As you may know, roughly one year ago the conference center announced its intention to pursue a special use permit (SUP) from the Town of Montreat to build a new lodge on its campus, replacing three lodges on the same site.
A year later, signs and fliers still dot the Montreat landscape. This summer’s edition includes the claim that pollution to our valley will occur if the lodge comes to pass. This is simply not true.
The stringent ordinances and regulations that apply to this project, along with the inspections and reviews that are part of any modern construction process, will ensure that the operation and use of the new lodge complies with all standards, and will be environmentally safe. This is consistent with MRA’s vision for this project. To understand why this so, a review may be in order.
Over the winter months, the Town’s Board of Adjustment approved the SUP, a decision which depended upon our application meeting six standards, edited for clarity below:
- That the new lodge would not be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety or general welfare if located where proposed and developed according to the plan as submitted and approved.
- That the new lodge would meet all the required and applicable development standards and conditions of the Town of Montreat (standards like access to utilities and parking, storm water drainage, etc. and other regulations applicable to its zoning)
- That the presence of the new lodge would not substantially diminish and impair the value of any property any portion of which is located within two hundred fifty feet (250’) of the boundary of the property on which the lodge will be located.
- That the location and character of the lodge, if developed according to the plan as submitted and approved, would be in harmony with the area in which it is to be located and will not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property, for the purposes already permitted, within the area in which it is located.
- That the location and character of the lodge, if developed according to the plan as submitted and approved, will be in general conformity with the adopted policies and plans, including the Comprehensive Plan of the Town of Montreat; and
- That adequate measures will be taken to provide ingress and egress so designed as to minimize congestion in the public streets.
Following a hearing that included some 50 hours of testimony, questions, and deliberations, the Board approved the SUP by a 5-2 majority. It did so having received the ongoing guidance of two attorneys employed by the Town at considerable expense, who worked diligently along with board members to ensure a fair proceeding and decision.
With the SUP granted, and with the subsequent issuance of construction-related permits, Town and County inspectors will monitor our project to ensure that the standards and the conditions of the SUP are met.
For example, one of the conditions states explicitly “that our stormwater and erosion control plans must meet or exceed the Town and/or Buncombe County’s applicable regulations and such permit approvals shall be obtained prior to issuance of construction permits.” Buncombe County staff administers the Town’s stormwater management ordinance. The stormwater system that is proposed for use in our project is a state-of-the-art detention and treatment system that can only be approved if it meets the rigorous standards in Montreat’s and Buncombe County’s stormwater management ordinances. Plans for its installation must be approved, and the system must be inspected in the field and approved after installation. Even after operation of the system has commenced, it is subject to periodic inspections to ensure that it is functioning properly.
Since the decision to approve the Special Use Permit was reached, the owners of two adjacent properties (who were parties in the hearing at the Board of Adjustment) have filed a petition for judicial review in Buncombe County Superior Court, challenging the Board’s decision. Under the applicable statutes, the petitioners have the right to seek this review. The Town of Montreat and MRA now must defend the conduct of the hearing and the decision that was reached before a Superior Court judge.
Many of you have expressed dismay about the signs. Some have suggested a rebuttal campaign with more signs and fliers. I understand the impulse but don’t think this is the right way to respond.
The reality is that the MRA’s Board of Directors voted to pursue this project from a spirit of optimism and hope for the future of our ministry and our ability to serve God and the church. As stewards of this valley since Montreat’s founding, we realize that we are all neighbors. We believe that you understand our desire – our call – to grow and enhance our mission. We believe that the conference center has a right to develop its property within the limits of the law. We believe that you understand that a healthy and vibrant conference center provides countless benefits for Montreat and all who love this special place.
Let’s all join in and move forward in that same spirit of optimism and hope.
President, Montreat Conference Center