Asheville City Council preview: dueling futures

As a renewed push to move the Interstate 26 connector forward continues, Asheville City Counci get it’s turn on Tuesday, March 25, to consider a joint resolution seeking to make the long-delayed highway overhaul a reality, even as a number of community groups vocally oppose the plan.

Last week,on March 18, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution recommending that the state Department of Transportation go forward with Alternative 3C in its planning and funding processes, while incorporating local concerns about design and impact. The resolution is the product of more than a year of meetings by an informal group of local officials and leaders, including Vice Mayor Marc Hunt and Council member Jan Davis.

According to the resolution, the I-26 connector will reduce congestion and help the area, and while group members have said they don’t unanimously endorse 3C, they hope to proceed forward and see if they can get the long-awaited project done but also address many of the community’s concerns about the project.

But ConnectUs, a group including representatives from neighborhoods — including Burton Street, Montford, West Asheville — that will be affected by the project asserts that the move is premature and that 3C will have a negative impact on the area. The Asheville Design Center, which has played a major role in planning various I-26 alternatives over the years, also opposes the resolution, saying the latest proposal doesn’t meet the city’s long-range plans.

Council will also consider a resolution that addresses the future of vacant city-owned property on Haywood Street across from the Basilica of St. Lawrence. Late last year, plans by the McKibbon Hotel Group to build on the site fell through. McKibbon’s proposal had faced significant backlash from other hoteliers, the Basilica and locals who wanted to see a park or plaza on the site instead. More recently, the city demolished the abandoned buildings on the site.

Council, based on recommendations by Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, may agree to solicit proposals from developers for potential economic development of the site, valued at $2.6 million.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, on the second floor of City Hall.

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