Preview: Buncombe commissioners study Pack Place lease and more

Pack Place (photo by Jake Frankel)
Pack Place (photo by Jake Frankel)

The Buncombe County Commissioners will convene Tuesday, Aug. 19, with three key issues on the agenda: gathering more information on the city of Asheville’s lease for Pack Place nonprofits, a zoning-ordinance change for planned unit developments (PUDs) and a loan that will help the Fairview Volunteer Fire Department.

The Pack Place lease arrangement may be the hot potato of the meeting.

Asheville officials, for the fiscal year that started July 1, voted unanimously July 22 to approve a controversial new arrangement that asks tenants to directly lease spaces in the building from the city itself. Pack Place — home to the Asheville Art Museum, Diana Wortham Threatre and Colburn Earth Science Museum — had previously been bulk-leased through the nonprofit Pack Place Education, Arts and Science Center Inc. This lease expired July 31, with the city having informed the nonprofit it was in breach of repair and maintenance obligations laid out in the lease.

The new leasing arrangement effectively shuts down the Pack Place nonprofit’s role. But how does if affect Buncombe County’s commitments?

The county has $409,000 budgeted for Pack Place this fiscal year. This amount includes $101,157 in operating costs and over $108,000 in a discretionary fund for “other expenses,” according to county staff reports. While those funds have not yet been released, the county is still currently paying $80,000 for Pack Place’s utility costs.

On Aug. 5, County Manager Wanda Greene asked for guidance on dispersal of these funds (not including the $80,000 for utilities, which is already going to the institution) and asked commissioners whether the funds should be dispersed at all.

For the Aug. 19 meeting, County Finance Director Donna Clark has pulled together documents indicating that Buncombe has allocated a total of $5.15 million into Pack Place since 2002.

And County Attorney Robert Deutsch gathered details of the lease between the city of Asheville and Pack Place.

In the new agreement, the Asheville Art Museum pays for its capital maintenance: increasing from $21,000 this year to $37,800 in year five, to be reevaluated every five years. It also has to pay $47,000 for the Diana Wortham Theatre to relocate its office space to the current location of the Colburn Science Museum, which is leaving Pack Place next June. The Asheville Art Museum also has to pay the cost of all repairs and maintenance —  up to $250,000 per year.

Both the Asheville Art Museum and Diana Wortham Theater have 30-year leases.

PUD review

On Aug. 19, commissioners will also consider several amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance regarding “planned unit developments:” PUDs are development with “more than two principal buildings or uses proposed to be constructed on a single lot, any building with a gross floor area of 35,000 square feet or more, or any residential complex of five or more units,” with variations on that definition depending on district and topography.

The ordinance is being amended to include the codicil that PUDs can also be “developments which contain structures which exceed the maximum height allowed within the zoning district; such planned unit developments are prohibited within the Steep Slope/High Elevation and Blue Ridge Parkway Overlay Districts.”

Further changes to the ordinance include changing the terms of land usage for PUDs, adding in language for waiving height limitations and parking requirements.

Money for Fairview Volunteer Fire

Finally, commissioners are set to approve a tax-exempt loan of $1,013,000 to the Fairview Volunteer Fire Department. The loan will finance the construction of a new fire station in Fletcher and refinance the current station on Old Fort Road and the department’s vehicles.

In other business, Commissioners will be deciding on appointments to the Historic Resources Commission (one vacancy for four applicants), and the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council (two vacancies for two applicants).

Commissioneres meet in room 326 at 200 College St., beginning at 4:30 p.m. For the full agenda, click here.

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