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Anti-road slate rides 'Big Yellow Taxi' to victory

Anne Coletta and two like-minded challengers, mining a deep well of anxiety over the Highland Lake Road widening project, swept to victory in the Flat Rock election on Tuesday, seizing control of the Village Council and setting the stage for an effort to pull the plug on the road improvement job.

 

Boosted by a war chest unprecedented for a Flat Rock election and issuing a yard sign warning that “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” Coletta, Tom Carpenter and David Dethero captured the three Village Council seats on the ballot over incumbent Ginger Brown, Barbara Platz and Hilton Swing. Along with Nick Weedman, who won the mayor’s seat with no opposition, the anti-road faction won a 4-3 majority on the council.

The outcome was forecast early when the Cultural Landscape Group slate took a commanding lead over Brown, Platz and Swing, who had supported continuing the Highland Lake Road project. Carpenter and Coletta led with 58 percent of the vote and Dethero led with 60 percent in the heavy pre-Election Day voting. Although their lead shrank with Election Day voting, the three candidates went on to victory. Carpenter won with 54.8% of the vote, Coletta with 53.5% and Dethero with 56 percent of the vote.

"We're very excited," Coletta said Tuesday night. "I think it was a reflection on the bigger picture of the direction of the Village for the future. We are very excited and ready to get down to work."

Transparency and involving more people in village decisions, a "more business-like fiscally responsible budget process" and "the whole process of working with the DOT" are also priorities. The Highland Lake Road project "is something we ran on and something we need to discuss."

"I think that for Flat Rock this was the first time there has been this type of campaign," Coletta added. "We had a very interested and involved voter base and it was wonderful that we had so many people come out to vote on both sides in this election."

Weedman said he had talked in any specific way about the next steps when it comes to the road project. In the numerous meet-and-greets he and the CLG candidates attended, he said openness and greater community involvement was a major theme.

“We talked about transparency, we were talking about night meetings to get more people involved, things like that,” he said. “In terms of what’s on the slate to do in the future, that’s yet to be determined. Clearly the slate of candidates that I endorsed are in favor of trying to kill the road and I voted against it and we’ll just have to see how things go.”

He said he is open to salvaging parts of the road project that all agree are needed, including work to widen the turning radius on the southwest corner of Greenville Highway. The mayor-elect opposes a new parking lot at the Park at Flat Rock and favors killing the 10-foot paved greenway through the park, which he called “a path to nowhere.” The NCDOT project included a new park entrance, which six council members favored, and a new parking lot.

The Village Council election drew the heavy turnout that one might expect in the most hotly contested race in Flat Rock's history. By the time early voting closed on Friday, 874 voters had cast ballots in the Flat Rock Village Council race for three seats. Early voting exceeded the total votes cast four years ago, when 767 Flat Rock residents turned out for the mayoral race, the only contested seat that year. The robust turnout continued on Tuesday, with 927 Election Day voters, for a total of 1,801, more than double the 2015 total.

In the election for two seats on the Hendersonville City Council, Lyndsey Simpson led in the one-stop voting totals, with 32.7% of the vote, followed by Jennifer Hensley with 25.7%, Debbie Roundtree with 23% and incumbent Steve Caraker with 18.5%.

In the race for two Mills River Town Council seats, incumbents Roger Snyder and Wayne Carland led with 45 and 41 votes respectively over challengers Randy Austin, with 26, Mark Case, with 9, and John Case, with 8.