At the work session, they
• Reviewed maps of areas for potential annexation and discussed the annexation issue in general, such as state law, service requirements and Asheville’s rank compared to other cities that use annexation in North Carolina (14th).
During their regular meeting, Council members took the following actions
• Voted 5-1 to remove unopened rights of way and streets on the Montford Commons property (Council member Gordon Smith voted against the measure, and Council member Bill Russell was absent.)
• Removed the sale of Civic Center ice-rink equipment from the consent agenda in order to allow “further discussion,” such as a possible deal with the Asheville Hockey Association.
• Approved the Housing Authority’s pursuit of a $5 million grant that could pay for renovations or a new building at the Reid Community Center — or allow current tenants to buy the building and fix it up.
• Voted 4-2 in support of a Jan. 11 hearing about financing the construction of a hotel with a public parking deck at 51 Biltmore Ave. Council members Smith and Cecil Bothwell voted against it.
Twitter dispatches from the meeting by David Forbes
3:16 p.m. Council reviews map of potential areas for annexation in pre-meeting work session
3:18 p.m. Areas on map have reached urban level of development, have growth potential, meet some of NC requirements
3:20 p.m. Mayor Terry Bellamy asks if any of I-26 in city, Planner Blake Esselton: No, airport still not connected to city
3:22 p.m. Bellamy: We should tell staff what types of annexation we want to pursue, and why
3:25 p.m. Council balked at 700+ resident Royal Pines annexation earlier this year
3:26 p.m. Esselton: City can't take on expense to install sewer/water in newly annexed areas, so usually doesn't consider areas w/out
3:28 p.m. City Attorney Bob Oast: even though city doesn't directly provide sewer, has to provide in newly annexed areas
3:29 p.m. Bellamy: Woodfin's been very aggressive in annexation, doesn't usually provide sewer
3:33 p.m. Bellamy: Can we stop providing sewer to newly annexed areas?
Oast: Way I'm reading law, with involuntary annexations, would be tricky
3:35 p.m. Bellamy: Not sure why we build sewer lines, but not sidewalks Oast: We aren't required to, but Council could require it Bellamy: Let's
3:37 p.m. Bothwell wondering about annexation of commercial areas. Esselton: A lot of recent annexations are commercial, especially near Airport Road
3:39 p.m. Council member Gordon Smith: How do we rate alongside other cities in how aggressively we annex? Staff: Asheville used to be in Top 10 now No. 14
3:41 p.m. Bellamy: Have largest water system in WNC, but not allowed to charge different rates to outlying areas, need latitude to change that
3:43 p.m. Staff: Asheville not even in Top 20 cities for annexation recent years
3:44 p.m. Smith asking about possible changes to state annexation laws, Oast: only objectionable measure would be referendum requirement
3:46 p.m. Council member Esther Manheimer: [N.C.] Sen. [Tom] Apodaca wants forced annexation gone, he's now rules chair.
3:47 p.m. Manheimer: "We need to plan for a future without forced annexation"
3:49 p.m. Bellamy: If annexation goes, but we still can't use water to grow, community in trouble. Smith: They'll be draining our resources
3:51 p.m. Bellamy: "we need to be proactive with our legislators" on water issue
3:53 p.m. Smith: Want to hear from everyone: how aggressive are we going to be?
3:55 p.m. Davis: Feel Apodaca "doesn't want to cut the legs from under the biggest city in his district"
3:56 p.m. Davis: Apodaca has to understand that Asheville's been denied this tool for a while and if annexation goes, need to have way to grow
3:57 p.m. Davis: right now don't see any areas immediately worth risk of annexation given legislative uncertainty
3:58 p.m. Bothwell: "need to find ways to tax people from outside city for being here" wants to look at incentives for city residents
3:59 p.m. Bothwell, joking: "I don't know, maybe we should collar them, steal their wallets"
4:01 p.m. Manheimer doesn't want to go forward with major annexation efforts: "It's easier to negotiate with someone when you're not pissing them off"
4:02 p.m. Bothwell: Not that we shouldn't talk to Apodaca, but if the law's going to change, "this is our only chance" for annexations
4:03 p.m. Bellamy: There will be pro-annexation lobbying, need to take position. Davis: that's premature
4:04 p.m. City Manager Gary Jackson: Off the record, League of Municipality representatives urging caution to towns, cities
4:07 p.m. Jackson: "Unique" annexations might be OK, should avoid "poster-child, Fayetteville-style, 40-square-mile annexations"
4:09 p.m. Manheimer: Shouldn't wait till bill drafts to come out, need to be proactive in negotiations
4:14 p.m. To clarify, Jackson was quoting off-the-record statements in public chambers, he didn't talk off the record to me
4:15 p.m. Bellamy: City lost out in water agreement fight because "others were unified" while Council was not
4:17 p.m. Manheimer: Whole negotiation process "is like herding cats"
4:19 p.m. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman and Council member Bill Russell (who opposes forced annexation) absent from work session
4:21 p.m. At Council's direction, staff will "wait and see" on any new annexations for the next few months
4:22 p.m. Work session adjourned
4:29 p.m. Thank you everyone sending feedback, discussion via Regular meeting starts at 5 p.m.
5:16 p.m. City recognizes engineering intern from Saumier, France, & AFD Assistant Chief Kelly Hines certified as 1 of 20 accredited Fire Officers in world
5:17 p.m. Council now recognizing Biltmore Farms donation of an easement to Dingle Creek wetlands project
5:22 p.m. Also: Jan. 10-17 designated M.L. King Jr week in Asheville
5:23 p.m. Correction: The intern is from Saumur, France, one of Asheville's sister cities
5:27 p.m. Sale of Civic Center ice rink and equipment pulled from consent agenda for further discussion
5:29 p.m. Hutch Kearns, head of Asheville Hockey League, glad Council is pulling matter, tells them he looks forward to discussion of rink's future
5:31 p.m. Vote to close unopened rights of way and city streets within proposed Montford Commons area passes 5-1, Smith against
5:32 p.m. Davis praising hockey league, noting this move "comes as kind of a surprise" but Civic Center isn't best arena for it
5:33 p.m. Davis: this is an opportunity to find a better spot for ice & hockey facilities, looks forward to partnerships
5:35 p.m. Council agrees to pull ice rink equipment sale for future consideration
5:36 p.m. Civic Center Director Sam Powers: Will know more about Civic Center renovations in Jan., can plan better then
5:38 p.m. Oast: Looking into finding way to donate equipment to an organization
5:42 p.m. Jackson: We'll come back to you with options, way sale of equipment involved in Civic Center finances/renovation
5:45 p.m. Council will receive more information, make decision on ice rink equipment in next 4 months
5:48 p.m. Presentation on Crossroads publication focusing on "complicated, painful" '70s urban renewal in Asheville
5:52 p.m. Dwight Mullen, UNCA: "Urban renewal has not gone away, impacts all too painful" destroyed/damaged minority neighborhoods
5:54 p.m. Mullen offering help of UNCA, students in city projects to help address damage, effects
5:55 p.m. Asheville GO head/Burton St Assoc head DeWayne Barton: Investment in restoring infrastructure a must, "a lot of people hurting"
5:58 p.m. Bellamy: I look forward to collaborations, should contact Jackson to discuss further
5:59 p.m. Parks and Recreation director Roderick Simmons updating Council on Reid Center
6:01 p.m. Staff: Due to age, state of facilities value estimated at $254,000, which might not cover cost of demolition
6:02 p.m. David Nash of Housing Authority: Current tenants like Asheville GO, authority, other nonprofits want to continue using space
6:04 p.m. Nash: An available HUD grant of up to $5 million might allow tenants to purchase building, renovate or build new facility
6:06 p.m. Nash: We'd need an option to purchase the property to pursue grant
6:07 p.m. Nash: we'll know if we've got grant within 4-5 months
6:08 p.m. Nash: So far, community input has been positive
6:10 p.m. Newman supports Housing Authority pursuing grant, Smith seconds
6:11 p.m. Motion to back Housing Authority in pursuing grant passes unanimously
6:12 p.m. Russell absent tonight due to family obligation
6:20 p.m. Council considering agreement with 4 major organizations who do utility cuts (MSD, PSNC, Water Dept, Stormwater) to set up fund for repairs
6:21 p.m. Council taking up update on 51 Biltmore hotel/retail/parking deck project
6:21 p.m. Motion to set up fund passes 6-0
6:23 p.m. City Admin Director Lauren Bradley: Project helps with density, growth downtown. 115-unit hotel would be done by private company.
6:25 p.m. Parking garage 5 1/2 levels, 412 spaces. Project would be located next to Double Decker bus coffee shop on Biltmore
6:26 p.m. Bradley: McKibben hotel group has financing for hotel, city studies indicate need for 426 to 622 more parking spaces in area
6:28 p.m. Bradley: If private part doesn't move forward, staff believes city can find another company. Parking needed regardless
6:29 p.m. Debt financing for project ($15.5 mil) will be paid for out of parking fees from deck, parking enterprise fund
6:32 p.m. Newman makes motion to approve public hearing for financing, lease space for construction
6:33 p.m. Bothwell: Wants to see transit options instead of more parking spaces, for $14 million we could build 4-mile trolley system
6:34 p.m. Transport Director Ken Putnam: We didn't study those options, just checked validity of original study
6:35 p.m. Bothwell: Why is the per-acre cost so much? Cathy Ball: Alternatives to purchasing land weren't feasible for city
6:36 p.m. Ball: This deal better than lease, a rare opportunity to have this much connected space in downtown
6:39 p.m. Bothwell: "Seems to me we're acting on plan developed in different economic times." Facing peak oil, should consider trolleys, shuttles
6:41 p.m. Smith: Parking is part of it, "but we can't just do parking and solve this problem"
6:41 p.m. Smith: Problem is convenience and mobility, more than one solution, we do need a multi-tiered approach.
6:44 p.m. Brad Purchett, one of analysts who did study: we considered parking demand for existing land uses in area, nearby areas
6:45 p.m. Smith: "Vast majority of time there's plenty of parking" concerned too many spaces will spur more car use
6:45 p.m. Smith: So it's not based on how transit might change? Purchett: It's based on existing land use
6:47 p.m. Purchett: At peak times, hard to find parking on Biltmore, you don't provide parking, people won't come downtown
6:48 p.m. Purchett: Alternate transit can help some, but there's significant demand, and have to figure operation costs
6:50 p.m. Smith: how does parking fit into smart growth? Purchett: Setting a parking policy that realizes there's a cost to it
6:52 p.m. Newman: Don't think we've ever developed detailed plan for routes, rates, etc. for downtown shuttle
6:54 p.m. Smith: We're talking about $15 million here, that's money we can't spend on sidewalks or other improvements
6:55 p.m. Davis: First Presbyterian Church, others have expressed desire to use spaces in new deck, so there is demand
6:56 p.m. Newman: "If we're going to build one more project in the near future, this is it. In right part of downtown"
6:58 p.m. Newman: Some people laugh at trolley systems, but used by cities smaller than Asheville, should look at it
6:59 p.m. 51 Biltmore resolutions on Jan. 11 financing hearing, space for construction pass 4-2, Smith and Bothwell against
7:04 p.m. Oast now reviewing Council's state legislative priorities
7:08 p.m. Matters include Woodfin-Asheville boundary in UNCA area, provision for using water service in annexation
7:10 p.m. Oast also points to matters like privatizing ABC system, consolidating Asheville-Buncombe school systems as other areas of interest
7:15 p.m. Newman moves to back Woodfin boundary, local net, water annexation, energy financing legislation, withdraws at Bellamy's behest
7:16 p.m. Bellamy doesn't think public had enough notice: "we usually get 1-2 people from public to speak on this." Newman: "It's on the agenda"
7:18 p.m. City unanimously extends date for enactment of sustainable development incentives so Sustainability Committee can suggest revisions
7:20 p.m. Council discussing school board reappointments
7:21 p.m. Smith: Given possibility of state forcing consolidation, might want to open process. Bellamy, Newman: experience, continuity important
7:26 p.m. Kyle Ross: Problems with APD, DA, have 35-40 minutes. Since only allowed 3, will be here for next few Council meetings too
7:27 p.m. As Ross talks about an officer dismissed in past, Bellamy notes that Council can't respond about personnel issues
7:29 p.m. Ross feels "top-level officials are breaking the law" causes recruitment problems, time runs out. Bellamy recommends she talk to City Mgr
7:31 p.m. Public comment over, Council goes into closed session to discuss legal matters
7:32 p.m. Clarification in school board vote: Council reappointed Precious Folston, Jacquelyn Hallum to another term
7:33 p.m. Council will take no action, adjourn directly after closed session
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