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Avery County Commissioners Honor Deputy John Hicks and DARE Program, Discuss Eagles Nest Development

By Tim Gardner

Avery Sheriff’s Deputy John Hicks was honored for his work with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in the county’s schools to highlight the July 12 regular monthly meeting of the Avery County Commissioners.

Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye and Chief Deputy Lee Buchanan called Officer Hicks “a friend to all, who shares a Bible verse with others every day.”  They recognized Officer Hicks for his service to the county and, most notably, his devoted efforts in the revitalization of the DARE program in the county.

Officer Hicks raised funds to re-start DARE and also began teaching the program just as the pandemic began in early spring of 2020 and continued over the Internet Zoom site, Sheriff Frye shared.

Hicks, who serves as Student Resources Officer for Riverside and Crossnore elementary schools, noted that the DARE program runs for 10 weeks and its priority is educating the students about the importance of making the right choices in life, as well as how to effectively communicate in tough situations.

In May, fifth grade students at Riverside Elementary School became the first county student class to graduate from the DARE program in 20 years through the work of the Avery County Sheriff’s Department and Officer Hicks.

Buchanan noted that another Avery deputy is taking the DARE program training to help expand the program with the goal for every elementary school in the county to have access to it.

While approving subdivisions for the Eagles Nest Holdings, LLC in northern Avery County, the commissioners discussed the larger debate over land development in Avery County following their vote (Commissioner Wood Hall Young, Jr. did not attend the meeting) to approve Sunset Lots S93-S117 at Eagles Nest.

Commissioner Blake Vance said that while he has had county citizens approach him regarding their concerns about Eagles Nest, it is not the role of the commissioners to stand in the place of business, or individuals choosing to sell their property.  Vance said it is the role of the county commissioners to enforce codes and regulations and ensure all development is occurring according to laws.

Commissioner Dennis Aldridge added that county commissioners are responsible to “think 20 to 30 years down the road and understand” the immediate and long-lasting impacts of development.

Derek Buchanan, official representative of Eagles Nest, thanked the commissioners for their comments of appreciation. Board of Commissioners Chairperson Martha Hicks told Buchanan that she spoke with the county’s Board of Adjustment office regarding Buchanan’s concerns aired in previous meetings.  Hicks said the county’s Board of Adjustment officials were reluctant to approve Eagles Nest’s plans and stalled development due to minor technicalities.  Hicks noted that that it is important that all regulations are complied to, as it provides “a standard of quality in the county.”

The county commissioners will next meet on Monday, August 2, beginning at 3:30 p.m. in their board room in the County Administration Complex in Newland.