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Stay on the pulse of the decisions being made at meetings for Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commission, with reports from BPR’s Laura Hackett.

Last night at Commission: Nearly 400 acres of land protected through Buncombe bonds

A section of the Lake Eden Preserve, which received a conservation easement at February's meeting. Photo courtesy of Buncombe County.
A section of the Lake Eden Preserve, which received a conservation easement at February's meeting.

Buncombe County is close to its goal of protecting 20% – or about 85,000 acres – of county land by 2030, according to county bond manager Jill Carter.

At last night’s meeting, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted to protect two private properties, totaling 366 acres, through $400,000 of conservation easements.

Under a conservation easement, owners of the land are bound to keep it in natural condition without minimal disturbance. The voluntary form of deed-restriction designates land to be used for farming and forestry – rather than development – in perpetuity. In exchange, property owners receive funds and eligibility for some tax benefits.

The two conservation efforts discussed at the meeting were made possible by a $30 million Open Space Bond approved by voters in 2022.

The larger of the two properties, Lake Eden Preserve, spans 336 acres in Swannanoa. It is part of a larger parcel of land that includes the historic campus of Black Mountain College and the Lake Eden recreation area, where the Leaf Global Arts Festival takes place. About 200 acres of the historic parcel were not included in the easement.

“That area will be excluded to allow those activities to continue and some limited expansion of facilities as needed,” Michelle Pugliese, land protection director of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, explained.

Southern Appalachian Highlands spearheaded the purchase of the $1.5 million property – and most of the funding came from a combination of a private donor and the NC Land and Water Fund. Buncombe County officials agreed to pay the remaining $250,000 – 8% of the total cost.

The other property, Parham/Fortner Farm, is a 30 acre tract in Leicester with a price tag of $150,000 to protect. Parham/Fortner is a working hay and cattle farm with “really productive soils that are fantastic for farming,” Ariel Zijp, Buncombe’s Farmland Preservation Manager, said.

“It also has a great scenic benefit. It's on the South Turkey Creek Road, which is part of the Farm Heritage Trail,” Zijp continued. “So the community and tourists can drive across along the farm Heritage Trail to enjoy some of these protected lands.”

Commissioners unanimously voted to allocate the funds. Of the land, Commission Chair Brownie Newmann said, “these are beautiful pieces of property and I’m really happy to see they are gonna be preserved for our future.”

Other tidbits

  • Ten items unanimously passed on the consent agenda including approval of a new $660,000restroom facility at Enka Sports Park, a $639,890electrical upgrade to the Buncombe County Courthouse, and more than $200,000 inarchitectural and engineering fees for a new Emergency Medical Services base in Swannanoa.
  • Commissioners approved just more than $1 million in public safety funds to upgrade its 911 call center. The most costly upgrades include furniture and console upgrades, totaling over $600,000. 
  • After a second public hearing – in which no community members spoke – the county officially voted to return $400,000 in unused mortgage assistance to the federal government. 

Every first and third Tuesday, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meets at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville beginning at 5 p.m.
See the full recording and agenda of the Feb. 6 meeting.

Laura Hackett joined Blue Ridge Public Radio in June 2023. Originally from Florida, she moved to Asheville more than six years ago and in that time has worked as a writer, journalist, and content creator for organizations like AVLtoday, Mountain Xpress, and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has a degree in creative writing from Florida Southern College, and in 2023, she completed the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY's Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program. In her free time, she loves exploring the city by bike, testing out new restaurants, and hanging out with her dog Iroh at French Broad River Park.
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