Weaverville – A new fountain is planned for the town hall entrance after the NC Department of Transportation (DOT) told the Town of Weaverville that a tree blocking a pedestrian sign had to go. That was part of the discussion held during the regular monthly meeting of the town council on Monday evening (December 16). Mayor Al Root told the town manager to pull her managers report and present it to the council and public for the wanted dog park.
Vice-Mayor Doug Jackson conducted the meeting as Mayor Al Root was absent from the meeting. The council first opened the meeting up to public comment, where a resident of Hunter’s Ridge asked the board to develop an “Air BnB” ordinance to address what he sees as a problem. “We now have two Air BnB operating in our cul-de-sac, very much residential…So I’m here tonight to respectfully ask [for an ordinance].” He then passed out contact information for a professor at the UNC School of Government who could offer more details on the issue.
Resident Laura Ayres also spoke and asked the council to consider an ordinance that only allowed developers to calculate the number of units that can be built on a property from the usable land area and not the total size of the property.
With that out of the way, the council approved the consent agenda, which included the monthly tax report, three tax releases and refunds, the closure of a portion of Brittian Street and Main Street for the Music on Main event as well as a water easement agreement.
The board then heard from Town Manager Selena Coffey as she gave her manager’s report which included a thank you to Councilwoman Dottie Sherrill for her 30th year of organizing the Christmas Parade. She also updated the board about ordering fireworks for the Fourth of July celebration and that the new Lake Louise Community Center was out for bids and would be until January 22 and she hopes to ask council for approval of one of them at the January meeting.
Coffey also said that the water system improvement plan was also out for bids and that the deadline for project bids is January 15. She then reported that the Pink Patch Project raised $3,811 for The Hope Chest for Women. She also said that the town staff was still working on downtown parking and parking enforcement issues and hopes to present that at the January council meeting.
The meeting then moved on to action and discussion items of which the first was hearing from Doug Dearth who updated the council on the Greenway project. Part of which said that the oversight committee for the project would consist of six members including two from Buncombe County, one from the Metropolitan Planning Office, a member from DOT and the town manager and himself.
The board then voted to approve the acceptance of waterlines into the town system for Maple Trace Phase IV. This after Weaverville Public Works Director Dale Pennell said there would be a $4,000 bond issued for three years for any possible defects in the system.
The council also voted to allow members of the board to participate remotely in council meetings by electronic communication. This new rule would not negate the necessity for a quorum of members (which is four) to be physically present at meetings for a meeting to be held (for more details on how it would work see sidebar with resolution).
In a discussion of the resolution, the possible abuse of the ordinance was brought up. Town Attorney Jennifer Jackson said that the board could address it if abuse did occur. Councilman Andrew Nagle responded with, “I mean if one of us moved to Florida and pretended to live here…” to which a member of the audience called out a former council member’s name, which drew chuckles.
The board then came to the issue of the entrance to town hall where the tree had to be removed and a proposed fountain would be placed instead at the estimated cost of $10,000. Nagle wondered how much power the DOT exercised over the sides of the highway and asked the town manager if she had appealed the decision to a higher authority at DOT. “I’m not second-guessing,” said Nagle. Coffey said she had appealed twice, but to no avail.
Councilman Patrick Fitzsimmons commented, “When they’re doing something that is basically detrimental to the appearance of our town, I think we should not only appeal that but say ‘Sue us.’” Councilman Jeff McKenna injected that DOT was making the town spend money to replace the space left open by the removal of the tree. The council gave tentative approval to the fountain without actually voting on it.
They then heard a quarterly report from the public works and water department before adjourning the meeting.
Remote participation in town council meetings
The resolution passed by council outlines the rules of remote participation of board members, so here it is:
WHEREAS, there are times when both Town Council’s and the public’s interests are best served by accommodating one or more Council members’ needs to participate in an official Town Council meeting from another location;
and WHEREAS, Town Council is authorized to establish rules of procedure for its official meetings;
WHEREAS, Town Council now wishes to adopt special rules pertaining to remote participation in Town Council meetings with an effective date of January 1, 2020;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE TOWN OF WEAVERVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, ACTING THROUGH ITS COUNCIL MEMBERS, AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1: Remote participation in a Council meeting is attendance and participation in an official meeting of Town Council by a Council member who is not physically able to attend but is able attend and participate by phone, video or other type communication.
SECTION 2: The Mayor and Council members are each allowed to remotely participate in official Town Council meetings subject to the conditions and limitations stated in Section 3 below and are referred to hereinafter as “member” or “members.”
SECTION 3: Remote participation is allowed subject to the following:
- (a) Remote participation of a member is not allowed solely for the convenience of the member or merely to avoid attending one or more particular meetings. Remote participation is reserved for specific circumstances such as illness or disability of a member or a close relative, military service, unexpected lack of child care, family emergency, or work or public service obligations that require a member to be away, or for other reasons as approved by Town Council. Town Council, by majority vote, can disallow remote participation by any member who is found to have abused the privilege.
- (b) Remote participation is allowed for any official meeting of Town Council except for quasi-judicial hearings and closed sessions.
- (c) If the Mayor is remotely participating in a meeting the meeting shall be conducted by the Vice-Mayor or such other member who is physically present and able to preside over the meeting.
- (d) The member or members participating from a remote location may take part in debate and vote on any matter before the council only when enough members are physically present to constitute a quorum.
- (e) Remote participation is allowed only if the member at a remote location can fully participate in the deliberations, can hear and can be heard by the other members of council and any other individual in attendance at the official meeting.
- (f) A member participating remotely is considered to be present at the meeting and entitled to vote. Members participating remotely are required to notify council when they are leaving the meeting or rejoining the meeting by terminating or restarting the electronic connection.
- (g) If an electronic communication is lost unintentionally due to technical problems, the member will not be considered present.
- (h) A voice vote by telephone or video, which can be heard and recorded, will be counted. If votes are to be taken by written ballot, then a remote member can send a vote via text, email, or fax, but such vote must be confirmed by the remote member.
- (i) Minutes of the meetings at which one or more members participate remotely must reflect which members were physically present and which members attended remotely. Minutes should also reflect when members are excused from voting or are excused to leave or rejoin the meeting, just as they would for members who are physically present.