The Transylvania Times -

County Courthouse Comments And Concerns

 

Last updated 10/5/2020 at 3:51pm



We are a volunteer group of Transylvania County residents from diverse backgrounds who care deeply about the future of our community. We came together informally over two years ago after the Board of Commissioners voted to shelve the decision to proceed with construction of a new courthouse on Morris Road and in response to the request by commissioners during that meeting that citizens actively engage the issue. We have a common interest in seeing the adoption of wise public policy that leads to informed and wise decisions regarding the future of our county courthouse, including community and economic vitality.

We are community, business, and higher education leaders, attorneys, and architects. We are deeply concerned about the potential loss of the courthouse from downtown Brevard. Our historic courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the symbolic center for our county that needs to be preserved appropriately, rather than ignored. The economic impact of its current location is extremely important to the vitality of our county seat.

We fully recognize the need for updated courthouse space that meets current standards for the conduct of judicial processes, efficiency, safety, and security. We strongly believe this can be achieved while also supporting the economic vitality of downtown Brevard, preserving historic buildings, creating exciting new open public spaces, and enhancing our community. Over the past two years, we gathered over 2,000 signatures on a petition to keep the courthouse downtown. We have met with county staff, elected officials, and their architect to exchange ideas and concerns. Architects on our committee, representing three local firms, devised a conceptual plan to redevelop the current site, preserving its historic character and providing new space for modern court functions and addressing security concerns, while maintaining a small-town character.

A study comparing four sites for new courthouse facilities was recently completed by Moseley Architects (Charlotte) and was presented to the Board of Commissioners on Aug. 24. (https://www.transylvaniacounty.org/courthouse-timeline) While this study provides concepts for each site and projections of cost, it does not address comprehensive community based issues. The Commission is poised to select a site soon, we believe the Board of Commissioners and County administration should consider community-based issues, constituent’s opinions, and proposed opportunities - not just the cost of the project.

There are many factors and facets that need to be fully addressed to make an informed and wise decision. Putting these off to the future is not an option.

The following are our observations about what we believe needs to be addressed:

General:

•Lack of an updated County Masterplan for government facilities; including the courthouse

•The future of the historic courthouse needs to be determined and included as part of each option

•Economic impact on downtown and the county as a whole, needs to be part of the equation

•Impact on overall economic development

•Sources of funding

•Program and needs assessment are based on estimates from 12 years ago and should be updated

•We question the need, at this time, to build unfinished shell space of 24,800 square feet for future expansion (32 percent of total floor area)

•Long term impact of COVID 19 on our community, the judicial system, and buildings; our economic ability to financially support construction, changes to court functions and related space needs, and building codes; how new technology and new methods of conducting business effect future use of space and space needs

•The county and city need to collaborate. The city has recently purchased the lots along North Broad Street in the block North of the courthouse, which presents many opportunities for collaboration of developing two of the sites- options A and B

•City Council has officially stated their support to keep the courthouse downtown and indicated an interest in the possibility of assisting with the cost of creating the necessary parking

•Broad citizen input has not been a part of the most recent process

•Design concepts for each of the sites did not reflect the unique opportunities that each site presents

Option A – Existing Courthouse Site

•The historic courthouse was completely ignored

•The conceptual design presented does not include utilizing the existing building for support functions, which would reduce the size of new construction.

•Potential collaboration with the city

Option B – North Broad Street (Pickelsimer Site, now owned by the City)

•Impact on surrounding neighborhood was not addressed

•Concept design does not make use of sloped site and adjacency to existing courthouse

•Potential collaboration with the city

•Costs to re-purpose, rehabilitate, and preserve the current historic courthouse are not calculated or addressed

Option C – South Broad Street (South Broad Park)

•Loss of green space in concept design

•Area is prone to flooding; storm water issues must be addressed

•Impact on surrounding neighborhood not addressed

•Costs to re-purpose, rehabilitate and preserve the current historic courthouse are not calculated or addressed

Option D – Morris Road (Public Safety Facility)

•Cost of improvements to Morris Road

•Impact on downtown not addressed

•Legal community has formally opposed this location

•Costs to re-purpose, rehabilitate, and preserve the current historic courthouse are not calculated or addressed

Transylvanians are faced with an exciting opportunity to shape a dynamic solution, but we all must participate. We implore the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners to engage concerned community leaders; use experienced locally based professionals to expand Moseley’s report to make qualified assessments of the four options presented; seek the relevant questions and valid information missing from their report before making a decision on the future of the Courthouse. This is a costly, far-reaching, and generational decision for our community. All the questions have not been asked nor answered for such an impactful and lasting decision.

Together we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in the future and dignity of our county. One hundred and forty years ago, Transylvania County citizens made a central, symbolic, and beautiful investment in the function and identity of our special community. Together, we need to rise to the occasion and to make an equally wise and impactful re-investment in our next one hundred and forty years.

David Watkins, Co-Chair

John Gardner, Co-Chair

Maureen Copelof

Ellen Pratt Harris

Jeff Hunt

Clark Lovelace

Parker Platt

Michael Pratt

Jeremy Owen

Dee Dee Perkins

Jimmy Perkins

Melanie Spreen

Brian Stretcher

Davis Whitfield-Cargile

 
 

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