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Asheville City Council ratifies water agreement

The Asheville City Council debated a revised water agreement on Tuesday, April 22. The Asheville City Council debated a revised water agreement on Tuesday, April 22.

ASHEVILLE —Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer fastened a pin depicting the Henderson County Historic Courthouse on her lapel "right over my Asheville pin," a symbolic gesture that could signal the end of a bitter 20-year dispute between the city and Henderson County over a controversial water rights swap.


The City Council on Tuesday night had just adopted a new agreement that dumped a contentious piece of a 1995  agreement. Last week the Henderson County Board of Commissioners unanimously signed off on the same agreement, which could salvage as much as $1 million in value from 137 acres on the French Broad River the county was subject to lose on July 15.
The actions of the two boards would have been inconceivable during much of the last two decades as the city and its next-door neighbor engaged in drawn-out bitter battles not only over the 1995 water agreement but over land-use issues and control of the Asheville Regional Airport and fairgrounds property.
Under the 1995 agreement, Henderson County gave the city of Asheville the right to install a water intake on the Mills River. In exchange, Asheville agreed to provide water to a section of northern Henderson County and gave the county 137 acres on the French Broad to build a sewage treatment plant. The need for sewage treatment plant diminished and the county never built the plant. Because it did not, the county was subject to a part of the agreement that returns the land to Asheville.
Under the new agreement:
• Henderson County gets half the proceeds from the property sale and explores a joint law enforcement center with Buncombe County and Asheville. It would not be obligated to a joint venture and could build a facility with other municipalities or counties.
• Asheville gives up the right to take back the 137-acre tract off Ferry Road on the French Broad River and transfers its share of the sale proceeds to Buncombe County for a law enforcement facility that Asheville trainees and officers would also use.
• Buncombe County works with the other local governing bodies on the joint law enforcement center.
IMG 0014Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer at an Asheville City Council meeting.On Tuesday night the Asheville City Council adopted the agreement after Manheimer briefly explained the details. The agreement "brings a resolution to a long-standing unresolved issue with Henderson County in terms of what to do in terms of the disposal of what we call the Bent Creek property," she said.
"We're going to vote," she added, after no council member offered an objection or even a comment. "But before we do, the Henderson County manager gave me this very nice lapel pin that's a symol of our coming together over a resolution for the disposal of this property."
Even though Asheville will pass on the land sale proceeds to Buncombe County, "We're able to make our contribution to Buncombe County" for the law enforcement center, she said in an interview before the council vote.

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