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The fate of Hendersonville High School will remain in limbo for at least three more months after the Hendersonville City Council voted on Thursday to postpone a decision on a road closing that's a crucial piece of the plan for a new HHS campus.
The request to close Ninth Avenue West was made by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners after the Henderson County School Board voted in December to endorse plans for a new school on the old Boyd dealership property north of the current campus.
Mayor Barbara Volk and council members Jeff Miller and Steve Caraker voted in favor of the postponement, saying they wanted give the Board of Commissioners enough time to come up with a site-specific plan that would answer questions they still have about the proposed new school. Ron Stephens and Jerry Smith, a teacher at Henderson High, voted against the postponement.
The vote on the street closing was widely viewed as a critical test vote on the council's ultimate decision on the HHS plans, which have been hotly debated for the past year. Besides the road closing, the council still has the authority to say yes or no to a development permit.
The council also wants time to decide whether a special use permit and a rezoning request should be submitted and approved before a vote is taken on whether to close off a portion of Ninth Avenue West between U.S. 25 and Oakland Street.
Miller said after the council adjourned that the earliest the council could receive an acceptable site plan would be in May.
“I am totally not comfortable with closing the road,” Miller said. “There’s a real lack of information. We’ve got the cart in front of the horse right now. Let’s get the rest of the information and go from there.”
Stephens said he believes the council was being asked to “do something we’ve never done before” in voting to close a road before zoning change is in place.
“It’s not sound reasoning,” Stephens said. “I think we should abandon this decision tonight.”
All eight people who spoke during a public hearing before the council’s vote opposed construction of the new school, including Henderson County school board chairwoman Amy Lynn Holt.
Holt said after the meeting that she wouldn’t mind continuing to seek other options for the fate of the 91-year-old school.
“I would like to work with the commissioners and us to develop a plan that works for everybody,” she said. “It’s been so disheartening on our community.”
David Rhode, a student at Western Carolina University, questioned whether the planned 4 acres of property on which the new school would be built is adequate.
“Sixty acres is recommended for a school this size,” Rhode said. “This project is costly and nobody has supported it. It’s been a resounding ‘No.’”
The future of HHS — whether to build an all-new school north of Ninth Avenue or to preserve the original classroom building and auditorium while bulldozing the gyms, band room, cafeteria and vocational ed wing — has been the subject of a drawn-out battle that has pitted the School Board, HHS alumni, the current students and faculty against the Board of Commissioners.
After commissioners issued a public warning that the project would be dead if the School Board voted no, the School Board voted 4-2 on Dec. 12 to endorse the all-new construction plan. Similarly, commissioners warned that if the City Council failed to OK the rezoning, the county would drop the project indefinitely and potentially put the Boyd lot on the market.