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County vote that blocked water line extension 'shortsighted,' city says

Responding to the decision by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to block a city water line extension for a vacation cabin development in Horse Shoe, the city of Hendersonville expressed disappointment and defended its actions to reduce water rates outside the city limits and its attempts to work with commissioners on a countywide utility plan.

In a news release it sent out on Friday, the city called the county's action a "shortsighted and unnecessary" move that would jeopardize affordable housing projects, business expansion and industrial recruitment and it called on commissioners to reconsider the vote that blocked the water line extension.

The city "is extremely disappointed in the action taken by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night regarding the waterline extensions for Nicholas Bowman and Sen Asheville 1, LLC," the developers of Horse Shoe farm. "The placement of conditions on a request to extend public water service to projects that have been previously approved by Henderson County, because of philosophical differences over the management of the utility, is unfortunate for these property owners. These conditions will limit the public’s access to safe reliable drinking water, reduce access to fire protection, and increase insurance rates for County residents and businesses.

"Business expansions, affordable housing developments, and new higher-paying manufacturing jobs will also experience negative repercussions due to costly utility extensions and fewer viable industrial sites. We strongly believe this action is shortsighted and unnecessary."

The City of Hendersonville has attempted to work with Henderson County to improve the countywide utility system. The city listed five actions the City Council has taken over the past seven years in an effort to meet the county's demands:

1. The City Council adopted a resolution of intent to follow the water and sewer rate schedule through 2030. This rate schedule details the equalization of rates over ten years while still covering the costs of upcoming loans for infrastructure improvement projects. In the FY20-21 budget, City Council set the rate differential at 145 percent for water service bringing inside and outside rates closer according to the phased plan.

2. The City Council amended the rate schedule in 2016 to charge all public schools in Henderson County the inside water and sewer rates.

3. The City Council hired an independent facilitator to interview representatives from Henderson County, local municipalities, economic development agencies, and State representatives to gain an understanding of concerns regarding the operation of the Hendersonville Utility System. As a result, the City reinstated the Water and Sewer Advisory Council to allow for continuous input from all stakeholders. This Advisory Council continues to meet quarterly.

4. The City invited Henderson County to participate in the development of countywide water and sewer master plans. However, Henderson County chose not to participate.

5. The City has completed several water line extension projects to serve economic development projects throughout Henderson County. The projects have been completed in partnership with AgHC, the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development and Henderson County.

"The City of Hendersonville is committed to working with Henderson County and other stakeholders as evidenced by the actions that have been taken," the statement concludes. "City Council continues to prioritize providing customers with high-quality drinking water, encouraging new development, and operating the utility in an efficient, reliable, and sustainable manner.   We hope the Henderson County Board of Commissioners will reconsider their position on water system extensions."