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The Town of Banner Elk held its monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 12.

BANNER ELK — The Banner Elk Town Council reconvened for its monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 12, in which the council voted to raise its rates on system development fees related to water and sewer connectivity.

Last month the town received a System Development Fee Report conducted by McGill Engineering Associates, which concluded that the current rates that town was charging for connections to its utility system were justifiable. The report also provided the council the maximum allowable rate that the town could charge for water and sewer.

According to the report, the town was recently charging a total development fee of $4,996, which included an impact fee of $3.08 per gallon for 400 gallons of water, a water system access fee of $700, a sewer impact fee of $4.16 for a 3/4-inch meter and a sewer system access fee of $1,400.

The maximum rate the town could have charged would have been a total development fee of $7,622 for a three-bedroom home, or a rate of $8.84 for water and $11.35 for sewer. However, Town Manager Rick Owen recommended the council consider a fee schedule at 66 percent of the maximum possible rates, which results in a total development fee of $5,030 for a three-bedroom home, or a rate of $5.83 for water and $7.49 for sewer.

“I would not recommend that we go to the maximum. A couple of reasons for that would be driving development in town; we don’t want to price ourselves out of the market,” Owen said.

Owen cited development fees in nearby towns. Boone has a combined development fee for water and sewer of $15.88, in Blowing Rock it’s $12.50 and in Beech Mountain it’s $9.58, according to Owen. Additionally, Owen said that the maximum charge is not needed due to the town receiving usage fees from the citizens.

“It may be in the community’s interest to get that money from current users as opposed to getting it from developers,” Owen said.

Banner Elk Mayor Brenda Lyerly backed the 66 percent rate, yet councilman Robert Tufts questioned the decision not to go higher than 66 percent due to upcoming projects.

“Banner Elk is a very desirable place for development, for people to come and build here. I don’t think going a little bit higher is necessarily going to scare off development, but I’m happy to go with the 66 (percent) if that’s the will of the council,” Tufts said.

Councilman Charles VonCanon put forward a motion to approve the 66 percent rate, and councilman David Lecka seconded it. The motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with an option to potentially raise the rate in the future.

The town then unanimously approved a motion to hold a public hearing next month for an annexation request for a property off of Balm Highway. The couple who owns the property owns several acres of land but is looking to have a portion of it annexed to provide town water and sewer to their home. The town also unanimously approved a motion to commit $13,500 for geotechnical services related to the analysis of a slope’s stability below the water tank at The Vistas at Banner Elk.

Owen recommended that the town not go through with any plans related to Halloween due to the lingering effects and presence of COVID-19. The town agreed after previously deciding not to sponsor any events related to the Fourth of July and other holidays. Bella’s Restaurant in Banner Elk, the Town of Newland and the Town of Beech Mountain are sponsoring Halloween events.

The town hall will be open as a voting site on Election Day, November 3. Town staff will have the day and likely the day after off. The Avery County pool will open as an early voting site on Oct. 15.

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