The Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission met Wednesday evening, March 3, and approved the Larchmont Project, 5-1, Byers against. Xpress reporter David Forbes covered the meeting via Twitter. Here are his dispatches in order:
5 p.m.: The first floor of City Hall is packed with people waiting to comment on the Larchmont affordable housing project.
Planning Chair Cindy Weeks recuses herself from the Larchmont decision due to her work with Mountain Housing Opportunities, the project’s developers.
Larchmont project is proposed to have 60 units, a playground, courtyard, all afforable housing, mostly 1-bedroom units. City Planning staff supports project’s approval, says it meets infill-development, transit-density, green-building, and affordable-housing goals.
MHO staff says the buildings will be 100 ft away from property line; we will plant 132 trees on site and take care to minimize impact on neighborhood. Larchmont architect John Legerton says there is already housing scattered through area that is 1.5-2 times as dense, so the project is not out of keeping for the area.
Project attorney Wyatt Stevens says if Larchmont is not approved, uses like a nursing home or office complex could go on the parcel. “This is not spot zoning… Comes right out of the city’s plans.” With less units “it would not be affordable”; 700+ such housing units are needed in north Asheville. Countering complaints MHO has received, Stevens says, “This is workforce housing… there are no crime or safety issues.”
Resident Larry Holt: Project would be welcome if smaller; “we feel 60 units is excessive. … Workforce housing is not the issue… the scale of the project is not in keeping with the neighborhood.”
Resident Sidney Bach: “This project is a runaway train which, if not checked, will become a runaway wreck.”
Resident Denise Howser: “Urban density creates sustainable cities,” I’m confident in the quality of MHO’s project.
Resident Don March: Project density is “in keeping with other things in the neighborhood”; it won’t worsen traffic.
Resident Andrew Taschey presented a petition with 350 north Asheville residents’ signatures opposing the rezoning that is necessary for project.
Resident Jenny Mercer: I’d rather have the project than alternatives; workforce housing is needed as the neighborhood is no longer affordable.
Resident Bill Mercer: Compromise is needed. Residents need to accept that the site will be developed. MHO needs to reduce to 40-45 units.
Resident Beth Maczka: City needs to develop along transit corridors like Merrimon Avenue. “I welcome these new residents.”
Resident Cecil Bjorn: “This sustainable development thing is ridiculous. What you need here is capitalism.”
Louise Ruth, of Grace Lutheran: The church supports the development; “it works towards an open community for all.”
Paul Willard: “The more I looked into it, MHO is just another developer”; the site is too small.
Resident Beverly Nevins: “It’s going to improve my view; right now it looks out on a Subway… density is a fact of life in cities.”
Resident Dean Hilton: More cars in area due to the project could harm response time of nearby fire department.
Fire Chief Scott Burnette: Additional traffic volume from the project won’t have an impact on our response time.
Planning Commissioner Cannady says he has concerns about parking, but likes the project, trusts MHO. He makes a motion for approval.
Commissioner Tom Byers says he respects MHO, but will vote against the project due to neighborhood opposition and the density increase.
Commissioner Steven Sizemore says the project meets the city’s needs; the old zoning was based on use at the time, not circumstances today.
Commissioner Jerome Jones: “I feel the pain of more traffic” on Merrimon, but the city needs affordable housing “for the greater good.”
Vice Chair Darryl Hart says, “Overall, a good project… [It’s] what the city’s been looking for in this area.”
9:45 p.m.: Planning and Zoning Commission approves Larchmont project 5-1, Byers against.
For earlier Xpress coverage, see:
To view the Larchmont application: http://www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles/larchmont_development_application/