County Planner Debbie Truempy explained the easement deal and zoning changes to the board of commissioners. Photo by Max Cooper.
Here are some of the highlights from the Oct. 16 Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting:
The board unanimously approved spending $18,000 to help cover the transaction costs for a conservation easement on a 57-acre farm in Leicester.
The request came from the Buncombe County Agricultural Advisory Board, and will help preserve land from development along Sluder Branch Road. The rest of the $440,000 in costs for the Jeffers Farm easement will be covered by a mix of private donations, state and federal grants.
Newfound Creek flows along the property; plans call for a 70-foot buffer zone to help improve its water quality. The land is adjacent to the Sycamore Valley Farm, which is already protected with a conservation easement.
Over the last several years, the commissioners have helped preserve about 6,000 acres of land through the voluntary easement program, said Board Chair David Gantt. He also said preserving farmland from development is one of the most important things the board can do.
Commissioner Carol Peterson added: “This is consistent with the good folks of Buncombe County and their love of the land.”
In other actions, the board unanimously voted to zone land at the Asheville Regional Airport and the WNC Agricultural Center as a public service district. When the North Carolina General Assembly acted in June to change control of the airport to a regional board, it also transferred zoning jurisdiction to Buncombe County, forcing the commissioners to act. No one spoke out against the zoning rules during a public hearing on the matter.
Additionally, the commissioners heard an update on the “Know Your Numbers” program, which offers county employees paid time off in exchange for improving health indicators such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
About 165 employees have improved their health through the program since it started in February, reported Lynn Rapp, a nurse practitioner. Collectively, participants lost about 576 pounds, she said. If the program results in preventing just one employee from having a heart attack or stroke, Rapp said it will be a big success.
Gantt agreed, noting that improving employee health ultimately “saves money for the county and the taxpayers.”