Commission to consider Black Bear rezoning Dec. 7

The White County Board of Commissioners has scheduled a final hearing on the rezoning of Black Bear Lodge, a substance-abuse and mental health treatment center near the corner of Helen Highway and Duncan Bridge Road.

The hearing will take place during the commission’s regular meeting at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, in the county administration building, 1235 Helen Highway. (However, there are a number of other items on the agenda before the hearing begins.)

The treatment center, operated by Foundations Recovery Network, has been rapidly expanding, both in the number of patients it serves and the number of workers it employs.

But its property, off Carolina Springs Road, comprises 31 parcels with various land-use designations: residential single-family; residential seasonal; and community commercial.

In the first rezoning request since White County passed a land-use ordinance, Black Bear wants to change all of its parcels to one designation: planned development district.

On Oct. 5, Black Bear representatives made their case to the White County Planning Commission. But some neighbors came forward and voiced complaints about the facility, including patients allegedly “escaping” and too much traffic on Carolina Springs Road, which is currently unpaved.

After hearing about these problems, the planning commission decided to table the request. They took it up again at their Nov. 2 meeting, where the neighbors indicated that their issues with Black Bear had been at least partially resolved.

The planning board then voted unanimously to accept Black Bear’s rezoning application. But the board is only able to make recommendations; final approval must come from the county commission.

At the Dec. 7 hearing, there will be time allotted for supporters and opponents of the proposal to both have their say. Those who cannot attend the hearing may submit comments in advance to county clerk Shanda Murphy. 

After the comments have been heard, the commission plans to vote on the rezoning request. But commission chairman Travis Turner said voting immediately after the hearing doesn’t really give board members a chance to consider the comments that have been made.

Turner said that in the future, he would prefer to hold public hearings during the work session, giving the commission a week to think about it before voting on the proposal at their regular meeting.                                                           

 

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