Hendersonville City Council holds public hearing on comprehensive plan

HENDERSONVILLE – Consultants for Hendersonville’s Gen H Master Plan gave a final outline of the document to the City Council on July 17, then turned the floor over to eight residents who spoke during a public hearing.

Several speakers praised the plan and all the effort put into it over the past year, while others railed against urban sprawl, gentrification, infill development and other issues.

The plan, which will replace the 2030 Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2009, will be used as a tool to guide land use, growth and development, infrastructure, community character, natural resources, parks and recreation and economic development over the next 20 years. , says the city.

Council members will consider the speakers’ comments, as well as recommendations from other boards and committees such as the Downtown Advisory Board and Planning Board, and provide a final round of feedback to the consultants for the latest revision.

The council could then vote on the plan during its meeting on August 1.

“That’s when the fun really begins, as we begin to implement the plan,” strategic project manager Matthew Manley told the council.

Highlights of the plan

“The Gen H plan looks at land supply and where growth and development should take place in the city and surrounding areas,” said consultant Lorna Allen of civil engineering firm Bolton & Menk.

Hendersonville, which saw an increase in population in 2020 during the pandemic, remains a popular place to live, Allen added. The Gen H plan describes what land in the city and its ETJ is already developed, what areas should be protected and what is underutilized, and offers a land supply map to guide future development.

The consultants also considered what residents want in terms of growth, what the market will support and what the data says about existing conditions.

“We have a trade-off, a decision to make,” Allen said. Does the city want to continue the current passive trend of focusing on easily developed vacant areas, push further out from the city center and possibly devalue real estate, or instead be proactive and focus on areas where infrastructure already exists?

With that in mind, consultant Grant Meacci shared the plan’s “vision map,” which combines the land-use map with designated “character areas” to consider how land use, character and transportation relate, with the goal of determining how to protect certain properties while focusing growth in areas with infrastructure .

The vision map looks at four character areas:

  • An ‘open space’ character area that includes conservation areas, open air areas and regulated nature conservation areas such as parks and comprises 19% of the survey area.
  • A “living” character area, which consists of rural housing, family/neighborhood housing and multi-generational housing and comprises 56% of the study area.
  • An ’employment’ character area, consisting of mixed employment, institution, innovation and production, and comprises 15% of the study area.
  • And an “activity center” character area, consisting of downtown, mixed commercial and urban areas, and comprising 10% of the study area.

The plan also outlines five focus areas that have existing infrastructure, naming them Western Ecusta Trail, 7th Avenue, Downtown Edge, Spartanburg Highway and Blue Ridge Mall, and shows how policy could change each of those areas, Meacci said.

A detailed Downtown Master Plan is included in the Gen H plan, focusing on four “character districts” – Lower Trailhead (around Ecusta Trail), Main Street, Downtown Edge and 7th Avenue. Downtown is not a homogenous area, Meacci said, and consultants and staff wanted to look at plans for each of those areas individually.

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This master plan includes downtown design guidelines that will provide guidance on how to preserve the character and history of the area while allowing it to develop, Meacci added.

However, the plan goes beyond new ideas and possibilities; it gives the city a way forward. Ben Hitchings of Green Heron Planning detailed three main components that will help the city implement the plan:

An implementation strategy with seven key goals to achieve, such as “connecting people with nature” and “transforming gateways and corridors” and broad mechanisms to get there.

A portfolio of 77 specific implementation projects, described as “years, if not decades, of work for the city.”

And a set of five operational policies that management and counsel can follow to keep the Gen H plan in use as an essential tool.

A “Short-Term Implementation Projects” list was also developed from the proposed 77 implementation projects and consists of projects that can be worked on in the near future. These 34 short-term projects will get things moving and move Gen H from the planning stage to implementation, Hitchings said.

Public hearing

Resident Ken Fitch said he was concerned about losing two historic workforce neighborhoods, the Fassifern Court neighborhood and the 9th Avenue neighborhood near Pardee Hospital. Both he and City Manager John Connet said they had been told by Pardee that the hospital had no intention of expanding into the historically African-American 9th Avenue neighborhood.

Fitch also wondered what would happen to neighborhoods where infill development opportunities are listed, and whether there would be rezoning to allow for development.

Resident Bob Johnson, a member of the Community Advisory Board that provided input on the plan, said he is concerned that urban sprawl will replace agricultural and forest land, but believes the Gen H plan addresses that by trying to develop where infrastructure already exists.

The most important thing in Hendersonville is Main Street, he added, calling it “a true jewel” that needs to remain vibrant and residentially walkable.

Another resident and Community Advisory Board member praised the plan for being innovative and comprehensive and urged the council to adopt it, describing it as “a flexible and living document.”

One speaker said the plan contained important information but was difficult to read online because the print was too small and light. She reminded the council of the effects of growth on Asheville, including limited parking, heavy traffic and tall buildings, and said growth can be good, but the city needs to be careful and support Main Street businesses.

Resident Lynne Williams requested that the council allow more time for feedback, asking if its approval could wait until after the November election.

Another resident said she was impressed with the plan, describing it as organized and easy to read, and encouraged the city to think carefully about development around proposed construction sites.

One speaker questioned how recommendations in the plan would be paid for, and wanted more information on the proposed “urban land bank” and derelict property removal.

Another member of the Community Advisory Committee spoke in favor of the plan’s adoption, saying the process was thorough and well thought out. He said the more important part is execution, because sometimes plans don’t get off the ground. The city has many plans, but what is being done to implement them, he asked, adding that recommendations from the plans need to be codified.

Councilwoman Lyndsey Simpson said the city needs to look at how it will attract younger families into the workforce, and she believes there are areas in the plan where that can be woven in. She also said the recent evaluation of the tree canopy must be included in the Gen H plan.

“We all read it and meet with the staff and go (over it) with a fine-toothed comb, so there’s a lot of effort that goes into this plan,” she added.

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