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COUNTY COMMISSION Q&A: Land preservation, floodway building

In the Republican primary for seats on the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, Sheila Franklin is challenging incumbent Daniel Andreotta for the District 2 seat and Jay Egolf is challenging incumbent David Hill for the District 5 seat. Candidates must live in the district but are elected countywide. Democrat Erik Weber of Fletcher faces the District 2 Republican nominee in the Nov. 4 general election.

Andreotta, 57, is a financial adviser who founded Integrity Financial Group. He and his wife, Candy, have three children and eight grandchildren. In his free time he enjoys golf, hunting and spending time with family.

Franklin, 63, graduated from Mars Hill University with a degree in business management. She retired from her teaching job at Apple Valley Middle School in career tech education and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). She has served on the Fletcher Town Council for four terms. She and her husband, Mike, have three daughters and five grandchildren. She enjoys the outdoors, ballgames, reading and spending time with family.

Egolf, 53, graduated from Hendersonville High School in 1989 and from UNC at Chapel Hill in 1994. He is president of Egolf Motors in Brevard. A School Board member since 2018 and the current chair, he was the top vote-getter when he won re-election in 2022. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children.

Hill, 57, describes himself as a Christian conservative candidate for re-election to a second term on the Board of Commissioners. He graduated from East Henderson High School and Wingate College. A professional land surveyor since 1997, he founded Hill & Associates Surveyors in 1999. He and his wife, Lisa, have twin daughters. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and their two dogs, being active in his church and fishing.

Why are you running for the Board of Commissioners?

Andreotta: I am running to continue serving because Henderson County has so much to protect and preserve. We are a very efficiently managed county with the 4th lowest tax rate out of 29 rural counties. We have an excellent bond rating with great reserves. We overwhelmingly support public safety, education including the Community College, recreation, workforce development, economic development, etc. I was born and raised here, attended public school, raised my children in public school here, and started and maintain my business here. I appreciate all we have and will continue to protect it.

Franklin: I am a native who believes that the quality of life for our residents is of utmost importance. I also believe any of us should do all that we can, for whoever we can. This is an area that I can competently serve, to make a positive impact for the betterment of many communities, through thoughtful planning and engaged representation. 

Egolf: We’re at a crossroads in Henderson County. With respect to growth, my opponent supports a denser Etowah and prefers little to no zoning. He voted to fill in the floodplains and defund the Flat Rock Playhouse. My support on these Henderson County issues is very different than my opponent’s. You know my record on education; serving on the school board has given me the experience and skills necessary to build relationships with officials while representing a very diverse group of people.

Hill: Since 2020, it has been my honor to serve the citizens of Henderson County, guided by my faith, by the Constitution and by my strong belief in conservative principles. However, the work is not done. I am running for re-election to ensure Henderson County has a thriving, conservative future ahead. A future that properly addresses and directs growth, that promotes individual freedoms and liberties, and that supports our EMS, fire departments, law enforcement, farmers and agriculture businesses. Consistency in leadership matters and I am running for re-election as Henderson County commissioner to ensure Henderson County has a consistent, conservative future.

Some county residents who support land conservation and farmland preservation have criticized the current board for weakening goals in those areas in the 2045 comprehensive land-use plan. What is your position on those goals? Should the county more firmly commit to land conservation and farmland preservation?

Franklin: The vision and entire scope of the comprehensive plan was based on the county survey which had a common thread of conservation and preservation. The top priorities were protection and conservation of open areas, forests, unique natural areas and farmland preservation. Areas of concern were traffic congestion, loss of farmland as well as loss of community character. With all of the effort and work put into the plan, it should be strengthened as opposed to watered down from its original intent and true character.


Andreotta: I don’t feel we weakened those goals at all. We must balance protecting rural character, including farmland preservation with meeting other property owner needs. I spent the first half of my childhood deep in the Edneyville community, so I appreciate agriculture more than most. I am excited to support robust paths to bolster our farming community — such as efforts that will enable farmers to expand/increase their revenue streams, like a local farmers market. Properly equipped, this could allow them to value add to their crops as well as help support a stronger farm-to-school program. More to come.

Hill: I strongly support the preservation of farmland in Henderson County. Henderson County farms feed Henderson County citizens and support the Henderson County economy. My support of farmers and agriculture is rooted in my upbringing on my family farm. The protection of farmland will be a multifaceted approach and the county is currently looking at a farmland preservation program. I have had conversations with many farmers to gain insight on their desired program. The program is for our farmers and should be tailored to the agricultural community of Henderson County. I also support private avenues to farmland preservation and land conservation.

Egolf: Great feedback was given on the comp plan. We weakened the comp plan and now there is a gap between the input given and the actual land-use plan. Why is this? I would agree with public input and support strengthening the land-use plan. Yes, we are years behind on this aspect of farmland preservation. I would be interested in innovative ideas, like a bond referendum to fund farmland protection, which a neighboring county did. Let the voters decide.

In a 3-2 vote on Oct. 18, the Board of Commissioners voted to ease restrictions on building in the flood way. The two incumbents voted in favor. Please explain why. Challengers: How would you have voted? Why?

Andreotta: Let’s be clear: We did not ease restrictions. We modified guidelines to allow a property owner to apply for a case-by-case exception. Government should use a scalpel not a machete. All land in Henderson County is not the same. This would not apply to full blown development, but individual property owners’ personal needs on their land. There would of course be careful attention to each proposal to ensure the right decision is made each time. Again, we did not ease restrictions across the board, but citizens should have the right to inquire regarding their own land.

Franklin: Disclaimer — I am not an engineer. I have the utmost respect for those that are, as well as many in the construction field, first responders and many others who deal with flood issues, etc. Making that decision opens the floodgates (literally) and sets precedence for more aggressive building within the floodplains, causing all sorts of issues that we are already facing: erosion, flooding and debris blocking the rivers and streams. That would have been an absolute no for me. If it already floods now, where do you think the water is going to go?

Egolf: I would have voted “no.” When you fill in the floodplain, it acts as a dam and makes flooding even worse upstream. With the recent rainfall and flooding, this was obviously a bad vote. Bottom line, this was an easy one.

Hill: Significant misinformation has been spread about the text amendment. Let me clarify. There is no increase in the amount of fill allowed by right. It was and is 20 percent total. The amendment allows citizens to seek redress from their government and will help when a culvert or bridge is damaged. A landowner could petition to replace the damaged infrastructure with a larger culvert or higher bridge. This change might require some fill in a floodway, but would improve the flow of waters and reduce flooding. My experience as a surveyor allows me to see instances where this is needed.

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Stay tuned to the Lightning for the next installment when candidates respond to quesitons on expansion of the Grove Street Courthouse and on a sportsplex for soccer, pickleball and other sports.