MARSHALL - Earlier this month, the Madison planning board tabled a vote on the 2030 County Comprehensive Plan, as members told Development Services Director Brad Guth and Planning and Zoning Director Terrey Dolan that they needed to hear more input from county residents on the plan.
Instead, the planning board voted to make demographic changes to the county's 2010 plan by updating the latest census data so as to avoid state intervention due to a lack of reasonable maintenance of the plan.
In its June 28 meeting at Madison County Center - North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Marshall, the Madison County Board of Commissioners made their own "maintenance enhancement" by also approving the updated 2010 plan.
Gloria Sundquist has lived in Madison County for 27 years. Sundquist pointed to Section 3.2 of the plan, Future Vision for Madison County.
Section 3.2. of the plan:
The things people love about their communities in Madison County include:
"We don't want Asheville here," Sundquist said. "It's so important to me. I moved here 27 years ago. I did not try to make a change from where I came from. I'm a New Yorker, from Long Island, and can't go back home. I can't go back home because of what's happened to Long Island. I don't want to see that happen to Madison County. I really don't."
On the Comprehensive Plan 2030 website, Guth, Dolan and the planning team sought input from community members and listed a "community survey" and "citizen survey" for residents to voice their opinions on what they'd like to see the county focus on.
According to Guth, 284 residents responded to the survey listed on the website.
Board Chair Mark Snelson said he thought the number of respondents was low.
"It's not carved in stone, it's just a work in progress," Snelson said. "Me and Michael (Garrison) had this discussion before the meeting: we didn't want this to become Asheville. So that's why we're not going to let it become Asheville."
Tony Ponder spoke during public comments to express his concern about the potential for the plan to lead to an increase in development, such as high-rise apartments.
"If you want to see high-rises, go to Weaverville and look behind Walmart on the hill," Ponder said. "Is that what we're after? I don't think so."
Snelson rejected the notion that the county would aim to seek out that type of real estate development.
"That's not for Madison County," Snelson said.
Guth and Dolan held numerous public input meetings on the plan, in communities such as Spring Creek, Ebbs Chapel, Marshall, Mars Hill and Hot Springs.
Still, as with the planning board members, some commissioners felt the information received from the public was not complete enough to vote on the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
"I have not been, personally, and my constituents have not been in favor of the draft, recommendations and goals, but at the same time, Brad (Guth) has made it very clear that the only maintenance that's being considered here is demographic/geographic-type information, and the wording that goes to it from the census," Garrison said. "Everything else is as it has been since 2010. I also believe that there's room in our Comprehensive Plan to make some enhancements and improvements, and in the months ahead we're going to need to that. I believe the current information that we have solicited and received from the community is incomplete, and that it lacks a lot of different partners' input, whether it be professions, or people, or communities."
Interim County Manager Norris Gentry reiterated the board's approval of the updated 2010 Plan is simply a formality to avoid the state ruling that the county did not adequately maintain its comprehensive plan.
"The whole process is still underway," Gentry said. "This is a living, living document. But as (county attorney) Donny (Laws) has informed us, under the statues of 160D, we are mandated to maintain a Comprehensive Plan. It's part of the statutes of the state of North Carolina. What is proposed tonight is that maintenance. This is the same plan that was there in 2010, with updated statistics from the census. That's what is proposed tonight, which will maintain us legally, and give us the opportunity to continue to work on the living document."
Commissioner Craig Goforth said he hoped it was clear that the board "had to do something" to avoid state intervention.
"This is the 2010 plan with updated stats, that's it," Goforth said. "Passing this tonight, this maintenance, does not mean we can't go back and look and see what we are. I, too, don't want to have Asheville here in my back door. I think we agree with that. This (plan) does not make that happen. It just means we have to go forward with something tonight, and then do a control and update, and get what we really want out of it. It's going to take a lot of work to do that."
Commissioner Matt Wechtel encouraged residents to offer their input on the plan, which offers goals and objectives in land use, economic development, natural/cultural resources and housing.
"If you like the current plan, do the survey and participate in the program," Wechtel said. "If you don't like the current plan, do the survey. Participate, and take your opportunity to make your voice heard, whether it be community meetings, online, or whatever the situation is. Do it in a construction way. Make your opinions heard. We want the zoning and planning boards, we want the economic development board, and we want everyone to have a say in this program, to have the opportunity to add their expertise, their points of focus to the plan. The only way it's going to be done is if you get involved.
"Out of 22,000 residents, we had 280-some people. I don't think (1%) should rule anybody. Get involved. Pay attention to what's going on in your community."
The Madison County Board of Commissioners will meet July 12 at 7 p.m. at the Madison County Center - North Carolina Cooperative Extension, located at 258 Carolina Lane in Marshall.
Visit the Madison County 2030 Comprehensive Plan website at www.planmc.org, or by clicking here.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Commissioners approve Comp Plan; Won't 'let Madison become Asheville'