Buncombe commissioners make their pick for I-26 Connector route ***UPDATED***

Buncombe commissioners make their pick for I-26 Connector route ***UPDATED***-attachment0

Vice Chair Billy Stanley, with commissioners Carol Peterson and K. Ray Bailey voted for Alternative 3, while board Chairman David Gantt and Commissioner Holly Jones voted against it.

“When I went out into the community and talked to people about this, the people I mixed and mingled with all through the county—all of those people said to me either 2 or 3 would be the better position because of cost and time, because of getting from point A to point B,” Bailey said.

The issue has been controversial. Alternative 3, a plan backed by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and a majority of the some commissioners, would demolish 61 homes, including 24 in the predominantly African-American Burton Street neighborhood.

The move came after a long public comment session, with citizens packing the boardroom and spilled out far into the hall. The vast majority of people speaking in public comment supported Alternative 4b, developed by the Asheville Design Center and geared toward separating local and interstate traffic while minimizing the amount of land required to build the project. Many of them vehemently opposed Alternative 3, including residents from Burton Street who said that their neighborhood will be destroyed.

Vivian Conley, a resident of Burton Street whose neighbors will lose their houses if Alternative 3 is built, had harsh words for its supporters on the board.

“I wish we could impeach them,” she told Xpress. “Who is he [Bailey] talking to? CEOs? CEOs don’t pay for anything. We’re the working people, we’re the tax-payers and this is what they want to do to us? It’s appalling.”

Peterson and Stanley both said they were concerned about the Burton Street neighborhood, and Bailey amended the motion to endorse Alternative 3 to encourage the North Carolina Department of Transportation to look for ways to minimize the impact there.

“DOT’s going to what they want to do — whichever one we vote for, they’re going to pick the one they like,” Stanley said. “But I’m going to fight for the residents of Burton Street. I’m going to vote for 3 to get it cracking, but I’m going to combat them over the Burton Street folks.”

Jones, who had earlier asserted that she’d heard very few people outside of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce who wanted Alternative 3, said she wasn’t buying it.

“I do think part of our role is to tell the truth:The truth is 4b exists because that’s the fight for Burton Street,” Jones said. “You can’t fix 3 and help Burton Street. I can understand there’s choices, but that’s why we have these alternatives, because people, among other things, wrenched at the idea of this community being torn apart. I feel it’s important for people to know that to vote for 3 and pretend that alternative won’t hurt Burton Street is just not real.”

Angered, Stanley shot back.

“Ms. Jones, are you implying I lied when I said I’d fight for Burton Street?” Jones denied that she was.

“Sounds like that’s what you’re saying,” Stanley said.

“I’m just saying those two don’t go,” Jones replied.

“None of them will go, DOT’s not going to build it. 4b won’t fly,” he said. “There’s 70,000 plus people in the city, there’s over 200,000 plus in the county. The City Council votes for the people in that city; we have to vote for all the people in this county. You’re not on that council anymore, you’re on this one.”

When the vote took place, Jones shouted out her “no” vote.

Gantt said he didn’t feel either commissioner’s behavior was out of line.

“They’re both advocates and they both feel strongly about this,” he told Xpress afterwards. “They’re both professional and they’ll have no trouble working together going forward.”

Asheville City Council has endorsed Alternative 4b. Some proponents of the plan at the meeting said that the commissioners don’t need to rush a decision, and that 4b has not been completely studied yet, while Council member Brownie Newman has warned that if commissioners voted for Alternative 3, it would send a “mixed message” to the state Department of Transportation.

Gantt, in explaining his vote against 3, noted that “the city has weighed in, and to contradict that creates a conflict that DOT can use to delay this. I hope they won’t do it, but they can do what they want. After this, I think we’re through with this on this board.”

The chamber’s president and CEO, Richard Lutovsky, made a presentation before the vote, asserting that 4b would result in a half-mile more driving time than 4b and that the ADC touting more land for commercial development under its plan was a mirage. ADC Chair Joe Minicozzi asserted that when the costs of the money it would take off the tax rolls was figured in, along with money-saving innovations that could be used on 4b, its costs could well be less than 3 and that it would better link parts of the community, while demolishing the least homes and businesses. Some people in the crowd wore bike helmets and said that Alternative 3 would make bike travel much more difficult.

One of the homes that would face demolition belongs to Steven Waters. It also belonged to his grandparents.

“My late grandfather worked hard for that home,” he told the board. “If my grandmother was still alive today, it would kill her to hear you say you’re going to put a wall in place of her house. While I commend you for your good research, all your numbers mean nothing to us. If people have a problem driving a half mile more to keep people in their homes and make it convenient for people to bike where they need to go and stop from damaging a man’s business, then those people do not need to be in this area.”

All told, the work will create a new highway crossing over the river, widening Interstate 240 in West Asheville and changing the configuration of the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange, known as “Malfunction Junction.”

The project has been in discussion for nearly two decades. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2013, and the estimated price tag for all the work comes in at anywhere from $500 million to more than $800 million, depending on exactly which course DOT decides to take.

According to Mike Goodson, the county’s engineer on the project, DOT will decide on an alternative this summer.

Click here to see what Alternative 3 would look like.

Click here to see what Alternative 4b would look like.

Here’s the Mountain Xpress I-26 Connector primer.

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42 thoughts on “Buncombe commissioners make their pick for I-26 Connector route ***UPDATED***

  1. This is ridiculous! There is something going on here that we don’t know about. Sure would like a newspaper like the Xpress find out just what got those three votes. This should not have happened! Remember, folks, the struggle’s not over yet. And it’s time to think about the next election!

  2. Austin

    Funny, Stanley, Peterson, PARKSIDE!!!! These guys are bought and paid for by some B.S. which you and I aren’t privy to. They are a shame!!

  3. Bryan Freeborn

    Too bad we just had the election two months ago. Zen, we should have voted for Mayor of Munchkin Town.

  4. ” ‘My late grandfather worked hard for that home,” he told the board. “If my grandmother was still alive today, it would kill her to hear you say you’re going to put a wall in place of her house. While I commend you for your good research, all your numbers mean nothing to us. If people have a problem driving a half mile more to keep people in their homes and make it convenient for people to bike where they need to go and stop from damaging a man’s business, then those people do not need to be in this area.’ ”

    Perfectly stated.
    If people have to drive an extra half mile to save 61 homes, then damned be the drivers and lets respect what it means to an individual to create a home for themselves.
    And what is a community & neighborhood worth?
    Is it worth a half a mile of pavement?

    If massacre of Valley St. wasn’t enough of stain on our history, now we have to add to it the battle for Burton St.
    This region’s ethnic and race relations are deplorable, and not even Barak Obama getting elected is going to come close to fixing or even addressing an issue that has been going on for generations. Jim Crow might be dead, but his lively cousins seemed to have moved in permanently.

  5. Austin, Granny, and Zen:

    We’ve got 4 more years of this to battle; hang on, pay attention and work hard is the only advice I can give.

    We knew these supposed ‘representatives’ were goobs during this last election. However, thanks to Barak Obama’s incredible race we had remarkable voter turnout, and ignorance of local politics (arguably the most important policies!) caused people to vote straight ticket Democrat. If you had another election without that variable Stanley and Peterson would be retired.

    It just burns me up how they consistently think they are somehow above the demands of the community. Be it Parkside or this, their consistent arrogance is beyond infuriating.

  6. Austin

    Apparently, the justice department is riled that one of their Weed and Seed areas is looking at potentially becoming a right of way. They like to know about these things, and the DOT didn’t tell them. The chamber didn’t even care when told. I hope 3b is deemed illegal and all the shysters get caught up, once again.

    One of my best friends, who lives in Burton Street, help turn Burton Street from a crack-gang hood into the safe street it is now, and I will be damned if I let his (their) work be in vain. To much time and love invested there to give it over to pavement.

  7. County needs a healthy City

    There is another option not on the table. Put I-240 traffic on the North Smokey Park Bridge (more likely, on an expanded, strengthened or new bridge in the current location of the North Smokey Park Bridge, but ideally lower in elevation than the South SPB) and put Patton Ave traffic on the South Smokey Park Bridge, which can easily handle the traffic. This solves the issue of separating local and interstate traffic without sending I-240 traffic out of the way to the north on those sweeping elevated bridges proposed by the design center.

  8. Cecil Bothwell

    JBo,

    I don’t think you would have seen a different outcome if the Republicans had gained a seat or two in November. That party’s candidates were as deeply in the pockets of big money interests as Peterson, Stanley and, apparently, Bailey. If I had polled .8 percent higher in the primary last May, the vote would have been 3-2 for the ADC plan last night.

    Stanley didn’t much bother with the public forums during the election, preferring to ride in on name recognition and money, but I called him out on the Parkside deal at every public meeting. His ties to that project are deep and non-obvious.

    But, I lost to Stanley who is now pretending to do two opposite things at once. (He reminds me of Vietnam, actually. He intends to destroy a neighborhood in order to save it.) Holly is civil enough to pull back from saying “liar.”

    Bill Stanley is a liar.

  9. orz

    “County needs a healthy City”:

    That is very similar to what Alternate 5 was. That proposed leaving I-240 on the two existing bridges and building a new bridge for Patton to the south. I think it was eliminated from consideration because of the complexity and poor geometry of the ramps (I think the ramps on the west side of the river were the issue) and because it would cause traffic problems as well. ADC (and I) didn’t like Alt 5 as much as Alt 4 anyway because Alt 5 didn’t allow for nearly as much right-of-way redevelopment and because it continued to cut Hillcrest off from downtown.

  10. Austin

    Dingdang,
    “Instead of drinking the 4B kool aid without bothering to think about impact and consequences of all the alternatives, thoughtful people might want to check this out… ”

    What you say here is insulting. You think we aren’t educating ourselves? Get lost.

  11. Austin

    Sorry, but you will have to spell it out for me. What was your point?

    My point is that of course we are and have been educating ourselves. That is why your suggestion (that the people on this blog aren’t thoroughly considering and aren’t thoughtful) is insulting.

    The townspeople spoke clearly to the DOT that they expected a design that unifies West AVL, with the rest of the town in a way that promotes non driving commutes. The DOT developed plan 4 to meet the communities criteria, which 4b is a modification of. This is why chambers and the commissioners actions are so freaking stupifying.

    The townsfolk own this process, not the DOT and not the chamber and the county just a little bit. The DOT is bound by law to incorporate the concerns of the community. We will have to keep reminding them of this until the battle is over.
    Now what was your point?

  12. xingxang

    Austin-

    My point was that other people may have different perspectives from yours, so it may benefit the whole community who will be affected by the plan to take another look at Shuford’s analysis of the 4 plans that are still under consideration in terms of impact on the area, cost of construction, and likelihood of the DOT ever building the various designs. If you try to see things from others’ perspectives, the actions of the Chamber and the County Commission may not be so stupifying (sic) for you. Instead, when the supporters of 4B didn’t get their way we’re treated to childish, knee-jerk reactions, such as name calling or telling posters to get lost, which you brilliantly illustrated for us

    If you think the only concern is that of unifying West Asheville with Downtown, and that the townsfolk own the process to the exclusion of the Area Business Interests (Chamber), the State (DOT), and most of the county, then you’re displaying the same myopia that is all too common lately.

  13. Xing:

    The Asheville Design Center went through all of those concerns during their process of designing an alternative.
    What is wrong with 4b in your educated opinion?
    What is right about 3?

  14. Austin

    Just to humor you, and because I’m bored and because school doesn’t start till next week, I just went and looked at Shufords presentation (I certainly don’t care about his opinion) and want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to shoot down our somewhat disgraced former planning director. It will take a while to write it up, but his points are easily refuted by anyone who has seen Joe’s presentation.
    Until then, here is a response to your last post. Thank you for clarifying. I will continue fighting against any proposal that does not address the issues I mentioned. You are still suggesting that I am not reviewing all resources which is presumptuous and wrong, just so you know. I would only speak my mind if I thought I could back it up, which requires research and open mindedness.
    Your style is really presumptuous,constantly saying we that care are not informed and are over reacting. Your opinion, but maybe this ‘style’ of yours explains why you don’t use your real name and don’t have a picture posted.

  15. xingxang

    JBo-
    4B- Much too big, expensive, and highly unlikely to be built in any way resembling that design by the DOT. The term that comes to mind is “Pie In The Sky”.

    3- Not perfect, but more realistic in terms of cost and likelihood of being built as designed. Less impactful (?) in terms of areas and property displaced.

  16. Austin

    dingdang,
    1) Westgate- First let’s be clear that the owners of westgate prefer b4b. The major flaw with b3 with regards to westgate is that it requires a 1/2 mile cul de suc loop around in order to get to it. In other words, it’s out of the way. You’ve seen the maps.
    2) Hillcrest- do you think those people would rather look at another smoky park bridge or some beautiful awe inspiring structure? Or do you think poor people don’t respond to aesthetics? b4b is the only plan that consciously brings them into the community with easier access and a signature design in their backyard. There is in fact reclaimed right of way in the ADC’s plan which will be developed for businesses and will be across the street (walkable) from Hillcrest. I’m sure you know all this.
    3)Scott’s idea about Patton is unclear. b4b requires less right of way and less ramps and clumps all the ugliness of the highway into one area. Obviously better, unless you just like more pavement.
    I can’t offer much about Montford, and the cemetery, but I know everyone involved wants to see them minimally impacted.
    By the way, I found some of your other blogs and you are just mean, so I will no longer respond to you.

  17. Austin

    ding-dang, how can an area or property be displaced? You didn’t really say that did you? Plus your statistics are incorrect, once agin, I’ll humor you but it will take a while.

  18. Austin

    ding-dang,
    I can’t find the document, but I clearly remember seeing a statistic that shows that b3 requires more right of way acquisition (if thats what you mean by property displaced) than any plan. Please stop, my head is going to explode refuting erroneous info!

  19. Piffy!

    At least if they get offered market value for their houses, it will be much higher now than say, three years ago.

  20. xingxang

    Austin-
    So we need names and photos to have valid opinions? I must have missed that in the Terms of Use for this site. Thank you for enlightening me as well as humoring me, I feel doubly privileged.

    Nowhere have I suggested that you in particular are not trying to be informed. I applaud your efforts to do your homework. However, I do think there are many who watch WLOS and see the Asheville Design Center’s endorsement of 4B, the parade of homeowners who will presumably be displaced from their homes in front of the County Commission meeting, and the bike-helmet wearing partisans on the news and cease all other meaningful inquisition after that.

    I also think that by accusing people of corruption without evidence, name calling, and telling other posters to get lost that you’re overreacting, or at least acting childishly.

    I do look forward to your most enlightened refutation of Mr. Shuford’s presentation… though I suspect it won’t be much of a challenge for you. After all, despite Shuford’s service to the city for several years as planning director, liason to the Community Coordinating Committee and the I-26 Aesthetic Advisory Committee, those “accomplishments” can’t hold a candle to Joe Minicozzi’s Harvard education and leadership of the ADC.

  21. xingxang

    “2) Hillcrest- do you think those people would rather look at another smoky park bridge or some beautiful awe inspiring structure? Or do you think poor people don’t respond to aesthetics? b4b is the only plan that consciously brings them into the community with easier access and a signature design in their backyard.”

    -This sounds soooo Great Society! Are you a sociology major, perchance?

    “There is in fact reclaimed right of way in the ADC’s plan which will be developed for businesses and will be across the street (walkable) from Hillcrest.”

    - The unlikelihood of this “reclaimed right of way” property of ever being donated by the state or acquired by the city has been well documented by the Chamber. Realism- it’s not just for old people!

    “By the way, I found some of your other blogs and you are just mean, so I will no longer respond to you.”

    -You’re starting to sound kind of creepy…but I wish you’d honor your word and not respond anymore. Are you going to take your ball and go home, too?

  22. xingxang

    “I can’t find the document, but I clearly remember seeing a statistic that shows that b3 requires more right of way acquisition (if thats what you mean by property displaced) than any plan. Please stop, my head is going to explode refuting erroneous info! ”

    -How did you refute anything if you couldn’t find the information?

  23. xingxang

    “At least if they get offered market value for their houses, it will be much higher now than say, three years ago. ”

    But, but The (PFKaP)! If their houses are bought by the state “Those people” as Austin refers to them won’t be able to look out their back windows onto the massive, awe inspiring, signature design in their backyards anymore! Oh, the Humanity!

    Nevermind that by then they won’t want to live near the noise, glaring lights and smog-choked behemoths, or be able to sell their homes for a fraction of the price the State would pay at fair market value…

  24. Piffy!

    Perhaps all those who own homes on Burton St. will be given homes in montford as equal trade? Since Montford is obviously above being developed over?

  25. NC’s freeway projects are always big pork for certain big-dog local construction companies. Here, that means Taylor & Murphy.

    The Chamber wouldn’t have made its choice without input from T&M;. I’d say it’s an unbeatable bet that Alternative 3 would make more profit for T$M than 4b, even though I don’t know exactly how.

    T&M;is also a major contributor to political campaigns, both locally and on the state level. And NCDOT is — how do you say it nicely? — notoriously corrupt.

  26. Piffy!

    Its almost as if “xing xang” has some sort of financial reason to support his preferred plan, or something.

    Hmmmmm….

  27. Keith Thomson

    Dear Fellow Citizens,

    Please allow me to share the following email I sent to our friends on the Buncombe County Commission:

    Keith Thomson

    ——– Original Message ——–
    Subject: Dear Friends
    Date: Thu, 08 Jan 2009 06:57:01 -0500
    From: Keith Thomson

    To: David Gantt , K. Ray Bailey , Holly Jones, Carol Peterson , Bill (William H.) Stanley

    Dear Friends,

    While I of course am sorely disappointed that your 2-3 vote concerning I-26 on Tuesday confirmed the deep, longstanding divisions in our community regarding the best path to setting in concrete a plan for the I-26 connector, I am pleased to see the continued strengthening of consensus on one area.

    I thank you for your unanimous expression of support for fighting for the integrity of the historic Burton Street Community, which was the first working class, African American subdivision in Asheville, and remains the home place to generations of families and their children. The renaissance that these neighbors are experiencing in the health of their community is an inspiration to us all.

    Your determination to add deeds to your words to fight to assure that NC DOT alters whatever plan they should choose to fulfill your promise will be the measure of your success as Commissioners. We will support you and challenge you to live up to your word.

    You have my full support in living up to NC’s motto, TO BE, RATHER THAN TO SEEM. In this aspect of your decision you are in unity with the 6-1 vote of the Asheville City Council. For this, I thank YOU, each and every one.

    Your friend,
    Keith Thomson

  28. Cecil Bothwell

    The ADC plan uses considerably less asphalt and concrete.

    Not only is that less profit for paving contractors on the front end, it is less paving maintenance on into the future.

  29. Austin

    Its almost as if “xing xang” has some sort of financial reason to support his preferred plan, or something.

    this certainly explains why he is a ghost writer, and not an actual person who is willing to let everyone know who and what he is. He can’t be exposed because it will display his affiliations.
    He has no actual info to offer. But thanks for giving me the opportunity to hone my arguments, they will be invaluable as I go to the community.

    NC’s freeway projects are always big pork for certain big-dog local construction companies. Here, that means Taylor & Murphy.

    The Chamber wouldn’t have made its choice without input from T&M;. I’d say it’s an unbeatable bet that Alternative 3 would make more profit for T$M than 4b, even though I don’t know exactly how.

    T&M;is also a major contributor to political campaigns, both locally and on the state level. And NCDOT is—how do you say it nicely?—notoriously corrupt.

    Diuvei,
    This is the kind of info that actually helps to get to the bottom of things, thanks.

  30. Xing –

    “4B- Much too big, expensive, and highly unlikely to be built in any way resembling that design by the DOT. The term that comes to mind is “Pie In The Sky”.

    3- Not perfect, but more realistic in terms of cost and likelihood of being built as designed. Less impactful (?) in terms of areas and property displaced.”

    While I appreciate brevity, your pithy statement lacks fact and any true independent insight.
    If you want to form a reasonable debate I’m always willing to listen.
    In the meantime, 4b has been supported by every organization that is not a stooge or pawn of the chamber of commerce, and protecting peoples homes and businesses should be of the highest priority to the individual and the community.

  31. Keith –

    You must live in a rose-colored county because I think their notion to ‘protect Burton St’ is a load of BUNC(ombe).

    The entire reason the ADC existed was to create a plan that DID protect Burton St. The community asked for such a plan, designed it, presented it, and now the county is talking out of the left side of their faces while passing bills under the table.
    Holly Jones made the point perfectly clear to Bill Stanley, and Cecil Bothwell is correct: Bill Stanley is a liar.
    You can’t say you support the Burton St. community while voting to demolish their homes by putting a highway there.
    Carol Peterson is the head of the Board of Trustees at AB-Tech, which K. Ray Bailey was the President of for many years. As goes one, expect the other to follow. Holly Jones is the only one really listening to the majority of the people. Not that Carol, Bill, and K.Ray don’t talk to the community, but it is a very specific and constricted community perspective they all belong amongst.

  32. Keith

    Dear Ms JBo,

    You might wish to re-read what I wrote, as you missed my point completely. Or you may just wish to view everyone that you don’t understand as an enemy. I hope that we can be friendly, when we agree, and especially when we do not.

    There is surely not a way to support Alt 3 without destroying Burton St. The promises that the 3 Commissioners made to the families in Burton Street Community are much more powerful for them to ignore and break, than to ignore and oppose you and I in our quest to seek a simplified, ADC version of Alt 4-B be implemented.

    I have been watching this process develop over the last thirty, some-odd, years, and I nonetheless still believe that as neighbors in Buncombe County we can address one another as friends, even while we are disagreeing passionately about making choices that are mutually exclusive.

    I know what you may feel like it is as elected officials seem to ignore and have disdain for us mere peasants. Alas, I wish you well, but I would rather have 3-2, or more, for my position than 1-3, or 2-3.

    Shalom,
    Keith

  33. Keith –

    There was no personal animosity towards you in my comment whatsoever. I just don’t think we need to send any emails congratulating or thanking the commissioners as a whole for their decision.

    Politics and personalities are different beasts, although they do overlap. Every time I work with anyone, despite whatever policy debates are occurring, I always approach a person as an individual whose ideas and beliefs are to be respected on some base level, even if I can’t agree with them.

    I’m not clear on your last point – so I will just say that I was only attempting to reinstate my observation of the continued process of back-room democracy in county politics. People who were upset with the former commissioners had hope with Gantt, Jones, and Bailey. Now that same hope seems to be transforming into disappointment and frustration. It’s a difficult way to start off the next four years for this governing group. Best of luck to them and to the communities who may be challenging them along the way.

  34. Keith

    JBo wrote:
    “I just don’t think we need to send any emails congratulating or thanking the commissioners as a whole for their decision.”

    I agree that we should not need to do that, nor, with all due respect, is that what I wrote.

    I am thankful that they made the promise, and should be held accountable, to protect the good folks in Burton Street. That strengthens our efforts and allows us to get back to the business of advocating for a simplified Alt-4B that achieves that objective, and others that are equally important and integrated into the design.

    Alt 3, as you so correctly said, should not be the final choice to be constructed. I am optimistic that it will not be.

  35. xingxang

    Typical reaction- to accuse me of having financial interest in one plan… I assure you my only financial interest is as a tax payer who knows from experience that the final price tag will be much higher than presently advertised… but ask those who are affiliated with ADC, PIP and Riverlink which plan benefits their interests most. (Hint- it’s the one they’re howling so loudly for.)

    As for Contractors making more $ from various plans- have you noticed how many more miles of elevated roads and bridges are included in 4B? Have you seen the estimated price tags for the different schemes? If you know about construction and maintenance costs for elevated roadway as opposed to surface roads, then you’d realize that the road contractors are salivating over 4B more than any other. But that doesn’t fit your agenda of accusations of greed and corruption, does it?

  36. Joe Minicozzi, AICP

    So Xingxang:
    Can you explain how PIP profits. If you’re going to start throwing accusations, bring the data.

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