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Village Council majority poised to kill park greenway

Village Council member Anne Coletta displays a map she wanted the council to eliminate from the village's comp plan. Village Council member Anne Coletta displays a map she wanted the council to eliminate from the village's comp plan.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote about the proposed greenway through the Park at Flat Rock. Mayor Nick Weedman, not council member Anne Coletta, commented on his conversation with the NCDOT on what would happen if the Village Council refused to pay the 20 percent cost-share for the paved greenway.


FLAT ROCK — The Flat Rock Village Council has the votes to block a paved greenway through the Park at Flat Rock by refusing to pay a 20 percent share for the project.

That much was clear during a discussion of the project last week in a Village Council meeting. Council members again clashed over the Highland Lake Road project, which has been kept alive by a regional transportation board, to the chagrin of the new council majority that has voted twice to block it.

As soon as it was seated, the new council voted 4-3 to ask the NCDOT to cancel the $2.9 million project. After that vote, though, the Henderson County Transportation Advisory Board, the Hendersonville City Council and the Henderson County Board of Commissioners all recommended that the project proceed, and the French Broad MPO rejected Village Council member Anne Coletta's motion remove the project from the state Transportation Improvement Plan.
The village council renewed the fight over two pieces of the project last week, when Mayor Nick Weedman urged the council to tell the NCDOT that it won’t pitch in to pave the greenway.
“We are required to pay 20 percent of the cost of the bike-ped path,” he said. “I asked (Division 14 Engineer) Brian Burch what would happen if the council said we won’t pay that. They would go ahead and construct a berm — in other words, do the earth work but not do any of the paving. If later on, we decided we needed to do to connect to a larger trail system, we could apply for grants. It does not kill the bike-ped exactly but it does keep it from being paved.”
Council member David Dethero seconded Weedman’s motion to withhold any cost-sharing payment but after a long discussion the motion was dropped. Instead, Coletta and council member Tom Carpenter planned to meet with Burch again.
“We have two options,” council member Sheryl Jamerson said. “No. 1, we don’t contribute to creating the multi-use path. They will create berms, put the dirt where it all needs to be and that’ll be it. They will not re-engineer where the path is going to go.” A different route that uses some existing trails and saves more trees was an option at one time, she said.
“Higher up, the path would be right next to road. A little 10-year-old riding a bicycle on grass right next to the road keeps me up at night. I prefer to have it paved,” she said.
Coletta disagreed.
“Additional asphalt really makes no sense to me, to have a dual track,” she said. The village doesn’t know how much it would cost to maintain the trail. “Until we have those figures I’m opposed to additional paths. … My problem with all these paths is that they don’t go anywhere. It ends at Greenville Highway. The church is extremely impacted negatively and the park is impacted negatively. It would start at the church and end at the railroad tracks. That is to me a path to nowhere.”
Jamerson objected to Coletta's meeting behind the scenes with DOT engineers.
“When there is an opportunity to have a meeting with Brian Burch on something as important as this … I felt like I had something to offer,” Jamerson said. “There was no reason in my mind that this couldn’t be a council meeting. I asked for it, I was told no. And I felt that only having one point of view was not transparent. ... I just don’t like the way things are going.”
Weedman said the shoe was on the other foot before the November election, when one or two council members were meeting with DOT engineers and excluding other council members, including him.
“Let’s go back, talk to Brian Burch and then come back and if we need to have Brian Burch at the meeting then we’ll do that,” he said.
Weedman acknowledged that the project is consuming too much time, generating too much conflict and preventing the council from tackling other important issues.
“To me the road has been the most divisive thing we’ve had,” he said. “I would like to get all the road issues in our rear-view mirror and move on to other things. “Your point is well taken,” he said to Jamerson. “I happen to disagree with you because knowing that the ad hoc committee (working on Highland Lake Road) was off meeting with different people on different things and I never saw a written report, I’m just a little uncomfortable with that.”
After the Highland Lake Road discussion sputtered to an end, Coletta brought up the village’s comprehensive land-use plan and asked that a map of possible future trails, paths and sidewalk be temporarily deleted.
“If you look at the transportation section and historic preservation section there are conflicts,” she said. The transportation section contains a map of future sidewalks, trails and multi-use paths that council members concede now probably won’t happen. Yellow lines showing multi-use paths run along almost every major road in Flat Rock, including Erkwood Drive, Rutledge Drive, Greenville Highway, Highland Lake Road, Little River Road and Kanuga Road.
“We’ve heard from our community that they’re very concerned about the possibility of changes to our roadways and everything,” Coletta said.
She wanted the council to officially declare that “this page is suspended until we develop the transportation section with the Planning Board. All I’m asking that it be suspended not taken out not changed.”
“To me that’s no more than a concept,” Weedman said.
The council took no action.