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Reversing old majority again, village opposes sale of parkland for road

Mayor Nick Weedman and newly elected council members Tom Carpenter, David Dethero and Anne Coletta voted to oppose the sale of parkland to the NCDOT for the Highland Lake Road project. [LIGHTNING FILE PHOTO] Mayor Nick Weedman and newly elected council members Tom Carpenter, David Dethero and Anne Coletta voted to oppose the sale of parkland to the NCDOT for the Highland Lake Road project. [LIGHTNING FILE PHOTO]

Bolstering its opposition to the Highland Lake Road project, the Flat Rock Village Council voted on Thursday to oppose the sale of parkland for the road widening project.

The Village Council took the action on a 4-3 vote just six hours before the Hendersonville City Council was expected to recommend for or against the project and two weeks before a crucial vote by the French Broad MPO on the Village Council’s request to cancel the project. The council’s action would seem to strengthen the Village Council’s firewall against the project by making public acquisition of right-of-way for the project more contentious and time-consuming.

The vote, on a motion that had not been shared with all council members in advance, marked the third time in less than a month that the new council majority had acted to reverse a decision the previous council had made.

Given votes of the Flat Rock Village Council on Dec. 12 and again on Dec. 30 to ask the NCDOT to cancel the project, the village “declines to enter into any agreement to sell or convey any village-owned property, including land that is part of the Park at Flat Rock, to the North Carolina Department of Transportation for purposes of the North Highland Lake Road project," said the motion by board member Anne Coletta. "As owners and stewards of the Park at Flat Rock, we intend to protect this critical resource of our village.”
The motion passed on a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Nick Weedman voting with the new anti-road project council members to break a tie. Board members Sheryl Jamerson, Paige Posey and Albert Gooch voted no.
“I would have liked to have heard about it before we got to a council meeting,” Jamerson said. Given that two or three other local boards have yet to weigh in on the project, it would be “precipitous to withdraw the agreement.”
The council’s action “is dealing with property inside the village,” Coletta responded. “It doesn’t affect Spartanburg Highway (in the Hendersonville city boundaries) and it doesn’t affect the county.” The refusal to sell land is only logical, she added, because “as a council we have taken a stance that we would like the project abandoned.”
Council member David Dethero said the council needed to make known its opposition to a willing sale of the land before other local bodies or the French Broad MPO vote.
In discussion of the motion, Mayor Nick Weedman disclosed that he had just learned that the NCDOT had made an offer for the land of $110,225. The NCDOT offer on Dec. 6 was to acquire a half-acre for the road widening and for a temporary construction easement on 2.3 acres, a permanent utility easement on a third of an acre and a permanent drainage easement on one-tenth acre. An ad hoc committee had been talking with NCDOT officials about the sale of the land through the southern edge of the park.
If the village was not willing to sell, the NCDOT could obtain the property through eminent domain.

“I know they’re tyring to influence the city and county but for Flat Rock's benefit I don’t think it’s a good idea because I think we will get a lot less money” through condemnation, Jamerson said.

"I disagree with that," Weedman said. "The information I have is when you go through the process the amount of money is significantly up” when a judge or jury sets the price.

The county Transportation Advisory Committee and the possibly the Henderson County Board of Commissioners could make a statement of support for the road project in the next week. The French Broad MPO, which coordinates transportation projects in the region, is scheduled to take it up on Jan. 23.