During the regular meeting Tuesday evening, May 13, Asheville City Council voted unanimously to uphold a previous recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission that allows development of a 12-story hotel complex at 15 Page Avenue.
An otherwise short agenda led into a lengthy quasi-judicial hearing regarding the development project opposed by attorney Gary Davis, who has an office in a nearby building. Davis argued that the hotel tower would place his office, which he chose because of the natural light, in a “deep, dark hole” of shadow and that the project did not comply with the city’s Unified Development Ordinance.
Central to Davis’ argument is the “open space” expectations for development as laid out in the UDO, which says that developments need a “substantial” (but undefined) amount of open space surrounding them to keep them from disrupting neighboring structures. A rooftop area of the proposed hotel, used for a bar and restaurant, was considered as part of the open space requirement.
Davis told Council members they would be setting a “dangerous precedent” by allowing this development to go through.
Councilman Cecil Bothwell said during the hearing that the current wording, requiring “substantial” open space around the building in order to allow a tower that occupies half of the lot, needs to be nailed down in the future. Bothwell called the wording “loosey-goosey.”
Gerald Green, former city planner in Asheville and current director of the Jackson County Planning Department, called the terms “significant” and “substantial” fodder for attorneys when he was called up as a witness for Davis.
Several witnesses were questioned and cross-examined by both sides for nearly three and a half hours before Council was asked to make a ruling.
Council voted unanimously to uphold the Planning and Zoning recommendation based on the reading of the UDO and the Downtown Master Plan, but this hearing may result in further scrutiny of those documents.
Bothwell suggested Council look more closely at the Downtown Master Plan and Councilman Jan Davis said he had some concerns about what the plan has done.
Findings of fact in the Cambria project hearing will likely come before Council at the next regular meeting for final approval.
Council also unanimously approved the 2014-15 Strategic Operating Plan during the meeting.