Buncombe Commissioners discuss development at Swannanoa meeting

Residents raised a variety of issues and concerns with Buncombe County commissioners during a July 16 community meeting in Swannanoa, including zoning, development and pedestrian safety.

The get-together was the third in a series of community meetings being held in each of the three county districts.

About 30 residents attended from District 2, which encompasses Swannanoa, Black Mountain, Fairview and Weaverville. District 2 Commissioners Ellen Frost and Mike Fryar led the session, joined by all of their fellow commissioners.

One of the first attendees to speak out was Richard Hudson, a Black Mountain resident and real-estate agent. He said he was a proponent of zoning, but worried that the county’s ordinance has already become “antiquated.” He urged the commissioners to look for ways to expand where dense residential housing can be located — including mobile homes.

“I think you’ve got a lot of work that needs to be done on your zoning ordinance, and I think you need to kick some people in the pants to do it,” he asserted.

Fryar reminded people in the room that he’s against zoning. And Frost called the current ordinance “a work in progress,” maintaining that residents “couldn’t find seven people more concerned with affordable housing and density” than the current commissioners.

But they deferred to Planning Director Jon Creighton to report on some of the specifics involved in county zoning. He revealed that county staff is currently planning to recommend changes aimed at allowing higher density housing, including lowering the amount of square footage needed on lots for residential construction.

“Some things are antiquated,” Creighton said, agreeing with Hudson. An evolved land-use plan will be presented to the board for their consideration soon, he reported.

Meanwhile, Cindy Weeks, rental development manager at Mountain Housing Opportunities, updated commissioners and residents on another planning process.

In coming months, the affordable-housing nonprofit will be seeking community feedback on a possible mixed-use development at the site of the former Beacon plant in Swannanoa. Single-family homes, workforce housing, and light industrial use are all being considered for the site, according to Weeks.

However, she assured attendees, “Nothing’s going to be planned until we talk to people,” noting that staffers will be reaching out to community groups and residents over throughout the year. “We plan to listen to folks about what should be done there,” she added.

On other fronts:

• Grovement resident and neighborhood activist Sophia Papadopoulos told the commissioners more sidewalks are needed in the area to ensure residents can walk safely from their homes to the closest bus stop. Another resident urged the commissioners to build more greenways in the area.

• Sheriff Van Duncan reported that his department is working with the commissioners to find an alternative to a $10 million proposal to build an indoor firing range that’s attracting heavy criticism from the public.

• Commissioners told residents they would look into working with Waste Pro to provide a garbage and recycling drop off area in the eastern part of the county.

• Broad River Volunteer Fire Rescue Chief Bruce Cook urged commissioners to find ways to incentivise his fellow volunteers for their service, including working with state officials to possibly give them tax breaks.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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