MountainTrue’s Statement on the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan

MountainTrue’s Statement on the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan

MountainTrue’s Statement on the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan

On March 20, after 10 years of public input and planning, the Forest Service will adopt its new management plan for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests — a disappointing document that is significantly worse than the current plan and contradicts an executive order issued by President Biden that would protect and expand our nation’s old growth forests. 

The new plan does have a few bright spots: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will have more influence over forest management, new recommendations for Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations are welcome, and the plan implements more prescribed fire and wildfire protection activities. On other key issues — like tackling our massive road maintenance backlog, developing a plan to maintain and expand our trail networks and recreation infrastructure to meet current user demand, and drafting a monitoring plan to evaluate their own management practices — the Forest Service has failed to deliver, instead putting these critical concerns on the back burner for at least the next three years. 

However, for MountainTrue, the most egregious shortcoming is that the Forest Service has placed significant old-growth forests, rare species habitat, and roadless backcountry into zones that are open to commercial logging. The Forest Service has also relaxed rules to allow ground-based logging on steep, hard-to-reach slopes — where many of our old-growth forests remain.

To be clear, MountainTrue is not against commercial logging, and we’re not concerned about the amount of logging permitted by the new forest plan. It’s essentially the same amount allowed by the old plan. Regardless of how much logging occurs — whether it’s the modest 800 acres annually of today or the eyebrow-raising 3,200-acre annual maximum, what matters most is where logging occurs. MountainTrue has provided detailed maps of existing old-growth communities and filed formal objections, and despite our best efforts, the Forest Service chose to expand the footprint of where logging can occur to 600,000 acres, more than half of the land of the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest. This includes 100,000 acres of natural heritage areas, roadless areas, and sensitive habitats where we will vigorously oppose any future logging projects. 

It doesn’t need to be this way. Logging is a critical part of Western North Carolina’s economy and can play an important role in establishing the kinds of wildlife habitat desired by local hunters. Half a million acres can provide more than enough timber harvests and early-successional habitat while still protecting our most treasured natural areas and recreational resources. A detailed blueprint for accomplishing this was provided to the Forest Service by the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership, a coalition that brought together recreation, conservation, civic, and business interests — including timber and paper industry representatives. 

Instead, the Forest Service devised a forest plan that seems designed to pit user-interest groups against each other by allowing logging in some of our most diverse forests and pristine backcountry areas. The agency also wants the right, as it is pushing through in the Southside Project, to cut existing old-growth forest, even though the Environmental Impact Statement for the planning process discloses that there is a minimum of a 300,000-acre deficit of old-growth on Forest Service Land alone, making it the most under-represented age class in the region compared to the average over the last few millennia. 

To paper over this egregious management strategy, the Forest Service has devised its own “designated old-growth network” which fails to include existing and well-documented old-growth areas and can change significantly from plan to plan. This scheme allows the Forest Service to place relatively young trees in the old-growth network until they are old enough to log profitably decades from now. It also flies in the face of President Biden’s executive order 14072 of April 22, 2022, which, in part, seeks to “conserve America’s mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands” and directs the Secretary of Agriculture to “define, identify, and complete an inventory of old-growth and mature forests on federal lands […]” That inventory is due this April, and, if done correctly, will include tens of thousands of acres that this Forest Plan leaves open to logging.

According to executive order 14072, it is the policy of the Biden Administration to “manage forests on Federal lands, which include many mature and old-growth forests, to promote their continued health and resilience; retain and enhance carbon storage; conserve biodiversity; mitigate the risk of wildfires; enhance climate resilience; enable subsistence and cultural uses; provide outdoor recreational opportunities; and promote sustainable local economic development.” That’s a vision of forest management that we wholeheartedly support and that this Forest Plan quite simply fails to accomplish. 

The Forest Service had the chance to unify the public behind a well-balanced Forest Plan. Instead, they sided with more narrowly aligned interests inside and outside the agency and, despite a 10-year planning process, kicked many difficult decisions down the road. But the fight for our forests is far from over. You can count on MountainTrue to continue working to protect the places we share.

For media inquiries, contact: Karim Olaechea, Deputy Director of Strategy & Communications 
Phone: 828-400-0768 | Email:

Raleigh Report: The 2023 Session Kicks Off

Raleigh Report: The 2023 Session Kicks Off

Raleigh Report: The 2023 Session Kicks Off

While the North Carolina General Assembly officially kicked off its 2023 session with lots of pomp and circumstance earlier this month, January 25th marked the first real working day of the new legislative session. 

Beginning on that day and every week thereafter — with just a few exceptions — legislators will arrive in Raleigh on Monday evening and depart on Thursday until they have had enough voting, speech-making, and deal-making and finally shut the session down. Along the way, they are expected to approve a two-year $30 billion budget and take up a host of high-profile issues, including abortion, sports gambling, medical marijuana, redistricting, and that old favorite, Medicaid expansion, among hundreds of other bills. 

North Carolina does not limit the session length, so no one knows how long lawmakers will be plugging away. However long the session takes, MountainTrue will be there every step of the way, speaking up for Western North Carolina and the people who live here. Indeed, MountainTrue is the only WNC-based environmental organization with a year-round presence in Raleigh. 

Our work will be more challenging this year after WNC lost several important legislators. Former state Senator Chuck Edwards from Henderson County, of course, is now in the US Congress. We will miss him in Raleigh, where he was the chairman of a key natural resources appropriations committee, but we will be glad to continue working with him in his new role. Also gone is Senator Deanna Ballard, who lost her seat representing the High Country in a primary to fellow Republican Sen. Ralph Hise. The good news is that Hise remains a chairman of the powerful Senate appropriations committee. The WNC delegation also picked up some muscle in the House, where Rep. Karl Gillespie, who represents Cherokee, Clay, Graham, and Macon counties, was appointed co-chair of a House natural resources budget committee. 

This year as in past years, MountainTrue spent the political offseason preparing our list of legislative priorities for the new year. They include new investments in clean water, public access to rivers and streams, and policy changes that will protect the water we drink and the air we breathe. You can review MountainTrue’s key legislative priorities here.

We’ll keep you updated as the session progresses and our team works to advance funding and policies that benefit clean waters, resilient forests, and healthy communities in WNC!

2023 Western North Carolina Conservation Legislative Priorities

2023 Western North Carolina Conservation Legislative Priorities

2023 Western North Carolina Conservation Legislative Priorities

Protect Public Health – and the Jobs and Businesses that Rely on Clean Water

A recent report conducted by economists at Western Carolina University commissioned by the French Broad River Partnership found the total economic impact of the French Broad River and its tributaries is $3.8 billion annually, and river-reliant businesses create or maintain 38,554 jobs each year. In 2015, more than 55,000 people used a commercial outfitter to enjoy the French Broad, and thousands more used the river without an outfitter. 

Unfortunately, bacteria pollution threatens this economic engine by making the watershed unsafe for the thousands of people who play in it every year. Contaminated water poses health problems, including gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and infections. 

Water quality testing in the heavily-used French Broad River watershed indicates the presence of E. coli and fecal coliform at levels that are unsafe for human exposure much of the time. One of the most popular areas for recreation, a 19-mile section of the French Broad River – from the Asheville Regional Airport,  through the Biltmore Estate and the River Arts District in downtown Asheville – was added to NC’s list of impaired waterways in 2022.

To protect public health and the jobs and businesses that rely on safe recreational waters, MountainTrue supports the following initiatives to reduce bacterial pollution:

  • Increase local WNC funding to help farmers improve water quality. Agricultural waste is a significant source of E. coli and other bacterial pollution in WNC rivers and streams, especially the French Broad River which, as mentioned above, was recently listed as impaired for fecal coliform. Unfortunately, demand for state funding to help WNC farmers afford improvements that would reduce this pollution far outstrips the current budget. Expanding state funding for local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) to meet this demand is critical to improving recreational water quality in WNC. We would like to request a $2 million nonrecurring allocation to SWCDs in the French Broad Watershed, allocated through the existing Agricultural Cost-Share Program, specifically for livestock operation improvement projects.  
  • Help property owners reduce stormwater pollution. The Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) allows WNC’s SWCDs to help property owners reduce stormwater pollution in impaired waters.  Like the cost share program for farmers, funding for CCAP assistance is insufficient to meet demand. Providing WNC SWCD’s with an additional $500,000 for the CCAP program will significantly reduce stormwater pollution in rivers and streams already impacted by bacterial pollution. 

Other policy and funding initiatives that MountainTrue supports:

  • Abundant Housing Legislation – Opportunities for dense, energy-efficient housing located close to jobs reduce energy demand and transportation emissions. We support legislation to address housing availability and affordability.
  • Dam Removal Fund Implementation – The NCGA previously allocated $7.5 million to remove antiquated dams on waterways across WNC. MountainTrue is committed to advancing policies that give state agencies the support they need to advance dam removal projects efficiently.
  • Expand Transportation Funding – NC’s transportation funding relies on the gas tax, which is diminishing as people drive less and vehicles become more efficient. We support legislation that creates new sources of funding and expands the use to include stand-alone bike-ped projects.
  • Stormwater management reform for redevelopment projects – Recent amendments to G.S. 143‑214.7 deny local governments the option of requiring stormwater mitigation on redevelopment projects. We support legislation to repeal those changes.
  • Safe Passage Fund – As roadway construction creates new barriers to long-established wildlife corridors, inevitably, animals are increasingly encountering humans and their vehicles. We are joining a coalition of organizations seeking $10 million to support wildlife crossing projects.
  • Agency staffing needs and pay equity – State agencies across the board are struggling to hire and retain staff due to budget constraints and competition with the private sector. MountainTrue supports maximizing investments in state agency staff positions and salaries.

WNC Public Access and Recreation Investments:

  • Expand the Blue Ridge Snorkel Trail to include one publicly-accessible site in each WNC county, along with educational materials ($150,000 nonrecurring to Mainspring Conservation Trust).
  • Improve River Walk in downtown Murphy by building a boardwalk for Fisherman’s Loop, and extending the path to a housing development ($250,000 nonrecurring to the Town of Murphy).
  • Improve public access to the Watauga River Paddle Trail by purchasing an additional access point in Watauga County ($500,000 nonrecurring to Watauga County).
  • Expand access to the Green River and adjacent lands by developing a new access point at South Wilson Hill Road ($150,000 nonrecurring to Polk County Community Foundation).
  • Enhance Chestnut Mountain Nature Park by expanding paths and trails and improving the playground and creekside park ($450,000 nonrecurring to the Town of Canton).

MountainTrue Development and Operations Coordinator

Development and Operations Coordinator
Asheville Office
Apply Now

Position Description

The Development and Operations Coordinator will further the mission of MountainTrue by providing excellent and energetic fundraising support for the organization. This position is responsible for the management of data to be used to analyze engagement, donor and marketing functions. This position is also responsible for processing donations, corresponding with donors, and engaging with supporters at events. The Development and Operations Coordinator reports to the Development & Engagement Manager. This is a permanent, full time position based out of the Asheville MountainTrue office. Occasional nights/weekends for select events may be required.

Primary Responsibilities


  • Maintain foundation, business, and individual donor files. 
  • Create event forms and calendar listings as needed.  
  • Develop mailing lists and complete in-house member and appeal mailings.
  • Recommend processes to translate strategies into database tracking, stay current in database features and utility, develop reports, ensure the data’s accuracy and integrity, perform database maintenance and clean-up projects to improve data integrity and database performance, and facilitate end-user training and support.
  • Coordinate and plan for future data conversions/upgrades as needed. 
  • Provide administrative support for fiscal agent relationships, including processing acknowledgments and record keeping


  • Process donations and prepare acknowledgment letters and other donor correspondence.
  • Together with the bookkeeper, reconcile donor records with accounting records.
  • Complete Development & Fundraising Metric Reports.

Donor Relations

  • Answer phone and email inquiries regarding donations.
  • Assist with the planning and implementation of events, outings, and activities. Will be required to work events as needed including occasional evenings and weekends.

Office Management 

  • Provide reports for annual audit and 990.
  • Update annual organizational forms.

Other duties as assigned by the Development & Engagement Manager.


  • Exceptional attention to detail while maintaining productivity including accurate and efficient typing, ability to work on many projects at once, problem-solving skills, and ability to organize and prioritize work.
  • Demonstrated proficiency with Microsoft Excel
  • Experience with CRM (Constituent/Customer Relationship Management) databases and online giving platforms (EveryAction, SalesForce, BlueState, and NationBuilder) preferred. 
  • Excellent written and oral interpersonal communication skills.
  • Ability to work as part of a team as well as independently.

MountainTrue values and respects all types of diversity and strongly encourages applicants from traditionally marginalized groups to apply. We prohibit discrimination and harassment and provide equal employment opportunity without regard to, and not limited to, ethnicity, religion, race, national origin, abilities, gender identity, age or genetic information. We are committed to recruiting, hiring and promoting those from minority and disadvantaged groups. We want to live in a world that recognizes the inherent strengths that come from different viewpoints, backgrounds, cultures and experiences. As a team, we have taken on a commitment to examining our unconscious biases and want to work towards an equitable, peaceful and just world.

Location & Compensation

Location is in Asheville. Salary is in the lower 40s. Benefits package includes 20 vacation days per year, 12 holidays, sick leave, sabbatical after five years, health insurance, simple IRA with employer contribution of up to 3%.

How to Apply

Email cover letter, resume, and three references to Adam Bowers,  The subject line should read: “Development and Operations Coordinator.”  The cover letter should address your work history and interest in the position in 600 words or less. 

Application deadline: March 24, 2023  


Septic Repair Application

Septic Repair Application

Failing septic systems are a major source of bacteria pollution and other pathogens in our waterways. But fixing and maintaining a properly functioning septic system can be prohibitively expensive. That’s why MountainTrue is partnering with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to qualifying property owners. 

MountainTrue/NCDHHS Waste Discharge Elimination Program
Septic System Repair Assistance Grant Determination Criteria

Septic System Repair grants are available to any property owner in Buncombe, Cherokee, or Henderson counties that meets the eligibility requirements below:

  • Property owner(s) and other financially responsible household members’ total income(s) must not exceed 80% of Area Median Income, and liquid reserve shall not exceed 50% of household income. For purposes of this program, the area median income for a household is the same as the income limits for families published in accordance with 42 U.S.C. 1437a(b)(2), available under the heading “Access Individual Income Limits Areas” at
  • The homeowner(s) must obtain a construction authorization permit for a septic system repair issued by their local county health department.
  • An application must be completed and include verification of household size and gross annual income. Documentation of proof-of-income may be requested during the application review.
  • Funding amounts will be based on household size, gross income, available program funds, and the lowest of three bids from certified septic contractors.
  • The property must be a single-family residence which is owner-occupied.
  • The grant award will be paid directly to the septic contractor, not the property owner.

To Apply On-Line:
Fill out the form below.

To Apply Via Mail or Email:
Download a the grant application (pdf), fill it out, and either email it to or mail it to MountainTrue, ATTN: Gray Jernigan, 29 N. Market Street, Suite 610, Asheville, NC 28801.

Action Alert: Delivering on Goals Requires Stregthening Recommendations

Action Alert: Delivering on Goals Requires Stregthening Recommendations

Action Alert: Delivering on Goals Requires Stregthening Recommendations

MountainTrue has significant concerns about the latest draft of the 2045 Henderson County Comprehensive Plan. While much of the document and its goals reflect the priorities of our community, many plan recommendations are now undermined by weak or ambiguous language. 

MountainTrue staff and volunteers have analyzed the current draft and prepared the following open letter — which has been shared with County Commissioners by MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Director, Nancy Díaz. MountainTrue urges Henderson County residents to urge County Commissioners to adopt stronger recommendations, fix critical flaws with the suitability maps, and formulate an implementation plan. 


What you can do:

Write an email to the Commissioners about your concerns

  • David Hill –
  • William Lapsley –
  • Rebecca McCall –
  • Mike Edney –
  • Daniel Andreotta –


Attend MountainTrue’s next Community Meeting on Monday, February 27, to learn more about the Comprehensive Plan and get involved. 


Submit a letter to the editor (LTE) of the Times News about your concerns.

LTE guidelines:
A 200-word count maximum.
The deadline for letters each week is noon on Wednesday.
The best email to send letters to is
Please include your address and phone number with your signature.

Dear Henderson County Commissioners:

On December 1, the Planning Board approved, with no opportunity for public input, a catalog of edits undermining and further weakening the County’s ability to meet its own goals. In addition, the current Suitability Maps are in conflict with the expressed goals of the plan. MountainTrue urges Henderson County Commissioners to revise the December draft — which doesn’t fully address the priorities of County residents as reflected in the County’s own public survey — by reverting to the earlier language of the 2045 Comprehensive Plan. 

Through the County’s public survey, public input meetings, and hearings, Henderson County residents have made our priorities clear: protecting open spaces and forests, preserving farmland, and conserving unique natural areas. Residents also showed strong desires to expand access to broadband internet, improve water quality; reduce vulnerability to wildfires, flooding, and landslides; expand sidewalks, bike lanes, and greenways; and increase energy efficiency. 

While the County deserves praise for passing a resolution to start conversations with the City of Hendersonville toward establishing a joint water and sewer commission, the Comprehensive Planning process itself has been less than ideal. Overall, the goals of the current plan are good, and the November draft of the Comprehensive Plan laid out sensible recommendations. However, the latest edits proposed by the Planning Board will make meeting the plan’s goals more difficult. 

Weakening the Hand of the County
One of the most exciting ideas to come from the current planning process is the establishment of a preservation program to establish agricultural conservation easements. On page 62, under Goal 2 (Protect and Conserve Rural Character and Agriculture), the Planning Board revised a recommendation (Rec. 2.2.B) from “creating” to merely “consider the creation” of such a fund. The “consideration” of a farmland preservation fund was proposed in the last Comprehensive Plan. It’s time for the County to adopt more ambitious and committed wording. 

On page 67, under Goal 3 (Improve Resiliency of the Natural and Built Environment), the Planning Board ignores safety concerns when it comes to limiting development above and below hazardous steep slopes, demoting a recommendation (Rec 3.3.A) from “encourage the preservation of open space and conservation areas in and around areas with a high potential for landslides” to just “consider encouraging.” The County Commissioners should “encourage” at the very least and would do better by establishing a strong steep slopes construction code.  

On page 68, Rec. 3.4.D the Planning Board replaced “remove regulatory barriers […] for green infrastructure projects” with only the consideration of such regulatory barriers, which is too weak. Furthermore, a definition of Green Infrastructure is missing from the glossary. County Commissioners should adopt this definition: Green infrastructure is a network of natural and built green spaces that provide environmental, economic, and social benefits. It includes green spaces such as parks, trees, urban forests, streetscapes, green roofs and green walls, rain gardens, and more. These green spaces help to mitigate the effects of urbanization, protect ecosystems, reduce pollution, and improve public health.  

On page 68, the imperative (Rec. 3.3.G) to “adopt” best practice design standards for new construction within the Wildland Urban Interface” was downgraded to an “encouragement.” On page 72, in the second paragraph for the description of Goal 4 (Connectivity),  multimodal transportation funding is unnecessarily limited to the Utility Service Area. The County is promoting Greenways as alternative routes for transportation and to connect communities. This means building greenways not just within one Utility Service Area but also between them — such as Edneyville to Hendersonville. In each of these instances, County Commissioners should restore the more assertive language of the November draft and consider further strengthening the recommendations. 

Turning a Blind Eye Toward Real-World Challenges
At their December 1 meeting, the Planning Board excised from the Comprehensive Plan the sole mention of climate change. The region is experiencing more frequent, extreme rain events — what used to be classified as “100-year floods” are now happening every five or ten years. At the other extreme, when droughts do occur, they are expected to be hotter and longer, increasing the risks of a repeat of the destructive wildfires of 2016 — which forced the evacuation of 1,000 people in the areas of Bat Cave, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure. 

Shifting climatic conditions put our farmers and their ability to grow food at risk, degrade our water quality, and negatively impact our tourism and outdoor recreation economy, yet, the Planning Board ignores these risks with the deletion of a sentence acknowledging these basic realities. The County should restore the language of the prior draft, which read, “As the frequency of extreme weather events increases, flooding, landslides, and drought-induced fires are likely to become a more regular occurrence.” Additionally, we suggest adding a sentence to this section clearly stating that “The County will develop policies and procedures that will improve the resiliency of the County to wildfires, flooding, and landslides.” (Coinciding with 29% of the respondents of the survey (p.144)

In some ways, the draft Comprehensive Plan is proactive when it comes to our changing climate realities. However, in critical areas, the changes made by the Planning Board unnecessarily limit the County’s ability to mitigate and adapt. For example, the Planning Board deleted a recommendation 2.2.D (page 62 in the November draft) that read, “Consider the introduction of Smart Solar programs throughout the County to encourage solar energy development and safeguard farmland” and recommendation 4.6.A-C (page 74 in the November draft) that read “Support the use of electric vehicles to reduce air pollution and dependency on fossil fuels.” Advancements to renewable energy, and more specifically solar panel and battery technology, have made green energy cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable than fossil fuels. To save on energy costs, the County should restore the recommendation to introduce Smart Solar programs, and in light of a recent projection (Bloomberg) that at least half of all passenger cars sold in the US will be electric vehicles by 2030, we would urge the Commissioners to restore the full text of these deleted sections.

Fixing Critical Flaws to the Suitability Maps
There are major flaws with the proposed Commercial and Industrial Suitability Maps found in the draft appendix of the Henderson Comprehensive Plan. These maps appear to conflict with the accompanying Plan Maps, as well as the Comp Plan’s stated goals and public input. Despite strong support for the preservation of open space and working farmlands, the designated suitable areas include sensitive natural areas, prime farmland, and key transition zones between protected lands and low-density residential areas. It appears that the map’s designers did not appropriately weigh for the following criteria: Biodiversity and Habitat Value, Agricultural Lands, Prime Farmland Soils, Wildfire Threat, Landslide Threat, or Flooding Threat.

While we understand that the Suitability Maps are not authoritative, they will certainly be cited by developers looking to build commercial or industrial projects within the areas highlighted as suitable. In addition, these maps will serve as guideposts for future Planning Board members and County Commissioners, which could influence land-use policy decisions. Therefore, it is important that these maps are accurate and reflect the goals and values stated within the Comprehensive Plan. The staff and their consultant should redraw the Industrial and Commercial Suitability maps and adjust the weighting to incorporate values expressed in the Comprehensive Plan’s own goals — namely, the preservation of farmlands and the protection of open space. 

Furthermore, these flawed maps are granted an unwarranted level of importance by the Planning Board in its December revisions to the first Outcome on page 35. The plan’s outcomes are “established based on stakeholder and citizen feedback” (page 54) and are the bedrock upon which goals, recommendations, and actions were subsequently developed. All three outcomes were included without change in every version of the plan since the September 9, 2022 draft — until the Planning Board rewrote Outcome 1 in December. 

The prior Outcome 1 reads, “Make intentional land use decisions that protect agriculture, rural character, and natural resources while strategically guiding development.” This was changed to “Make intentional land use decisions that preserve agriculture, rural character, and natural resources with the Future Land Use Map as a guide” (pages 35 and 56)  This elevated the Future Land Use Map above the important policies articulated in the Comprehensive Plan and is in direct contradiction to the intent expressed in every draft (including the current one) that “the map and associated policies are meant to guide growth and development as well as land use regulations in the County planning jurisdiction …” (page 40, emphasis added). Rather than altering a high-level outcome so late in the planning process, we suggest that the language in prior drafts be restored. 

Erasure & Exclusionary Language
In the “History of the County” section on page 12, the Planning Board has removed a reference to the Cherokee and Catawba and to the “forcible relocation” of Native Americans via the Trail of Tears. As a result, the Planning Board has taken an acknowledgment of a shameful chapter in our nation’s history and erased it completely. While intentions may not have been to hide, MountainTrue would not want the County to appear to be obscuring this part of our history. We encourage the County to reach out to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and other representatives of Native American peoples to adopt language that is accurate and respectful to our shared history.

Further down on page 12, the Planning Board suggests new language stating that “To plan for the future, the County must acknowledge its past and current strengths, in order to plan for the best possible future development of the County for its citizens.” There is no reason to circumscribe the beneficiaries of this plan to County citizens. There are many people who have a vested interest in the future of the County, including part-time residents, visitors, commuting workers, medical patients, and tax-paying lawful permanent residents.  MountainTrue recommends just ending the sentence with the word “County.”

Looking Ahead to Implementation
In summary, while many of these changes may seem minor, we believe that, in this case, the devil really is in the details. The 2045 Comprehensive Plan is meant to serve as a long-range vision for future growth and development for Henderson County. As such, it is the responsibility of the County Commissioners to ensure that the goals reflect the priorities and desires of the people who live and work in Henderson County and the voters who elected them to office.

Through extensive public outreach and the County’s own community survey, those priorities are clear and largely reflected in much of the narrative and goals laid down in the Comprehensive Plan. Unfortunately, the December edits proposed by the Planning Board seem specifically designed to remove any sense of urgency or accountability and make the plan harder to implement.  

The Comprehensive Plan still lacks an Implementation Section, which the Planning Board has assured the public can be adopted even after the Plan is voted on and approved by the County Commission. Clearly identifying what is to be done, by whom, and by what time is critical to turning the hopes and aspirations of the County residents into reality in a transparent and effective way. While MountainTrue continues to advocate for the inclusion of a well-thought-through implementation process, the lack of an Implementation Section underscores the importance of getting the details and recommendations right now. 


Nancy Díaz

Southern Regional Director, MountainTrue

MountainTrue staffers’ favorite holiday recipes – 2022

MountainTrue staffers’ favorite holiday recipes – 2022

MountainTrue staffers’ favorite holiday recipes – 2022

At MountainTrue’s regular all-staff meetings, we include a fun question as part of our check-ins. Recently the question was, “what is your favorite holiday dish?” This brought up many happy memories and some strong opinions. So, for our December E-news, our staff is sharing some of these recipes and the memories that go along with them. Some of us have so many favorites that we added more than one. Enjoy!

Deviled Eggs – Hannah Woodburn, Watauga Watershed Coordinator

Why it’s my favorite: When we have big family gatherings, the deviled eggs are the first to go. You’ve got to stack your plate with one or two early in the evening if you want to try them at all! This year I hard boiled 48 eggs to make 96 deviled eggs, and there wasn’t a single one left over. Our gatherings are not the same without them! 

Ingredients: eggs, mayonnaise, Claussen pickles, spicy brown mustard, paprika, salt, pepper

Instructions: Hard boil the number of eggs you would like to serve. Place eggs in water and bring to a boil. Then cover, turn off the heat, and let sit for 12 mins (may vary depending on your elevation). It is good to check one from each batch to make sure the yolk is fully cooked. 

After the 12 minutes are up, place the eggs in an ice bath and let them cool. Once the eggs are cooled, peel the shells & slice them in half. Place the yolks in a separate bowl, and combine with a finely chopped pickle, mustard, mayo, paprika, salt, and pepper to taste, and whip until creamy. Spoon or use a piping bag to disperse the mixture onto the halved eggs. Sprinkle with paprika and add an optional garnish (olives, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, etc.) and keep chilled until ready to serve. 

Crockpot Spinach & Artichoke Dip – Sydney Swafford, Outings, Education, and Forest Stewardship Coordinator

Why it’s my favorite: It’s extremely easy but always everyone’s favorite when I’m hosting. I make it for pretty much every gathering. It’s a real crowd-pleaser!

Ingredients: 10 ounces of chopped spinach (fresh or frozen), 14-ounce can of artichoke hearts chopped, 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese, 4 cloves minced garlic, spices to taste (salt, pepper, herbs, red pepper if you want it spicy, etc.)

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a small crockpot (or larger if you double the recipe) and set to low for 2 hours. 

After 1 hour, remove the lid and stir. Replace the lid and let cook for an additional hour, stirring occasionally. Serve with crackers or chips of your choosing. I typically leave my crockpot plugged in while serving, so it stays warm!

Granny’s Oyster Dressing – Gray Jernigan, Central Regional Director

Why it’s my favorite: My grandma always used to make this for the holidays, and it was one of my dad’s favorites. Both have passed away, and even though I’m the only one left in the family that likes oysters and this dish, I make it for myself during the holidays to remind me of them. (My mom makes non-oyster dressing for the rest of the family to enjoy.)

Ingredients:  ½ pound toasted bread (any hearty white bread), 1 ½ cups crumbled wheat thins crackers, 8-ounce bottle of clam juice, ½ cup melted butter, ½ cup finely chopped celery, 1 teaspoon celery salt, 1 pint of oysters with juice

Instructions: Crumble the bread and add cracker crumbs into a large bowl. Heat clam juice until it boils. Then, pour the hot clam juice over the bread and cracker crumbs and let it stand for a few minutes. Add butter, celery, celery salt, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in oysters and let the dish stand for a few minutes. Put in a greased casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Great-Grandma Hastings’s “Dry Bread” Dressing – Callie Moore, Western Regional Director

Why it’s my favorite: This is my great-grandmother Hastings’s recipe that we always have with our turkey dinner. She grew up a Quaker in southeastern Ohio and lived a high quality of life to almost 103 years old!

Ingredients: 1 loaf of hearty white bread, approximately 4 days old (I used half white wheat and half whole wheat), ½ cup butter, melted, 1 thick slice of onion, sauteed, ⅛ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon sage, ½ cup turkey stock. 


In a large bowl, break bread into small pieces the day before and cover with a tea towel. To make the sauce, saute onion in butter and then add the remaining ingredients. Put a layer of bread in a small roasting pan. Drizzle some sauce on. Continue with bread layers and sauce until all bread is in the pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts With Lemon and Pistachios – Julie Mayfield, Co-Director

Why it’s my favorite: I love this recipe because it is simple and light – a rarity among most holiday casseroles and other heavy dishes. It is also a great way to convert people who think they hate brussels sprouts — they’ve never had them like this!

Ingredients: 3 tablespoon grapeseed oil (ok to use vegetable or any other low-smoke oil); 1 tablespoon minced shallot; about 1.5 pounds of brussels sprouts, trimmed, leaves separated from cores (about 8 cups), cores discarded; 3/4 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios; 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
Note: while you can spend time pulling off each separate leaf of each sprout, I usually remove and toss the 1-2 outer leaves and then slice/shave up from the base of each sprout until hitting the hard core. This is time-consuming, but it’s worth it.

Directions:  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and stir for 20 seconds. Add Brussels sprout leaves and pistachios, and sauté until leaves begin to soften but are still bright green, about 3 minutes. Drizzle lemon juice over the sprouts. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and serve.

Pear and Parsnip Puree – Amy Finkler, Development and Operations Coordinator

Why it’s my favorite: My husband introduced me to this recipe several years ago, and we always have it for Thanksgiving. I did not grow up eating Parsnips, so for me, this was a fresh and delicious addition to our sides.

Ingredients: 1.5 pounds of parsnips, peeled and chopped, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon allspice, 4 ripe Anjou pears cored and cut into 1-inch cubes, ½ cup sour cream, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground pepper

Instructions: Preheat oven to 325 F. In a baking dish, sprinkle the parsnip pieces with sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. 

In a large pot, cook pears and 2 tablespoons of butter for 3 min. Add the remaining butter and the baked parsnips to the pot and blend with an immersion blender for 30 seconds. Add sour cream, salt, and pepper, and blend until smooth. Serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve.

Granny C’s Sweet Potatoes Alexander – David Caldwell, Broad Riverkeeper

Why it’s important to me: My Granny C. taught me a love for camellias and good cooking. She was the best cook, and I’m pretty sure that she created this recipe. This dish can be served as a side or a dessert!

Ingredients: 1 cup thinly sliced apples, 2 cups boiled sliced sweet potatoes, 1 cup sliced peaches, 2 medium bananas, sliced, 2 ounces lightly roasted almonds; sauce: ½ cup butter, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup orange juice, 3 ounces Grand Marnier

Instructions: In a saucepan, melt butter and sugar over low heat. When melted, add orange juice and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in Grand Marnier.

In a toaster oven, roast almonds just until they begin to brown. The almonds will cook more in the casserole.

In a shallow medium-sized casserole, arrange from the bottom up: sweet potato slices, apple slices, banana slices, peaches, apple slices again, and sweet potato slices again

Pour the sauce over the casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes (until the sauce boils). Add almonds and bake for another 10 minutes. 

Pavo A La Brasa – Karim Olaechea, Communications Director

Why it’s my favorite: One of the key ways that I connect with my Peruvian heritage is through food. I don’t often get to visit my Peruvian family during the holidays, as tickets to Lima triple in price in the weeks leading up to Christmas. So, I try to bring a bit of Peruvian flavor to stateside holiday affairs. 

Rotisserie chicken is a big deal in Peru. The original Peruvian chicken restaurant or pollería, La Granja Azul, was set up by Roger Schuler, a Swiss emigré to Peru. The restaurant became an institution, and I have happy memories of my family taking me there when I was a child. Now there are thousands of pollerías throughout the country and abroad, and just as many takes on the original recipe. 

I’ve adapted a traditional pollo a la brasa marinade, and I use it to make a more flavorful and moister turkey or “pavo” that still fits right in on a traditional holiday table. The name of this dish is a bit of a misnomer as I roast the bird breast down in the oven, but if you have a rotisserie or “brasa” hefty enough to accommodate a large turkey … by all means, use it! 

This recipe takes some advanced planning, as the turkey needs to marinate for at least two days, and there aren’t really any good substitutes for two of the key ingredients — ají panca (a fruity yet earthy red chili pepper) and huacatay (an aromatic herb from the Peruvian Andes). I’ve spotted ají panca paste for sale at Tienda el Quetzal on Merrimon Ave in North Asheville, and you can order huacatay paste and other Peruvian ingredients from Amigo Foods

Ingredients: 1 whole turkey, neck, and giblets removed; 2 bottles of dark, malty beer like Negra Modelo or Cusqueña Negra if you can find it; ½ cup soy sauce; juice of 8 limes; ¼ cup of olive oil; ¼ cup of huacatay paste; ¼ cup of ají panca paste; 10 cloves of garlic; 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, minced; 1 ⅓  tablespoon of ground cumin; 1 tablespoon of dried oregano; 1 tablespoon of salt; 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper. Equipment: Large roasting pan, v-shaped roasting rack, meat thermometer (I recommend one that can stay in your bird while it roasts in the oven)

Instructions: In a blender, pour your soy sauce, lime juice, olive oil, huacatay and ají panca pastes, garlic, ginger, and spices. Add half a bottle of beer and put the lid on the blender. Pulse, then blend until the garlic and ginger are liquified, and all the ingredients are fully incorporated. 

Place your fully thawed turkey (I hope you didn’t forget to pull it out of the freezer a week ago!) into a marinating bag and pour half the contents of the blender into the bag. Then pour in the remaining 1 ½ bottles of beer, followed by the rest of the blender slurry. Seal and agitate the bag so that the marinade is well-mixed and covering the turkey. Place the bagged turkey in your refrigerator and let it marinate for at least one day, preferably two. 

On the day you plan to roast your turkey, remove the bird from the bag and pat it dry with a clean cloth or paper towels. Then place your turkey breast down in a v-shaped roasting rack that has been placed in a large roasting pan. This will allow the juices from the dark meat to drip down through the breast while the turkey roasts. Place your meat thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey breast and roast

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Once your oven is preheated, roast your turkey for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325 degrees. To ensure crispy skin and moist flesh, resist the urge to baste your turkey or check on it too frequently. When your meat thermometer reads 165 F, it’s ready to come out of the oven. Allow the roast to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Chocolate Steamed Pudding – Bob Gale, Ecologist & Public Lands Director

Why it’s my favorite: My father was a hobby chef in the 1950s-’60s and subscribed to Gourmet magazine, with copies always lying around the living room coffee table or couches. Around holidays, he cooked most of the fancy traditional dinners and desserts, and my siblings and I knew wonderful things were about to be cooked. 

He made this once-a-year dessert, sometimes for Thanksgiving, sometimes for Christmas. More cake-like than pudding, this dessert is cooked in a tube pan within a pot of shallow water and served with a “hard sauce” topping. The buttery, creamy hard sauce melting like ice cream over the warm, almost fudgy-tasting cake is a flavor that is seared into my memory. It is fun to make occasionally. (I say “occasionally” because I would never want to take it for granted!)

Ingredients: 3 tablespoon butter, 2 ¼  cups flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 4 ½  teaspoon baking powder, 1 egg, 2 ½  squares unsweetened chocolate; melted, 1 cup milk, ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions: In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and mix with beaten egg. Add the sugar gradually. In a second bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add these dry ingredients to your wet ingredients, little by little, alternating with the milk. Then stir in chocolate. Once incorporated, fold the batter into a buttered cake mold. Place the cake mold into the pot of slowly boiling water and steam for 2 hours. (Add water as necessary/do not let it boil away.) The top of the cake will split open, which is normal.

Hard Sauce:
Ingredients: ¼ cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup powdered sugar, ¼ cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons rum or brandy.

Instructions: Cream butter and add sugar gradually. Add vanilla and cream, and beat until stiff. Add rum or brandy. (The texture is harder, more like butter, rather than fluffy like meringue.) Spoon a desirable amount over warm steamed pudding and serve.

Great-grandma Wechtel’s Pumpkin Pie – Callie Moore, Western Regional Director

Why it’s my favorite: This is my German great-grandmother Erma Wechtel’s recipe. I’m the fourth generation of “Wechtel women” to make this pie, including a homemade crust! I’m very picky about eating other pumpkin pies because I think this one is just the best! 

Ingredients: 1 T. flour, rounded, 1 c. sugar, ¼ t. Each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & salt, 1 c. Libby’s pumpkin (half a can), 1 egg, separated, 1 c. milk

Instructions: Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Add pumpkin and mix. Add egg yolk and milk and mix. Beat egg white with a hand mixer until little stiff peaks form. Fold into pumpkin mixture. Put into an unbaked pie crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Makes a 9″ pie.

Nana’s Gingerbread Cookies – Amy Finkler, Development and Operations Coordinator

Why it’s important to me: This is my Grandmother Betty Joyner’s gingerbread cookie recipe.  Our family makes these cookies every holiday season and has done so for as long as I can remember. My Grandmother passed away in 2021, and I will continue to keep this recipe alive for the years to come. It brings a smile to my face when I bake and think of her.

Ingredients: 1 cup margarine, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 5 tablespoons white vinegar, 1 cup molasses, 5 cups sifted flour, 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, Optional: red hots and raisins for decorating

Instructions: Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cream the margarine and the sugar together thoroughly in a large bowl. Add the egg, vinegar, and molasses and beat well. 

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves together. Add this dry ingredient mixture to the creamed margarine and sugar and stir thoroughly (the dough will get stiff).  

Chill thoroughly (at least one hour, but overnight is best).  Roll out to ¼ inch thick on a lightly floured surface.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out desired shapes, and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or baking sheet lined with parchment paper).  

Use red hots or raisins to decorate if desired.  Bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes or until done. Cool on a wire rack. Yields roughly 1 ½ dozen.
Note: To make these gluten-free, substitute a gluten-free 1:1 ratio flour mix (I like Bob’s Red Mill 1:1). 

Mulled Holiday Wine – Hannah Woodburn, Watauga Watershed Coordinator

Why it’s my favorite: This is just a holiday spin for your red wine drinking crowd at your next gathering. Mulled wine is aromatic and will fill your home will holiday comfort and cheer. 

Ingredients: Red wine (I usually go with a cab sav or merlot), orange juice, apple cider, mulling spices, with an option to add fruit.

Instructions: In a crockpot or on the stovetop, combine a bottle of wine and mulling spices and let the flavors infuse for an hour or two. Add 1 cup of apple cider and 1 cup of orange juice; can be increased based on the amount of wine. This year I used a Bota Box and did three cups each of orange juice and apple cider. 

Add chopped fruit for garnish. For the best taste, serve warm!


MountainTrue Participates in Waterkeeper Alliance PFAS Study

MountainTrue Participates in Waterkeeper Alliance PFAS Study

MountainTrue Participates in Waterkeeper Alliance PFAS Study

Study shows widespread contamination of surface waters, though relatively low levels of PFAS in WNC.

MountainTrue’s Watauga, Green, and Broad Riverkeepers participated in a recently released, groundbreaking new study of cancer-causing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination across a select subset of U.S. surface waters. The study found that PFAS pollution is widespread. In samples collected from 114 waterways across the country, 83% contained at least one type of PFAS — substances widely linked to serious public health and environmental impacts.

Since the 1950s, PFAS have been widely used in manufacturing and are found in many consumer, commercial, and industrial products. Often referred to as “forever chemicals,” PFAS do not break down over time. Instead, these dangerous chemicals accumulate in people, wildlife, and the environment. As a result, PFAS have been found in surface water, air, soil, food, and many commercial materials.

“These dangerous chemicals are an emerging threat throughout our country. Here in Western North Carolina, we’ve documented relatively low levels of PFAS contamination,” explains Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell, “we have more work to do to identify sources of PFAS pollution, but often increased levels are documented downstream of industry, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants.”

MountainTrue’s Riverkeepers collected water samples upstream and downstream of wastewater treatment plants on the Watauga River and Green River and an industrial landfill on the Broad River. The results showed generally low levels of PFAS contamination throughout the mountain region compared to samples collected in the eastern part of the state. Sampling conducted by the Broad Riverkeeper found no detectable PFAS upstream of the Cleveland County landfill and the presence of four PFAS varieties downstream (download the sampling results for the Broad River). The Watauga Riverkeeper found low levels of two varieties of PFAS upstream from the Jimmy Smith Wastewater Treatment Facility and higher levels and three additional PFAS varieties downstream (download the results for the Watauga River). The Green Riverkeeper found no detectable PFAS upstream of the Columbus Wastewater Treatment Plant and found low levels of three varieties of PFAS downstream in White Oak Creek (download the results for the Green River).

“This is a wakeup call for our region,” explains Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill. “But we have more work to do. MountainTrue and Waterkeepers Carolina are conducting additional sampling throughout our region and the state, and we will provide a more detailed analysis of PFAS contamination of local waterways.”

A total of 113 Waterkeepers across the country collected samples from 114 waterways across 34 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). Independent analysis indicates widespread contamination, with 94 participating Waterkeeper groups confirming the presence of PFAS in their waterways. Waterways in 29 states and D.C. were found to be contaminated by at least one, but most frequently, many revealed the presence of up to 35 different PFAS compounds.

In some places, like creeks connected to the Potomac River in Maryland, the Lower Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, and the Niagara River in New York, the level of contamination is thousands to hundreds of thousands of times higher than what experts say is safe for drinking water. An estimated 65% of Americans source their drinking water from surface waters similar to those sampled. While the state of North Carolina has done some testing of drinking intakes, additional data is needed. It is important to note that locally in Western North Carolina, we do not suspect a threat to drinking water supplies based on current evidence.

Scientific studies increasingly link these toxic chemicals to serious health conditions such as cancer, liver and kidney disease, reproductive issues, immunodeficiencies, and hormonal disruptions. Despite serious health risks, there are currently no universal, science-based limits on the various PFAS chemicals in the United States. For many PFAS chemicals, the EPA has not even set a health advisory limit that would give the public a baseline to determine what amount of PFAS is unhealthy in drinking water. In most cases, the EPA is not doing adequate monitoring for these chemicals, which is why these findings are so unique and important.

This data plainly demonstrates that Congress and EPA must act with urgency to control persistent PFAS contamination across the country. The current lack of oversight puts the health and safety of communities and ecosystems across the nation at risk and results in costly cleanup and treatment activities to remove PFAS contamination after it has occurred. To learn more, visit

MountainTrue’s Analysis of Henderson County’s Draft Comprehensive Plan

MountainTrue’s Analysis of Henderson County’s Draft Comprehensive Plan

MountainTrue’s Analysis of Henderson County’s Draft Comprehensive Plan

Update: We have added detailed analysis and recommendations to improve the Comprehensive Plan further down on this page. We are providing these recommendations to the Planning Board and Henderson County Commissioners. Scroll down to view.

On September 9, 2022, Henderson County released the first draft of the 2045 Henderson County Comprehensive Plan. You can view a virtual presentation about the draft plan here. MountainTrue is conducting a full analysis of the draft plan and will provide a detailed set of recommendations to the Henderson County Planning Board and County Commissioners to ensure that the plan addresses the priorities of county residents as reflected in the county’s own survey*.

The draft plan will guide Henderson County’s growth and services for the next 20 years. Overall, the draft plan includes a strong set of goals that MountainTrue fully supports. Those goals, found on p.34 of the draft plan, include:

  •  Coordinate development near existing community centers.
  •  Protect and conserve rural character and agriculture.
  •  Improve resiliency of the natural and built environments.
  •  Prioritize multi-modal transportation options and connectivity.
  •  Create a reliable, connected utility and communication network.
  •  Stimulate innovative economic development initiatives, entrepreneurship, and local businesses.
  •  Diversify housing choices and availability.
  •  Promote healthy living, public safety, and access to education.

These goals provide a solid foundation for a 20-year plan. MountainTrue’s recommendations below offer targeted strategies to help the county achieve these goals. We start, however, with one glaring omission in the draft plan.

Primary Recommendations

Include a Detailed Implementation Plan
The County Commission’s adoption of the comprehensive plan is just the first step towards realizing the goals within. The real challenge comes in translating the plan’s strategies into the day-to-day operations and actions of the government, and in making the plan work in concert with the County’s other strategic actions and policy documents. To date, the draft plan and recently released draft appendix do not include any guidance for implementing the plan’s recommendations. 

The 2020 Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2004, is widely considered a success, as the county has accomplished a majority of the plan’s goals. This was no accident. That plan contained a detailed implementation schedule that held our county leaders accountable while allowing the public to track our progress. Henderson County needs to draw on this past success to ensure that the 2045 plan accomplishes its goals rather than gathering dust on a shelf. 

We strongly recommend developing a process to implement the plan’s priority strategies and track plan progress. Various ways to ensure the implementation of the plan include:

  • Establish a single point of contact who will oversee the plan’s implementation. This will ensure accountability and continuity in the years that follow adoption.
  • Form a county team with representatives from key departments who will meet to track the plan’s progress, develop action items to implement strategies, educate staff about the plan’s goals, and help shape departmental work plans around the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Review plan progress with applicable boards and commissions and recommend new priorities to the County Commission.
  • Conduct an annual report on progress of the plan to the County Commission and set priorities.
  • Evaluate the viability of the plan every three to five years, and update the plan accordingly.

Don’t Expand the Utility Service Area
We encourage the City of Hendersonville and the County to share in decision-making around where sewer services will go. The county should have representation on the City’s water and sewer governing bodies, have a say in where the pipes extend throughout the county, and whether annexation follows those pipes. Therefore, the county must work closely with municipalities to direct new growth where infrastructure already exists.

Expanding the Utility Service Area (USA) to include Edneyville and Etowah will only encourage the development of new sewer that exceeds the current needs of these communities. This is a recipe for suburban sprawl all along the US 64 corridor. We do not support the current draft Future Land Use Map calling for commercial shopping centers and dense infill development in Edneyville or Etowah, as the existing infrastructure in these communities cannot support such development. We recommend maintaining the Central USA, as presented in the 2020 Henderson Comprehensive Plan.

We do not support the residential density described in Infill Area (formerly Medium Density Residential) designations in the more rural areas of the county outside the Central USA, including Etowah and Edneyville’s proposed USAs. The density allowed within Infill Areas (8-14 units/acre) would likely require new sewer service or package plants, spurring additional suburban sprawl to areas of the county lacking the infrastructure and road networks to absorb such volume.

We also do not support the amended density allowances in the new Transitional Area (formerly Low Density Residential) designation, as this will drive suburban sprawl into the Tuxedo, Dana, and Gerton communities — all found well outside the Central USA. Allowing for developments as dense as quarter-acre lots would tax our existing roads and alter the rural character of these communities.

Address Water Quality Concerns in Edneyville and Etowah
Wastewater seriously impacts water quality, and the county should invest wisely in wastewater infrastructure. We strongly encourage Henderson County to address water quality concerns in Edneyville and Etowah without inviting suburban sprawl into these communities. 

Edneyville: Adding another municipal sewage treatment plant in the Mud Creek watershed may contribute to water quality concerns. Edneyville’s existing uses (Edneyville Elementary, the Training Academy, Camp Judaea, etc.) should tie into the city’s existing sewage treatment system, and the city should refrain from annexing these rural areas, as they lie outside the Central USA.

Etowah: It is foreseeable that Etowah’s aging private sewer system may one day be acquired by the Metropolitan Sewer District, given its proximity to MSD’s existing network. By connecting Etowah to MSD’s system, Etowah’s capacity for development could significantly increase in the next 20 years. With the highly anticipated construction of the Ecusta Trail about to begin, we must take measures to preserve the trail’s rural character that makes it such an attractive destination. 

Additionally, any expansion of sewer infrastructure should be constructed with limited capacity to service only existing businesses and residences without facilitating future growth. The county should implement strong land use protections to prevent sprawling and high-density residential development, high-intensity and industrial uses, and other uses outside of the Central USA that compromise the rural character and agricultural heritage of the area. 

Provide More Housing Options in the Central Utility Service Area
When people think of housing choice, they usually default to single-family homes or large apartment complexes. But we are missing the opportunity to provide new homebuyers and renters a wide array of housing choices, many that are more affordable than what the current market provides. 

To offer more housing choice in the areas that can best support it – the Central Utility Service Area – we recommend broadening the types of housing that can be developed in traditional single-family neighborhoods. Remove restrictive zoning that stands in the way of modest infill development, like duplexes, triplexes, and townhouses. Within the Central USA, we recommend amending the Infill Area zoning designations to include ADUs, townhouses, duplexes, and triplexes. We also support the new density allowances for Transitional Areas within the Central USA, as this housing would be located closer to the services, jobs and infrastructure already concentrated in our municipalities.

Adopt a Voluntary Land Conservation Fund
We fully support the development of a fund that focuses on preserving working farmland and parcels key to greenway, park, and recreational opportunities, and sensitive natural areas. Consider a bond referendum to establish the fund. Focus on the Purchase of Development Rights to preserve working farms and make them more affordable to new farmers. Consider easements that would improve water quality protection.

Consolidate and Strengthen Steep Slope Controls
Current steep slope regulations are found scattered throughout the Land Development Code, making it difficult to assess their impact on ensuring public safety, protecting water quality, and preserving scenic mountain views. Residents and developers would be better served if the steep slope controls were consolidated, transparent, and more concise. We applaud the Planning Board’s recent efforts to address this, and we encourage the county to include such improvements in the draft plan.

*The county has published a second public input survey. Click here to take the new survey.

Additional Recommendations & Further Details

In addition to our primary recommendations, MountainTrue makes the following suggestions specific to various recommendations found in the draft plan:


MountainTrue: We question whether the Dana community can support the recommended Industrial & Employment land use designation without sewer service. 


R. 2.1.E. (p.57): Encouraging small businesses in rural areas can indirectly support agriculture by allowing non-farm income.
MountainTrue: To encourage appropriate small business development and maintain the rural and agricultural character of these areas, we recommend limiting the square footage of new structures and specifically defining what small-business activities are preferred in Agriculture / Rural Districts.

Rec 2.2.B. (p.58): Create a Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program to purchase farmland development rights and establish agricultural conservation easements.
MountainTrue: We recommend amending the Land Development Code to require that eligible applicants meet specific environmental standards or implement appropriate “best management practices” that protect water quality, such as undisturbed stream buffers.

Rec. 2.2.C. (p.58): Study potential mechanisms for private transfer of development rights program to allow for the transfer of density away from agricultural and natural resource areas to designated receiving areas.
MountainTrue: We strongly support the county in investigating a potential transfer of development rights program and would be willing to advocate for state authorization to provide Henderson County with this valuable conservation tool.

Rec. 2.3.C. (p.58) Consider zoning updates to reduce development pressure in agricultural areas.
MountainTrue: We recommend exploring new incentives to give farmers multiple options to preserve the working lands. We do not support the concept of downzoning Agricultural / Rural districts, such as requiring five-acre lot minimums, as this will only accelerate the development of undisturbed areas, while serving the few that can afford to purchase larger lots.

Rec. 2.4.A. (p.59): Provide incentives for revitalizing existing commercial and industrial sites.
MountainTrue: We strongly support this and encourage the Commission to prioritize commercial and industrial sites closest to main transportation corridors and in areas already serviced by existing water and sewer to disincentivize sprawl. 

Rec. 2.4.B. (p.59): Focus on higher-density housing closer to the city to reduce sprawl, provide affordable housing for the workforce, and relieve pressure on roads.
MountainTrue: We strongly support this designation, but we also recognize this requires coordination with municipalities, including participation in Hendersonville’s upcoming comp planning process. We encourage County staff and leadership to engage Hendersonville in developing plans that focus higher density development in appropriate areas already served by sewer and water, located closest to job and commercial centers, schools, and services.

Rec. 2.4.C. (p.59): Encourage industrial growth in areas away from large concentrations of farmland and agricultural operations.
MountainTrue: We question whether industrial uses and agricultural operations are mutually exclusive. Given the low residential density in such districts, there may be opportunities to cite appropriate industrial uses near working farmland, concentrating such activities away from established residential areas.

Rec. 2.4.D. (p.59): Carefully evaluate potential utility extensions that could impact large concentrations of productive farmland.
MountainTrue: See our Primary Recommendations above re: Edneyville and Etowah sewer expansion. 


GOAL 3 (p.60): Where risk reduction is not possible, careful planning and strengthening emergency response will help make recovery faster and more efficient when hazards do occur.
MountainTrue: We recommend: “Where risk reduction is not possible, careful planning could mitigate the impact of extreme events, thus reducing the costs of recovery for both private and public funds. Similarly, strengthening emergency response will save taxpayer dollars…”

Rec. 3.1.C. (p.60): Consider allowing for administrative approval for conservation subdivisions that meet certain criteria (i.e. are under a density threshold, have a minimum amount of open space, reserve priority open space types, and meet access standards).
MountainTrue: While we support this concept, we’ll note that administrative approval for conservation subdivisions works only if the thresholds are well defined. We recommend examining existing regulations and streamlining the project permitting and approval process so that development decisions are more timely, cost-effective, and predictable for the community and home builders.

Rec. 3.1.E. (p.61): Limit development on steep slopes and mountain ridges.
Rec. 3.3.C. (p.63): Discourage the amount of land disturbed in steep slope developments, including construction of roads, as well as decrease density.
MountainTrue: We strongly support these recommendations and would be willing to provide model ordinances from similar communities that have addressed steep slope development.

Rec. 3.3.D. (p.63): Continue to limit fill in floodplains unless additional standards are met.
MountainTrue: Under this recommendation, the County could further restrict the use of floodplains. Consider that multiple scientific studies now show that 100-year floods are increasing in frequency, including a Yale Environment study that predicts that Southeast counties like Henderson could experience such floods every one to 30 years.

Rec. 3.3.G. (p.64): Adopt best practice design standards for new construction within the wildland/urban interface.
MountainTrue: While we agree with this recommendation in concept, we seek clarification of the definition of “wildland/urban interface,” as the Future Land Use Map makes no reference to such designation. 

Rec. 3.4.E. (p.64): Educate the community and developers regarding green infrastructure projects, as well as state and federal rebates and tax incentives, which can lessen stress on natural systems.
MountainTrue: We strongly support this, and encourage the County to consider expanding streamside buffers to protect water quality. 


Rec. 4.1.C.
Advocate for the French Broad River MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) to update the Comprehensive Transportation Plan, which was adopted in 2008, and focus improvements around active transportation options and transit.
MountainTrue: We strongly support this and ask the County to consider extending transit services to employment and commercial centers beyond the Central Utility Service Area. 

Rec. 4.2.B. (p.68): Consider reducing Henderson County’s Traffic Impact Study (TIS) threshold for developments located along specific road classifications.
MountainTrue: We support a reduction in traffic study thresholds in conservation/rural/ag-zoned areas, and recommend increasing the threshold for traffic studies in areas appropriate for denser development.

Rec. 4.2.D. (p.68): Consider amending the Land Development Code to allow for the integration of residential and commercial uses to allow for shorter travel time between destinations.
MountainTrue: Mixed-use developments are beneficial to combating sprawl, but the plan needs to specify where mixed-use would be deemed appropriate. Community centers and neighborhood anchors appear to be the most appropriate locations for mixed-use development. There will need to be adequate infrastructure already in place to support this level of development.

Rec. 4.3.A. (p.68): County staff should continue to seek grant funding (through the French Broad River MPO and other sources) for corridor studies along primary roadways throughout the county.
MountainTrue: We fully support commissioning a study of the Ecusta Trail corridor to inform appropriate land use designations along its path.

Rec. 4.3.B. (p.68): Establish a vision for significant roadway corridors and their surrounding land use, with input from the community they serve.
MountainTrue: This visioning process can be folded into an updated small-area planning process for Edneyville and Etowah. We would be willing to assist with gathering public input to inform these plans.

Rec. 4.3.D. (p.68): Support NCDOT with the ongoing corridor studies for US-64.
MountainTrue: This corridor study must consider future land-use recommendations for Edneyville and Etowah. We believe that an inappropriate expansion of sewer service in these communities will increase congestion along US 64 and contribute to suburban sprawl and loss of working farmlands.

Rec. 4.4.C. (p.69): Conduct studies of the transportation network surrounding County schools to identify deficiencies in safety and access.
MountainTrue: There is a critical need to address Etowah Elementary School and Etowah Park. We recommend investigating the Safe Routes to School program. We also recommend the County commission a bike/pedestrian connectivity study.

Rec. 4.5.C. (p.69): Initiate a study of Apple Country Public Transit to identify whether fare rates are a barrier to the use of the bus system and study the feasibility of a fare-free system.
MountainTrue: We support this and encourage the County to investigate the benefits of a fare-free system. 

Rec. 4.5.G. (p.70): Explore mechanisms to provide express routes to connect Hendersonville to Asheville and other destinations in Buncombe, Madison, and Haywood County, while focusing on regional mobility management, employee training, maintenance, and funding administration.
MountainTrue: We strongly support this and recommend advocating for transit connections to employment centers in Buncombe, Madison and Haywood counties to reduce traffic congestion along the primary north-south transportation corridors like I-26, US 25, and NC 191. We encourage the County to coordinate the comprehensive planning process with the ongoing planning process in Buncombe County.

Rec. 4.5.H. (p.70): Create connections between transit and greenways to help reduce traffic, vehicle miles traveled, and the county’s carbon footprint.
Rec 4.7.E. (p.71): Coordinate with the Rail Trail Advisory Committee, Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), Planning Board, and Recreation Advisory Board on priority greenway implementation.
MountainTrue: We strongly support these recommendations and suggest hiring a sustainability coordinator to lead this important work.

Greenway and Sidewalks Map (p.73)
MountainTrue: Add language/graphics denoting the future regional Hellbender Trail and potential connections.


Rec. 5.3.C. (p.75): Require conservation subdivision designs for all new major residential subdivisions residential growth in unincorporated areas tied to sewer infrastructure.
MountainTrue: We strongly support this and can provide Best Management Practices and precedent for sound conservation subdivision designs.

Rec. 5.4 (p.75): Take a leadership role in sewer and water planning by helping to foster intergovernmental cooperation.
MountainTrue: As stated in our Primary Recommendation, we fully support the County and Hendersonville to work together to address sewer expansion that does not promote suburban sprawl, while addressing current water quality concerns.

Rec. 5.4.B. (p.75): Conduct interchange studies with the City to evaluate and prioritize the development potential of key interchanges for future commercial and/ or industrial development.
MountainTrue: We strongly support collaborating with the City to coordinate development with existing sewer and water services.

Rec. 5.4.C. (p.75): Begin the development of a three, five, or ten-year capital improvement program and capital reserve fund to help implement planned investments in sewer infrastructure and other services.
MountainTrue: This requires coordination with MSD’s Capital Improvement Program and Hendersonville’s sewer & water services. We strongly encourage the County and City to work together on this.

Rec. 5.4.D. (p.75): The Environmental Health Department should identify areas of septic failure, areas where future septic systems may fail, and address these through existing remediation programs and by leveraging state and federal grants.
MountainTrue: We strongly support this and will work with our Legislative Team to advocate for adequate state funding.


MountainTrue: Add “conservation and outdoor recreation, bike/ped/transit” to initiatives, as they will bring in the kind of businesses the community desires.
Rec. 6.4 (p.79): Facilitate placemaking efforts to reinforce community character and attract businesses and investment.

MountainTrue: We strongly support this and would be willing to assist in community engagement around such placemaking efforts.


Rec. 7.1.B. (p.80): To avoid conflict with agricultural areas and natural resources, major subdivisions should be located near defined centers and within Medium and Low Density Residential areas as defined on the Future Land Use Map.
MountainTrue: Discourage rezonings for higher-density residential subdivisions outside the defined Utility Service Area and within the Agricultural/Rural districts identified on the Future Land Use Map.

Rec. 7.1.C. (p.80): Allow for a variety of housing types, including condos, townhomes, and multi-family complexes, in the defined Urban Service Area.
MountainTrue: We strongly support this and recommend that “missing middle” developments, including Accessory Dwelling Units, townhouses, duplexes, and triplexes, be allowed by right in Medium Density Residential districts. 

Rec. 7.2.E. (p.81): Continue to allow for manufactured homes in designated zoning districts in the county.
MountainTrue: Consider allowing manufactured homes by right in all residential districts. They represent the last option for truly affordable housing in the region.

Rec. 7.3 (p/82): Support the ability to “age in place.”
MountainTrue: Include language encouraging the implementation of Universal Design best practices that create homes that are accessible and habitable for all ages and abilities.


Rec. 8.1.B. (p.84): Address facilities and programming priorities, document ongoing maintenance needs, and provide benchmarking related to facilities and staffing within a master plan.
Rec. 8.1.E. (p.84): Develop a master plan for Jackson Park. The master plan should address connectivity, parking issues, and facility enhancements, and involve a variety of user groups.
MountainTrue: Jackson Park is already at capacity for hosting recreational events. We recommend expanding master planning efforts to encompass all county park facilities.

Rec. 8.1.L. (p.85): Require major subdivisions to provide pedestrian connections or provide easements to immediately adjacent greenway facilities.
MountainTrue: We support establishing concurrent sewer/trail easements where sewer expansion is permitted.

Rec. 8.3.  (p.86): Expand healthy food access.
MountainTrue: Add “F. Continue support for a food waste program.”

Support a Plastic Bag Ban in Asheville

Support a Plastic Bag Ban in Asheville

Support a Plastic Bag Ban in Asheville

Join MountainTrue, the Sierra Club, NCPIRG, and the rest of the Plastic-Free WNC coalition at the August 23 Asheville City Council Meeting and show your support for a bill to ban single-use plastic shopping bags and styrofoam.

We’ll gather at Pack’s Tavern at 5 p.m., then head to City Hall as a group.

Pre-City Council Meeting Gathering
Pack’s Tavern at 5 pm
20 S. Spruce Street, Asheville, NC 28801

Americans use 100 billion plastic bags and 25 billion styrofoam cups every year. Most of that ends up in landfills or as litter, polluting our forests and our environment.

It’s time for the City of Asheville to join the more than 500 communities around the nation that have already passed plastic bag bans. The Plastic-Free WNC coalition is pushing the City of Asheville to pass a bill to ban single-use plastic bags and styrofoam while putting a 10-cent fee on paper bags.

Come to the Asheville City Council meeting on August 23 to let City Council know this is a priority! We’ll meet at Pack’s Tavern at 5 p.m. to discuss key talking points before the City Hall meeting.