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Commissioners hear from apple country on sewer plant, 2045 comp plan

: Edneyville resident Stan Rhodes speaks about the need to preserve farmland during the county commissioners meeting Wednesday. : Edneyville resident Stan Rhodes speaks about the need to preserve farmland during the county commissioners meeting Wednesday.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners took its regular monthly meeting to Edneyville Wednesday where it heard from citizens concerned about the impact planned sewer service and the 2045 comprehensive plan will have on the community.

Commissioners said they expect the planning board on Thursday to recommend the comprehensive plan to them for approval. The board set Dec. 5 as a date for a public hearing on the comprehensive plan and said they could decide to vote on it after the public hearing.
The meeting in Edneyville drew about 70 people to the gymnasium at the Larry Justus Justice Academy off U.S. 64 East. It included two public comment times, one for the sewer issue and one for the comprehensive plan.
Kenny Barnwell, who is chairman of Henderson County Agriculture Advisory Board and involved in other area agriculture organizations, spoke during both public comment times.
He said he has worked very hard to get sewer service along U.S. 64 East in the community.
The service will benefit roadside fruit stands as well as other agriculture businesses, he said while noting some farmers are for and some are against the sewer service.
“Progress is coming. We’re not going to stop it,” he said. “We’re going to lose some apple orchards.”
He said he also believed the county could manage growth by keeping the area zoned for rural residential development. The rural zoning will limit high-density developments, he said.
But others said they feared the sewer line will destroy the rural nature of their community.
Townsend Road resident Nora Stepp, who is a native of Henderson County and whose family goes back several generations in the community, said she thinks sewer service in Edneyville will lead to increased traffic, a loss of open space, higher taxes and a burden on emergency services. It will also hurt the community’s rural lifestyle, she said.
“I don’t oppose change,” she said. “I just want to preserve what we have left.”
In January, commissioners voted to move ahead with a $21 million sewer project to serve the Edneyville and Fruitland area.
It marked the first time the county has taken a bold step to open up a rural and suburban area to new development by making public sewer available.
Some who spoke Wednesday said they wanted commissioners to meet the needs Edneyville’s elementary school has for sewer service while protecting farming and the rural nature of the community.
“Compromise needs to be explored,” Edneyville resident Linda Pryor said.
Isaac Jones, who also lives on Townsend Road, said he was concerned what impact the sewer service would have on well water and the creek where he grew up playing.
He suggested commissioners limit the size and scope of the project.
Speaking on the 2045 plan, Stan Rhodes, who lives in Fruitland, said he farmed most of his life and his son recently bought a farm in the area.
He called on commissioners to protect farms when they consider the plan.
“Please, preserve our farmers,” he said as his voice trembled.
Others who spoke on the 2045 plan also called on commissioners to protect the rural parts of the county from over development.
Jeff Jennings, who opened his own business in the area, said the people he hires often want to come to and stay in the mountains because of their beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. Too much development and sprawl will overwhelm the rural character that draws people to the area, Jennings said.
“If we don’t plan this right, we could have the opposite outcome of what the stated goals are,” he said.
After hearing from the speakers and an update on the 2045 plan from county staff, Commissioner Michael Edney asked about increased population projections for the county over the next 20 years and where those people will live if the county’s goal is to protect farmland and open space.
“What are we supposed to do?” he asked.
He also questioned what the county should do to limit development on private property.
“They have some God-given rights, what they can do with their property,” he said.
Staff members said the county can take steps to take the pressure to develop their land off farmers and manage where growth occurs.
Commission Chairman Bill Lapsley told people gathered for the meeting that the 2045 plan is a guide and high-level view of how the county sees where growth and development will likely occur.
The county’s zoning laws and land development code specifies the rules governing development in particular areas.
The difficult job for commissioners, he said, is when a property owner comes to them wanting to change zoning on their property because a developer is offering them large amounts of money to develop more houses per acre than the zoning allows.
Commissioner Daniel Andreotta questioned how the county should manage the density of development and the need for affordable housing.
Staff members suggested that infill areas where development exists are a likely place for higher density affordable housing.
Commission Vice Chairwoman Rebecca McCall said she witnessed many changes in the community over the years.
“Change happens. We have to manage that change for the better,” she said. “If we all work together and embrace the change and manage it, we can still stay who we are.”
The Henderson County Planning Board is scheduled to discuss and make a recommendation on the 2045 comprehensive plan during its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the county offices on King Street. The meeting will include time for public comment.