Forest Hills Council Meeting 12-6-2004

Council Meeting Minutes
of Forest Hills
December 6, 2004

Mayor Jim Davis called the regular December meeting of the Council of the
Village of Forest Hills to order at approximately 7:00 p.m., December 6, 2004.  This meeting was held at the Jackson County Recreation Center in Cullowhee.

Council Members present were: Sue Burton, Richard Iobst and Jim Wallace.

Others present were: Jay Coward, Village Attorney; Carey King, reporter from the Sylva Herald; Jim Weir, Finance Officer;  Evelyn Rooks-Weir, Assistant Clerk; Irene Hooper, EDC representative; Charlie Baude, reporter from Radio WRGC; Mark Teague, Forest Hills Estates representative; Charlie Burton; Gail Debnam; Jack Debnam.

Mayor Davis opened the meeting with an invocation.  The first item on the agenda was approval of the minutes of the November Council Meeting.  These had been distributed to Council members for reading prior to this meeting.  Mayor Davis asked each Council member if s/he had read the minutes?  Each had.  Councilwoman Burton moved that the minutes be approved as submitted.  Councilman Wallace seconded this motion. Motion passed unanimously.  Councilman Iobst complimented the clerk on presenting excellent minutes for the Council.

Mayor Davis asked Finance Officer, Jim Weir, for the financial report of the preceding month.  Jim Weir reported that the Village has a cash balance of approximately fifty-thousand dollars ($50,000), and an outstanding attorney's bill for eleven-thousand, eight-hundred and twenty-five dollars ($11,825).  Income for the month of November was eighteen-hundred dollars ($1,800) from taxes.  Expenditures included six to seven hundred dollars for police protection; the first payment on the audit; payment for the attorney; and ten-thousand dollars ($10,000) for street maintenance.  These expenditures were delineated in the financial report that was distributed to the Council members.  Finance Officer Weir cautioned the Council that there is approximately only fifty-thousand dollars ($50,000) in the Village treasury, and although the income will increase substantially in the early months of 2005, possible upcoming litigation will be costly.  Councilwoman Burton asked for clarification on the ten-thousand dollar ($10,000) road maintenance payment.  Jim Weir explained that thirty-thousand, six-hundred and ten dollars ($30,610) had been spent during the year (YTD) for road maintenance.  The ten-thousand dollar ($10,000) payment made in November, is the last payment for a major thirty-thousand dollar ($30,000) road improvement project.  Mayor Davis and Councilman Iobst discussed future road maintenance issues.  Councilman Iobst moved for acceptance of the Financial Report presented by Jim Weir.  Councilwoman Burton seconded the motion.  No further discussion followed and the motion passed unanimously.

Mayor Davis asked Mrs. Irene Hooper to report on the work of the Economic Development Committee.  Mrs. Hooper was unable to attend the last meeting of the Jackson County Economic Development Committee because of a death in her family.

No Planning Board Representative was present to report.

Councilwoman Burton reported on the work of the Village/University Liaison Committee. 
Burton had suggested to the Village Holiday Gala Planning Committee that the Village landlords be invited to this event.  She also announced that a meeting with the Village landlords will be held in January or February.

Mrs. Irene Hooper reported for the committee planning the Village Holiday Gala.  She has been able to reserve space for this event at the
Jackson County Recreation Center for a reasonable fee.  Arrangements have been made for the committee to decorate; residents will provide food; and awards for the winners of the residential decorations contest have been procured.  Judges will select winners of the residential decorations contest in the evening of Saturday, December 11, 2004.  All residents are encouraged to participate in the residential decorations competition, and attend the Holiday Gala.

Mayor Davis called for a report of road maintenance in the Village.  He explained that the recent hot topping process that was used on segments of Village roads will need to be given time to allow gravel to become embedded in the underlying hot top.  This may not occur until next summer when the temperature rises to allow the topping to soften a bit.  Mayor Davis will write an article for the Village web page to explain this process to Village residents, some of whom have questioned the quality of the recent road work.
Mayor Davis also noted that the diverters were placed at strategic points to direct water flow.  He then asked Mark Teague if that was why he was present?  Mayor Davis further explained that the diverters were placed to attempt to direct water off the road in spots where it collected when heavy rains occur.  Mayor Davis stated that in most cases, the diverters are working as planned.  A discussion of the diverters and related water-flow problems followed.  Councilman Wallace suggested that a period of time be allowed to lapse before removal of the diverters to see whether they will serve the purpose for which they are designed.  Councilman Wallace suggested to Mark Teague, representative of the Forest Hills Estates Home Owners, that they work with the Council to determine the best solution to their road problems.  Councilman Iobst expressed concern for potential mud slides on steep hillsides in the county.

Attorney Jay Coward was asked by Mayor Davis for a report regarding roads in the Village.  Coward reported that he had spoken with Marty McCracken, Assistant Attorney General of
North Carolina, who represents the NC State Department of Transportation.  Attorney Coward spoke with McCracken regarding the take-over of all roads in the Village by the State Road Department.  Coward reported that McCracken does not recommend inverse condemnation to get right-of-ways for state roads.  Instead, McCracken recommends circulating a petition for residents to sign indicating their desires for the state to take over the roads, and giving the state right-of way to take over the road development and maintenance.  It is not necessary that 100 percent of the residents sign this petition, but certainly a high percentage should sign it.  After this petition is submitted to McCracken, then the Department of Transportation will go out and stake the roads.  Attorney Coward discussed this phase of the process with Robby Shelton who explained that in certain places, property will be required to be taken from yards because the present road does not provide adequate width that is required of a state road.  At this point, the State Road Department will go to individual residents to get right-of-way agreements signed.  Attorney Coward reiterated the three-phase process - petition signing, staking, and right-of-way agreement - necessary for the state to take over the road development and maintenance in the Village of Forest Hills.

Attorney Coward explained that certain residents could legally protest that there was no just compensation paid by the state for their property if the Village simply condemned their property for the road right-of-way.  This might result in a condemnation suit that the Village would not want to get involved in.
A discussion among Council members and Attorney Coward regarding how to proceed in as economically feasible manner as possible followed.  Attorney Coward noted that a number of deeds would have to be searched in official tax records.  Councilman Wallace asked how much the attorney would charge to do this?  Attorney Coward responded that volunteer Village residents could conduct this search rather easily.  He offered to contact Bobby McMann, Tax Assessor, to alert him that a small group of Village residents would be arranging a time to work with him on this project.  Attorney Coward suggested that this search would result in a few cases that would require a more thorough legal search, and he could do these for a reasonable fee.
Councilman Wallace asked if a former petition, signed by ninety-five percent of the residents, could be used for the initial phase of the process of having the state take over the roads?
Mayor Davis responded that perhaps calls could be made to determine whether residents would agree to give a right-of-way.  Councilman Wallace expressed his frustration that many hours had been spent in prior attempts to get the state to take over the road development and maintenance only to have a few residents' refusal to cooperate with the wishes of a vast majority of residents stop the process.  Attorney Coward explained that there are legal means by which the Village can post a bond of twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500) for each resident whose deed does not provide for a sufficient road right-of-way.  This assures just compensation in the few cases where a suit may be filed against the state for taking a right-of-way.

Mayor Davis stated that the officials of the State Road Department were positive about the state taking over the roads of the Village if the Village carries out its responsibilities of getting signatures and getting the necessary right-of-way agreement from residents.  Councilman Wallace was less positive because of past experience in working with the State Road Department.  However, it was noted that changes in the officials of the State Road Department, and Village residents may make a difference in response to this project.

Mayor Davis asked Councilman Wallace whether he had been successful in talking with another landscape designer about doing the entrance to the Village?  Councilman Wallace said that he had spoken with Roger Turk.  However, Mr. Turk will not be able to get to this job before January of 2005.

Mayor Davis inquired of Jack Debnam whether he wished to address the Council?  Mr. Debnam stated that he owns some lots above
North Country Club Drive, and someone has placed a locked cable across the road that is his access to his property.  He asked if the Village had blocked this road?  He was assured that the Village is not responsible for this road block.  A discussion about possible individuals who might have placed the locked cable across the road, and what could be done about it, to give Mr. Debnam access to his property followed.

Mayor Davis announced that the Public Meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment would be held at the Jackson County Recreation Facility on
Old Cullowhee Mountain Road on December 20, 2004 at 7:00 p.m.  A discussion of possible dates for this public meeting followed.  Attorney Coward advised that the meeting should be held as soon as possible.  Notification of Zoning Board Members and having a quorum at the meeting were topics that were discussed.

Under Old Business, Councilman Iobst asked for a status report on the Amended Zoning Ordinances.  Mayor Davis reported that it had been recorded with Joe Hamilton, Registrar of Deeds, at a cost of three-hundred and fifty-three dollars ($353).  Ways to avoid future expensive recording fees were discussed.  When Mayor Davis receives the original recorded copy of the Amended Zoning Ordinances, he will deliver it to Councilman Iobst who will have twelve copies made.

Mayor Davis asked Councilwoman Burton if there had been any signs ordered? 
Burton responded that none had been requested.

The Stephens driveway turn-over issue had been tabled from the previous meeting.  Councilman Wallace moved to un-table this issue.  Councilman Iobst seconded the motion which passed with no opposition.  Councilman Wallace reminded the Council that if the Village takes over that portion of the road, it will be liable and responsible for its maintenance from now on.  The Council discussed the transfer of the Stephens driveway from the individual, Ron Stephens, to the Village.  Mayor Davis suggested that no action be taken on this item at this time, and Council members present agreed.  This item can be brought before the Council at a later date, if and when necessary.

Charlie Baude, a reporter from WRGC Radio was recognized.

Mayor Davis asked about the contact with Mark Teague, representative of the Forest Hills Estates home owners?  A discussion followed about water run-off from Forest Hills Estates that is flooding certain
South Country Club Drive residents' property when heavy rains occur.  Councilman Wallace reported that employees of Bear Track Paving, who recently did the road maintenance work in the Village, suggested that certain procedures be done to remedy the problem.  Mark Teague was asked if the Forest Hills Estates resident would help with the cost of constructing the necessary cisterns to prevent the flooding on the property below.  Mr. Teague could not speak for his neighbors, but indicated that he would talk with them about working with the Village to remedy the problem.  Mr. Teague will report to the Village Council after he has spoken with the Forest Hills Estates residents regarding this problem and solution.

Mayor Davis shared a "thank you" letter that was written to the campus utility personnel after they were so helpful during the hurricanes.  The letter was written by a Village resident.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
The big winds came and water too.
Trees were falling and power lines too.
Roads were blocked and no lights to see,
Total darkness encompassed thee.
You came out in the storm so cruel,
And risked your lives to provide for all.
We want you to know how much you mean
To all of us who can now see.
God Bless You, and much gratitude
From the residents of the
Village of Forest Hills.

Councilman Wallace suggested that we invite the utility crews to the Village Holiday Gala as an expression of our appreciation for their unselfish assistance during the storms.

Mayor Davis asked for any additional New Business.  Councilman Iobst stated that when he gets copies of the Amended Zoning Ordinances he will post one copy at the University Inn; one at the Jackson County Public Library; and one at the Hunter Memorial Library on the WCU Campus.  He will also distribute copies to Village officials and members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Councilman Iobst moved adjournment of the meeting and Councilwoman Burton seconded the motion.  Motion passed and meeting adjourned at approximately
8:40 p.m.

Respectfully submitted by:

Evelyn Rooks-Weir, Assistant Village Clerk