LOCAL ISSUES LIKE CLOSING NINTH AVENUE AND ZONING CHANGES FOR THE NEW HHS CAMPUS COULD END UP IN THE HANDS OF THE NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY
As WHKP News predicted it would several months ago, the battle over a new Hendersonville High School campus has now shifted from the county courthouse to Hendersonville city hall. Commissioners are sticking to their Clark Nexsen-proposed $53 million dollar new high school at Five Points on the former Boyd property…and commissioners have issued an ultimatum to city council---either close Ninth Avenue between Oakland and Church Streets to make room for the new campus and approve the necessary zoning changes OR the whole HHS project will be shelved indefinitely.
The next step in the process would normally be for the county to formally request that the street be closed and the county or its architect and contractors would apply to the city planning board and then to city council for the necessary zoning changes.
But because three members of city council, Mayor Volk and council members Stevens and Smith, have already let their opposition to the Clark Nexsen proposal be known and are likely “no” votes, they could defeat the proposed closing of Ninth Avenue for the new campus and/or their participation in the quasi judicial hearing that would be required on the zoning changes could become an issue. This leaves what’s appearing to be growing “gridlock” between the city and county on the new HHS issue.
And this also opens the door for the North Carolina General Assembly to possibly step in and force a solution. State Representative Chuck McGrady, a former county commissioner who served with some of the current "sitting" commissioners, has reportedly indicated to county commissioners that he’s willing to do so...and there is historical precedent for that. The legislature settled a downtown building heights issue a decade ago by authorizing a “vote of the people” on the issue. More to the point, a quarter of a century ago, State Senator Bo Thomas wrote legislation forcing reluctant county commissioners to deal with the issue of a crumbling jail and old courthouse which led to the construction of the newer 1995 courthouse and detention facility.
McGrady tells WHKP he has not been asked yet for legislation on the issue---so a lot is obviously riding on what city council does in that February 9th meeting.
The need for a new Edneyville Elementary School was recently resolved when commissioners voted unanimously to build a new facility for about $25 million, and as Commission Chairman Michael Edney correctly pointed out the Edneyville school is a separate issue.. And County Commissioner Grady Hawkins re-affirmed the obvious…that the county CAN afford to build both the new Edneyville school and the new HHS campus. That SHOULD resolve both issues, but the city-county gridlock, at least for now. appears to be firmly in place.
The bottom line is…either a compromise is worked out between city and county to move the new campus and preservation of the historic Stillwell building forward…or the whole issue may be moved out of the hands of local elected city and county officials and placed squarely in the lap of a few hundred legislators in Raleigh who know diddly-squat about our situation and needs here in Henderson County---and that’s "Raleigh decision-making" and "legislative mandates" that are consistently decried by local elected officials.
This is not an editorial opinion...,what we’re offering is just an objective over-view from an historical perspective of where this contentious situation stands today and may be going in the very near future. So, like with other similar situations in our recent history, such as building heights and new courthouses, as we say in the radio business, “please stand by and stay tuned”…depending on what city council does on February 9th, it is looking more and more likely that this issue is about 210 miles down I-40 (the distance from here to Raleigh) from being resolved.
By WHKP News Director Larry Freeman Updated 01/30/17
The Associated Press reports that feelings among the state's legislators in the General Assembly on any possible bill to repeal the "bathroom bill" or HB 2 are mixed, and Chuck McGrady from Henderson County points out, "...If we're talking about a straight repeal and nothing else, I don't know."
North Carolina’s governor insists there are enough votes to kill House Bill 2. But a survey by The Associated Press, the Observer and eight North Carolina newspapers shows fewer than a third of lawmakers are willing to publicly commit to that stance.
A closely watched deal to repeal the law fell apart during a December special session amid distrust between Democrats and Republicans. The law sparked backlash from businesses and LGBT advocates who say it’s discriminatory because it requires transgender people to use restrooms in government-run buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from statewide anti-discrimination protections.
Only 12 of 50 state senators and 40 of 118 current House members said they support abolishing the law, nearly all of them Democrats. On the other side, 13 representatives and six senators said firmly that they want the law to remain.
The law was a response to an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte. HB2 nullified the law but city council members rescinded it in December as part of the aborted deal to repeal the state law.
Charlotte-area Democratic lawmakers continue to favor repeal. Many Republicans didn’t want to respond to the survey until they see what a bill looks like.
“I suspect that you’re not going to get a lot of people answering that question,” said Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican. “This is a complex issue. There are a lot of emotions attached to it. More things could go wrong than could go right.”
GOP Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County said he can support repeal “with conditions.”
“I want privacy protected,” he said. “The bathroom piece, the protections need to stay in place. That you go to the bathroom on your birth certificate.”
But the survey doesn’t give a clear answer about the likelihood of undoing the law. In both chambers, those giving a “yes” or “no” were outnumbered by those on the fence or declining to participate.
“It’s going to be a heavy lift. I hesitate to comment one way or another without seeing a specific proposal,” said Republican Rep. Josh Dobson, who represents mountain counties.
About 10 Republicans in each chamber said they were open to finding a solution but would have to see what’s included in a repeal bill. The survey was conducted over the opening days of this year’s legislative session.
Many Republican lawmakers are likely keeping their views private to discourage public squabbling, said Republican Mike Hager, who served as House Majority Leader before leaving the legislature last year. The House Republican Caucus has been divided over repeal legislation.
Hager also said many GOP legislators from rural, socially conservative areas are torn between concerns about HB2 hampering economic activity and the desire to protect bathroom privacy and respect religious views.
“People have deep-seeded feelings about family norms,” Hager said. “You’ve got to have someone brave enough and offer a compromise, because that is what it’s going to take.”
The survey, sent Jan. 19 by email, asked legislators if they would “vote to repeal House Bill 2 in its entirety” if such legislation were introduced. Reporters also contacted lawmakers by phone or in person over the following week.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from mountainous Henderson County, was among those who refused to answer “yes” or “no,” saying: “It really depends on what else is with it. If we’re talking about a straight repeal and nothing else, I don’t know.”
Many Republicans say the law is needed to protect safety and privacy, while critics say those dangers are nonexistent.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper repeated his assertion that there are enough votes for full repeal in a blog post on Tuesday. Asked about the tepid survey responses, Cooper’s spokesman Ford Porter said: “The votes existed in both chambers in December and legislative leaders could still repeal this law today.”
State Senate leader Phil Berger, responding to the survey, said he has told Cooper that repeal will require compromise and that “I’m encouraged that his response to those concerns is that he wants to work something out.” But Berger also told Time Warner Cable News Thursday that he doesn’t believe there are enough votes “for an outright repeal without anything else.”
Some Republicans said they will not vote for repeal without leaving part of the bathroom provision intact. Others have favored limiting local governments’ anti-discrimination measures.
Republican Rep. Andy Dulin of Charlotte said he expects lawmakers crafting a repeal bill will be cautious to avoid another showdown with local governments.
“I am of the opinion that we need to let our urban centers and our state move forward,” said Dulin, whose district suffered from the withdrawal of the ACC football championship, the NBA All-Star Game and business projects.
The leaders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have approved plans to expand Harrah's Cherokee Casino.
The tribe's leaders approved plans earlier this month for a $200 million expansion to add between 600 and 800 additional hotel rooms, as well as 100,000 feet of convention space, the Asheville-Citizen Times (http://avlne.ws/2juKLQO) reported.
Officials say the 1,100 current hotel rooms have a 99 percent occupancy rate year-round.
The casino includes 170 tables with live dealers and 3,600 digital slot machines. There is only 15,000 square feet of convention space now.
Leeann Bridges, regional vice president of marketing at Harrah's, says the casino wants more convention business. Bridges says they've had to limit conventions to Monday-Thursday to make room for weekend gamblers. Harrah's would like to have room for weekend conventions, too.
Registration now open for second annual Wings for Autism® event at Asheville Regional Airport
On Saturday, February 11, 2017 from 9-11am, the second annual Wings for Autism® event will be held at Asheville Regional Airport, and registration is now open for this free event.
Sponsored by The Arc of Buncombe, Asheville Regional Airport, Allegiant Air and the Transportation Security Administration, Wings for Autism® is a special event in which registrants go on a "practice flight" at the airport. Designed as a familiarization program for people with autism spectrum disorders and their caregivers, the event will give a realistic air travel experience in a safe and controlled environment - from check-in and security screening, to waiting at the gate and boarding a plane.
Air travel can be especially challenging for those on the autism spectrum, with long lines, security screening, new environments with different sounds and lights, and other unfamiliar procedures. The "practice flight" provided by the Wings for Autism® event helps families understand how their child or loved one on the spectrum will respond to the experience. At the same time, airport, airline and TSA staff have the opportunity to learn and expand their skills to best serve this group.
"We are excited to be partnering with The Arc of Buncombe, Allegiant, and the TSA to bring this excellent program to our airport again this year," said Lew Bleiweis, Executive Director at Asheville Regional Airport. "I encourage families with a child on the autism spectrum to consider participating, and to register soon as space is limited by the number of seats on the airplane. It is a fun event, and truly helps families familiarize with the air travel process."
Space is limited to the first 130 registrants. Information and a link to on-line registration may be found at flyavl.com/wings.
10th Annual ATHENA Leadership Award Nominations Now Being Accepted
The Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, Pardee Hospital, Morris Broadband, and Judy Stroud/State Farm Insurance are pleased to announce the 10th annual ATHENA Leadership Award® in Henderson County in memory of Vanessa Y. Mintz. Nominations are now being accepted for the ATHENA Leadership Award®, which will be presented at the Business & Professional Women’s Luncheon on May 10th, 2017 to an exemplary leader who has achieved excellence in their business or profession, served the community in a meaningful way and, most importantly, actively assisted women to achieve their full leadership potential.
Founded nearly 30 years ago, ATHENA International is a women’s leadership organization that supports, develops and honors women leaders through the programs it administers. ATHENA’s flagship program, the ATHENA Leadership Award® Program, has honored over 6000 women leaders from hundreds of cities and eight countries since its inception in 1982. Vanessa Y. Mintz brought the ATHENA award to Henderson County in 2008 and she embodied the values underlying ATHENA International’s philosophy of incorporating the talent and expertise of women into the leadership of our businesses, our communities and our government. Reflective of a quote attributed to Plato, “What is honored in a country will be cultivated there”, the ATHENA Leadership Award® honors and illuminates the leaders and leadership styles of individuals others would emulate.
The program is facilitated locally by the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, a licensed ATHENA host organization. Nominations are sought throughout the community and recipients are selected by a diverse group of community leaders based on the criteria above.
ATHENA Leadership Award® Recipients hail from all professional sectors. The award’s rich history, international scope and emphasis on mentorship make this award unique and amongst the most prestigious leadership awards one can receive. Past Henderson County ATHENA Recipients Include:
Judy Stroud, State Farm Insurance (2016)
Judith Long, Free Clinics (2015)
Caroline Long, St. Gerard House (2014)
Annie Fritschner, First United Methodist Church (2013)
Myra Grant, Pardee Hospital Foundation (2012)
Joyce Mason, Four Seasons Compassion for Life (2011)
Pat Shepherd, Pat’s School of Dance (2010)
Ragan Ward, Carolina Alliance Bank (2009)
Robin Reed, Bares It All (2008)
ATHENA Leadership Award® Recipients are presented a hand-cast, bronzed and crystal sculpture that symbolizes the strength, courage and wisdom of ATHENA Recipients.
The Henderson County Recipient will be invited to join ATHENA Leadership Award Recipients and other leaders at the annual ATHENA International Women’s Leadership Summit, held each spring in Chicago.
ATHENA International is nationally underwritten by KPMG. Local sponsorship is provided by Pardee Hospital, Morris Broadband and Judy Stroud/State Farm Insurance.
Nominations will be accepted until April 7th, 2017 and forms may be obtained by contacting the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce at 828.692.1413 or on the website – www.hendersoncountychamber.org.
ONE OF THEIR EARLIER WINTER PUZZLES IS HANGING ON THE WALL AT MILLS RIVER TOWN HALL
LOCATED ON SCHOOL HOUSE ROAD ACROSS FROM MILLS RIVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AND THE COMMUNITY CENTER AND NEXT TO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT
It's national puzzle month--and a local church always has big plans to celebrate it.
There is only a short time left in Puzzlefest this year.
Participants are helping put together a massive castle puzzle (" 2000 pieces to go"). There will be eight tables with different 1000-piece puzzles.
All ages are welcome. Puzzle Fest 2017 is noon to 8 p.m. daily through January 31.
The church is looking for volunteers to help with the project. Call the church at 828-891-7101 for more details.
FESTIVAL DATE SATURDAY MAY 20, 2017
he Saluda Arts Festival is now accepting applications for the prestigious spring event celebrating the town’s heritage and arts culture. The Saluda Business Association is pleased to announce its 14th annual Saluda Arts Festival scheduled for Saturday, May 20, 2017 in historic downtown Main Street in Saluda.
The festival host more than 80 artists each year from all over western NC, TN, and Update of SC. “Stretching along historic Main Street in Saluda, every art media is represented including paintings, pottery, metal work, jewelry, sculptures, fiber, and more,” says a spokesperson for the arts festival organization.
With a very affordable exhibit fee of $100 and a non-jury event, festival organizers are expecting a large number of entries. Some types of work (i.e. jewelry) will be accepted on a limited basis. Early entries will be given first choice of booth location.
The Saluda Arts Festival has become a favorite free spring event for visitors and presents a variety of affordable art from seasoned and emerging artists. The public attending will also experience different genres of music from popular, regional musicians.
“It’s our duty to the heritage of Saluda to celebrate and promote its artistic culture, historic buildings, and natural beauty of our mountains and waterfalls," said spokesperson for the festival organizers, Cathy Jackson.
DEFEATED IN 2016 BY CHUCK EDWARDS
Norm Bossert has announced his intentions to run for the state Senate in District 48 (Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania counties) in the 2017-18 election.
Bossert, a Democrat from Pisgah Forest, said in a news release Monday that it's time to begin the hard work and planning it takes to win the district now represented by Chuck Edwards.
“Edwards has already shown the people of our district he will not work for their best interest and will vote on partisan lines regardless of what’s best for the citizens of his district," Bossert said in the release.
His recent trip to Raleigh to help fire and flood victims turned into a session that was disingenuously called to support unprecedented bills limiting the governor's authority to do his job, Bossert said, not help fire and flood victims.
"I am already convinced that Edwards is in line with the GOP, and is not concerned with the best interest of people living in his district, and that is why I have decided to challenge Edwards again," he said.
Bossert, principal at Black Mountain Elementary, ran against Edwards in 2016. He believes that redistricting efforts, recently ordered by a panel of judges, will make District 48 much more competitive in 2017.
Scholarships Available to Attend Blue Ridge Community College in 2017-18
Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation scholarship applications for 2017-18 are available now on the College’s web site at www.blueridge.edu/scholarships.
Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation awards scholarships to 2017 high school graduates and new and returning students. More than 300 scholarships are available for Blue Ridge Community College students.
Students must apply online. They can apply for the Foundation’s many scholarships using a single online application form. The deadline for submitting completed online applications is April 7, 2017.
BBQ, live music, and craft fair lovers are going to have to find someplace other than the foothills and Tryon to go this summer for a “fix”… the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce has canceled the 2017 Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival. Festival organizers attribute the demise of the festival to three things: 1)decreased attendance, 2)lack of funding, and 3)ongoing contract negotiations with the Town of Tryon for the use of Harmon Field.
The recommendation to cancel the long-standing summertime BBQ festival came recently during a festival committee meeting. The festival’s primary purpose has been to raise funds for the Chamber of Commerce through a nationally recognized family oriented two-day event…and a Chamber spokesman says the last three festivals have failed to meet their financial goals and expectation.
So, according to Chamber President Kathy Toomey, “…it became painfully obvious that we needed to take a break and rethink how the festival should continue.”
High insurance costs for the use of Harmon Field were also a factor in the decision to cancel the festival.