City Planning and Economic Development Committee agenda covers signs, brownfields, River District

In its first monthly meeting since July, Asheville City Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee will convene on Nov. 15 to consider a group of environment-related policies, including proposed amendments to the city’s sign code; changes to development review in the River District; and a proposal for the city to join a coalition, led by Land of Sky Regional Council, that will apply for a grant from the state’s “brownfields” program, which enables cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites.

The committee works to provide dialogue between Council and concerned citizens before its issues come up for an official vote. It recommends policies to support City Council’s long-range planning goals, with a focus that includes policies to enhance employability of Asheville residents, planning of land uses, transportation, building codes and development standards, annexation policies, economic development strategies and incentives, and more. Council member Jan Davis serves as committee chair; additional members are Esther Manheimer and Gordon Smith.

Regarding the brownfields grant proposal, city planning staffer Stephanie Monson tells Xpress, “We’ve had a regional brownfields initiative in the area for six or seven years, so there is a well-defined process for choosing sites, and the property owners are self-selected.” Under the brownfields proposal, the city would have an advisory role in administering government funds to assist property owners seeking to clean up toxic contamination at sites that have been adopted into North Carolina’s brownfields program. Within its borders, the City of Asheville counts 10 official brownfields properties, where owners are working on plans for clean up, according to Monson.

Meanwhile, the committee has been working to bring some changes to the city’s sign ordinance, addressing campaign signs, LED signs, vehicle signs, and signs associated with so-called “second tier” developments — that is, for properties that lack visibility on a main thoroughfare. Regarding campaign signs, the proposal is to clarify the ordinance so that such signs may begin being displayed 30 days prior to the primary.

Due to early voting, some observers have expressed fatigue over the extension of the election season and the proliferation of campaign signage. Regarding LED signs, the proposal is to relax the ordinance and allow signs to change once every four hours. Currently, the ordinance allows an LED sign message to change just twice in 24 hours.

Regarding second-tier development, it’s proposed that the city replace the current second tier rules and with an option that would allow a land-locked property to post signage on an adjacent free-standing, multi-tenant sign.

Finally, the committee is proposing language to clarify city standards so that vehicles sporting business signage must be parked in a proper, striped space and not in aisles or grassy medians, and not blocking another business’s sign.

Regarding development in the River District, the committee is considering an amendment to the UDO concerning review jurisdiction and responsibilities. According to a Nov. 7 letter from Terry Meek, chair of the River District Design Review Committee, to the PED, “there have been many changes [in the River District] since the adoption of the Riverfront Plan, both in redevelopment trends, and zoning. With these changes, we are seeing a number of properties which could be a significant contributor to the “look and feel” of the District, but because of their zoning classification or project size, do not fall within [our] jurisdiction of review.” A summary of the new policy will be presented at the upcoming PED meeting; the changes will continue to rely on voluntary compliance by developers and property owners in the River District.

The Committee will meet at Asheville City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Its recommendations will be offered for Council approval as part of the Nov. 22 consent agenda.

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