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Growth expected to tax Mills River government

MILLS RIVER — Mills River will see more growth in 2013 as the economy recovers, commercial businesses take advantage of a new sewer line, the new Ingles supermarket opens and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. starts making beer, town manager Jaime Laughter told the Town Council during its first 2013-14 budget work session.

"We are going to need fulltime zoning enforcement given the increase in applications and large-scale development," she said.
A slowdown in rezonings and building-related activity like site plan reviews during the recession enabled the town to shift Pat Christie's duties from zoning to park management. Christie, who is zoning administrator, has a background in recreation management in Florida. Now, she will be under pressure to review more rezoning applications and guide the regulatory process for the grocery store, brewery, the 62-bed Beystone nursing home and the Legacy at Mills River, a life-care center.
While zoning work will consume more of Christie's time, the park is expanding and will need management, too.
"You're going to need a fulltime park director and you're going to need more park rangers," Laughter said. "They're going to be busier while they're on site."
Through the winter, the town cut back the hours of its part-time park rangers, using them on weekends because town hall staff was on duty until 5 o'clock.
"Whenever there is more daylight and there's not staff here, we're going to hear more about it," she said.
The board did not commit to a new hire.
The board did, however, signal that it won't start on construction of ballfields for the park before July 1, 2014. Flavor 1st, the farming and packing company based in Mills River, pledged $100,000 and the Mills River Recreation Foundation is raising money to match the grant.
The Town Council has committed $86,000 for the rear walking trail and $83,000 as its one-third share to pay for a left-turn lane the DOT has required. The softball fields will cost an estimated $300,000 and the rear parking lot $301,550, the town says.
Laughter said the council will need to commit soon if it wants to apply for a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant in 2014 to help pay for park development. When the town received a $500,000 grant to start the park, the application filled a two-inch binder and took about a year to compile, counting a master plan, public meetings and community feedback, she said.
The council agreed to invite cleaning services to bid on the contract to clean the restrooms in the park and Town Hall. The cost is currently $475 a month and the current contractor wants to raise the rate by $75, Laughter said.