Home rule: Buncombe Commissioners nix Bee Ridge rezoning request

There’s no place like home: Charlotte Caussade showed the commissioners photos of her neighborhood in Reynolds and told them that allowing more mobile homes in the area would take away from its beauty. photo by Max Cooper

Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Feb. 21, 2012 meeting

  • Job-training program gets county funds
  • Byrd announces bid for board chair

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners slammed the brakes on an effort to roll at least one more mobile home onto a parcel on Bee Ridge Road in Reynolds.

At their Feb. 21 meeting, the commissioners denied a rezoning request that would have allowed denser development of a 4.45 acre parcel near the Bee Ridge/Barger Road intersection. A section of the property already has a few mobile homes that were grandfathered under the county’s zoning ordinance. Kashka DeBruhl-Cawthorn wanted the zoning changed from R-2 to R-3, which would have allowed more mobile homes on the property and opened the door to things like vacation rentals and communications towers.

DeBruhl-Cawthorn declined to speak during the public hearing. But her mother, Debbie DeBruhl, who lives next door, told the commissioners her daughter merely wanted to put one more mobile home on the property. DeBruhl-Cawthorn wants to live there and can't afford any other type of housing, her mother said. DeBruhl-Cawthorn’s sister, Katrina DeBruhl-Covan, who lives in one of the existing trailers on the property, echoed their mom's remarks. "My sister just wants to live in the family unit like I do," she explained.

But about 10 other neighbors urged the commissioners not to allow the change, saying there's no way to ensure that it wouldn't lead to dozens more mobile homes, potentially creating traffic and erosion problems while hurting property values.

"We're proud of our valley,” Jack Sorrells declared, noting that his family has owned land in the area since the 1850s. “We don't mind newcomers if they keep up with their property and keep it nice. We just don't think we need any further problems — more than what we've already got."

However, placing more than three additional mobile homes on the property, or adding vacation rentals or a communications tower, would require approval by the Board of Adjustment.

In the end, the commissioners denied the request on a 4-0 vote. (Vice Chair Bill Stanley was attending a meeting of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners in Raleigh.)

Cooking up jobs

On another unanimous vote, the commissioners allocated $50,000 to the GO Kitchen-Ready training program, which aims to prepare county residents for work in the food-service industry.

The program targets individuals with barriers to employment, such as a criminal record or the lack of a high-school diploma, project manager Mark Rosenstein explained. The county funding will help the program double in size next year, noted Rosenstein, who formerly owned The Market Place restaurant in downtown Asheville.

Before the vote, board Chair David Gantt sang the program’s praises, calling it "wonderful."

Byrd announces candidacy

During the general public-comment period, Barnardsville resident Milton Byrd announced his candidacy for board chair, triggering a May 8 Democratic primary against Gantt. Byrd previously served nine years on the Fletcher Town Council before resigning in 2004.

He has frequently criticized the commissioners’ handling of county funding for the WNC Media Center, which managed public-access station URTV; the nonprofit closed its doors last May. In his Feb. 21 comments, Byrd faulted the commissioners’ communication skills.

"One of the things I've had great concern about since I've been coming here as a citizen is the fact that people feel like you have not communicated to a point where they understood your decisions," he said.

After the meeting, Byrd said that while he has "a lot of respect for Gantt," he feels "the public trust has been fractured." Rebuilding that trust through improved communication, said Byrd, would be among his top priorities as board chair.

“People are scared of politics. … Gantt isn't in a position to bring balance like I can," asserted Byrd. "I'm a win-win leader; I don't play dirty politics."

— Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or at jfrankel@mountainx.com.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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