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Commissioners: We'll shelve HHS if city blocks project

The future of Hendersonville High School again sits perched on a high wire after county commissioners vowed to shelve all construction plans if the Hendersonville City Council uses its zoning authority to block the project.

Commissioner Bill Lapsley repeated a warning he had made — and the full board had endorsed — before the School Board voted in favor of the all-new construction that a no vote would kill the project for the foreseeable future. This time, Lapsley and other board members were reacting to reports that Mayor Barbara Volk and two council members are prepared to vote on no a street closing or on a special-use permit needed for construction.

Lapsley said that commissioners had received plenty of phone calls and emails from HHS parents who favor the new state-of-the-art building commissioners have authorized. Now that both the Board of Commissioners and the School Board have endorsed the county's plan, the City Council should fairly consider the application based on the zoning code, not the wishes of the Alumni Association, commissioners say.

"The decision rests clearly on the shoulders of the City Council and we will all be very disappointed in the outcome but there should be no doubt where the responsbility lies," Lapsley said. "If they vote no on the plan as presented, that will kill the project.  It will be shelved indefinitely and there will be no new school."

Later, the long and contentious road to a new HHS took yet another twist. State Rep. Chuck McGrady told commissioners that he would be willing to pursue a legislative fix, effectively taking zoning control from the city, if the City Council blocked the decision of the Board of Commissioners and School Board. In an interview after he left the meeting, McGrady said it was his feeling that the two bodies responsible for education and school construction had voted for a new HHS and that the City Council was not empowered to block that.

He likened the General Assembly's intervention to the building height controversy about 10 years ago when the Legislature authorized a city referendum that overruled the City Council's vote to allow a tall condo building downtown.

Lapsley and McGrady both said they believe Mayor Barbara Volk and council members Ron Stephens and Jerry Smith are possible no votes. Three no votes would defeat the closing of Ninth Avenue between Oakland Street and Asheville Highway or would block the rezoning needed for the school project.