Council approves city water for residents near former CTS site

Asheville City Council members approved extending city water to residents near the contaminated former CTS of Asheville site at their Sept. 25 meeting.

Residents of the area have long sought city water, fearing groundwater contamination after high amounts of trichloroethylene were found in some wells in the area. Buncombe County is taking out a $3 million loan from the state to pay for the lines.

During the Sept. 25 meeting, Council approved its end of a deal that will provide water to 129 residents in the area around the site, waiving fees for setting up the new lines. Council members expressed their happiness that the arrangement would enable clean water to reach the residents, and resident Tate McQueen praised Council’s move as an example of good governance. However, he noted that problems with spreading contamination, air quality and other issues still endure.

Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer was absent from the meeting.

• Council voted 5-1 to initiate the rezoning process for several parcels in the Kenilworth neighborhood, currently zoned institutional. Neighborhood residents have sought to change the properties’ zoning, citing concerns about the level of density institutional allows on the steep site. The dispute is also tied up in the fight over the attempt to build the Caledonia Apartments on nearby property, which has drawn the neighborhood, property owner Frank Howington, and the city into a legal dispute.

The decision doesn’t rezone the parcels yet, but starts a process of investigating their zoning and seeing if a change is merited. Council member Jan Davis, the sole dissenting vote, feared the city was setting a bad precedent by pursuing a rezoning without involving the property owner.

• Council approved 6-0 a seven-year lease agreement with Pope Golf to operate the city’s municipal golf course. The city has lost money on the course in recent years; turning over operations to the company — which will pay an annual fee of around $72,000 — should provide revenues for other city needs.

• Council heard an update on the city’s 10-year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness, now in its eighth year. According to the program’s calculations, the number of chronic homeless in Asheville went from 131 in 2006 to 182 in 2010 before declining sharply down to 80 this year. The drop is attributed to ongoing efforts to get more homeless into permanent housing.

But Heather Spencer, an initiative representative, noted that housing costs remain a huge issue. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Asheville is $717 a month without utilities, while a fair market rate is calculated at $617 with utilities, a gap that makes it hard to find housing for many homeless.

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