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VOTER GUIDE: Hendersonville City Council

Four candidates’ names are on the ballot for two seats on the City Council. However, one, Raphael Morales, dropped his bid for the seat on Oct. 9.

Debbie Roundtree, 51, is a frontline worker in environmental services in health care setting.
An incumbent seeking a fourth term on the council, Jerry Smith Jr., 52, is a teacher and coach at Hendersonville High School.
Chelsea Walsh, 34, is a life insurance and Medicare insurance specialist.

Why are you running City Council?

Roundtree: Hendersonville is a diverse city, and to mirror our city, we need diversity among the members of council. This will assist members of Council to see, recognize and accommodate the needs of all people of the city regardless of race, creed and background who live here in the city together. Being a fourth generation native I haven't experienced, lived and worked alongside others that are striving to represent the city. I bring history and knowledge past and the present to Council and will make sure that the history is represented and incorporated in planning for the future of our city.

Smith: I am running for re-election because I enjoy the challenge of making policy decisions for the City of Hendersonville. I also enjoy being able to help residents get access to City services. I like to learn about how City government works and how we can make life better. I also like the creativity of working with my colleagues on council as well as city staff to create solutions. Hendersonville has a diverse collection of residents from all over the US and the world. As a council member, I get to meet, know and serve a lot of great people.



Walsh: I am running a campaign on advocacy not activism. We have to advocate for the entire community and not just one specific demographic of people. Moving things like a minigolf course, clean water, and a parking deck are not partisan issues… at least they shouldn’t be. Where conservative values have an influence is on our economy, our taxes, our growth, and our culture.



Current plans call for financing the new parking deck with paid parking on Main Street. Do you favor or oppose that option? If you oppose it, what source of revenue would you favor to meet the debt service for the parking deck?

Walsh: I am in favor of the parking deck. For years people have complained about parking around main street. Once you cross King or Church Street, many don’t consider that “downtown” or Main Street parking. When you walk around downtown, on any street, ask people where they’re from. We have a lot of locals frequenting the area, but we are a town also driven by tourism. If the parking deck fees collected help keep our city resident taxes down, I am in favor.

Smith: I favor the plan because I voted for it. With that plan comes 1.5 - 2 hours of free parking in the parking deck. The parking deck will provide safe parking for employees who work on Main Street. It will add almost 100 new parking spaces to downtown. It will allow us to create a destination public park in the Dogwood parking lot. There will be no paid parking on Church or King Streets or the blocks outside of them.

Roundtree: The City of Hendersonville is growing. Hendersonville is also a tourists attraction. The city council has determined that downtown parking decks is needed to provide sufficient parking in downtown Hendersonville. Let it be beneficial also to the people that live in the city of Hendersonville by offering special parking permits for residents that can be used for downtown for parking , that indicate they reside in the city and the want be taxed doubled.



The City Council is considering numerous ideas for development of the Dogwood parking lot. Would you favor a city park there, restarting negotiations with a hotel developer for that property, keeping it as a parking lot or something else?

Smith: I favor a city park with amenities like the Pavilion on Park Square in Forest City. We could have an outside grassed area for staged events, a splash pad and a walking track around the park as well as tables, benches and seats that could be used by patrons when events were not going on. Furthermore, with the new parking deck, there will be parking for the Dogwood Park. I am not in favor of restarting negotiations with a hotel developer in that location because there are two hotel projects already in the works on each end of Main Street.


Walsh: The interesting thing about this is it could go either way. On one hand we have an opportunity to add additional green space to our downtown area. But on the other hand, we have an opportunity to bring in revenue to the city limits and increase the tax base. As an elected councilmember, I look forward to working with existing members in these discussions and continue them with the community. I personally would like to see a closer dog park than Pet’s Own Place Park on 7th Ave. With much more outdoor seating on 7th and Main Street, we are seeing more and more fur-companions around town.

Roundtree: I favor keeping it a parking lot because I currently sit on the Hendersonville Tree Board as a board member and Hendersonville is considered Tree City USA. Its alot more development going on in the city that is taken away from our tree canopy (Save the trees). The Dogwood Parking is also history in our city. Too often we are inclined to forget our forebears' contribution to Hendersonville present . It was their foresight that created the wonderful place we all love.


The city faces a severe shortage of affordable housing for working families. What if anything do you think the City Council could do to encourage or incentivize the development of affordable housing?

Roundtree: Too many people struggle to find housing close to their workplaces. This issue is tied to the issue of gentrification. If neighborhoods are taken over and people lose their access to the houses they can afford, where would they go ?We need to build relationships with builders that can make it possible for low income earners to have a roof over their heads.


Walsh: Here is what a lot of people don’t know: the state writes legislation declaring what the city can and can’t do within the municipality. Yes, we do need more affordable housing. I personally know of a rental complex that increased their rent 30.5% in two years. If the demand for housing is high and the supply is low, it is natural for rental prices to increase. If people see the value in the property, they will continue to pay the increased prices. I say all of this to educate. Unless the city actually owns the property, it cannot dictate what a property owner can charge for rent. We live in a free market state with strong property rights. As the developers come in, zoning will be a factor to consider, especially conditional zoning. Some developers come in expecting to have the zoning laws changed out of entitlement but then there are others who take time to talk with the neighbors for input on what they’d appreciate seeing in their neighborhood and I respect that.

Smith: The city should acquire land and contract with a developer to build housing to meet the workforce housing need, which is units that can be sold or rented at rates that are 30% or less of the monthly salary for entry level workers and professionals in Hendersonville. Because it is a contractual relationship and not based on federal tax credits, the City can have more leeway in negotiating the type of housing we would like to have built. We should also contribute to an annual fund to find additional land to meet these needs in the future.


What other priorities would you have for the city if you are elected?


Walsh: Like many in this community, addiction hits home. I hope that over time with the cooperation of our law enforcement, first responders and community efforts (including mental health awareness) we can combat this terrible disease. Asheville has needle exchange programs that would be detrimental to our community. I would like to work with Police Chief Myhand on a traffic division. After some of these housing units are finished we are looking at adding 1,000-2,000 residents to our current 15,000 population. At any given time, Chief Myhand and his team see up to 50,000 vehicles moving throughout the city limits.

Smith: I want to help develop the Ecusta Trail and extend the Oklawaha Greenway around Berkeley Park. I want to protect existing neighborhoods from incompatible development. I want to add a traffic engineer to city staff so we have a better understanding of the traffic implications of new developments. I want to complete the reconstruction of Fire Station 1. I want to help the City of Hendersonville be an attractive place to work and Hendersonville be an attractive place to live for all. I want to continue spending prudently, supporting local businesses appropriately and maintaining our outstanding water and sewer system.
Roundtree: 1. Representation of people living in the community who are underrepresented, nearly voiceless in the city. 2. Transparency is critical to delivering good government to the people. I support frequent town hall meetings in each community of the city to ensure that the people know what decisions are made. 3. We still have a pandemic and our community is still suffering with unemployment. Many small businesses have already closed their doors and their jobs may never come back. The Council needs to work with local banks and investment firms to rebuild when the pandemic becomes a nightmare of the past.