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VOTER GUIDE: Flat Rock Village Council

Flat Rock voters will elect at least two new Village Council members and decide one contested seat when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

Matthew Toner is unopposed in District 1, a seat Pam Tiles had filled after being appointed. Barbara Jeter is unopposed in District 3, which had been held by Albert Gooch, who did not seek re-election. The contested race, in District 2, pits challenger Jim Hart against incumbent Susan Gregory, who also was appointed to fill a vacancy. Candidates file in the district where they live. All voting is at large.

Susan Gregory, 69, is a retired FBI agent.
Retired from a textiles management job, Jim Hart, 85, is a Marine Corps veteran who is active in Pinecrest Presbyterian church, and has served as president of the Rotary Club and the Oxford, Alabama, Chamber of Commerce and as a Boy Scout leader.



Why are you running for election to the Flat Rock Village Council?

Gregory: I am a candidate because, after filling a vacancy on the Council for the better part of a year, I found the role to be my most fulfilling volunteer job ever, and I want to continue to serve.

Hart: As a business person since age 12 with a paper route, life guard at 16, Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, textile industry manager … I have been a hands on person in payroll, finance, purchasing, transportation, new construction, production, hiring/firing/training, production, developing new products and even union busting.

The Park at Flat Rock continues to be an asset enjoyed by thousands of people. In an earlier master plan, the Village Council planned for a new entrance and parking lot, an idea Highland Golf Villas residents strongly support. Do you favor a new entrance?

Hart: Yes, it is needed.

Gregory: The present Council discussed modifications to the North Highland Lake Road project during spring 2020 before I was on the council. My understanding is that the council made a commitment to take another look at a new entrance to The Park once the road project, scheduled to take two years, is complete, but that no decision was possible until the project was finished. I agree that this possibility should be reviewed. Because of the changes in the road and possible new traffic patterns, it makes sense to wait until NCDOT has finished the project.


A new state law allows “social districts,” zones where people could consume adult beverages outside of restaurant property. Would you be interested in pursuing a social district in the Little Rainbow Row retail/restaurant area?

Gregory: The safety of our citizens and visitors would be greatly threatened by such a district. The Flat Rock venues that serve alcohol or beer are located on Greenville Highway, where through traffic is heavy and, despite our best efforts, speeding remains a problem. The intersecting road, West Blue Ridge, already carries significant traffic through a tight intersection. The level of traffic will greatly increase once construction on North Highland Lake Road begins and will grow worse when the road closes for months during work near the dam. A “social district” would endanger drivers and pedestrians.

Hart: This is involving zoning that will need studying.


The Village Council has supported the Flat Rock Playhouse with donations for the past 10 years. The amount this year was $25,000. Do you favor continuing a donation to the Playhouse?

Hart: Yes, we should continue supporting with donations.

Gregory: The Playhouse advised the Council earlier this year that, if not for the enormous losses caused by the pandemic shutdown, they would have been back on a stable financial footing. I supported this year’s negotiated amount because of the setbacks caused by Covid-19, the physical renovations required for safety during this and any future pandemics, and the importance of the Playhouse to our community. I do not, however, think that the Playhouse should be reliant on taxpayer money absent extraordinary circumstances. Village funds should not be used for the Playhouse or any local nonprofit as a regular occurrence.


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

Gregory: Since being appointed as a council member 19 months ago, I have been assigned various responsibilities, the most important of which is titled “Planning.” I am the Council liaison to both the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment. My priority has been and, if elected, will be to prepare for the inevitable changes that will come to Flat Rock and ensure that our important policies and ruling documents — the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Land Development Ordinance — will support and maintain the character and beauty of Flat Rock.

Hart: My priority will be to streamline the process of being able to acquire the permits to repair, change and improve the time wasted in permits for property owners.