Hendersonville’s Gen H Community Survey is live. Here are our suggestions.

Hendersonville’s Gen H Community Survey is live. Here are our suggestions.

Hendersonville’s Gen H Community Survey is live. Here are our suggestions.

The City of Hendersonville is seeking public input for its Gen H Community Survey as part of its 2045 Comprehensive Plan and to establish a long-term vision for sustainable growth and conservation. The survey is available in English and Spanish and is open through November 14, 2023. 

The following are our suggestions on the survey questions most relevant to the issues of conservation, environmental protection, and healthy communities. We hope you consider our recommendations when filling out your survey. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Director, Nancy Díaz, for more information at nancy@mountaintrue.org.


Q1 – As you look into the future, what are the top three things you are most concerned about for Hendersonville? (Select 3)

Please consider including “Environmental Health” and “Housing” among your three selections. Prioritizing and investing in environmental protection is critical to making us more resilient to climate change challenges and maintaining Hendersonville residents’ health. 

The lack of attainable housing is a significant challenge for Hendersonville, and how we address that challenge directly impacts our environmental health. According to the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management, Henderson County’s population is expected to grow by 30.28% between 2020 and 2050. However, existing residents already struggle to find housing that meets their needs. So, as we build homes to accommodate growth, we need to ensure that growth is responsible and sustainable by minimizing the impacts of our built environment. A 2021 Housing Needs Assessment conducted by Bowen National Research for the Dogwood Health Trust found that Henderson County has an overall vacancy rate of 0.2% with zero subsidized units available. This keeps housing in Hendersonville and Henderson County out of reach and forces many working families to commute from further and further away — increasing commuting costs, vehicle miles traveled, and carbon emissions. We hope our community’s vision for the future can be one that provides attainable housing in areas that already have infrastructure and amenities so that we can minimize the footprint of our built environment and protect more of our farms and forests from sprawl. 


Q4 – Based on data from the U.S. Census and state population projections, Henderson County has grown by 9% from 2000-2020. The County is projected to grow an additional 8% by 2030. Approximately 4,000 new housing units would need to be constructed by 2030 to accommodate new residents. Some percentage of this growth will occur within the City of Hendersonville. Where in Hendersonville do you think new development (homes, jobs, etc.) should occur?

Please consider choosing “Within the existing city limits with increased density.” Our cities and small towns should function as our communities’ economic, cultural, and residential centers. We should prioritize public and private development where we’ve already invested in infrastructure. At the same time, we should discourage any infrastructure expansion that induces sprawl into natural areas or the rural landscape. 


Q5 – What are your top three priorities as Hendersonville plans for its future? (Select 3)

Please consider including “Preserving farmland and critical environmental areas” and “Providing a range of housing opportunities and choices at various price ranges” among your three selections. As mentioned above, Hendersonville and Henderson County are suffering a housing crisis that is making it difficult, if not impossible, for teachers, nurses, restaurant workers, civil servants, and other workers to commute to work and even stay in our communities. By allowing for a greater variety of housing choices and building more within our urban centers, we are more likely to meet our housing needs without infringing upon our forests and farmlands. 


Q6 – To me, “quality development” means: (Select 3)

Please consider including “Good streetscapes” and “Walkable, safe environments” among your three selections. Making our communities safe, walkable, and bikeable is critical to reducing our dependence on cars and fossil fuels. It also encourages an active lifestyle, which can benefit physical and mental health. 


Q7 – Do you feel that Hendersonville has enough housing units?

As mentioned in our discussion of Question 1, Henderson County had an overall vacancy rate of 0.2% and zero available subsidized units, according to the 2021 Housing Needs Assessment conducted by Bowen National Research. We don’t have the housing to accommodate our current needs, let alone the needs of a growing population. 


Q8 – From your first home as an adult to the home where you spend your adult life and the home where you plan to grow old, a community can provide a variety of housing types for all the various life stages based on needs and cost of living. Looking to the future, what housing types (beyond single-family houses) does Hendersonville need to ensure residents can find housing to match their life stage? (Select all that apply.)

Please consider including “Missing Middle Housing” among your selections. “Missing middle housing” is a term used in urban planning and housing policy to describe a range of housing types that were built frequently in the early 20th century, that are scaled to fit in with existing neighborhoods, but that haven’t been built much in recent decades. Hence, the label “missing.” Common examples of these kinds of homes include duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes. By not adding these kinds of homes to the market in recent years, we have created a gap in housing options that can contribute to issues such as affordability and housing shortages. Missing middle housing is a potential solution to address these challenges and create more diverse and sustainable communities.


Q10 – What are your top three improvements for downtown?

Please consider including “Safe/improved pedestrian and bike connections in and to downtown from neighborhoods” and “New and/or improved public spaces/parks” among your three selections. Making Hendersonville more walkable and bikeable is better for our environment, pedestrian and cyclist safety, and public health. 


Q14 – Rank what Hendersonville needs most: (Rank your priorities)

Please consider selecting “Housing” as your top priority. As discussed in the discussion to Question 1, Hendersonville is facing a dire housing shortage. While more jobs and amenities such as shopping and dining are desirable, we are in desperate need of housing for the workers that we would need to staff these positions. 


Q16 – On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being least important and 5 being extremely important, how important is the natural environment to Hendersonville’s identity?

Please consider selecting “5 – Extremely Important.” Protecting our natural environment is critical to maintaining our Appalachian mountain identity, addressing climate change, and supporting good public health. Our natural environment provides essential ecosystem services such as clean air and water, pollination, and climate regulation. A comprehensive plan that prioritizes the natural environment can help the City become more resilient to climate change. Natural features like wetlands and green spaces can mitigate flooding, absorb excess rainwater, and provide shade and cooling in heat waves. Access to green spaces, parks, and natural areas enhances the City’s aesthetic appeal and provides recreational opportunities for residents. By integrating environmental considerations into urban planning, Hendersonville can create a more resilient, livable, and attractive community for current and future generations.


Q18. Thinking about how the plan could impact Hendersonville’s parks, greenspace and greenway facilities over the next 20-40 years, what is most important to you? (Rank your priorities)

There are no wrong answers here, but please consider selecting “Parks that protect environmental health and natural resources” and “Neighborhood parks that meet the daily and year-round needs of nearby residents” among your highest priorities. Public parks can provide many important environmental benefits, improving air and water quality, supporting biodiversity and local pollinators, and mitigating urban heat. Parks can be developed in a way to mitigate flooding, absorb excess rainwaters, and provide shade and cooling during heatwaves. Public parks also offer spaces for recreation, exercise, and relaxation, promoting physical and mental well-being. They serve as gathering points for community events and social interactions, fostering a sense of belonging and cohesion. Parks are essential for children’s development, providing safe play areas and opportunities to connect with nature. In short, public parks enrich the quality of life in communities by enhancing health, culture, environment, and social connections, making them a fundamental aspect of urban planning and community development.


Q21 – What are your priorities for making Hendersonville more walkable and bikeable? (Rank your priorities)

Again, there are no wrong answers here, but we hope you will consider including “Streets with sidewalks,” “Bikeways and bike lanes,” and “Greenway trails” among your top priorities. Making Hendersonville more walkable and bikeable benefits residents and the environment alike by making our City more vibrant, efficient, and livable. Walkable and bikeable cities reduce dependence on cars, leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions, improved air quality, and decreased traffic congestion. Fewer cars on the road can alleviate traffic congestion, making cities more efficient and reducing commuting time. Well-designed pedestrian and bike infrastructure enhances safety for vulnerable road users, reducing accidents and injuries. Pedestrian and bike-friendly cities are also more inclusive, offering transportation options for people who cannot drive, including older adults, children, and individuals with disabilities.


Q23 – How would you rank the following areas of sustainability from most important to least important? Are there any focus areas you think need to be added? (Rank your priorities)

There are no wrong answers here, and all the options are interrelated and critical to ensuring a sustainable future for Hendersonville. Let the City know where your priorities lie, and, most importantly, don’t forget to take the survey!

With your participation, we believe that Hendersonville could develop a well-considered comprehensive plan that could serve as a model for other communities throughout Western North Carolina. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

We Are Speaking Up in Support of Needed Housing in Hiawassee, GA

We Are Speaking Up in Support of Needed Housing in Hiawassee, GA

We Are Speaking Up in Support of Needed Housing in Hiawassee, GA

This month, Neighbors for More Neighbors WNC and MountainTrue staff collaborated to evaluate and subsequently express full support for a proposed housing development for Hiawassee, GA. The project is called The Commons at Lake Chatuge, and it’s a development that would create the kind of homes we believe are needed for our communities to be healthy, to protect water quality, and prevent continued loss of our farms and forests due to sprawl development. Here are the reasons why we support these kinds of projects generally and also why The Commons specifically aligns with our goals:


  • Location: By building homes within walking distance of grocery stores, restaurants, jobs, and town centers, we reduce daily vehicle miles traveled and our community’s carbon footprint. Additionally, building in or near our town centers relieves development pressure on surrounding farms and forests that we need for watershed protection, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. The project site on Main Street, not far from the center of town — and with existing water and sewer access — is ideal placement and more fiscally responsible.
  • Small size: This project would build homes of 700-1,100 square feet, which we support because smaller homes generate less stormwater runoff and require less energy to heat and cool. We also need smaller home options in our communities for working families or elderly residents who want to downsize. 
  • Variety: 21 of the homes are proposed to be townhomes or duplexes — a housing type that further increases energy efficiency by taking advantage of shared walls. While duplexes also represent a housing type that has been less commonly built in recent decades, they are a beneficial addition to a community’s housing stock and create different kinds of homes for people to choose from as their lives and needs change over time.
  • Affordability: Because this developer is passionate about creating housing communities to serve the workforce, the sale price for all of these homes will be lower than would otherwise be possible on Hiawassee’s regular housing market. And through the company’s business model, 15 homes will have 25% lower pricing, making them even more affordable.  Having more reasonably priced homes within a community helps maintain a community’s health and vibrancy by ensuring that a wider range of income earners can live and work there, filling critical positions in a community’s workforce.


MountainTrue has a long history of advocating for responsible growth across the region. Continuing that tradition, Neighbors for More Neighbors WNC is committed to supporting projects representing the kind of built environment that causes the least harm to our natural environment while also promoting healthy communities within which our families and neighbors can thrive. MountainTrue Western Regional Director Callie Moore spoke in support of the project at the City of Hiawassee Building & Planning Committee’s public hearing on Thursday, September 7, 2023. Stay tuned for project updates coming soon! 

Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Public Testimony from MountainTrue’s Housing & Transportation Director, Susan Bean

Susan Bean on MountainTrue’s support of the missing middle housing study proposed by the City of Asheville: 


As an environmental advocacy group, MountainTrue recognizes the undeniable connection between the built environment and the natural environment. How we build in our cities and where people are able to live has a tremendous impact on our region’s farms and forests. The more choices people have about how close they can live to schools, jobs, and grocery stores, the more they can access the lifestyle that suits their needs best. 

By creating more housing options that are within walking distance of restaurants and bus routes and commercial centers, people will be better able to age in place or decrease their commute times. This kind of lifestyle is both attractive to a growing population and also benefits the environment through increased energy efficiency and decreased carbon emissions. The development of modest-sized, compactly built, energy-efficient housing within walking distance of jobs and services is one of the best things we can do to fight climate change. 

I hope this study will take into consideration concerns existing residents like me have about the prospects of gentrification and displacement, preservation of urban tree canopy, and local neighborhood character. However, I am also hopeful that considering such concerns from the start as we pursue the creation of more climate friendly housing options for people who want to find a home for themselves in our community, will allow for all of us to welcome new neighbors in a spirit of cooperation rather than competition.

I look forward to continuing to support the City of Asheville as it works to remove barriers to missing middle housing and seeks to provide more housing choice within our community for our neighbors who need places to live. Thank you for your consideration and for this opportunity to speak with you tonight.

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).

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 – davidhill@hendersoncountync.gov
  • William Lapsley – wlapsley@hendersoncountync.gov
  • Rebecca McCall – rmccall@hendersoncountync.gov
  • Mike Edney – jmedney@hendersoncountync.gov
  • Daniel Andreotta – dandreotta@hendersoncountync.gov


Attend an upcoming County Commissioners meeting — click here to view the meeting calendar


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 tnletters@blueridgenow.com.
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’s Chris Joyell Writes About Housing, Open Space, and Climate Change in MTX

MountainTrue’s Chris Joyell Writes About Housing, Open Space, and Climate Change in MTX

MountainTrue’s Chris Joyell Writes About Housing, Open Space, and Climate Change in MTX

In this Mountain Xpress Contributor Piece, MountainTrue Healthy Communities Program Director Chris Joyell explains the undeniable connection between housing and the integrity of our natural environment. Joyell discusses how Buncombe County’s Open Space and Affordable Housing Bond Initiatives will help the county meet its goals of ensuring stable housing for children, homeownership for working families, and safe housing for seniors, while also protecting mountains, forests, productive farmlands, and clean water in our streams and rivers for future generations. 

MountainTrue and our organizational partners are proud to endorse both the Open Space and Housing Bond Initiatives, and we encourage you to vote yes on both bonds this election season. Learn more about the bonds and how they work, see what other community institutions endorse them, and read a helpful FAQ on the Better With Bonds website

“A colleague of mine recently closed on his first house. After years of anxiously scanning listings in Asheville and Buncombe County, he realized that if he were ever to become a homeowner, it would have to happen in another county — in this case, Haywood County.

Likewise, another colleague recently graduated college and began working at MountainTrue last year. She, too, has been frustrated by the housing market, having to settle for a substandard rental unit with a negligent landlord. As rent costs in Buncombe County soar, she has grown doubtful that she will find a better living situation soon. The prospect of owning her own home here is beyond imagination.

Both their struggles reflect our growing housing crisis, where people with stable jobs and decent pay are running out of housing options in Buncombe County. People like the teachers, artists, service industry workers, small-business owners, nurses and others who make Buncombe County such a vibrant place to live.

In response to this dilemma, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners recently approved a ballot referendum that will direct $30 million toward the preservation of open space and $40 million toward the development of housing that is affordable for the county’s workforce. This November, county residents will get to vote on the bonds separately.

The open space and housing bonds can work in conjunction with one another. Buncombe County remains largely rural, and ample land is available to develop housing. The county will likely prioritize the more rural and remote areas for land conservation. On the other hand, housing that is affordable for the county’s workforce is best located in areas already developed and closer to transit services, jobs, schools and commercial centers.”