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THE TOP 10 (4, 3, 2, 1): Yellow Jackets, greenways, Big Yellow Taxi, red district donnybrook

School Board members and county officials celebrate the opening of Edneyville Elementary School. School Board members and county officials celebrate the opening of Edneyville Elementary School.

Here's the Top 10 news stories of 2019, part 3:


4.Yellow Jackets rising

The completion of the new Edneyville Elementary School marked the most successful partnership of elected bodies since the five-party partnership that created the Health Sciences Center at Pardee Hospital and signified a long-awaited victory for the apple country. “It is gaining back a loss,” School Board member Dot Case, a retired Edneyville and North Henderson High School teacher, said during a ribbon cutting last month. “We lost our high school so this is big for the community because we’re finally getting something new and it is fantastic. … I can’t wait till there’s the open house for the community because they’re going to be so awed of this school. It is an awesome school and they deserve it. I was part of this community for 47 years and it’s like coming home for me. The $25 million 87,000-square-foot facility includes model classrooms, a full-sized gym designed for use by the community outside school hours and accent décor in Yellow Jacket yellow inside and out.


3. Greenways up, down

Greenways got two big victories in 2019 and a couple of setbacks. When the Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a greenway master plan on April 1, one county commissioner called the potential for countywide greenways “a dream come true” to enhance quality of life and serve children, another praised the broad support across business, education and recreation and a third described a countywide greenway network as significant, potentially, as Jackson Park and Blue Ridge Community College. Commissioners "wanted to see something realistic and achievable" that could be achieved "in small bites," Chris Burns, who chaired the Greenway Master Plan Committee. "And most importantly, you wanted it incorporate our mountain values and make it voluntary and that was done." As big was the vote by the state Board of Transportation authorized a $6.4 million grant to acquire the Hendersonville-to-Brevard rail line from Blue Ridge Southern Railroad. Henderson County, the county Tourism Development Authority, the Friends of Ecusta Trail and Conserving Carolina are partnering in the effort. On the minus side, the county would lose a 1-mile paved greenway through the Park at Flat Rock if the new Flat Rock Village Council succeeds in its effort to kill the Highland Lake Road project and the Board of Commissioners in August declined to move ahead with a Kunz Park development proposal that included a bicycle-pedestrian bridge over the French Broad River that would be needed to connect the Mills River Valley Trail with a possible northern leg of the Oklawaha Greenway.

2. Big Yellow Taxi rolls

Nowhere was the fight more ferocious in 2019 than in the Village of Flat Rock, which turned from a sedate retiree town into a hotbed of political warfare. At the center of the conflict was the proposed Highland Lake Road widening, which the Village Flat Anne Coletta Anne Coletta, shown with husband Paul, takes the oath of office at a Flat Rock Village Council member.Rock residents. Former council member Anne Coletta organized a political action committee, the Cultural Landscape Group, and led a slate of three candidates ran against the road project and took control of the council. True to their primary campaign pledge, the new members, joined by Mayor Nick Weedman, adopted a resolution requesting that the NCDOT drop the project. Supporters of the road project say that the improvements would improve safety, create a nicer gateway to the Village of Flat Rock and prepare for future growth as more retirees flock to the village. The election result, the winners declared, matters more. “The people spoke,” council member David Dethero said. “The people should be listened to.”

1.Meadows' announcement rocks 11th District race

Maybe we should have suspected back in July, when state Rep. Cody Henson resigned from the state House one day after pleading guilty to stalking his estranged wife, that the year in politics would be anything but dull. Although the announcement from state Rep. Chuck McGrady that he would retire after serving 10 years in the Legislature was not a surprise, many people received the news with disappointment. MarkMeadowsAppleU.S. Rep. Mark Meadows checks out the apple drop at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard in Edneyville.McGrady’s departure meant that Henderson County would lose one of the most effective legislators in Raleigh for the second time in four years. State Sen. Tom Apodaca had risen to become the second most powerful member of the Senate when he retired from the General Assembly in 2016 to launch a lobbying career. Two Republicans and two Democrats have filed for McGrady’s seat. Republican Party leaders from Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties selected Polk County Commissioner Jake Johnson to fill Henson’s seat. Johnson faces Democrat Sam Edney in the November election. Back in 2019, municipal elections held surprises outside of Flat Rock. Longtime incumbents lost in Hendersonville, Saluda and Mills River and two young business owners who happen to be moms too swept to victory in Hendersonville, flipping the council to a female majority. The big news of the 2020 election season came before the dust had settled on the city elections. One of President Trump’s most loyal supporters in the House, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows announced the day before filing closed that he would not seek re-election to a fifth term — but hinted he would join Trump or his re-election campaign in some capacity. “My work with President Trump and his administration is only beginning,” Meadows said in a news release. Although time was limited, candidates found a way to sign up. By the time qualifying closed, 19 candidates had filed for the seat — 12 Republicans, five Democrats, a Libertarian and a Green Party candidate. The primary election campaign is upon us already. Thanks to this year's early primary — North Carolina joins 14 other states voting on Super Tuesday — the congressional primary fight is upon has already. Look for the candidates on the hustings immediately.