By Nathan Ham
The Watauga County Board of Education could find out as soon as this week what the Watauga County Superior Court will rule on the lawsuit filed by the Mast Farm Inn. The pre-trial hearing took place last Friday and according to Garrett Price, the Director of Communications for Watauga County Schools, the final opinion of the court hasn’t yet been filed, but “we expect it to be completed sometime this week.”
The lawsuit was filed on October 10 in Watauga County Superior Court and lists the plaintiffs as The Mast Farm Inn and owners Henri Deschamps, Marie-Henriette Deschamps and Danielle Deschamps as well as Deschamps Holdings, LLC and Deschamps Enterprises, LLC. Defendants in the cast are the Watauga County Board of Education, board chairman Ron Henries, vice-chair Brenda Reese, and board members Dr. Gary Childers, Steve Combs and Dr. Jay Fenwick.
According to Watauga County Superior Court documents, The Mast Farm Inn claims that the school board has “conducted meetings concerning the property acquisition in secret and has taken steps to silence citizens’ efforts to speak about the property acquisition at public comment periods in violation of Article I, Section 14 of the North Carolina Constitution.” The complaint continues that the board’s public comment policies are “arbitrary and capricious because they restrict citizens’ freedom of speech in violation o the North Carolina and the United States Constitutions,” and that any decisions made by the board should be declared null and void.
In a previous statement released by the Mast Farm Inn, they are very much in favor of building a new school, just not in the location where the county and school board currently favor.
“Valle Crucis is in the heart of the High Country, and in the zeal to replace the old Valle Crucis School the Board of Education is on the verge of damaging the essential character of the Nation’s first rural Historic District. Placing such a large and institutional building at the gateway of this rural community destroys the nature of this historic farming community, and that is one of the numerous reasons why the Valle Crucis Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously against amending the Valle Crucis ordinance to allow it. Despite repeated pleas to the school system to pursue other locations, they have chosen to press forward with this one plan. This plan, and the unsupported price for the flood plain property it will sit on, is a costly error for the taxpayers that will not solve the schools flooding problems. Additionally, this plan will cause the Mast Farm Inn and all of Valle Crucis irreparable harm. The Mast Farm Inn respects the work of the Watauga County Board of Education. The Mast Farm Inn is staunchly in favor of rebuilding or building a new school. And it is with great reluctance that they have had to appeal to the courts to help protect themselves, and Valle Crucis, and to urge Watauga County Officials to refrain from making this monumental mistake,” the statement read.
In a previous article by the High Country Press, Watauga County Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said that the lawsuit being filed would not change how the county is approaching deciding where to build a new Valle Crucis Schoo.
“The board of education will remain focused on making the best decision possible about the construction of a new school based on careful investigations and facts. The lawsuit will not impact their decision one way or another,” Elliott said.
The regularly scheduled board of education meeting was supposed to take place on Monday, November 4. However, the meeting was rescheduled until Thursday, November 7.