Once again, the controversial Parkside condominium project has avoided the need for local-government approval. On June 24, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners had been scheduled to consider whether to issue an affidavit enabling the project to proceed adjacent to county property. If approved, that would have been the last step before the project advanced to the city’s Technical Review Committee.
But thanks to further changes made by developer Stewart Coleman on June 13, that affidavit is no longer needed.
“The city has indicated to us that now, no owner’s affidavit is required,” Assistant County Attorney Michael Frue told Xpress. “A lot of things are up in the air.”
City Manager Gary Jackson confirmed that the city “has received a new application. … We’ve sent it out to the departments, and it’s currently under review. We anticipate it will go before TRC in the near future.”
At press time, city planning staff could not be reached for comment.
This marks the second time in less than a month that Coleman has revised the project—each time in ways that avoided its having to face a vote by an elected body. Earlier in June, the developer reduced the height of the project, thus avoiding a review by the Asheville City Council. This time, the change consisted of canceling plans to use adjacent county property for staging construction equipment. As a result, the city notified the county that their approval is no longer needed, said Frue.
City Council has unanimously condemned the county’s 2006 sale of a piece of downtown parkland to Coleman for $322,000. The sale was only briefly discussed, and Vice Chair David Gantt has asserted that he wasn’t clear about the details of the transaction at the time of the vote.
Nonetheless, the commissioners still plan to discuss the project on June 24, according to board Chair Nathan Ramsey. “It should still be on the agenda; it’s my personal feeling that we need to discuss our options,” he told Xpress. “There’s definitely going to be some discussion about how we can resolve this in a better way.”
Among the ideas that have been raised are buying back the land or trading other property for it.
At the commissioners’ June 3 meeting, community activists called on the board to use any legal means to stop the project from going forward and reclaim the parkland. One of those activists, Gordon Smith, has condemned the new move on his blog, Scrutiny Hooligans.
“Mr. Coleman intends to build his condominium on our public park or to extort the City and County into buying him out at a profit or offering up their most valuable land for a hostage ‘swap,’” he wrote on June 13. “The City made it clear that they want Mr. Coleman to team with the County to find a solution. Instead he has subverted the County and the citizenry.”
Coleman, however, defended the changes. “Anytime you’re going forward with a project of any kind, you’re going to make changes to satisfy public outcry and meet guidelines,” he told Xpress. “First they [the Pack Square Conservancy and other groups] weren’t happy with the height. Then they had to complain about something, so they were unhappy that we would use some part of parkland for staging. These changes have all been in response to concerns by local groups. I wonder what they’ll complain about next?”
To view documents relating to the Parkside controversy, go to www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles.