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THE TOP 10 (10, 9, 8): Development fights, road wars and dining options made news

Homeowners along Butler Bridge Road opposed the proposed Taproot Farms development of more than a thousand homes. Homeowners along Butler Bridge Road opposed the proposed Taproot Farms development of more than a thousand homes.

Here's the Lightning's Top 10 of 2019.


Fights over development dominated the civic landscape and a two-year long campaign over a road project in Flat Rock culminated in a new Village Council majority. The merry-go-round of restaurants spun fast throughout the year, from Shine to White Duck. A 60-year-old nonprofit struggled to survive as a lawsuit questioned its validity. And as the Hendersonville City Council continued to invest in improvements downtown and in the Historic Seventh Avenue District, market forces responded by moving in to renovated spaces. Here’s the Lightning’s annual look at the Top 10 news stories of the year.

10.Development plan tapped out

Soon after 2019 dawned, a partnership an Asheville development team and a large Texas home builder filed plans for a subdivision of 1,244 homes on the Tap Root dairy farm property that the Johnston family had been marketing for more than 10 years. The rezoning application triggered an uprising from residents of River Stone and other neighborhoods in the Butler Bridge Road area who said the development would overwhelm roads and schools. Despite weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations by County Commissioner Bill Lapsley that resulted in more than 30 concessions from the developer, a 2-2 vote in July defeated the development request. The same developer, Ken Jackson, won approval from the Hendersonville City Council for a 332-unit development of townhomes and single-family homes on Clear Creek Road. And in Hendersonville, in-fill development surged as a handful of homebuilders shoehorned homes on vacant lots or in place of tear-downs.

9. Opportunity House troubles

When the year opened, the Community Foundation of Henderson County had just filed a lawsuit asking a judge to determine whether the Opportunity House was legally operating as a nonprofit under its charter, state law and the IRS code. The nonprofit, which was founded in 1958 to serve senior citizens and once had more than a thousand dues-paying members, is currently managed by Ken Rhoads under what he and his attorney say is a duly constituted board of three members. In June, the North Carolina secretary of state denied Rhoads’ application for a license to solicit charitable donations after he failed to submit information missing from an application he had filed. The Community Foundation’s lawsuit asks for the nonprofit’s IRS filings, board of directors, meeting minutes and other records and sought to freeze the organization’s efforts to sell the property, which is worth more than $1 million. In court filings and in mediation talks, Rhoads and Opp House attorney Jake Snider of Asheville have agreed to turn over some of the records on the condition that the Superior Court keep them sealed. Settlement talks were still under way as the year ended.

8. Restaurant merry-go-round keeps spinning

Although restaurants come and go, 2019 marked an especially robust year for new offerings, changes and a few closings in downtown Hendersonville and beyond. Almost 10 years in the birthing, Shine opened as the year dawned and quickly attracted crowds in the 200 block of Main Street. The announcement that Chick-Fil-A would open a southside restaurant in Patrons enjoy drinks at the Shine bar.Patrons enjoy drinks at the Shine thrilled fans and the prospect for a Dairi-O on Upward Road had East Henderson Eagles eager for milkshakes, dip cones, burger and fries. Significant for its endorsement of the Historic Seventh Avenue District was the news that Asheville-based White Duck Taco Shop would open in the 500 block. And a Cookout executive is making a play for the brunch bunch with his new Arabella in the 500 block downtown. Other food and beverage news of 2019: Salty Landing opens in Etowah; Sweet Thangs starts serving cookies, cakes and ice cream on Seventh Avenue; HVL Pedal & Brews pubcycle starts rolling downtown in November, Burning Blush brewery opens in Mills River just before Christmas, Baker’s Box plans relocation to Asheville Highway with an expanded menu and hours; Three Chopt opens at night and expands menu; Never Blue chef-owner Jesse Roque opens Madame Roque’s Meat Emporium next door to her original restaurant on South Main; Hendersonville Pizzeria, a family friendly Italian restaurant, opens in the former Subway space in Laurel Park; Art & Coffee Bar serves up hot drinks on Fifth Avenue East across from City Hall; and two business partners announce that they’ll open the Blue Door Bottleshop & Beer Hall, a Bavarian-style bar, on Third Avenue East.