Joseph Cordell wants to bring a new development to Black Mountain’s downtown historic district, but getting to this week’s approval for the project proved to be a winding road.
The proposed development has hopscotched its way through the Black Mountain government over the past few months and has attracted a share of critics. During a Historic Preservation Committee meeting on Aug. 16, Black Mountain residents approached the microphone one after another to express concern about issues such as parking, stormwater runoff, affordability and the building’s size.
“It overpowers the neighboring buildings and squeezes … the general sense of openness that exists,” Marilyn Sobanski, a resident of Black Mountain since 1998, said at the August Historic Preservation Committee meeting, according to a transcript. “And then we have brick and mortar dominating the view rather than the mountain vistas.”
John Richardson, who owns Black Mountain Ale House at 117 Cherry St. and property along Broadway Avenue, also has a problem with the project. “I think that the size of the building would … completely change the face of our small downtown,” he told Xpress on Nov. 15. “It would directly impact two of my businesses and all of the other businesses around with our view of the mountains. We’re a small town. We’re not Asheville, and we’re intentional about that.”
The project consists of two parts. The first is the Trestle Building — a new three-story structure consisting of six retail spaces on the ground floor and two levels with six vacation-rental condominiums on each.
The second part involves the renovation of the town’s historic ice house building. The building’s appearance will remain the same from the street, but the back of the building will be renovated to add a new two-story restaurant space, which will have an inside dining room, a covered front porch, a courtyard dining area along Broadway and a rooftop dining area.
Historic Preservation Committee overruled
On Nov. 16, Black Mountain’s five-member Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously voted to issue a certificate of appropriateness, which allows the project to move forward. That vote comes after the proposal was initially denied by the Historic Preservation Committee in a 3-2 vote in August. Committee members who voted against the project in August cited the size of both the addition and new building, debating how well the three-story building would fit in with the smaller buildings in the historic district.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the project with the condition that the addition to the ice house become a separate building.
“We were able to get a fair hearing here tonight, and I was very pleased with that,” Cordell said after the meeting. “I could see that the people on the committee, on the board, were very thoughtful. They raised valid points and they were objective and I feel that we had tonight what we should have had at the Historic Preservation Commission but didn’t.”
Cordell’s attorneys have argued that Shanda Richardson, one of the members of the preservation committee, should have recused herself from consideration of the project because she is married to John Richardson, whose property sits close to the site of the new project. Shanda Richardson was one of the three members who voted against the project in August.
“[Cordell] is challenging, based on the appeal of my wife, saying that my wife was biased,” John Richardson told Xpress on Nov. 15. “But he didn’t challenge this before the meeting, before they voted the first time. … It’s only since then that he decided he didn’t like her vote.”
After the August meeting, Shanda Richardson did recuse herself after one of Cordell’s attorneys, Mike Begley, addressed the issue at another Historic Preservation Committee meeting on Sept. 20.
A fair shake and who has a stake
During the first part of the Nov. 16 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, attorneys argued whether John Richardson, who hired an attorney to defend the Historic Preservation Committee’s ruling, had standing on this issue. “Standing” means that damages that would potentially be incurred as a result of the project affect the complainant differently than how the project would affect others.
John Richardson’s attorney, Bob Oast, made the argument that the new development would impact the value of the property Richardson owns at 131 Broadway Ave., across from the Trestle project. “From that structure, you can see western views of the mountains and they are a significant component of the value, the marketability of that property,” Oast said. “If the Trestle Crossing project is three stories instead of two stories, a significant part of that view is going to be obstructed, and that would have a negative effect on the value.”
Members of the board did not feel Oast provided sufficient evidence to prove that the property at 131 Broadway Ave. was affected more than other businesses nearby. They eventually agreed that John Richardson did not have standing in the case.
The board then heard arguments from Cordell’s attorneys about the validity of the decision made by the Historic Preservation Commission, taking into account the commission’s interpretation of the historic preservation guidelines and Shanda Richardson’s vote.
John DeWitt, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, suggested the option of sending the issue back to the Historic Preservation Commission for review. “I just think that the decision was based on a lot of misinformation and screwups that make that decision questionable,” he said.
Other members of the board — and Cordell’s attorneys — felt differently. “My biggest, biggest thing is I feel like that they were not given a fair hearing by the Historic Preservation Commission, and if I read things correctly, the idea of a fair hearing comes with if there is any question about someone’s preconceived notions,” said Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair Cheryl Milton.
In response to concerns about the development, Cordell said after the meeting that he anticipated people in Black Mountain would be proud of the project once it is complete.
“It is our intention that it benefit as much Black Mountain as it does any of us who are investing in it,” Cordell said. “I believe that people will look back from a distance of a few years perhaps and agree that it’s a beautiful building and has been wonderful for the town and has not changed its fundamental architectural character.”