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VOTER GUIDE: Flat Rock Village Council Q&A

The race for three seats on the Flat Rock Village Council features two slates with clear positions on the Highland Lake Road project.

Candidates must live in the district they’re running in but are elected at large.
Candidates are:
• District 1: Tom Carpenter, 62, a retired director of corporate compliance, and Barbara Platz, 72, a retired healthcare administrator.
• District 2: Ginger Brown, 65, a retired engineer, and Anne Coletta, 60, a technical writer, 60.
•District 3: David Dethero,78, a retired native plant nurseryman, and Hilton Swing, 49, a broker/Realtor with Coldwell Banker.

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

CARPENTER: If elected along with Anne Coletta and David Dethero, we will support incoming mayor Nick Weedman to work to reduce Flat Rock property taxes; improve transparency of the Village Council; stop the North Highland Lake Road project and apply for $250,000 NC grants to fix the corner at Greenville Highway; listen to our residents (both full and part time); ensure that the historical, environmental, cultural, and economic future of Flat Rock is handled with extreme care to preserve the beauty and small town ambience of this unique place. Resident input is critical.

PLATZ: I have never run for public office before, but I realize that this race is of critical importance. It is not about a single issue, as some would have us believe, but about working collaboratively in a wide variety of areas to ensure the best future for our wonderful village. I pledge to honor the history, culture, and beauty of Flat Rock. At the same time, I believe it is important to acknowledge that conditions change, and populations shift. Consequently, we must plan for a sustainable future for the village while ensuring that our residents and visitors remain safe.

BROWN: I have served on the Council for four years, and during that time I have become involved in projects that remain ongoing. I oversaw the operations of The Park at Flat Rock, and I want to protect the time and money that the Village and donors have invested in the Park. I feel I my time on the Council has been beneficial to the Village and I want to continue to serve and see much of the work I am doing continue.

COLETTA: With family history in the village from the 1850s, I am committed to Flat Rock. I will reach out to the community and make decisions based on what is best for Flat Rock and its residents as a whole. I know the importance of listening to constituents and the necessity of researching projects proposed by outside agencies—I will advocate for keeping Flat Rock’s interests first when working with county, regional, and state agencies. Flat Rock needs a council that stands up for the village—working with other governments and agencies when possible, but willing to say no when necessary.

DETHERO: I have lived in the Flat Rock area for 48 years and understand the composition of our citizens--year long, seasonal and generational. I knew Alex Schenck who founded Historic Flat Rock and understand his vision of protect and preserve. In 2004, I was awarded the McDuffey award for the landscaping around St. John in the Wilderness. I love this village and wish to continue the vision of Alex Schenck.

SWING: As a local realtor and long standing member of the community, I have worked hard over the years and dedicated myself to the service of our community and Flat Rock. My record of volunteerism within the community speaks for itself. I grew up in Flat Rock, and live here with my wife Bridget. We have chosen to make Flat Rock our home and believe it’s a great place to raise our three children. This has given me a unique opportunity to watch Flat Rock grow and mature across five decades, and follow that growth along with our residents' changing needs.

The Highland Lake Road project has been a central issue in the 2019 Village Council election. Are you in favor of or opposed to the road project? Why?

PLATZ: I am definitely in favor of the Highland Lake Road project. The curving nature of the road will be maintained, while improvements will make the road safer for all who travel on it, including cyclists and pedestrians. Increasing traffic is a function of our time, and will not be prevented by failing to keep our byways safe, or by wishing for things to be the way they have always been. If we do not plan for the inevitable increase in the number of visitors to our beautiful village, then we are failing in our responsibility as leaders.

CARPENTER: I am opposed. The N. Highland Lake Road project was ill-conceived from the start, and takes private property from the rightful owners for no reason. The NCDOT said that using their rating system of 0 to 5, they rate this road 0 for safety, 0 for traffic volume, 0 for condition. This project was pushed because some Village Council members wanted a bike path from Flat Rock Park to the Carl Sandburg Home. But the obstacles to completing such a path are huge, and no planning was done to see if this was feasible before asking NCDOT to step in.


COLETTA: Opposed. This road project will increase traffic speed, cut down numerous trees, take private property for a non-essential use, negatively impact Pinecrest Presbyterian Church and several businesses, take property out of the park, destroy a scenic gateway into our historic village, and
put pressure on Greenville Highway, a NC Scenic Byway. NCDOT has rated this road as safe and given it a priority value of “0.” If there are any areas that need work, NCDOT has spot funds available that can address specific problems. We don’t need to go through two years of construction for an unnecessary project.

BROWN: I am in favor. NCDOT has deemed HLR substandard and needs to be upgraded for safety and efficiency for future predicted traffic increases. The new design will correct safety flaws that are now part of the road, such as the sudden lane drop near CVS and the inadequate turn radius at the corner of Highland Lake Road and Greenville Highway. The improvement will add turn lanes for safer turns and reduce congestion. And it will remain the same two-lane curvy road it is now. Travel lanes remain at 11 feet. The design and scope respect the surrounding historic area

SWING: Like many, I was opposed to the first proposed plan for the Highland Lake Road Project as it was presented by NCDOT. Instead of flatly denying that there could be any area of compromise with the DOT, I’m proud of the practical approach our current Village Council took in negotiating this project to a very workable solution. After a lot of hard work and tough negotiation with the NCDOT, our current village council has come up with an excellent plan for making basic improvements to Highland Lake Rd., and if you haven’t seen that final plan, you owe it to yourself to take a look at it.

DETHERO: I am opposed to the Highland Lake Road project. The DOT rates it a safe road at the lowest level, and also stated they would not proceed unless the current council demanded it. Loss of valuable private land to Pinecrest Church and others is troubling. A greenway includes greenery. This project destroys trees, landscaping and a considerable amount of land from the park. The turn from Greenville highway onto Highland Lake road needs to be widened, and a block grant from the DOT for only $250,000 can accomplish this.

The village is studying a greenway master plan that could include a trail from the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site to the Park at Flat Rock and other potential paths. What’s your position on greenways?

CARPENTER: I am in favor of greenways and bike paths, but I believe that they must be carefully planned and include input from Historic Flat Rock, the Sandburg Home, and all affected property holders BEFORE a decision is made to proceed. If the Village community decides that greenways and bicycle/pedestrian paths are desired amenities for the Village to pursue, then planning for them should require that they not be adjacent to roads and streets, and that eminent domain not be used to take private property for such a use.

PLATZ: I fully support this plan. If elected, I will work to make Flat Rock a participant in Henderson County’s plan to develop pedestrian and bicycle pathways. We want pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy our beauty and history safely while traveling among destinations in Flat Rock. Part of the beauty of Flat Rock is its small size, and interesting historic, cultural, and recreational sites. What a great idea it is to find a way to make it possible to travel among those locations on foot or on a bicycle without using our increasingly busy public roadways.

BROWN: Creating foot and bike trails to connect the parks and village center has numerous advantages: social, health, environmental, and historic. Removing cars from the road reduces traffic congestion and negates the need for more road projects. The Jerusalem trail is an historic path here in the village and could be revived to connect the two parks. This would allow more people to experience the history and natural beauty of which Flat Rock is so proud. But proper route planning and cooperation with landowners is key to the success of this concept. This will take some compromise, but I believe it is worth pursuing.

COLETTA: My position on greenways is that the village community as a whole should decide if that is something we want to incorporate into our historic village. If the community decides that greenways are desired amenities, then planning for those amenities should include that they not be adjacent to roads and streets, and the Village or NCDOT should not use eminent domain to take private property for that use. Input from Historic Flat Rock, the Cultural Landscape Group:Flat Rock, and affected property owners should be gathered before any final decisions are made.

DETHERO: The master plan for a trail from Sandburg to the park would be creditable if it would not involve taking property from unwilling owners.

SWING: I currently serve on the Board of the Flat Rock Park and Recreation Foundation, which has been an amazingly successful private and public partnership, raising money to make our park the world class amenity that it is. Before that, I volunteered on one of the early exploratory committees for the park. Developing a plan for greenways in Flat Rock will take much of that same vision, and it will require the cooperation of private citizens, landholders, and the Village. I am proud of my record on public parks and spaces, and I will continue to support these ideas, regardless of whether I am elected or not!

The Village Council has been talking about animal control coverage for several years and there are talks now about better coverage under Sheriff Lowell Griffin. Are you in favor of better animal control enforcement? Should the council invest village tax money in that?

PLATZ: Animal Control is an area that certainly requires our attention. It is my understanding that Sheriff Griffin has expressed an interest in working with local communities on a variety of issues, and animal control is undoubtedly one of those issues. I am an advocate for the careful use of our tax dollars, so would need to wait to see what options are presented to the village before advocating for the use of those dollars to support animal control. A recent resident survey will also help guide us as we determine the most pressing concerns of our residents.
CARPENTER: I believe that better animal control is needed for Flat Rock. There was an incident two summers ago when a rabid raccoon was staggering around the Pinecrest Church parking lot when families were entering and exiting the church, but they could not get anyone to respond, including the Sherriff dept. Our current sheriff is now working to address this issue. I would work with his department to fix this problem before I would raise our residents’ taxes any higher.

COLETTA: I am in favor of animal control in the village. While the sheriff’s department handles law enforcement in the village and will come in response to dangerous dogs, they do not generally respond to what are termed “nuisance calls” (barking dogs, dogs on the loose). Working with Sheriff Lowell Griffin and Capt. Brandon Staton, district captain over the county’s south quadrant, the village council should explore the services available and the associated costs. Once that is done, we will be in a better position to make an educated decision.
BROWN: Animal control is dealing with stray or nuisance domestic animals like barking dogs. This has been a chronic problem in Flat Rock. The Sheriff is not permitted by the County to come into Flat Rock and deal with this issue. It all comes down to money. The new Sheriff has expressed a willingness to discuss this service, but it won’t be provided for free. The recent Village survey will tell us if Flat Rock taxpayers are willing to pay. In the meantime, I want to continue to talk to the Sheriff and see what can be worked out.

SWING: I have not been directly affected by this issue, and I’m not ashamed to admit I’d like to gather more information on it before I commit to whether or not the Village needs to spend tax money for these services. I’d like to know what our current animal control issues are, and what the existing proposals are to take corrective action. As for the Village investing tax money in this, that’s something I can’t blindly say no or yes to without a comprehensive understanding of the issue. Sheriff Griffin has has expressed a desire to work more closely with the local municipalities, and those relationships should be nurtured.
DETHERO: Concerning animal control, the new sheriff is more interested in helping this problem, and the village is in better standing since our Vice Mayor, Nick Weedman, led the council to purchase a dog for the K-9 unit. New taxes toward animal control should be considered in conjunction with all fiscal needs.

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

PLATZ: Other priorities for me are the careful stewardship of local tax dollars including the continued support of the Flat Rock Playhouse, and the acknowledgement of the important role that local merchants and service-providers play in the sustainability of Flat Rock. As a member of the Village Planning Board, I understand the importance of the feedback provided by our recently-completed resident survey, and feel strongly that we must use that as a tool to inform our decisions about the future of Flat Rock. To achieve any of these goals, we need communication, collaboration, and a positive approach.
CARPENTER: The Legacy of Flat Rock: Flat Rock is unique in NC, having a rich historical, architectural, and cultural legacy that has been passed down for over 200 years by the stewards that came before us. I will work with Historic Flat Rock, property owners, and other stakeholders to ensure that our legacy is handled with extreme care so that future generations can enjoy the uniqueness that is found in our Village. I am running in conjunction with Anne Coletta and David Dethero to support the fiscal and governance policies of incoming Mayor Nick Weedman. We will represent Flat Rock citizens.

COLETTA: I will support our incoming mayor Nick Weedman in
fiscal discipline with the village budget, transparency in council decisions,
and collaboration among council members. If Tom Carpenter, David Dethero, and I are all elected, we will provide a much needed balance on the council that will allow Mr. Weedman to implement his fiscal policies. I will work to reduce the village tax rate and to make sure your taxes are used effectively and efficiently on necessary village priorities.
BROWN: Creating regulations for short term rentals such as AirBnB
and working with the Park Foundation to fund sustainability in the park. And I will work to keep our taxes
low and still provide services that
keep the community a beautiful and desirable place to live. I hope I
will be able to close the rift that this election seems to have opened up. I want to assure Flat Rock Voters
that I have worked hard for our Village, and that my decisions and priorities are based on facts, resident input,
and long-term planning goals that guide the Council in governing. It is my goal to keep Flat Rock the small and unique community it is and protect its heritage.

SWING: Bringing the community together after this election. Frankly speaking, some of the behavior I’ve seen is just plain embarrassing for our village. It’s unfortunate that people volunteering to serve the Village are being insulted for their desire to work for our community. All candidates for council should be applauded for stepping up to work for the Village’s benefit, and it’s unfortunate that the same vitriol and intractability that infects our national politics has trickled down to our municipal elections. I know I can help the community come together in a way that shows a path forward, and do so with the dignity and integrity we deserve.
DETHERO: No answer.

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