Parkside once again dodges vote

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.

Going paperless: The old affidavit for the Parkside project, approved in March by the county. Due to more changes in the project, a second, revised affidavit is no longer required.

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.

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9 thoughts on “Parkside once again dodges vote

  1. Dwayne

    Mr. Coleman,
    Isn’t it obvious that the average person who hears about this, does not appreciate the future centerpiece of downtown Asheville, where everyone gathers for music in the summers and in other ways has used that area deeded as a park, for the people? Do you want to be the guy known as the greedy developer who spoiled a big chunk of the park? You seem to think not many people care about this, except for activists. You’re wrong. How much money do you need, Mr. Coleman? It is astonishing to our family that someone who has benefitted so much from this County and City, and its people, would thumb your nose at us now. Seems like there are two kinds of wealthy families — those who benefit, and then give back (philanthropy), and those who only care about their financial profit. There are other kinds of wealth. The family who gave the land to the people in the first place, understood that I guess.

  2. Dwayne

    I guess you can argue that point, it’s a matter of opinion, as to whether or not a very large commercial building right in front of our crown jewel, City Hall, and facing its back to Eagle Street, spoils anything. We think it does. But then, we are long-time Shindig on the Green folks, who believe that area was deeded to the people, not meant to be sold on the cheap to a developer under suspicious circusmtances. Sorry Nathan, that whole deal stunk, no matter how you spin it, or whether you knew about it or not. Even the developer’s own rendering shows the impact on the space GIVEN by its owners to the County, with the intention that it be protected and serve the people of Asheville. Eagle Street will face loading docks and garbage dumpsters.

  3. Barry Summers

    “These changes have all been in response to concerns by local groups.” What changes does Mr. Coleman refer to?

    The first Parkside plan envisioned that the County would sell one more small triangle of land next to the larger “magnolia property”. When the controversy erupted, and the Conservancy said it blocked the “view corridor”, the County decided they couldn’t transfer any more land. Parkside was then adapted to the fact that they wouldn’t get this property. Mr. Coleman then claimed that in fact, this was done to accommodate the Conservancy’s concerns. It was not. It was done because he knew he wouldn’t get the land for the larger building, and the Conservancy said that the building STILL blocked the view corridor.

    Next, at the Planning and Zoning Commission, they pointed out that Parkside violated the Conservancy’s height guideline by 2 1/2 stories. They suggested that a compromise of taking off one story might get Parkside their approval. Mr. Coleman refused, saying he could not make a fair profit if he scaled it down. The P&Z;then refused to approve it. Later, he knocked off 2 stories, saying in so many words that he did it to get around the City Council, who was likely to reject Parkside. Again, he specifically refused to accommodate anyone’s “concerns”. He scaled back the building to squeeze under the Level II cap.

    Lastly, he was due to go before the County for the Owners Affidavit for his staging needs. The public was going to be allowed to comment on this, as stated by the County Commissioners. Mr. Coleman again altered his staging plans, sidestepping another public hearing that might make the elected officials turn him down.

    He hasn’t made changes to accomodate concerns, he has been forced to make changes because his proposal is wildly unpopular, and he’s avoiding the elected officials at both the City and County who might actually listen to their constituents.

  4. lokel

    “with its back to Eagle Street” ….

    Dwayne are you familiar with what is there now facing Eagle Street?

    In fact across the street from where the proposed building will be is a City owned “private” parking lot for City employees ONLY: and the lot isn’t open in the evening or on weekends when more parking should be available to those who come downtown.

    From the schematics I have seen, and the presentation that was given by the architect that I attended, the “back” of this building looks pretty much the same as the front or the side which will face the park.

    Who says which side is which, maybe the “FRONT” is the side that will face Marjorie Street and the City employee parking lot.

    And for the record, the Eagle/S. Market Street area is planning a renaissance of its own with the addition of a couple “hi-rises” too. So to imply that somehow the parkside building is an egregious slap in the face to “the community” South of the Park is purely fictional.

    If anything, the Parkside will offer an extension of the current “business district” of Eagle Street; after all, there are retail spaces available along that side of the building at street level.

  5. Dwayne

    You are disingenuous lokel. Most people know how the back of a large commercial bulding functions, especially anyone who has lived downtown. Wherever you put the ‘front door’, you obviously block off Eagle Street, as well as permanently destroy a beautiful view the park would otherwise have, right next to our crown jewel, the City building. This is apparent from the developer’s own drawings.

    As I understand it, this land was deeded by the private property owner, to be for the citizens of Asheville in perpetuity. The intent of the original deed was ignored by the County. Where are the property rights of the folks who made their decision to gift that land to the citizens?

    Since you mention it, the Parkside Building proposal is indeed “an egregious slap in the face” to the community of Asheville as a whole, in light of the tremendous opposition from the community and the obvious impacts this project would have on our new park, as well as the shady circumstances under which this deal arose. If most of the commissioners didn’t know the ramifications of what they were voting on, then it stinks, pure and simple.

    You ignore the impact of the size of this building on a public park for generations to come. That area was given by the property owners to be part of the public commons, our shared space. The Coleman family can add to their treasury in a thousand other places.

    Whatever it is going on between the County and the City, whatever grudges or philosophical differences, let’s hope they look at the bigger picture. We hear Nathan Ramsey is a good guy, overall. Let’s assume he didn’t ‘get’ how much the folks of this County would be getting gypped by selling that property to this guy at such a low price, and how upset people would be over the permanent loss of what ‘could have been’ for the park. This park is our generation’s chance to give something beautiful to the people of this County and their children’s children.

    So what is your dog in this fight lokel?

  6. William P Miller

    Coleman is a greedy developer period. And one person even says he is local. How evil is that? The idea of selling public land to a guy who wants to give transplanted NE’ers and Floridans a view of a new public park and our county court house is so wrong on the surface. And deep down. Let us first of all hold the Buncombe County perps accountable. Peterson and Stanley are the most culpable. And democrats to boot. DO NOT vote them back into office. In fact, VOTE OUT all the encumbants.

    Go to the meetings and loudly DEMAND that the county SEIZE this land back through eminent domain. Don’t give Coleman a penny. Just run him out and take back OUR land!

  7. Becky

    I suspect William P Miller is trolling. What is evil about being local William? You want people to go to meetings and make scenes, and Mr. Coleman to not get his money back? You’re not helping. I’ve not heard anyone suggest the business owner, Mr. Coleman, not get his investment back. Maybe not at the highest return possible, perhaps he is willing to reconsider his position on that (I imagine our former mayor Mr. Bissette’s legal fees for pushing this project forward are not insignificant), but a reasonable solution is possible.

  8. William P Miller

    Beckiy, being local is usually a big positive. I am local. I love Asheville. I hate to see anyone ruin it for profit. It is obvious to any objective citizen that Coleman is trying to build a place on county land and make a pile of money for it. Why would any lover of Asheville want a tall condo building right on Pack Square? Using our taxpayer renovated park as a front yard? Evil is too light of a word. Eminent domain. Do it County. Coleman is a traitor to Asheville.

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