The Carolina Bed & Breakfast is located on a quiet, residential street in the historic Montford District of Asheville, North Carolina, which is why I recently found myself seated on a hard plastic chair with a small group of people facing three more people seated at a long brown trestle table of the type so common in church halls. The cement block walls were painted beige and the linoleum tile floor was speckled with black. It was a meeting of the Montford Neighborhood Association.
James and I bought our Asheville Bed and Breakfast almost four years ago. It’s a lovely neighborhood, filled with pleasant people who walk their dogs and children with great regularity past our front porch. James makes a point of speaking to them as they pass. (Actually he talks to everyone whether they are passing our yard or we are walking past theirs.) I think this may have been why he was asked to join the Association as a Board Member at large. Unfortunately for the Association, James had just taken on the role of Treasurer in the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association so the Montford group turned to me in his stead.
It’s been a long time since I lived in the United States so I have never had the opportunity to participate in small town politics but I am a compulsive volunteer and this fact, coupled with the need to meet some people outside of our innkeeper profession, led me to say yes. So there I found myself back in the eerily familiar surroundings of a community hall, unchanged in essence from 30 years ago.
So what was it like? The meeting was small…very small. The Montford Music and Arts Festival had been held the previous weekend and the President had told all of the Board Members that they deserved a good rest. Apparently they took this to heart and only six of the ten board members showed up. Outside participation was similarly weak with just two extra people. According to the President attendance always eases off in the summer and the fact that there were no pressing issues also contributed.
The meeting began with a report from our CRO Officer. Since he was obviously a policeman I spent some time guessing what “CRO” might stand for. Crime report? Criminal Review? Actually we have our own “Community Resource Officer”. His job, as far as I could figure it out, is to provide the community with information and resources. I am pleased to report that there has been very little crime in our area lately. If people remember they are in a city and take the usual precautions (don’t leave valuables in sight in your car, take care late at night etc) then there should be little to worry about.
Next up was the treasurers report–we have enough money– and in spite of the rain, the festival brought in more than last year.
And now we come to the reason I was there: the nomination and election of the new board. This turned out to be a little problematic as the board can’t nominate itself and there were only two non-board members there. But one consented to nominate us, the other seconded it and they both voted us in.
Montford is a pretty special neighbourhood. It consists of over 300 acres with more than 600 structures built between 1890 to 1920. This makes it one of the more unique historic districts in the United States. However, in addition to homes, there are at least twelve B&B’s (guess which is best!), two restaurants, and a smattering of other small businesses, so there is an interesting push and pull between keeping the district true to its historic roots and not stifling growth and development. One of the aims of the Association is to provide maintenance and beautification which the city does not. But we always have to be aware of the requirements of the Historic Resources Commission of the Asheville City Planning Department. James and I have a lot of experience working with this group and I can understand the need (and benefit) to keeping the historic look and feel of the neighborhood but I have to say it does it does feel a bit ridiculous to have get a permit to replace a wooden in board on a park sign before we can repaint it.
Another ongoing concern are the plans to build a new highway connector on the outskirts of the area by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Last fall we all breathed a sigh of relief when it seems that the funding for the I-26 connector was of lowest priority and the project was dead. But now it seems there is a new funding formula and it may not be dead after all. The decision is still a number of years out and, from changes which have already been made to the proposed route, it seems that they are listening to the concerns of the community but…
I’m not exactly sure what they expect from me on the Board. I know that part of the reason for asking James, and then me, was the desire to include the voice of the B&B owners to the Association. I am interested to see what type of things they concern themselves with and, of course, there is always the thrill of being on the inside when changes occur. Whatever it is, I will be sure to let you know (whether you are interested or not!)