By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

Natural Resources Council Recaps The Past 12 Months – Brevard NC


Last updated 11/21/2016 at 5:22pm

The past 12 months have been a “busy and productive time” for the Transylvania Natural Resources Council (TNRC).

This was one of the findings reported to the Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting last week.

During the meeting, Lee McMinn, the TNRC board chairman, presented the group’s required annual report to commissioners.

The 15-member TNRC was created in 2004 to identify and inventory the natural resources significant to the county and to make recommendations to commissioners on how to best manage those resources.

The following are some of the actions taken by the TNRC during the past year:

•In November of last year, the TNRC passed a resolution asking commissioners to add “Green Building Practices” to their economic incentive policy. The resolution has yet to be addressed by commissioners.

•In January, the TNRC submitted a request to commissioners to begin funding a program of identification and treatment of adelgid-infected hemlocks along the county’s headwaters. The $15,000 requested funding was to be used to leverage other funds from public and privately-funded grants, and launch a treatment and remediation program to help local private landowners protect their hemlocks bordering streams and tributaries.

Commissioners tabled the budget request pending the development of detailed implementation policies, which have been recently completed and are ready for presentation.

•In February at the request of commissioners, the TNRC submitted a resolution stating opposition to the establishment of Wilderness Areas within the county and their “non-support” of any move to establish National Recreation Areas in the county. Commissioners adopted the resolution in March.

•In early March, the TNRC submitted a request for commissioners to create the position of “natural resources specialist,” a position to be charged with implementing remedial efforts to preserve the county’s natural heritage and enhance or restore the “significant natural areas” identified in an inventory completed in 2008. The position was not included in the current county budget.

The TNRC plans to submit the request to commissioners for the 2017/2018 budget period, which begins next July 1.

•During the year, the TNRC has continued its community education series, including presenters, discussions and Q&As.

The TNRC meets at 9 a.m. on the second Friday of each month, September through May. McMinn noted the meeting’s time doesn’t encourage significant public participation, but he highlighted the meeting’s coverage in The Transylvania Times.

All the TNRC meetings are open to the public.

In other action at last week’s commissioners’ meeting:

•Commissioners Jason Chappell, Mike Hawkins and Page Lemel approved applying to the Asheville Regional Housing Consortium to receive $220,000 in federal HOME Funds to rehabilitate four owner-occupied homes in Transylvania County.

The homeowners applied to be considered for the rehabilitation funding. To qualify, the homeowners had to be earning less than 50 percent of the median income for the area.

The federal funds require no county match.

Commissioner Kelvin Phillips voted against applying for the money. Commissioner Larry Chapman did not attend the meeting.

Phillips said some residents who lived next to households who received similar help in the past had complained to him that their homes were in worse shape.

These residents, Phillips said, claimed to not know about the application process.

Phillips asked Joy Fields, with the county’s Planning and Community Development Department — which requested the commissioners’ support — how she could “ensure” that “the worst need” is being met.

Phillips said he was “reluctant” to support the funding because he didn’t believe it was the “role of government.”

Fields said the last similar project had 24 applications after it was advertised in the newspaper and on the radio.

Of those, seven met the various requirements — and a scoring system — to receive funding.

Requirements included income levels, age of applicant, families with children, and disabilities, among other factors.

Phillips said that “it’s a different world than it used to be,” but he believed the community should be taking care of such issues.

“It could reduce the federal budget quite a bit,” he said.

He said the home rehab program isn’t “the culprit,” but “everything contributes.”

He’d rather churches and other groups step in, saying these efforts “work great” and are “good for the community.”

Lemel “appreciates” Phillips’ comments but it’s “the system we have right now,” she said.

“I think if we didn’t accept the money or apply for the money, then another community is going to benefit,” she said.

Chappell supported the program and said he’d like to know how many contractors in the county get to do the work.

Hawkins said he didn’t have any “problem” with government money going to the program.

He said the private sector is not helping these people, and he believed it a “valid purpose” to “cough up a minimum amount of money to help the elderly, the disabled, the desperately poor and help them have fundamentally basic housing.”

“It’s not a handout,” he said in rebuttal to Phillips, who described the program as such. “It’s taking care of the least of us.”

“I think that is something that gets lost in governmental discussions,” Hawkins added. “We’ve gone in this pendulum — so far in the other direction — that (we) really need to start getting a better perspective.”

Hawkins said he knew someone who benefitted from a similar program in the past.

“It changed that person’s life,” Hawkins said. “If we are going to be so pernicious that we question the value of helping four families in Transylvania County, then I think we are looking at the trees rather than the forest.”

Phillips said he didn’t disagree with wanting to help people, but reiterated that if the community knew about these types of issues, it would step in and help.

•Commissioners approved staff exploring a wayfinding sign system in the county similar to the one in Brevard.

Over the next few months, staff will identify potential signage locations, determine the sign contents, develop specs and cost estimates, work with the N.C. Department of Transportation on a signage inventory and possible reduction in signage, and explore grant opportunities.

Staff will report back in the spring.

In a memo to commissioners, County Manager Jaime Laughter said the city’s signage is designed to be welcoming, attractive, functional and useful in creating a community brand.

The county’s purpose would be similar to that of the city, but applied to areas and attractions around the county.

It is recommended the county use the city’s existing templates and specs, substituting the county logo for the city logo. This ensures consistency in brand, as well as a reduction in design and setup costs.

A rough concept would be an additional six to 10 signs produced, placed in strategic road locations and directing motorists to county locations. Examples might include the Rosman and Cedar Mountain business areas, as well as attractions, such as Gorges State Park, DuPont State Recreational Forest, Pisgah National Forest, Connestee Falls Park and PARI.

The current estimated cost for each sign is about $6,000. The Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority has allocated $25,000 in its budget to partner with the county on the project.

•Commissioners approved a motion to discontinue requiring residential plan review.

In March 2010, commissioners approved the county’s Building Permitting Department performing residential plan reviews.

Commissioners approved no longer requiring the reviews when they heard residential plan reviews are not required by the Department of Insurance, with the exception of alternative methods of construction, such as modular homes and log structures. The county fire marshal anticipates little, if no, impact on ISO ratings.

•Among the items in her manager’s report, Laughter mentioned the “Shop with A Cop” program, designed to make sure needy children have Christmas gifts, will be held Dec. 10; work on the county’s new website is underway; and a swearing-in ceremony and organizational meeting of the Board of Commissioners will be held Dec. 5 in the commissioners chambers.


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