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Ask Matt ... about public space, free fuel, balconectomy

The Hendersonville Lightning's intrepid researcher answers readers' questions.


Q. How does one reserve the courtyard in front of the Historic Courthouse?

It's actually an easy process. Just download the application from the county's website and get it to County Public Information Officer Christina Hallingse. Naturally, there are ground rules. The courthouse porch and steps are off limits, no vehicles on the courtyard, you can't block the entrance during business hours, and you must clean up. Also, applicants must be a community or non-profit group. Hallingse said that in most cases she can grant the requests.
I read the list of the 20 groups that used the courtyard plaza or courthouse lawn in 2013 and they ranged from Bark for Life to Day of Peace to Daughters of the American Revolution to a Sept. 11 Remembrance of the attack on Benghazi. Many users such as Garden Jubilee and the Apple Festival are recurring. Only two groups were denied last year – both because of prior bookings. So a wedding on the Historic Courthouse plaza is out, but across town at the new courthouse sixty bucks will get you a marriage license.

Q. What is the fee to use the City's vehicle recharge station and what would a driver pay to repower a fully discharged Toyota Prius?

The Toyota Prius is a hybrid vehicle (gas and electric) that doesn't need charging, so I instead chose the 2014 all-electric Smart Car. The Department of Energy estimates the Smart Car can go 25 miles for just 96 cents based upon $0.12 per kwh. It takes 6 hours to fully charge the Smart Car which has a driving range of 68 miles. But here's a shocker. If you take your car to one of the two charging stations in Hendersonville's Dogwood Parking Lot on Church Street, the cost is zero. That's right, nada! This is courtesy of a federal stimulus grant. Sweet, huh? (photo attached)

Q. What was the restoration cost of the Skyland Hotel balcony that overhangs the city sidewalk and why was it a City project?

According to Hendersonville City officials, restoring the historical Skyland balcony was included in the final phase of the Main Street renovations because the façade was deteriorating. Without restoration, the structure would have been out of character with the new streetscape. Also, there was a question of whether the balcony was a public or private entity. City Manager John Connet said that without strong assurances of proper maintenance, a structure overhanging a public sidewalk would be prohibited today. The renovations were completed last September for $212,000. The work also addressed some necessary drainage problems and pedestrian safety issues. The Skyland Hotel was built around 1929. The first balcony was enclosed and sported a sloped roof, then a flat roof, and today it's all open air.