Buncombe County Commission

“Robinson Creek has a long history of flooding. … These are thunderstorm rains, not 100-year floods.”

— Brookwood resident James Fox

The biggest splash at the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ Oct. 17 meeting came not during the formal session but during the public-comment period that preceded it.

Members of the neighborhood associations in Brookwood Forest, St. Andrews, Turnberry, Muirfield, and Fairway Villas and Estates had packed the chamber, seeking reassurance that the Board of Adjustment’s recent rejection of a streamside development plan would stand. The proposal called for building 156 residential units on 45 acres beside a golf course.

“Robinson Creek has a long history of flooding — in 1916, 1928, 1940, 1949, 1964 and 1973, when four people drowned,” said Brookwood resident James Fox, speaking for his neighbors. “Then again in July 2005; these are thunderstorm rains, not 100-year floods.”

Despite the rejection, residents fear that piecemeal development may still go forward. “We would like to work with the county to purchase the land as a green space,” said Fox.

“Can [development] go on piecemeal?” Commissioner David Young asked Planning Director Jon Creighton.

“It will still have to be approved by the Board of Adjustment,” said Creighton, adding, “We were lucky to have [the 2004] floods that gave staff occasion to get out and check out areas where floodwaters encroached and get that info to the state.”

Fox also raised concerns about the impact on emergency services, roads and schools if a large number of residences were added to Limestone Township. Limestone is one of two townships in the county to have adopted voluntary zoning.

Vice Chairman Bill Stanley suggested that the state should act to permit impact fees.

“Durham County tried to impose impact fees and got hammered in court,” Commissioner David Gantt observed.

Creighton said the Board of Adjustment had done what it was supposed to do. “That suggests that the [commissioners have] appointed good people to the BOA,” he said.

“Will this kind of development come under the new storm-water regs if it is re-submitted?” asked Chairman Nathan Ramsey.

Creighton said it would, adding, “The biggest impact will come when we get new FEMA maps, within a year to 18 months.”

The commissioners took no formal action on the matter.

The pajama game

Library Director Ed Sheary briefed the commissioners on the system’s growing Web presence. “Access can be had both by coming to the library and when you’re at home in your pajamas and decide you need something to read,” he said, adding, “We can bring it to you electronically.”

Patrons can now search the library’s catalog and even reserve and renew books online. They can download audio books and music without leaving home — all that’s needed is a library-card number and PIN (the last four digits of the person’s phone number of record). The site also provides free cross-platform software for download, enabling users to access material in several formats.

Audio materials, noted Sheary, can then be transferred to MP3 players or “ripped to CD.” Laughing, he added, “I’ve never ripped anything to CD, but it sounds exciting.” Due to copyright restrictions, some audio books and e-books are programmed to self-destruct in two weeks, he cautioned, “just like Mission Impossible.”

The Web interface enables patrons to access more than 25,000 titles in 11 participating libraries, statewide, as well as photographs, newspaper articles and historic documents.

Shrinking the safety net

Tim Rhodes of the Department of Social Services presented the commissioners with a federally mandated Work First plan for 2007-09. The program, which is principally funded by the federal government, is aimed at reducing cash payments to those living in poverty through a combination of curtailed benefits and work requirements.

In 1993, some 7,000 Buncombe County residents received cash payments; today, that number has been reduced to 900.

Work First Manager Alice McClure told the commissioners: “When possible, we meet needs with short-term financial help. If that isn’t sufficient, we move them into the Work First program.” Funding, she noted, will soon be cut further “due to the Deficit Reduction Act.”

Federal rules require participating counties to reauthorize Work First every two years, and the board unanimously endorsed the program.

In other business, Sara Harrill was appointed to the Women’s Commission; two vacancies remain on that board, noted Ramsey.

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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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