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VOTER GUIDE: Dct. 5 County Commission candidates on roads, development, greenways

David Hill and Stephen Mace talk to voters at a Republican Party breakfast in January. David Hill and Stephen Mace talk to voters at a Republican Party breakfast in January.

The candidates for the Republican nomination for the District 5 Henderson County Board of Commissioners seat are David Hill and Stephen Mace.

Commissioner Grady Hawkins plans to retire when his term expires in December. No other candidates filed for the seat.
Hill, 53, is a Henderson County native who lives in the Tuxedo/Zirconia area with his wife, Lisa. The couple has twin daughters, Marissa and Michaela. A professional land surveyor, Hill owns his surveying company, based in East Flat Rock.
Mace, 48, is a manufacturing consultant who lives in Hendersonville. He and his wife, Tippi, have a son Christian, 21, and daughter Carlisle, 17.

Why are you running for the Board of Commissioners?

Hill: I am running for County Commissioner to continue serving our community and to ensure that Henderson County has a conservative, prosperous future. I believe that citizens should be active participants in their local communities. I have a long history of service. I am currently serving on the Green River Community Association, the Board of Directors for Blue Ridge Fire and Rescue and the Cemetery Advisory Committee. I have served on other committees in the past. I am looking to take my experience and beliefs and use these to expand on my community service.

Mace: I love Henderson County. I’ve lived 35 of my 48 years here and I’m not leaving. My wife and I are about to be empty nesters which will open up more opportunity to serve. Why serve as a Commissioner? Our growth has exploded and it will take certain skills to lead us through this challenge. I have those skills. We must be able to navigate complex issues with multiple stakeholders. I’m a consultant for a Fortune 120 company and a trained NC Mediator. I have a proven track record of listening, collaboration and leading large organizations through complex challenges.

Residents along N.C. 191 continue to demand that the Board of Commissioners take their side and oppose the NCDOT plan for a 4-lane divided highway between Mills River and Mountain Road. As a county commissioner, would you favor a motion to ask the NCDOT to drop the N.C. 191 widening project?

Mace: First thing that comes to my mind when I hear a road discussion is safety. I-26 is the best worst example of what happens when roads don’t stay ahead of population growth. People die. I need more information on the 191 project to make a decision but this will be my approach to road projects. I will not take initial DOT requests as final. We must exhaust every option before a project starts. When it does start, the BOC and County staff should act as a conduit of open communication and problem solving between impacted residents and the DOT. Our roads must be ahead of population growth to ensure safe travel for all.

Hill: The Highway 191 project has been approved by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners and the French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization. Highway 191, is designated as a boulevard, with many collector roads intersecting. It is also within the urban service area per the County’s planning strategy. Based on the growth of the areas served by Highway 191, the need for widening and improving the road, in my opinion, is necessary to ensure the safety of our students, our residents, and for the continued growth of the area. Because of these safety concerns, I would not favor the motion.

 

The Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a Greenway Master Plan last year. The proposed Ecusta Trail has received a $6.4 million grant to help acquire the Hendersonville-to-Brevard track for railbanking. What is your position on adding greenways in the county, such as the north and south Oklawaha Greenway extensions? What role (if any) can the county take in making the Ecusta Trail happen?

Hill: Parks are an important service to our community. I have worked with the County Parks and Recreation Department since 2012 on developing Tuxedo Park. The Tuxedo Park has become a great asset to the Zirconia area. I see the Ecusta and Oklawaha trails as an extension of Parks and Recreation amenities offered to all county residents. Consideration of impacts to the citizens along the trails, funding for cost of building, long term maintenance cost, and economic impacts are areas to be considered by the County. Commissioners have adopted a resolution in support of the Trails. I would support continued research into the cost, benefits and impact of community trails.

Mace: I’m for greenways in the County. They bring multiple benefits. Most importantly, according to the County’s master plan, they strengthen the local economy. They encourage and improve recreation opportunities and a healthy lifestyle and provide a safe alternative mode of transportation. I’m 100% behind the work that the Friends of Ecusta Trail have already completed. They are a model of patient collaboration and dogged research to find the best possible solutions for maximizing alternative funding and minimizing impact. In 2015 the BOC endorsed the concept unanimously and I agree. I would not support raising taxes to fund the Ecusta Trail.

The opening of the new Edneyville Elementary School has put the question of a sewer line on the table. How should the Board of Commissioners address the question of extending sewer service to the school and the Edneyville community and how would you propose the county pay for it?

Mace: I propose to approach the extension of sewer in Edneyville the way I propose to approach everything. Our infrastructure growth must slightly outpace development. We have to look at a sewer line that will result in development that will generate the revenue to pay for the cost. I can’t answer whether we should build our own sewer plant or how we should partner with the City. That will take a lot of exploration among the stakeholders which include Edneyville residents and landowners, County Staff, Board of Education, Hendersonville City, Sheriff, Fire and EMS to assess the impact on Edneyville and the county budget.

Hill: All options for sewage treatment for the school should be researched, including onsite and the proposed sewer line. Highway 64 East is designated as a thoroughfare. The school is within the Urban/Rural Transition area. Municipal water currently exists along Highway 64. A sewer line along Highway 64 would be the next step in the urbanization of the area served by the sewer line. I believe a viable resolution for this issue needs more study. While developing a resolution to the issue, how to pay for the project will be an integral component.

Proposals for higher density developments have triggered broad opposition from neighboring homeowners. One such development has come up for a second time, at the Tap Root dairy farm property (699 units on 320 acres). If you were on the board now, how would you vote on the Tap Root rezoning request? What is your position in general on land-use changes to allow higher-density developments?

Hill: The Tap Root project is within the urban service area per the County’s planning strategy. It is located on Butler Bridge Road, designated as a collector road served by two thoroughfares (Highways 25 and 280). It is also served by municipal water along Butler Bridge road and sewer is in the vicinity. Butler Bridge Road from Highway 25 to Highway 280 has been submitted by the County Transportation Advisory Committee for widening and modernization. The subdivision project has been resubmitted for County approval. I would want to see the revised project and the status of the Butler Bridge Road TAC submittal before a decision is made.

Mace: I need more information to make a decision. My position on high density developments will be driven with a mindset that infrastructure should slightly outpace growth. That will keep our tax rate stable. I’ve been told by Commissioners the quickest way to raise taxes is by getting behind in school capital projects. High density projects could add a large number of students to the local school. We need housing, affordable housing. Young people are our future and locally they struggle to find housing they can afford. We must prepare for development by being strategic about our infrastructure growth and partner with the BOE, the DOT and other municipalities in the County.

What other priorities do you have for Henderson County if you are elected?

Mace: I have many personal priorities, including the local substance abuse challenge, but I must be focused on the task at hand. That is managing our exploding growth strategically and collaboratively. A big mistake that strategic thinkers make is that they stay in clouds. Since I filed I have met with County Commissioners, County Manager, Sheriff, School Board members, Pardee Hospital, Agriculture Council members, Fire Chiefs, Rescue Squad, BRCC, PED, Faith Community, local business owners and have more scheduled. This doesn’t include multiple Council meetings across the county. This preparation will enable me to be the best candidate to serve starting on day 1.

Hill: I would like to see continued conversations on a resolution to the inequity of City of Hendersonville water rates between City and County water customers. The extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) area of municipalities needs to be addressed so that citizens in these areas will be properly served. The annexation of parcels into the City of Hendersonville needs to be addressed. This issue is of concern for residents, as they face higher taxes, and the Volunteer Fire Departments, due to depletion of tax base for their district.

NOTE: The Lightning’s Voter Guide continues in the Feb. 19 issue and at hendersonvillelightning.com with coverage including the District 2 Henderson County Board of Commissioners Democratic primary.