The long goodbye

Efforts to end the long-running controversy surrounding Greenlife Grocery and its Maxwell Street neighbors have been plagued by repeated fits and starts and false hopes of a final resolution. But now that Superior Court has dismissed Maxwell Street resident Reid Thompson‘s lawsuit against the city and Greenlife has come up with a plan to take the tractor-trailers off Maxwell Street, it appears that an end really may be in sight.

Rubbing elbows: Reid Thompson wants all of Greenlife’s unloading moved to the side of the building opposite from Maxwell Street, where he owns six houses. Photo byjodi ford

On Nov. 27, acting Planning Director Shannon Tuch presented City Council with preliminary plans (received mere hours before) for an extensive redesign of the Greenlife site aimed at resolving key points of contention once and for all. Tuch described three phases of construction that would ultimately add a two-story parking deck and expand the store. The first phase, though, would focus more narrowly on building a new loading dock for tractor-trailers and reconfiguring the parking-lot entrances and traffic flow. The plans call for a 20-foot buffer between the dock and Maxwell, and for eliminating tractor-trailer traffic on the little residential street. (Smaller delivery trucks would continue to use their current unloading area near the corner of Maxwell and Marcellus streets, but they would travel on only a limited stretch of Maxwell.)

Council members seemed encouraged by the news. “This is the best effort we’ve had yet to fix the problems there,” Carl Mumpower declared. And Brownie Newman expressed a hope “for more forward motion.”

A load off: John Swann hopes that Greenlife’s latest proposal, which will take tractor-trailers off Maxwell Street, will end the controversy.

Since then, however, there’d been little sign of that. For starters, the plan would require moving a house immediately north of the Greenlife parking lot, which the grocery now leases from Merrimon Avenue Investments, a company owned by Asheville residents James and Pam Turner. The Turners, of course, would have to sign off on any redesign before plans could be officially submitted to the city for review. At first, they were out of the country, Greenlife co-owner John Swann explains. And a meeting planned for the week before Christmas had to be canceled due to a family funeral. Swann says he’s hoping to set up a meeting sometime in January.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 21, Judge Ronald K. Payne dismissed the lone remaining element of Thompson’s lawsuit against the city on the grounds that Thompson had failed to “exhaust his administrative remedies” because he hadn’t filed an appeal with the Board of Adjustment in a timely manner. At press time Thompson had not yet decided whether he would appeal. But Joe Minicozzi, a certified planner who’s been a paid consultant to Thompson since February 2005, called the judge’s ruling “bewildering,” since Thompson’s last petition was aimed narrowly at forcing the city to hold a UDO-required hearing, which should have occurred before Thompson filed his Board of Adjustment appeal. (Visit www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles to view documents from the case.)

CAN of worms

Inappropriate behavior?

Reid Thompson has long been an active, vocal critic of the city of Asheville. He has denounced the Planning Department for granting Greenlife Grocery a permit and for failing to issue notices of violation of Unified Development Ordinance requirements. He has voiced exasperation over the Police Department’s handling of traffic and parking problems on Maxwell Street. Thompson has also sued the city over these issues. But has his behavior crossed the line from expressing an honest beef and exercising his constitutional rights to something improper?

Persona non grata?: The city of Asheville has circulated a mugshot of Reid Thompson to alert employees to his presence. Photo by jodi ford

Apparently the city thinks so. On Nov. 6, City Manager Gary Jackson, citing Thompson’s “continued inappropriate behavior,” prohibited him from entering city-owned buildings without prior notice and the “presence of an escort.” Thompson’s attorney, Paul Bidwell, had received a letter from City Attorney Bob Oast several weeks earlier that described Thompson’s behavior as including “yelling, cursing and—on one occasion—following a staff member down the street.”

On Bidwell’s advice, Thompson has declined to speak about the city’s decision, and Bidwell himself wouldn’t say much, noting that he had referred the matter to another lawyer. “But I will say that it once again raises questions about my client being denied due process.”

Indeed, Thompson has long held that the city and its staff are the ones acting inappropriately. In Thompson’s lawsuit against Asheville and Greenlife, filed May 18, 2007, Bidwell charged that the city had violated Thompson’s Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights, both by “allowing to persist a private nuisance to the injury of [Thompson]” and also by “frequent acts of harassment by city of Asheville police officers, which include but are not necessarily limited to entrapment, false arrest and imprisonment.”

Under the city’s workplace-violence policy, the police chief (or his designee) sits on the Threat Assessment Task Force, which makes decisions such as the one to limit Thompson’s access to city buildings. (The city attorney, human-resources director and risk manager—or their designees—and a contracted physician also serve on the task force.)

Asked about the decision concerning Thompson and the Police Department’s interactions with him, Asheville police Chief William Hogan said he couldn’t comment in light of Thompson’s lawsuit against the city. But Hogan did note that arrests are public record.

Under arrest

It turns out that Thompson has a lengthy arrest record in Buncombe County. Between 1994 and 2001, he pleaded guilty to having an open bottle of alcohol in the passenger area of a car, to resisting a public officer, to possessing drug paraphernalia, and to marijuana possession.

Then, beginning in 2003, Thompson had a series of arrests for which the charges were later dismissed: harassing phone call, simple assault, failure to wear a seat belt while driving, and “reckless driving/wanton disregard.” There were also two charges filed in 2004 that weren’t dismissed: second-degree trespass and assault with a deadly weapon. In both cases, the complainant was Greenlife co-owner John Swann (who also declined to comment). When they went to trial, Thompson was found not guilty of assault but guilty of trespass.

According to a PowerPoint presentation that Thompson made about the trespass incident, he had called the police about a confrontation with Swann. When the officer arrived, he ignored Thompson while listening to Swann in the Greenlife parking lot (from which Thompson had previously been banned). The photographs that Thompson took while this was happening seem to back up his claim that he entered the parking lot only to approach the officer.

Brandee Boggs, Thomspon’s Maxwell Street neighbor, says she’s witnessed police unresponsiveness to Thompson. On one occasion, she recalls them not coming for hours after Thompson had called about an illegally parked truck but then arriving almost immediately after she called.

“The fact that the police have chosen to charge Mr. Thompson with various criminal offenses is absolutely no proof of any wrongdoing,” says Bidwell, the attorney. “If anything, the ‘not guilty’ verdict and dismissals give some weight to Mr. Thompson’s claims that his rights are being violated.”

Appropriate authority

Only one sentence in the city’s workplace-violence policy specifically refers to a threat from someone who isn’t a city employee. “Where violence is threatened or inflicted by a nonemployee,” it reads, “the appropriate authority will be notified, and legal action will be taken as necessary.”

Assistant City Manager Jeff Richardson explained that while he couldn’t talk about the specifics of any particular case, “the appropriate authority” could simply refer to the individual in question or his attorney.

Richardson emphasized that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to respond to employees’ fears about the potential for violence when individuals display “erratic behavior.” He also pointed out that a city resident who’s being asked to give prior notice before entering city property still has access to city services. In fact, said Richardson, it could result in better service, since any documents the person needed would have been prepared in advance.

And when asked why the city wouldn’t simply seek a restraining order in such situations, Richardson said that could result in a blanket ban from all city facilities. It could also do greater harm to their reputation, said Richardson, since the restraining order would be a matter of public record.

But a restraining order, which typically lasts only a short period of time, would also give the defendant a chance for a hearing before a judge if the city later requested an extension of the order. That’s what happened, for instance, in an earlier case involving the city’s Threat Assessment Task Force: “City of Asheville vs. Nancy Tabel” in the fall of 2005. And the order that Judge Gary Cash signed in that case did not impose a blanket ban on entering city facilities: “The Respondent may visit City Hall upon giving the Human Resources Director advanced notice and with a confirmed appointment,” wrote Cash.

So why not follow the same procedure in Thompson’s case?

“The city didn’t feel we needed a restraining order against Reid,” Assistant City Attorney Curtis Euler explained. “We just decided not to go that route.”

But Chapel Hill attorney John Gresham, whom Thompson hired specifically to look into the matter, suggested a different explanation of the city’s behavior in a Dec. 21 letter to Oast, the city attorney. “At this point,” wrote Gresham, “it appears that the actions undertaken by the city were in retaliation for Mr. Thompson exercising his right to petition the government under both the United States and North Carolina constitutions.”

 

Thompson, who lives on Maxwell Street and owns five rental properties there, wants Greenlife’s loading docks moved to the opposite side of the building, where he says they should have been all along. He’s found support from the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods, which holds that the grocery violates the city’s United Development Ordinance in several ways. Permitting Greenlife, says CAN, is a flagrant example of how planning staff has repeatedly overstepped its authority by illegally granting administrative variances. (See “The (Non)enforcers,” July 12, 2006 Xpress.) The neighborhood group had taken those positions long before Minicozzi became its president early last year.

Indeed, it was largely under pressure from CAN that City Council hired David Owens of the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill to examine the permitting process for Greenlife and two other controversial projects: Staples and Prudential Realty. In the report he submitted to Council in the summer of 2006, Owens noted that many North Carolina cities are struggling with similar development issues and that Asheville had done a better job than most. He also wrote: “In recent years the trend of many retailers has been to move to warehouse-sized stores in outlying areas, leaving older neighborhoods (particularly those with low and moderate income levels) without convenient access to grocery stores. Fitting economically viable grocery stores into existing neighborhoods … is challenging for the city, retailers and neighbors.”

But in his interpretation of the UDO, Owens largely agreed with CAN, finding that the Planning Department had erred on several points, particularly with regard to Greenlife’s loading dock for large trucks, which he described as a valiant effort “to put 15 pounds in a five-pound bag.”

After City Council had accepted Owens’ report without challenge, many expected that staff would soon begin issuing notices of violation, as spelled out in the UDO’s enforcement provisions. “Whenever any City official charged with the duty of enforcing regulations in this chapter has reasonable cause to believe that a person is violating any of the provisions of this chapter or any permit, plan, order, or condition issued pursuant to this chapter, that official shall notify that person of the violation,” the law states.

Yet the notices didn’t come—not even after a majority of Council members had signaled that they’d lost confidence in Planning Director Scott Shuford, due largely to his handling of this issue. Shuford subsequently resigned, but Tuch and City Attorney Bob Oast have continued to maintain that Greenlife is not in violation of the UDO. (See box, “Denial.”) Newman, meanwhile, says there are limits to what state law allows City Council to do. According to his understanding, Council can’t instruct staff to issue a notice of violation. Instead, he says, Council members’ focus has been on working toward a negotiated solution.

See you in court

Frustrated, Thompson eventually resorted to the courts. On May 18, 2007, he filed a lawsuit against Asheville and Greenlife in N.C. Superior Court. Among other things, the suit asked the court to overrule the city and the Board of Adjustment and to declare Greenlife in violation of the UDO. It also sought to compel the city and Greenlife to comply with the UDO, and charged that the city had violated Thompson’s civil rights through “entrapment, false arrest and imprisonment.” (The city, meanwhile, has barred Thompson from entering city buildings without prior notice and an escort—see sidebar, “Inappropriate Behavior?”) In addition, the lawsuit asked for recovery of Thompson’s attorney fees and damages “in excess of $10,000.”

On Sept. 11, Judge Payne ruled that the Board of Adjustment hadn’t erred in refusing to hear Thompson’s appeal, because he’d waited too long to file it. (According to the UDO, such appeals must be made “no later than 30 days after the date of the contested action.”) At that point Thompson filed his more narrowly aimed petition against the city, which was dismissed on Dec. 21.

The contention that Thompson has been tardy in seeking redress lies at the heart of both the city’s legal defense and its continued insistence that Greenlife isn’t violating the UDO. “Once the city issues a zoning permit to a business, how long does a third party have to challenge the validity of the permit?” wonders Assistant City Attorney Curtis Euler. “By issuing a zoning permit, the city is stating that the business complies with the zoning laws at the time of issuance. If a zoning permit was issued three years ago, can someone try to declare the zoning permit invalid three years later?”

In its motions for dismissal, the city has pointed out that Thompson had been visiting City Hall to make copies of related documents for more than a year before filing an appeal on April 28, 2005. On Feb. 3, 2005, the city notes, Thompson made copies of the approved driveway modifications that were the subject of his subsequent Board of Adjustment appeal. Therefore, the argument goes, he waited far more than 30 days to take action. (Thompson, however, maintains that the clock shouldn’t have started ticking until March 30, when Shuford explicitly told Thompson in an e-mail that staff had made a decision on the matter. Before that moment, he argues, he had no way of knowing that a decision had been made that he could appeal.)

“Confounding and contradictory”

For his part, John Swann says he’s frustrated about the way his business has been portrayed. “It becomes a little burdensome from our point of view to be vilified when we have done nothing illegal, done nothing that the city has not given us their blessings on,” he says. “Nothing about this has been timely from the other side. They want to create all this drama and point all these fingers, but where were they when we were designing and building this thing? We weren’t hiding anything from anybody.”

Calling the UDO “confounding and contradictory,” Swann says that as far as he can tell, the only clear mistake the city made was in not holding a hearing on reconfiguration of the parking lot after the store had opened. But because the whole purpose was to enable big trucks to enter from Merrimon and thereby lessen the impact on Maxwell Street, Swann says he’s confident the Board of Adjustment would have granted the variance anyway.

And the $40,000 Greenlife spent widening its driveways is only one of several significant outlays the store has made to lessen its impact on its Maxwell neighbors, Swann reports. They’ve also replaced big trash bins with compactors shielded with special custom panels. And they’ve installed sound insulation and extra fencing. All told, he says, the store has spent more than $100,000 on these efforts.

Meanwhile, Swann bristles at suggestions that Greenlife has been disingenuous with City Council and hasn’t been serious enough about finding a long-term remedy. When Greenlife was named a co-defendant in Thompson’s lawsuit, Swann and his partner, Chuck Pruett, wanted “clarity from a judge” before proceeding, says Swann. “It made no sense moving ahead with the redesign if a court order was going to come down in a month or two or six later saying we had to change it back to the way it was.”

Another setback was Pruett’s preoccupation with a new 30,000-square-foot store the company was preparing to open in Chattanooga, notes Swann. And when they hired an architect, they wanted to take the time to make sure they got it right: “It makes no sense to do it if it doesn’t fit into our longer range plans, which are to expand the store and expand parking. … We don’t want to pay several hundred thousand dollars [for the new loading dock] and then come back a year later and say, golly, if we just hadn’t put it there, we could have done this.” More recently, the partners say they’ve been waiting to get approval from their landlord so they can submit the plans for review.

Endgame

Citizen barred by the city: In a Nov. 6, 2007, letter, City Manager Gary Jackson informed Thompson that due to “continued inappropriate behavior and comments to City staff,” he was prohibited from entering city buildings without an appointment and an escort.

Swann feels the new design solves the main points of contention by taking the tractor-trailers off Maxwell and creating a 20-foot buffer between those docks and the street. And though the loading dock for small trucks would remain on the Maxwell side, they would use only the portion of the street that abuts Greenlife.

Still, the plan seems destined to get mixed reactions from neighboring property owners during the review process. The company that owns Greenlife’s site also owns the four houses north of it on the eastern side of Maxwell (including the one that would have to be moved), so there aren’t likely to be any complaints from that side.

And across the street, where Maxwell bends from a north/south to a northeast/southwest orientation, Sandra Sparrow owns an old house with a large side yard that’s used as a parking lot. She runs her eponymous property-management firm out of building and also rents out part of it as office suites. But Sparrow takes issue with Thompson’s claims that Greenlife has hurt property values on the street and made it harder to find tenants. “The store has really enhanced the neighborhood. I know that because of the business I’m in,” she explains. “People always say, ‘You’ve got the greatest place. You can just walk across the street to Greenlife.’”

Sparrow does think the store needs to get the tractor-trailers off the street. But given a brief description of Greenlife’s plan, she said she was “fine” with it.

Moving toward Broadway, however, the picture shifts somewhat. The next three houses (at 24, 28 and 32 Maxwell) all belong to Thompson. And although Brandee Boggs, who owns the next house (at 20 Maxwell), says she shops at Greenlife every day and that the store is “better than 99 out of 100 things that could go there,” she’s unhappy about the traffic it generates. The cars Boggs and her housemates park out front are frequently hit by vehicles on the street, she says. And her front porch looks right at the store’s small loading dock and trash compactors. At times, the smell is “horrible,” says Boggs.

Boggs dismisses Greenlife’s new plan as a “Band-Aid.” She would prefer to have all loading and unloading moved to the other side of the building. Thompson (who also owns 17 Maxwell, which sits across Marcellus from Greenlife, as well as two other houses farther down on Maxwell) shares that view. So does Joe Minicozzi, who formerly worked as a city planner in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Moving all the loading activity, he says, “would eliminate the incompatibility of commercial-truck delivery with the residential street. The building and distance separation from the residences would buffer the noise and smell. Additionally, the other side of the building has more room for storage and staging, and it is accessed by commercial streets, which is what the law requires.”

Swann, however, says the suggestion is impractical for a number of reasons. The steep grade on that side and the location of the store’s refrigeration rack and electrical service would make building a dock there “prohibitively expensive.” It would also interfere with future plans for a two-story parking deck on what’s now a gravel lot on that side of the building.

“How exactly are we supposed to get a truck to this dock?” wonders Swann. If tractor-trailers came from the Merrimon side, the approach would eliminate much of the store’s current core parking, he says. And if tractor-trailers entered from Marcellus, the future residents of apartments under construction there probably wouldn’t be happy about it. “All it does is move the problem to the other side of the building.”

[Freelance writer and translator Jonathan Barnard lives in West Asheville.]


Denial

Although the city has explained in detail why it believes it would be procedurally inappropriate for the court to re-examine the permitting process, little ink has been spilled actually defending Asheville’s interpretation of the Unified Development Ordinance. In Reid Thompson‘s May 18, 2007 suit, he repeatedly cites the law and explains why Greenlife appears to be violating it. Each time, the city’s motion to dismiss simply responds, “The allegations of [the relevant paragraph] are denied.” For instance, paragraphs 22 and 23 of Thompson’s petition read:

“Section 7-11(g)(1) of the UDO provides that driveways from two-way public streets into nonresidential projects be between twenty four (24) feet and thirty-six (36) feet wide.

“The driveway opening on Maxwell Street is approximately eighty (80) feet wide at the sidewalk and forty-nine (49) feet curb to curb.”

In its motion to dismiss, the city responds:

“The City admits that the language of City Code Section 7-11-1 ‘Parking, loading and access standards’ speaks for itself. Except as admitted, the remaining allegations of Paragraph 22 are denied.

“The allegations of Paragraph 23 are denied.”

“It’s not rocket science,” says Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods President Joe Minicozzi, who’s also a paid consultant to Thompson. “Just take out a tape measure. … Reid shouldn’t be forced to sue the city to get it to follow its own laws.”

 

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66 thoughts on “The long goodbye

  1. lokel

    What does Mr. Thompsons’ past “criminal record” have to do with anything?

    The City is wrong in this case and it’s obvious that the City (or the Mountain Xpress), is trying to belittle Thompsons’ efforts to force the City to follow the laws and the directives of the UDO in this case.

    Perhaps Mr. Swann from “GREEN”life has his hands in this as well in an attempt to discredit a citizen(s) with issues surrounding this injustice.

    Why doesn’t this article tell us about the criminal records of the City Manager, or John Swann?

    Because they are irrelevant, just as Mr. Thompsons record should be!

    Tabloid journalism.

  2. there should be no fuss here… if you live in a city expect trucks… it’s a CITY, i.e. congested area by definition and force of reality.

  3. joey

    I find it interesting that Xpress has stooped to showcasing an arrest record that has nothing what so ever with Mr. Thompsons law suit against the City. Why suddenly is the newspaper doing Swann’s biding? He has the city council in his pocket and the city planners doing his planning for greenlife.

    I wish someone would follow the money on this one. It reeks of inappropriate behavior by the city and now congrats Xpress for sinking to a level that no conscientious paper should stoop.

    Are there full page color ads in your future?

  4. Ryan

    I understand that not only did Scott Schuford resign, but, the city also lost Joe Hurd throughout this process.

    Ms. Tuch had better start looking for another job.

  5. Bonkers Dad

    It is bewildering that the court is saying essentially that city staff can blatantly disregard the law as long as no one ‘properly’ appeals within 30 days. It cost $500 to appeal and when the clock starts ticking on the 30 days is apparently very malleable in the hands of city lawyers.

    Mr Thompson has gone well beyond the call of duty to show how the city has blatantly disregarded the laws and the city’s attempts to actually defend their position has been nil to bizarre.

  6. Rob Close

    this makes the city of asheville look REALLY stupid, and our laws a joke. if our government won’t enforce them, then what property rights do any of us have?

  7. lokel

    Isn’t it interesting as well, the attitude of the APD in all of this.

    Arresting Mr. Thompson for trespass, blocking traffic etc.

    I think he has a Civil Rights case against those idiots as well.

    Everyone who is concerned about this should go to YOUTUBE and look up “Life on Maxwell Street” or just “Maxwell Street Asheville” and watch the videos of the traffic issues there as well as Mr. Thompsons’ encounters with the APD regarding this isuue.

    One of my favorites is when one Officer tells Mr Thompson that if he wants to arrest or ticket someone (in this a truck driver parked on the sidewalk and blocking the street), he should get his “Cops license” and make the arrest himself!

    Now that is SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY at its best!

    I also am aware through various sources that there has been vandalism to private property both Mr Thompsons’ and others in that neighborhood … that hasn’t been taken seriously by the APD.

    If the store and Mr. Swann truly are interested in “GREEN-life” they should realize that QUALITY of LIFE is just as much a GREEN issue as organic humus or snow peas!

    The City granted the permits for all of this with total disregard to the laws and the directives of the UDO.

    Just as the City did with the STAPLES across the street- the UDO was grossly ignored in both cases.

    Rules are rules and Laws should be followed; or if obsolete removed from the books!

  8. lumina

    if mountainx wants to give us the full story, how about publishing the amount of advertising revenue they have received from greenlife?

  9. Jon Elliston

    I should clarify something: The Xpress news team is separate from the advertising department — and that’s the way it should be. We make our news-writing decisions independent of who does or doesn’t advertise.

    And a quick look through our archives shows that Xpress has done the most in-depth reporting on UDO violations for some time now. Here are two examples, for starters:

    http://www.mountainx.com/news/2007/1129udo.php/

    http://www.mountainx.com/news/2007/0712udo.php/

    And I’m sure there will be more to come …

    Thanks for the feedback, and best regards,

    Jon Elliston
    Managing Editor

  10. emma

    How I miis Cecil, Jon. He knew how to write a story….

    Your advertising department and news team work for the same paper. And if you are the editor now you should know thatt

  11. Jon Elliston

    Emma:

    Sure, we work for the same paper, but we have different staff, different directors, and different priorities. We keep the news separate from the advertising.

  12. Reid Thompson

    First, I would like to thank the mountain express reporting on this matter.

    I agree with Jon Elliston, regarding advertising.

    I believe the mountain express has done more than other new source to shed light on the inequity of the situation on Maxwell Street.

    I believe the reason for printing the arrest record was to show that over the past three plus years I have been harassed by Greenlife owner, and the city of Asheville for pointing out the obvious violations. This has been an awful and ridiculous experience to go through as a taxpaying resident, and unfortunately there have been a lot of folks that have had similar experiences here. I just hope I am the last. If a reader could do anything, tell your elected officials that you expect better of our government than this abuse.

    Thank you mountain express!

    Currently band citizen,
    Reid Thompson

  13. Jon Elliston

    I’m sorry too, Emma. We take our journalism standards extremely seriously here.

  14. lokel

    So Jon,
    enlighten us as to why the “news team” thought it necessary to include Mr Thompsons prior record in this story?

    Why weren’t the police records of the City Manager and Mr Swann reported as well?

  15. Joey

    Let’s get back to the issue, Emma.

    On first reading it might seem that Xpress is taking swipes at Mr. Thompson. Especially bringing up his past youthful indiscretions. But, if you’ll notice most sections and paragraphs end with a more positive note towards his situation.

    “Reid shouldn’t be forced to sue the city to get it to follow its own laws.”

    And it must be frustrating for poor Mr. Swann to be lead to believe that Mr. Worley would “take care of things” for Greenlife only to get caught up in councils inability to make it all right for him.

    It also seems a conflict of interest for Shannon Tuch to act as planner for Greenlife. She should not be presenting plans for a privately owned business.

    The bottom line is the city is at fault and it would seem that the APD and city staff are now harassing Mr. Thompson.

    I hope he appeals.

  16. joey

    Don’t worry Mr. Bugg.

    Emma has been banished from my computer. But, in truth I believe her heart beats only for you.

  17. Wally

    The city has stalled and tried to make Reid go away for years while they violate his rights and bully him around.

    It’s time for the city to settle and make it right! He should not have to sue to get the city to follow its own laws!

    City Council should have to wake up to those trucks for a week and I bet it would be fixed by that Friday morning.

  18. friend of the friendless

    Journalism is again run as a business – I didn’t think Mountain Xpress made decisions like running Reid’s “lengthy” arrest record in the context of this particular issue. Nothing except what Reid has been charged with in regards to the City of Ashevile, Greenlife, and John Swann personally is REMOTELY relevant to this story. AND THE STORY IS THAT GREENLIFE IS REPEATEDLY VIOLATING RULES THAT WERE PROMISED TO BE SET ASIDE SPECIFICALLY FOR THEIR CASE BY MEMBERS OF THE GOOD OL’ BOY NETWORK WITHIN THE CITY OF ASHEVILLE, PAST AND PRESENT, and a PRIVATE CITIZEN is putting up his own time, money and effort into trying to bring them to task because the city WILL NOT enforce their own rules, because doing so would be ADMITTING that a GOOD OL’ BOY network actually existed/exists when it came to development of this project. That’s why they keep giving Greenlife opportunities to “make it right” – if they do it on their own, no one at the city has to admit they screwed up in the first place! Greenlife is STILL getting the benefit of the doubt, given repeated chances to remedy their ADMITTED violations, and NOTHING happens. Swann even admitted that (then mayor) Charles Worley promised to make things easy for them for crying out loud! Printing all the elements of Reid’s arrest record is completely against every ethic of responsible journalism. Is there any logic or justification for anything that has happened to Mr. Thompson that was “discovered” by looking into and printing it?? Does Reid getting busted for wreckless driving provide any insight into any of this? It certainly doesn’t mean he’s entitled to any less rights to redress under the law. Journalism 101: is it NEWSworthy – not is it going to get people to put their hands on their mouths and gasp. Get ready victims of stories Mountain Xpress writes stories on – you’re next! Its because of things like the risk of getting your OWN entire arrest record printed in the paper with your picture and name that make people think twice about reporting crimes…and if you think that’s an overstatement you are wrong. Unbelievably irresponsible from a journalistic standpoint. If you do it for one, do it for all – Mountain Xpress should print every arrest record of every victim or subject of every story from now on, or else their are not a fair and unbiased source of information.

  19. Johnny

    I have an arrest record.

    Should I print it here with each post so all can see, and then have better “color” with which to judge my comments?

  20. lumina

    i saw this string before i saw the story and was prepared for an arrest record that would really curl the hair … instead, … well, anyone can read it. these minor charges (and some dismissed but still printed no less?) somehow diminish reid’s rights or his credibility? hardly …

    i saw the youtube video as well as reid’s continued efforts over months and months in city council meetings to get help … there’s no excuse for this to have gone on this long … living in the city does not mitigate our rights as citizens to expect enforcement, protection, and venue for our voices … in my opinion, mountainx coverage was too little, too late …

    and the point made by a woman who runs a business in proximity to the store is completely irrelevant in comparison to the neighbors whose RESIDENCES are being violated. that sort of inclusion seems to me to be either intentionally misleading or at the very least, very careless and sloppy … and that’s the tone i’ve gotten from much of the coverage …

  21. Maxwell Res

    Win is Mayor Bellamy going to “deal with it.”

    We are still waiting on that press release Mayor Bellamy refers to in this video from April. The city attorney has never explained what part of the city charter permits the chief of police to write his own laws.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6vpZ-VyCKc

  22. Reid Thompson

    I was just woken up by a garbage trucks at Greenlife,its 6 AM in the morning.

    I wonder if this would be acceptable in Montford or any Council members neighborhood.

    Apparently if you have enough money you don’t have to follow the rules…

  23. Johnny

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    FYOO is a new and 100% free service designed to help us learn about each other’s backgrounds. All commercial websites (incl. the Mtn. Xpress) will sign on, and each time a person’s name is mentioned on the website all you’ll have to do is roll your cursor over the name and a sidebar will come up with the person’s arrest record. No more wondering!!

    Revenues to support FYOO will come from small banner ads tailored to the viewer’s region and prior interests. And trust me, FYOO knows your interests.

    Additional services provided by “FYOO Special” (at affordable monthly rates) may include the person’s credit score, socioeconomic standing, and religious affiliation.

    “FYOO Premium” will provide harder to find data such as late payments for child support, percent of Sundays they missed church, and a proprietary formula-based “meanness at work” quotient — the MAW(tm). With FYOO Premium, you no longer will have to wonder if someone’s a really a nice guy or not. FYOO helps you answer those questions by yourself!

  24. Johnny

    “FYOO Platinum”

    Nearly forgot, FYOO Platinum will include the person’s dietary preferences, AND, if applicable, a (again, proprietary formula-based) “Militancy Quotient” — the MiQ(tm).

    FYOO knows, FYOO cares, FYOO lets YOU decide.

    Let’s go over an example:

    There’s a frequent staff writer for the Xpress, a local business leader, or a frequent letter writer, and you’re curious about the real deal with them.

    Point your cursor at their name and learn they got arrested for marijuana possession 10 years ago, have shit for credit but their parents have good genetics, they drive an Outback with “Local Food” stickers (ok, that’s a given, and incl. in FYOO Standard), AND they’re a meat eater!

    Armed with this information, you get to make up your own damn mind about their credibility!!!

    Please, FYOO has a fleet of lawyers on staff ready to obstruct any attempts at Fourth Amendment bitching about privacy. So don’t go there. If you do go there, FYOO remembers.

  25. joey

    JON

    “I’m sorry too, Emma. We take our journalism standards extremely seriously here. ”

    At first I was upset with Emma for being so blunt. But, on retrospect I have to say that if you really took your journalism standards so seriously, concerning Mr. Thompson’s record, you would not have taken such a smarmy tack.

    ________________________________

    And now to review…the real issue….

    “REID SHOULDN’T BE FORCED TO SUE THE CITY TO GET IT TO FOLLOW ITS OWN LAWS.”

    THE END.

  26. Jon Elliston

    Joey:

    Thanks for the feedback, but I don’t follow when you reference a “smarmy tack.” No smarm was intended; where did you detect it?

    — Jon

  27. jeffm

    Shame on you Mountain XPress for publishing Mr. Thompson’s arrest record. What does it have to do with this story of an individual who is being ingored when his rights are being violated. Why don’t you publish the arrest records of yourwriters and employees so that we as readers can have the whole story. Oh by the way, all of the citizens of Asheville are having their rights and laws violated by this, but since it is not happening in their backyard then it is no big deal to most…until it is in your backyard or in Reid’s case on his neighborhood street…

  28. joey

    Have you? Have you READ the comments? Have you?

    I believe that you owe Mr. Thompson an apology.

  29. ncain

    This is one of those cases where the comments are more interesting and revealing than the story. I am a media professional, and I have worked for both weekly and daily newspapers of varying sizes (Full disclosure: In another life I did some freelance articles for Xpress.) I don’t work for newspapers anymore, but I still write and deal with the media for a living, and I don’t see what Xpress did wrong here. Neither, it should be noted, does Mr. Thompson (see his comment above.) The city took the extraordinary step of banning Mr. Thompson from their buildings. This is something that must be mentioned for any reporting on this dispute to be credible. It is also worth noting that most of Mr. Thompson’s brushes with the law stem from the very dispute Failing to mention that would paint an incomplete picture of the situation. Readers can draw their own conclusions from the fact that most of the charges never went anywhere. In short, Mountain Xpress is not Mr. Thompson’s PR organ. They have no obligation to make him look good. They only have an obligation to report the facts. Most of their readers are intellingent enough to draw their own conclusions. Many of the comments in this thread are outright paranoid. Take your meds. Xpress did nothing wrong. In your zeal to place blame for the Greenlife debacle you’re attacking the messenger.

  30. Johnny

    Well stated, ncain.

    You will not come up badly in a FYOO search, I expect.

    However, his police record, save for incidents related to this situation, remain irrelevant — at least to this reader.

    Thanks. And sign up for FYOO Platinum today!

  31. Reid Thompson

    I was just woken up by tractor-trailer trucks at 6:10 a.m. I called the Asheville Police Department who knows if anybody will respond. It’s definitely before sunrise so it’s a violation. Would this be acceptable in a Council member’s neighborhood? Why not ask? Click here to e-mail all City Council Members , mayorbellamy@ashevillenc.gov.

  32. Reid Thompson

    Best that we recall and from the minutes of Council meetings, here is what was determined:

    On 8/22/06 Owens reports to Council that GreenLife is inconsistent with the requirements of the UDO and Council agreed with the report.

    On 11/14/06 Council agreed that GreenLife should submit a plan of action to change their loading.

    On 1/16/07 GreenLife was given 30 days to come back with a plan and submit a plan for correction.

    On 2/27/07 GreenLife proposed a schematic of a plan and said they’d like to work it out.

    On 8/28/07 Council held on passing a resolution to traffic calm Maxwell Street because GreenLife didn’t submit their plan, asked Staff to add parking to Maxwell, and gave 45 for GreenLife to submit their plans or Staff was to bring a plan of action to Maxwell Street.

    On 10/12/07 the 45 day deadline passed, GreenLife hadn’t submitted, nor did Staff bring a plan for Maxwell Street

    Asheville City Council and GreenLie grocery are “STONEWALLING” together; it’s been 3 plus years now.

    Is this HONEST, ACCOUNTABLE or TRANSPARENT government?

  33. Wally

    How come it is ok to print the arrest record of Reid but you never address the fact that the Mayor Charles Worley was the lawyer for Greenlife.

    A conflict of interest? This whole Greenlife thing is about the “good ole boy” network.

  34. Becky

    As to Swann’s argument that it would be ‘prohitively expensive’ to move trucks to the other side, that is just silly. These guys are making money hand over fist, they were smart and took a risk, and the store is great. But Swann, get over it. You can make it work. You’re just mad at Reid. Swann, you are the one with the deep pockets, and you got them from the wallets of Ashevillians. You deserve it, you are providing a great servie, but just go on and be the hero, why don’t you. Let go of this “man fight” you and Thompson have been having, and do the right thing. Redesign the parking garage, make it work. Tell your architect, how can we move the trucks. The press you get will make you look great, it would be very valuable adversiting and PR with Asheville, the city who is making you rich.

  35. will i am

    What is really going on here? Has the mountain Xpress fired all the journalist and replaced them with tabloid hacks? Is this what we can expect in the future? The Mountain Xpress does the bidding of those who spend money advertising with mt Xpress. What about the arrest records of John Swann, Carl Mumpower, and all council members and city staffers who have been involved in this.Don’t stop there, list all the complaints about the APD officers involved. Why hasn’t the Mt Xpress raised the issue of professional standards of those licensed, certified, and appointed. City planners, attorneys, city managers, all belong to professional orginizations who set a standard for thier members. Why didn’t the Mt xpress reveal these records. Maybe the bar assocation should look into the ethics of how Worley acted as Swanns agent.
    Mayor Bellamy, I thought that you would represent those who live and work in Asheville, instead I see another climber on the political mountain of double talk, false promises, and misguided needership. By the way miss B. When you are no longer Mayor I hope you can live with the fact that you had the oppurtunity to dismantle the good ol’ boy network and did nothing.

  36. joey

    “However, his police record, save for incidents related to this situation, remain irrelevant — at least to this reader.”

    I agree and putting that into a highlighted notation takes away from the credibility of the main of the article.

    Perhaps ncain can explain to me, however, that caring about integrity in journalism is equated with the description “outright paranoid”?

    Indeed the only “paranoid” comments seem to be Mr. Elliston’s too quick defense of Xpress.

    We are all quick to comment and make some inflammatory remarks, but, as an editor I think it may serve Mr. Elliston not to be so quick to defend himself. A case of the man he “doth protest too much”. A comment as the thread is winding down addressing what he feel the need to defend maybe a better use of his editorial skills.

    “Unbelievably irresponsible from a journalistic standpoint. ”

    I think the main article was greatly compromised by the inclusion of Mr. Thompson’s record.

    If I wanted to read such fodder I would be reading the Asheville Daily Planet.

  37. yawn

    ummm, isn’t there a huge apartment building being built literally a stone’s throw from reid’s yard? And it was Greenlife’s garbage truck that woke him up?

    I beleive we border downtown. If your standing on Maxwell, it may take you 1 and half mins to briskly walk to the interstate over pass.. Why are we all kidding ourselves that Reid never assumed buisnesses would open a block from 240 and a block from downtown? And why did he choose to buy more houses than just his own after greenlife opened?
    I know when i bought a house, i looked at all the aspects that might effect me and my comfortability.
    Reid sure did spend a pretty penny to buy more houses AFTER Greenlife opned.
    HMMMM, I might have looked for a quieter and less expensive location.
    I think printing hus arrest record was relevent to being banned from city buildings.
    Also my friend lived right behind Greenlife before they opened, which reid was his landlord. Can you say hookers, crack dealers and crime?
    That is why he moved.

  38. lokel

    Hey Yawn…

    The fact that you indicate that your friend had lived in the area and was bothered by the hookers, etc. goes to show you and all who read these comments that the Asheville Police Department is selectively not doing its’ job.

    This is about the use of a residentially zoned street by trucks (these trucks impede traffic, block an intersection, block the sidewalk, create noise, and have scrapped vehicles parked LEGALLY on Maxwell Street) that are banned from such streets by LAW.

    The UDO was established for a reason and these laws are being ignored by both the City, the Council and the Police Department.

    If these laws are not enforceable, then the UDO should be removed from the books.

    Mr. Thompson bought those properties as an investment (just as anyone has the right to do and expects the Laws to be enforced) it is because of inaction on the part of the City that this has occurred to begin with.

    I guess the City Council is too busy worrying about whether the US Flag is being flown properly to concern themselves with resolving this situation of their own creation.

  39. enn

    Ya know, if the article said “Reid has an arrest record, among them these relevant offenses”, readers would be left wondering “what ELSE has he been in trouble for??!” Despite what our imaginations run wild would conceive, the record is ‘nothing to make your hair curl.’ Seatbelt offenses? Please… But, i agree, it generally weakens the efficacy of the article, and sounds petty.

  40. ncain

    Joey,

    Your problem is that you have a simplistic narrative in your head, and you’re having a hard time reconciling the facts with your ideas. To you, Thompson is the good guy, and the city is evil, and anything that challenges that idea upsets you. You’re acting exactly like those right wing radio hacks who scream “Liberal Media” every time something vaguely unpleasant turns up about a Republican. And it is paranoid behavior. It’s paranoid when Limbaugh does it and it’s paranoid when you do it. Not writing about Mr. Thompson’s run ins with the police regarding this dispute would be an improper omission of facts. The arrests are put in context, and their disposition is noted. It’s not as if Xpress put Mr. Thompson on the cover with the word “criminal” stamped on his forehead. Quit looking for conspiracies where there aren’t any. And, for the record, Mr. Elliston has every right to defend his publication when people question its editorial integrity. You have accused him of being dishonest. Should he just sit back and take it?

  41. joey

    ncain

    My, my, my…you have no idea what or to whom you are writing. All is black and white with you. Your blathering, simplistic, idiocy is no substitute for a real discourse.

    Media professional?!

    Huh.

  42. emma

    ncain

    Nice try. Are there freelance editorial dollars in your future?

  43. ncain

    Lokel:

    this is Mr. Thompson’s response. It is posted in this comments section, but I will repost it since you seem to be unable to find it:

    First, I would like to thank the mountain express reporting on this matter.

    I agree with Jon Elliston, regarding advertising.

    I believe the mountain express has done more than other new source to shed light on the inequity of the situation on Maxwell Street.

    I believe the reason for printing the arrest record was to show that over the past three plus years I have been harassed by Greenlife owner, and the city of Asheville for pointing out the obvious violations. This has been an awful and ridiculous experience to go through as a taxpaying resident, and unfortunately there have been a lot of folks that have had similar experiences here. I just hope I am the last. If a reader could do anything, tell your elected officials that you expect better of our government than this abuse.

    Thank you mountain express!

    Currently band citizen,
    Reid Thompson

  44. ncain

    Joey:

    So, insults are real discourse now? Way to show how sophisticated and intellingent you are.

  45. joey

    “Your problem is that you have a simplistic narrative in your head, and you’re having a hard time reconciling the facts with your ideas”

    Huh.

  46. “First, I would like to thank the mountain express reporting on this matter.

    I agree with Jon Elliston, regarding advertising.

    I believe the mountain express has done more than other new source to shed light on the inequity of the situation on Maxwell Street.

    [b]I believe the reason for printing the arrest record was to show that over the past three plus years I have been harassed by Greenlife owner, and the city of Asheville for pointing out the obvious violations.[/b] This has been an awful and ridiculous experience to go through as a taxpaying resident, and unfortunately there have been a lot of folks that have had similar experiences here. I just hope I am the last. If a reader could do anything, tell your elected officials that you expect better of our government than this abuse.

    Thank you mountain express!

    Currently band citizen,
    Reid Thompson”

    Did you guys actually read this? Seems like you might want to give it another glance.

  47. joey

    Thanks, Steve.

    I apologize that I lost track of the MAIN article.

    “REID SHOULDN’T BE FORCED TO SUE THE CITY TO GET IT TO FOLLOW ITS OWN LAWS.”

  48. ncain

    Ok, first off, quoting me and then writing “Huh.” Isn’t a response. Secondly, you’ve accused Mountain Xpress of being in the pocket of Big Produce. I quote, “Why suddenly is the newspaper doing Swann’s biding?(sic)” Either come up with some sort of evidence to back up your claim or admit it’s a fantasy. When MX wrote about Mr. Thompson’s arrests, they consulted public records. They have documents. Do you have documents? Do you have any evidence? Or are you just another Internet conspiracy theorist? Are you going to be telling everyone the Jews are responsible for 9/11 next?

  49. joey

    “Or are you just another Internet conspiracy theorist? Are you going to be telling everyone the Jews are responsible for 9/11 next?”

    paranoid – Exhibiting or characterized by extreme and irrational fear or distrust of others.

    Now one might ask who the paranoid one is. Get a grip, man!

    Please keep your comments relevant to blog entry.

    Let’s give it a try shall we?

    (And by the way, I take great offense at any slanderous remarks about Jews. Do not go so low in your effort to nullify me as to make them.)

  50. ncain

    Written remarks are libel not slander. And I cited the “Jews are responsbible for 9/11″ theory as an example of an unsupportable conspiracy theory, not as a fact, so it’s not libelous. You seem to lack the ability to put anything in context.

    You still haven’t addressed the substance of my argument, which is that you have made unsupportable accusations regarding MX’s motive in publishing information about Mr. Thomspon’s arrests. Can you back up the accusation that they did it at Mr. Swann’s bidding or not?

  51. joey

    You are an agitator and I have no further interest in addressing you accusations.

    Please keep your comments relevant to blog entry.

  52. k.fuller

    Now I am no media professional, UDO expert, or successful business owner, but last semester at UNCA I had the opportunity to learn about development issues in Asheville. The class centered around recording oral histories and turning the ideas, feelings, characters expressed within the interviews into art work. I heard presentations from Mr. Minicozzi, Mountain Voices, and heard interviews from local developers, a geologist, even a council member. I am so thankful that I was assigned Mr. Thompson. Sitting down with him for 45 minutes and hearing his side was enlightening and frustrating. Here is a man who has a solid background in investment and real estate and who wants to put his money back into our community. Sure, his interview had biases, but so did Robin Cape’s. Mr. Thompson is an Asheville citizen so frustrated by those who are governing and shaping our city. What does he want? For the City Council to follow its own rules.

    Mr.Thompson isn’t the ‘good guy’ but he certainly isn’t evil. City officials aren’t villains, but they are casting a dark shadow when they won’t even follow their own rules and serve their own citizens.

    Listed under his criminal record should have been his good samaritan record, listed first would surely be: Mr Thompson provided an affordable renting situation for three men who were just expelled from the Windsor Hotel.

    Let us get both sides of the story.

    After Mr. Minicozzi’s presentation of the illegal issues surrounding Greenlife, I stopped shopping there. But then I wondered, is it really their fault if City Council allowed them to? I was also really wanting one of their tempeh melts at the time. I started shopping there again, because, yes, it is too convenient.
    Until I heard this audio clip from Mr. Swann talking to Mr. Thompson. I strive not to shop there because I don’t want the few hard-earned dollars I make going to a businessman that treats his neighbors as such. In a capitalistic country I have the right to choose where I buy my free-range delicacies , and I urge you to ask yourself, would you want to be treated the same way?

    Click here for Mr. Swann’s own words:
    http://ourasheville.org/greenlife/images-data/050830-johnswan.wav

    As I said, I’m not a journalist, these are my interpretations of the information I was given and other sources that I sought out to find. I just know that I never want to be chased out of the city I love for standing up for myself and my neighbors. “Asheville: Anyway you like it” Are we compromising our citizens for the sake of business?

  53. ncain

    “You are an agitator and I have no further interest in addressing you accusations.
    Please keep your comments relevant to blog entry.”

    All I asked was if you had evidence to back up your accusation. That IS relevant to the blog post. I’m going to take your refusal to answer the question to mean that you have no such evidence.

  54. Rob Close

    well, i agree with ncain & MX here. releasing the arrest record was VERY relevant, and even Reid didn’t seem to have a problem with it. looking for a conspiracy where there is merely an attempt at balanced journalism…well, ya’ll are crying wolf.

    and let’s be realistic. if they were performing some conspiracy to defend one of their advertisers, why do they keep following this story, and why does it make me not want to shop there? if anything, they’re proving they have journalistic integrity.

  55. The arrest record is relevant because it’s the city’s justification for banning him from the buildings. I don’t agree with it, but that’s how it is.

    I get the feeling that if the Xpress published an article about the Wizard of Oz some of you people would complain that a house fell on your moms.

  56. nick s

    As Reid Thompson himself noted, including the arrest record is useful for one reason: it implies a pattern of activity from city authorities that, to the casual observer, looks like an under-the-table vendetta. The next step for MountainX is to see whether that pattern is anything more than just a large set of coincidences.

    After all, the council seems to think that UDO stands for ‘U Don’t Object’ whenever it gets violated.

  57. lokel

    I was referring to the inaction of the City with regard to its’ own laws when I asked the question “Is Mr. Thompson supposed to sit back and take it?”

    Thanks for your smart ass remarks though…

  58. Does someone think this article is unfair?

    I suppose.

    Yes, this article could have been more balance had Greenlife been as forthcoming as Mr. Thompson — who submits to full disclosure here — and close the gaps in our knowledge about Greenlife’s past government ties. Perhaps a follow-up article is in order to make a fuller account.

  59. speck1

    When do you people finally call a “crank” a CRANK!Does it matter whether he calls city staff 20 times a day- knowing that they are busy with the review of literally hundreds of other submitted planning proposals? Does it matter in the least whether he shows up unannounced in the planning office- and sits in the waiting area with unobsessed people- talking to himself and freaking out even those who aren’t part of the actual planning staff? Do you not get a clue when he buys more property in the same vicinity of Greenlife while he is pursuing his vendetta against the same? Does his threatening behavior towards those who are only doing their jobs not give you a f***ing clue about his mental health? Is there any sentient being in Asheville who doesn’t appreciate Greenlife’s arrival as a local alternative to the previous incarnations of both EarthFare and The Fresh Market?????
    All I can think about is the number of good organizations in this town in the last 20 years that have found themselves commandeered by one or two misguided people who showed up, volunteered, and subsequently took over the priorities of an entire group of dedicated, well-meaning, and honorable people so that the afformentioned could beat their own self-interested issue to death.
    I’d be happy to list the offenders! There are real issues in our community that could actually benefit from the same passion and zeal that seems to follow these- yes, I call them- CRANKS!

  60. Resident

    speck1

    I see this is the only comment you have ever written. I would imagine your John Swann or one of his Goons looking to move up the totem pole.

    The residents of Maxwell Street were woken at 6 a.m. this morning by tractor-trailer trucks. Let’s remember what Mr. Swann has to say about that.

    Click here for Mr. Swann’s own words:
    http://ourasheville.org/greenlife/images-data/050830-johnswan.wav

    “I know if you hire the Mayor you don’t have to follow the law.” Nice mantra.

    What ever happened to the Constitution and being created equal under the law? $$$$$$$

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