Henderson County schools from 1993 to 1999, a tenure that included the merger of the city and county schools.
Mars Hill has made great progress in recent years. It built a new dorm and science building, added programs, upgraded athletic facilities and increased student enrollment. Mars Hill Communications Director Mike Thornhill explained, "The name change was a natural progression of where the school has been heading."
There have been other "progressions" around the state as more than a dozen private liberal arts schools joined the university club in the past 20 years including Lenoir Rhyne (2,000 students), Gardner-Webb (4,300 students), and Wingate (2,700 students), which has a satellite campus here. Mars Hill University, with 1,370 students, is among the smallest. There is no doubt that Dr. Lunsford's leadership played a major role in Mars Hill becoming a university but I suspect that competition among peer institutions played an equal role.

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Send us your questions about a local issue, event, sighting or anything that is puzzling you and Ask Matt will try to get an answer. Email Matt at askmattm@gmail.com.