222-acre religious conference center up for Feb. 5 commission vote

Buncombe County seal

Christian seekers in Asheville may soon be looking to the west, pending a Tuesday, Feb. 5, vote by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. The board’s members will weigh a request by Peter Radchishin of Candler-based nonprofit Freedom In Christ to rezone over 222 acres for a religious retreat and conference center. The vote is scheduled to take place at the board’s regular meeting in Room 326 at 200 College St.

According to a zoning amendment application submitted before the meeting by Mike Anderson of Advantage Civil Engineering, roughly 70% of the property off Propst Road in Candler would remain undeveloped. Specific plans for the remaining 30% are not required by county zoning ordinances and were not provided. Attempts to reach Radchishin for further details using the number listed in the application were met with a message saying that the number had been disconnected.

Anderson compared the plans to other Christian facilities in rural Buncombe, including the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Ridgecrest Conference Center and the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. However, a county staff report noted that the property could be used for all permitted purposes once rezoned as a conference center/resort district, including “large tourist-related facilities” such as hotels and restaurants.

Previous plans for the property, which were withdrawn from the commission’s agenda for Oct. 15, sought to rezone less than five acres from low-density residential to R-3 residential and did not receive the approval of the county planning board. The same board recommended the current rezoning request in an 8-0 vote on Jan. 6; county staff members also recommend that commissioners approve the rezoning.

In other business

The county’s quarterly financial update shows smooth sailing over the first half of the year, as outlined by Finance Director Don Warn in documents available before the meeting. General fund revenues through Dec. 31 are $174.3 million, or 51.9% of the year’s budget, while expenses over the same period are only $157.1 million, or 46.8% of the budget. “There are no areas of concern regarding expenditures compared to budget,” says the report.

And boom times are afoot for the Solid Waste Fund, which accounts for the county’s landfill and transfer station. Actual revenues through the first half of the fiscal year were $5.7 million — up 26.5% from the same period for the prior year — while expenses are up just 4.4%, to a total of $3.12 million.

Also in financial news, the county will hold a public hearing regarding the issuance of up to $212 million in limited obligation bonds. Roughly $39 million of the money would be used to pay for new government and school capital projects; the remainder would refinance debt from five previous issues, dating back to 2009, to capitalize on current low interest rates. Warn estimates that the move will save taxpayers $14.5 million in debt payments through 2035.

Consent agenda

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:

The commission will hold a pre-meeting at 3 p.m. in the same location. That meeting will be followed by a closed special session at 4 p.m. on personnel matters, after which the board expects to take no action. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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