It was a lengthy session on Aug. 28, and it’s not technically over: Asheville City Council will reconvene Thursday, Aug. 30, at 4 p.m. to discuss changing the language of the water system referendum. At tonight’s meeting, Council appointed Joe Minicozzi and Holly Shriner to the powerful Planning and Zoning commission, among many other matters.
Council announced the continuation at the end of the meeting, though nothing else on the topic was mentioned. Earlier in the meeting, Council held a lengthy closed session on the lawsuit filed by local media for the release of the Asheville Police Department evidence room audit, and continued that closed session at the end of the meeting.
A few hours before the regular session, Council interviewed four locals — current board chair Mark Brooks, current board member Holly Shriner, urban planner Joe Minicozzi, and planning consultant Abigail Emison — for spots on the Planning and Zoning commission, which in recent years has accrued more power to approve developments. Shriner, whose initial appointment two years ago was controversial, received praise from most Council members for her diligence on the board. Minicozzi’s expertise (he’s the former director of the Downtown Association and has played major roles in many projects over the years) was also cited as a factor by his proponents. He has applied multiple times before, but this time mustered support from five Council members to secure a seat on the board.
In other business Council:
• Unanimously approved using $217,000 in Asheville Housing Authority funds to hire four full-time APD officers to help form a unit dedicated to policing the city’s public housing projects.
• Unanimously approved negotiating a contract with Pope Golf for management of the Asheville Municipal Golf Course. The city has had to subsidize the course in recent years due to declining revenues. A number of golfers told Council that problems at the course were a product of a lack of leadership from the Parks and Recreation department, and that the city should keep and improve it. Other users, however, said that a private company would do a better job. Due to deed restrictions, the city can’t put the property to another use.
• Voted $155,720 to replace a terracotta drainage pipe on Blair Street. Troubles with the pipe have caused sinkholes, damaged houses and, in one case, required a woman to abandon her home due to water damage. The pipe is over a century old, and Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer noted that the city has an abundance of old infrastructure that the city isn’t aware of until it breaks.
• Voted 6-1 to ask the League of Municipalities to clarify state law on female toplessness, after Council condemned the recent GoTopless rally, and (in an unrelated matter) to ask the league to push for the regulation of mopeds. Council member Cecil Bothwell, feeling that the rally was degrading but that the culture should “grow up” on the issue of toplessness, voted against.
• Approved $67,200 from water system savings to study a possible merger of the system with the Metropolitan Sewerage District.
Twitter dispatches: Below, Senior News Reporter David Forbes’ reports via Twitter.
10:33 a.m. RT @mxnews: Asheville City Council preview: plans within plans http://t.co/skf15A8M
10:33 a.m. Asheville City Council preview: plans within plans http://t.co/mt0rJ1iX
3:09 p.m. Follow @DavidForbes for live news from City Council. In a few minutes, they’re interviewing P&Z candidates http://t.co/mt0rJ1iX
3:15 p.m. At Asheville City Counci interviews of Planning and Zoning Commission applicants. I’ll tweet highlights.
3:16 p.m. Planning and Zoning is powerful board, has final approval over a lot of projects
3:19 p.m. First up, planning consultant Abigail Emison. She’s getting quizzed about form-based zoning, believes it’s best done in small areas
3:20 p.m. Emison: Form-based code (which makes rules on building form instead of usage) is easier to understand, but complicated to set up
3:24 p.m. Emison: Role to make projects better, rules established by city should be clear to developers.
3:27 p.m. Council mem Marc Hunt asks Emison’s opinion about current P&Z, how it works.
3:28 p.m. Emison: Seen commission fall more on regulatory than policy side so far. But as craft new policies, expertise will be helpful
3:30 p.m. Emison: Having P&Z weigh in early in policymaking might be helpful
3:32 p.m. Next up, Joe Minicozzi, urban planner and fmr exec director of the Asheville Downtown Association.
3:33 p.m. Minicozzi’s applied for P&Z multiple times before, but never mustered votes. Touting his experience as city staff in W Palm Beach.
3:34 p.m. Hunt pointing out Minicozzi been advocate for causes, but P&Z diff role. Asking for his reflections on communication style/role
3:35 p.m. Minicozzi: Duty of Council to legislate, but P&Z can look forward.
3:36 p.m. Minicozzi: some areas could help out due to experience, but mostly see P&Z as a team role.
3:39 p.m. Minicozzi: Like to see something like downtown master plan replicated in other neighborhoods
3:41 p.m. Davis: Appreciates Minicozzi’s service, but notes “difficulties w staff” wonders if he can get along “inside the tent” better now.
3:44 p.m. Minicozzi: See common ground between biz, neighborhoods in wanting rational, efficient rules
3:47 p.m. During break before next candidate, Council talking about more public presentation on form-based zoning soon.
3:50 p.m. Next, current P&Z board member Holly Shriner.
3:52 p.m. Shriner: Volunteered for P&Z after stopped volunteering at children’s school. Had an enjoyable time.
3:54 p.m. Shriner’s appointment two years ago was controversial http://t.co/NN6aHr1r
3:55 p.m. Council mem Gordon Smith praising Shriner as having a rep “for doing your homework.” Shriner: See how development works as citizen
4:00 p.m. Shriner: The increased role in approving projects appropriate for P&Z.
4:04 p.m. Shriner: Try to visit all the sites under consideration, but would be good if P&Z had more in-depth perspective
4:07 p.m. Shriner: More briefings, retreats would help w keeping P&Z informed about bigger, more behind-the-scenes issues.
4:08 p.m. Council member Cecil Bothwell is absent from P&Z interviews
4:11 p.m. Final interview: current P&Z Chair and engineer Mark Brooks.
4:15 p.m. Brooks: We try to stay personally out of whether or not we feel it’s a good project, evaluate based on rules
4:16 p.m. Brooks: Form-based code more flexible, but may also make P&Z’s job more difficult, time-consuming
4:21 p.m. Davis praising jobs Brooks has done on P&Z
4:26 p.m. Brooks: Can understand how people feel about “life-altering projects.”
4:27 p.m. Brooks: But some change is inevitable. Seen minor things like variance for garage become emotional, complicated issues
4:27 p.m. Brooks: Know how I’d feel if learned lot next door would become apartments for homeless
4:30 p.m. Interviews for P&Z over. Council will decide which two get seats tonight. Meeting begins at 5pm
5:01 p.m. Council meeting’s begun.
5:04 p.m. Bothwell’s here now, so it’s a full Council
5:07 p.m. Consent agenda. Judy Strong wants Council to get funds from Tourism Development Authority for McCormick Field.
5:09 p.m. Davis: We’ve applied for those funds, used for other priorities like Civic Center repairs.
5:18 p.m. Bothwell has question about value of Haywood St property, Council’s considering selling at Sept. 11 meeting.
5:20 p.m. Admin/Finance Director Lauren Bradley: Transaction on Haywood vs. 51 Biltmore “apples and oranges”
5:21 p.m. Bothwell doesn’t see why 51 Biltmore was valued higher than Haywood properties
5:22 p.m. Bradley: Not many land transactions downtown, hard to easily appraise.
5:23 p.m. Consent agenda passes 6-1, Bothwell against.
5:24 p.m. AFD Chief Scott Burnette presenting report on 445 Biltmore fire last year that claimed life of Capt. Jeff Bowen
5:26 p.m. Burnette: “Someone intentionally meant for this building to burn” and it didn’t have an auto sprinkler system
5:27 p.m. Burnette: Entire AFD now trained in rapid intervention
5:27 p.m. Burnette: Extreme heat that day vs. cold inside of building also played a role.
5:29 p.m. Burnette: AFD will now have more supervisors, support personnel.
5:29 p.m. Burnette: Moving to more manageable structure, w group leaders.
5:34 p.m. Burnette: One of the valves that was supposed to be open wasn’t, reduced amount of water available to fight fire.
5:40 p.m. Burnette: APD has made arson case a top priority. Bellamy emphasizes $20,000 reward
5:45 p.m. Finance Committee report. Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer talking about Eagle/Mkt project, golf course contract.
5:47 p.m. Davis w housing/comm development committee report, touting Glen Rock project in River District
5:48 p.m. Davis: Amazing how much housing the city’s affordable housing trust fund influences.
5:49 p.m. Davis: Fed officials coming Sept. 13 to talk w/ city about sustainable community opportunities.
5:51 p.m. Manheimer joking calls her fellow committee members “sidekicks” moves onto watershed protections
5:56 p.m. Bothwell: “You get pulled over by an electric car, you’re in luck.”
5:56 p.m. Bothwell [Public Safety Committee Chair] touting APD’s purchase of electric cruiser, only one outside of NY.
6:01 p.m. Strategic Plan update. Asst City Mgr Jeff Richardson: Increased affordable housing trust fund, helped fund 76 units this year.
6:09 p.m. Richardson now reporting city’s energy savings, including use of natural gas-powered vehicles
6:11 p.m. Richardson: Crime increased slightly in 2011, but still among lowest in state
6:12 p.m. (When compared to crime among comparable cities)
6:17 p.m. APD Chief William Anderson is up. Update on evidence room. Reviewing 176 applicants for new manager
6:18 p.m. Anderson: Also researching way to work w DA’s office on disposal of large narcotics evidence.
6:19 p.m. Bellamy asks for tour of evidence room (presumably newer, non-sealed one). Anderson agrees.
6:20 p.m. Planning staff discussing adding rules allowing fruit and vegetable stands in residential areas.
6:26 p.m. Asst Planning Director Shannon Tuch: Had some requests from neighborhood markets about food trucks, looking at what rules could be
6:28 p.m. Smith: Glad to see the churches hosting markets, people enjoying them all over town.
6:30 p.m. Lots of reports at this meeting. Final one about water system.
6:31 p.m. Water project mgr Phil Kleisler: Workgroups reviewing poss merger w MSD, governance models, asset value, comm, financial analysis
6:36 p.m. Kleisler: Working on webpage for ongoing study of city’s water system.
6:38 p.m. Reports over. Next: public hearing on initial zoning of recently annexed property in UNCA area.
6:42 p.m. Area incorporated into city via state law that settled boundary between Asheville and Woodfin.
6:48 p.m. Council considering who to appoint to Planning and Zoning Commission members
6:48 p.m. Council approves zoning near UNCA area single-family and institutional unanimously
6:50 p.m. Hunt voting for Minicozzi, Shriner, thinks interview process is appropriate for important commissions.
6:52 p.m. Hunt: impressed w chair Mark Brooks (who’s also up for reappointment), but wants P&Z that better represents range of interests
6:53 p.m. Bothwell: “have serious transparency concerns” about Brooks, Shriner. Support Emison, Minicozzi
6:54 p.m. Manheimer supports Brooks, Shriner, as does Davis. Smith backs Minicozzi, Shriner. Pelly votes for Minicozzi, Emison
6:55 p.m. Bellamy wonders why Minicozzi isn’t on staff. Supports Minicozzi, Brooks
6:56 p.m. Council appoints Joe Minicozzi, reappoints Holly Shriner to Planning and Zoning Commission
6:58 p.m. Onto state legislative agenda. Bellamy wants clarification on laws on female toplessness, mopeds
6:59 p.m. Clarification: city is considering which legislative priorities to recommend to League of Municipalities
7:01 p.m. Hunt seconds putting Bellamy’s priorities on League’s agenda, opens up for public comment
7:02 p.m. Ditmore: Founding Fathers used horses, which were more dangerous, unpredictable than mopeds.
7:02 p.m. Alan Ditmore: Use moped because “I didn’t want to bow down to the government.”
7:03 p.m. Steve Rasmussen: Seems like as soon as we find out we have a right, gov wants it taken away. Re: female toplessness
7:04 p.m. Rasmussen: Attendance at GoTopless rally dwindling as novelty wears off. This will throw fuel on fire.
7:06 p.m. Rasmussen: Hypocrisy saying we want to reduce bias and then urge law that’s actually biased against women.
7:08 p.m. Barry Summers: Council wasting time. Take out “horror at a woman’s naked breast” and this is a non-issue.
7:10 p.m. Bothwell: Diff reasons for signing letter. Felt topless rally degrading. But think country should “grow up” as far as naked women.
7:11 p.m. Moving on from nudity… Smith: “I’d like to address mopeds.” Theft enough issue to start licensing
7:12 p.m. Council goes into closed session to discuss #apdaudit lawsuit.
7:12 p.m. 6-1, Council asks League of Municipalities to consider putting female toplessness, moped rules on #ncga agenda. Bothwell against.
7:14 p.m. City vote for clarification on female toplessness laws, didn’t endorse ban
7:59 p.m. Nearly an hour later, Council’s still in closed session discussing #apdaudit lawsuit
8:02 p.m. Council’s back. Considering creating 4-officer public housing police unit.
8:04 p.m. APD Chief Anderson: 11 public housing projects in city, ~6,000 ppl. Significantly higher calls for service.
8:05 p.m. Anderson: This will allow us to implement new crime prevention strategies in public housing, assist in forming neighborhood watches
8:07 p.m. Clarification: 4 new officers, will be more in unit, headed by Sgt.
8:10 p.m. Bellamy: Not just a police issue, has to be systemic change in neighborhood.
8:11 p.m. Bellamy: Have to end stop-starting programs in public housing. Need continuous level of services.
8:15 p.m. Anderson: Important we work with community, hear their ideas. This geared less to enforcement than working w residents
8:16 p.m. David Nash, deputy director Asheville Housing Authority: $217,000 for the new officers comes from AHA security budget
8:20 p.m. Gene Bell, AHA Director: Goal to improve neighborhoods, not put people in jail.
8:23 p.m. Smith: Have a responsibility to improve situation for Asheville’s public housing residents.
8:25 p.m. Anderson: Hope forming this police unit will be part of strategy to change culture and lifestyles in public housing
8:27 p.m. Public comment on creation of public housing APD unit.
8:30 p.m. Fred English, Haw Creek resident: Don’t think we need this. People that get the benefits don’t pay most of the taxes.
8:32 p.m. Judy Strong: Doesn’t think proposal is accountable. Public housing residents “may have entitlement attitude.”
8:32 p.m. Judy Strong: Doesn’t think proposal is accountable. Public housing residents “may have entitlement attitdue.”
8:35 p.m. Nash: AHA does hold people accountable. But also issue of underground economies rising in areas where ppl have little opportunity.
8:36 p.m. Bothwell: People with little to lose are more likely to engage in illegal activity.
8:37 p.m. Council approves new APD public housing unit unanimously
8:39 p.m. Always glad to see good discussion/comments on during the Council meetings.
8:41 p.m. Council considering replacing drainage pipe on Blair St. Failing terracotta pipe dates back to early 1900s.
8:43 p.m. Public comment. Leslie Clingmare: came home to find 32 inches of flooding in our basement. Shows pictures of sinkhole.
8:44 p.m. Council’s been at this since 3pm. Battery running low, so tweets might end shortly.
8:45 p.m. Clingmare: House had to be abandoned. Ground’s basically liquefied. Huge safety issue, want future permit, dump fees waived
8:48 p.m. Other residents concerned about pipes – over a century old – collapsing in other areas too.
8:53 p.m. Manheimer: Asheville’s an old city. Don’t know about a lot of this old infrastructure until it breaks.
8:55 p.m. Issue of cost-sharing w property owners. Residents want city to bear costs. Staff: wouldn’t build line under homes like this today.
8:58 p.m. Council unanimously approves $155,720 to replace drainage pipe on Blair St.
9:00 p.m. Council considering agreement w Pope Golf to manage city’s golf course
9:06 p.m. Pope Golf will keep rates at golf course the same, continue holding same tournaments
9:08 p.m. The company would start operating the municipal golf course Oct. 1.
9:11 p.m. Parks and Rec Director Roderick Simmons: Private company running golf course will result in better return for city.
9:17 p.m. Ditmore: City should outright sell the course instead of leasing it.
9:19 p.m. Strader: Parks and Rec department shows “no leadership.”
9:19 p.m. Aubrey Strader: Golf course is an asset of Asheville. But current course badly managed by city, “just let it go.”
9:21 p.m. Bill Gardenheit: Reason city loses money on golf course because it doesn’t run it well.
9:27 p.m. Other golfers also criticize Parks and Rec management, but feel private company best way to solve issues.
9:29 p.m. Smith: Land deed-restricted to be a golf course, can’t sell it and turn it into something else.
9:30 p.m. But Smith concerned about wages golf course employees will be rehired at
9:31 p.m. Bradley: Pope would have to comply w living wage policy
9:35 p.m. Hunt talking about possibility of turning losses of $100K to gains of $70K or more.
10:19 p.m. Well that was interesting. Council went into closed session to continue discussing #apdaudit lawsuit
10:20 p.m. On top of that, Council will reconvene Thursday at 4pm to change the language of the water system referendum
10:21 p.m. Just after my battery died, Council unanimously passed contract to lease golf course to Pope Golf
10:22 p.m. Council also approved funding for a study of merging water system w MSD
11:03 p.m. RT @mxnews: Council appoints planning board members; will reconvene on water issue Thursday http://t.co/36hqpcJt
11:03 p.m. Council appoints planning board members; will reconvene on water issue Thursday http://t.co/1CUY2Y97
11:04 p.m. RT @mxnews Council appoints planning board members; will reconvene on water issue Thursday http://t.co/TdcZy3eP