Council continues ban on cell towers in neighborhoods

Council continues ban on cell towers in neighborhoods-attachment0

Asheville City Council members took the following actions at their Nov. 9 meeting (see below for a compilation of live dispatches via Twitter from Senior News Reporter David Forbes).

• Voted unanimously to continue a ban on cell-phone towers in residential areas, except for publicly owned properties

• Delayed voting on updating a new community center at Livingston Street Park, citing need for more community review

• Voted unanimously to pull contract with Matrix systems to install key card, camera security systems due to lack of license; passed a motion to award the contract to RHS systems

• Unanimously approved a rezoning request for Enka Center — a mixed-use development including commercial, industrial/warehouse uses, expansion of city sports park

• Voted 4-3 to allow projects to apply for development incentives if they meet sustainability/affordability requirements and fit in certain transit corridors, Bothwell, Russell, Davis against

• Set neighborhood meetings for March (south Asheville) and August (West Asheville)
summary by News Editor Margaret Williams; Twitter reports by Senior News Reporter David Forbes

3:24 p.m. On my way to City Council 3:30pm work session, 5pm meeting

3:27 p.m. Asheville City Council’s Nov 9 meeting about to start (work session first), agenda, live Twitter feed at

3:39 p.m. City staff talking about “need for air and light between buildings” in new design guidelines

3:41 p.m. Other factors include “respect for skyline,” stepping floor size back as height increases

3:46 p.m. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman concerned formula for taller buildings may hamper creativity

3:46 p.m. Council member Cecil Bothwell doesn’t like proposal to raise minimum size for Council review to 175,000 square feet

3:47 p.m. Newman also wants to encourage development downtown by taking more projects out of “politicized” review process

3:48 p.m. Newman adds that setbacks, design guidelines will balance less projects going before Council review

3:50 p.m. Council member Gordon Smith: likes guidelines, add “predictability” to process, less reliance on personal preferences of Council

3:53 p.m. Bothwell appreciates downtown master plan guidelines, “can see a lot of work’s gone into this”

3:54 p.m. Now onto affordability/sustainability guidelines

3:55 p.m. 1st proposal, which got best public response: extend existing density bonuses, incentives to any affordable/sustainable project downtown

4:01 p.m. Newman: New York one of the most energy efficient cities in US, need to encourage more downtown construction

4:03 p.m. Smith: need to consider ease of review process, possible tax incentives to encourage such development

4:04 p.m. Bothwell: Generally “in favor of using the broadest guidelines for broadest areas” rather than different rules for different areas

4:08 p.m. Bothwell: “I see that there’s a need to raise it” wants to keep it at 100,000. Newman: we need to encourage dwntwn development

4:08 p.m. Mayor Bellamy wants to consider min size for Council review at 150,000 sq ft. Newman, Davis, Bill Russell want 175,000

4:09 p.m. Newman: contentious review process “absolutely does discourage” needed, dense development downtown

4:11 p.m. Correction: Bothwell said “I don’t see that there’s a need” to raise min size for Council review

4:14 p.m. Staff will present design, process parts of master plan proposals to Council in two weeks

4:16 p.m. Council member Esther Manheimer: Wary of changing elements of master plan too rapidly, need to respect work of consultants, committees

4:17 p.m. Manheimer: Understands staff wants to defer to Council, “but sometimes it must feel like watching a teenager drive a car”

4:18 p.m. Bellamy says she disagrees. Manheimer: “don’t want to mess with something when 100s of hours, good work gone into it”

4:19 p.m. Staff: tradeoff for less Council review in plan is stricter guidelines

4:22 p.m. Work session adjourned

4:26 p.m. For you locals (or wonkish political addicts, I know my own), welcome to the latest round of #avlgov

4:27 p.m. Council begins its main meeting at 5. More on what they’ll be discussing:

4:57 p.m. Council meeting about to begin

5:01 p.m. And we’re off, Bellamy says she’ll try to keep “agenda moving pretty quickly”

5:03 p.m. Bothwell giving invocation by reading cosmologist Martin Rees, citing importance of accepting change, breaking down barriers

5:05 p.m. Proclamation recognizing WNC Nature Center’s Zoo and Aquarium re-accreditation

5:08 p.m. City Manager Gary Jackson: accreditation looks at care of animals, safety, “rigorous review” of performance

5:17 p.m. Praise for WNC Nature Center continues, Bellamy praises achievements, cleanliness, “explaining how the otters live”

5:18 p.m. Standing ovation for Nature Center

5:20 p.m. Now, proclamation for City Schools Champions Day (Nov. 12)

5:24 p.m. Also, Nov. 14-20 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Vice Mayor Newman citing lack of affordable housing one cause

5:27 p.m. Community book read, food drive, other “awareness raising” activities, says Homelessness Initiative head Amy Sawyer

5:28 p.m. Council delays voting on updating new community center at Livingston Street Park, citing need for more community review

5:30 p.m. Question over compensation level for ABC Board members. Davis defending, says amount has stayed same, board professional

5:32 p.m. Consent agenda (including ABC board matter) passes unanimously

5:33 p.m. Newman, however, adds “this is higher than any other board I know of,” wants more info

5:35 p.m. On to the board updates, first up: WNC Regional Air Quality Agency

5:39 p.m. The board enforces fed, state and local air regulations, including tighter rules on open burning

5:42 p.m. Board head David Brigman: “the pollution we create here is what we breathe” especially due to geography, which traps pollution

5:43 p.m. Brigman: Area meeting EPA standards

5:46 p.m. Brigman: air pollution on downward trend

5:50 p.m. EPA standards being reconsidered, Bellamy: “can’t set something that’s unattainable” region, state would lose transportation money

5:52 p.m. Next update, the Community Action Opportunities group

5:54 p.m. Group’s purpose to “help people on limited income transform their lives”

6:03 p.m. 2nd presentation where “time’s up” buzzer has gone off. CAO representative continuing to talk about roof replacement, head start

6:06 p.m. Bellamy cutting off presentation, promises Council will look at material

6:08 p.m. Stimulus update, city wants to pull contract for Matrix systems to install key card, camera security systems due to lack of license

6:09 p.m. Motion to withdraw contract passes unanimously, so does motion to give contract to RHS systems

6:10 p.m. Now Maggie Ullmann from city Office of Sustainability on city’s carbon footprint

6:13 p.m. City spends $5.3 million on energy. Saved $336,216 by reducing energy use, reductions equivalent to 76,026 planted trees

6:15 p.m. Ullmann: Energy expenditures on buildings dropping sharply, but vehicle fleet has increased due to older vehicles on road for longer

6:19 p.m. Last presentation: Bothwell on volunteer sidewalk cleanup. He’s got a video.

6:20 p.m. Bothwell: “Perfectly good sidewalks were getting covered up with debris”

6:21 p.m. Bothwell’s been working with Z-Link sidewalk recovery project, Starnes, Cumberland Avenues some examples

6:22 p.m. Bothwell on video: “We cleared sidewalks all summer,” says 50 volunteers helped

6:24 p.m. Z-Link launching new effort in wake of city rules requiring property owners to cleanup sidewalks

6:25 p.m. Room applauding Bothwell’s efforts

6:26 p.m. Staff briefing Council on four initial zonings for properties annexed in round of annexations earlier this year

6:29 p.m. The zonings all pass unanimously

6:32 p.m. Now a somewhat larger (and more contentious) rezoning: Enka Center, partly based in old BASF plant

6:34 p.m. Proposed mixed-use development including commercial, industrial/warehouse uses, expansion of city sports park

6:38 p.m. Project needs exception to city zoning rules on parking and transportation modifications

6:39 p.m. Staff believe the project will be a good “regional commercial center”

6:41 p.m. Developer Martin Lewis: Project has used 3 1/2 years of my life. Cautiously optimistic

6:42 p.m. Lewis: But economy remains dicey, though site ready. “When is project going to take place? We don’t know”

6:45 p.m. No public comment during hearing. Manheimer thanking developers for cleaning up brownfield site

6:48 p.m. Manheimer has additional conditions, which she’s discussed in advance with developers, including greenway easement

6:52 p.m. Lewis: We agree with conditions. Manheimer makes motion to approve

6:52 p.m. Other conditions: bring parts of project not in city limits in as they’re developed, guarantee part of project for ball field

6:58 p.m. Smith: “This [project] is the kind of thing we love to see, this is a place-making kind of project”

7:01 p.m. Rezoning for Enka Center passes unanimously

7:02 p.m. Council moving “transformational” development ordinance up in the agenda to get done before 7pm break

7:05 p.m. Rules allow projects to apply for incentives if meet city guidelines for workforce/affordable housing, near certain areas

7:09 p.m. Guidelines were developed in response to request for incentives for Montford Commons

7:14 p.m. Newman wants standard for “financial viability” withdrawn, says it’s too subjective

7:17 p.m. Economic Development Director Sam Powers: there are industry standards, ways to analyze acceptable rate of return

7:18 p.m. Newman still thinks its too vague, thinks same thing about energy standards. “We need crisp guidelines”

7:22 p.m. Bothwell on energy standards: “Do you buy one EnergyStar refrigerator and qualify?”

7:26 p.m. Council debating delaying whole package again or approving without financial need requirement. Bellamy: “Let’s wrap this up”

7:27 p.m. Now Bellamy wants to look at extending development corridors to Long Shoals Road

7:34 p.m. Newman against extending corridors too far out, worried it could help big-box retailers

7:42 p.m. Bellamy asking Council to hurry up, Newman has “one last question,” feels proposal hasn’t gotten enough review

7:42 p.m. Bellamy ok with sending it back, so’s Manheimer

7:44 p.m. Bellamy: “How about we approve it,” then send to staff. Already have Montford Commons as test case

7:45 p.m. Newman, to Bellamy: “You don’t think it needs more discussion? It needs more refinement”

7:46 p.m. Bellamy: “Let’s approve this,” asks Newman to rewrite it himself, if he think it needs additions

7:46 p.m. Bothwell says he’s uncomfortable with very idea of incentives to developers

7:48 p.m. Motion passes 4-3 w provision for revision in future. Bothwell, Russell, Davis against.

7:50 p.m. Bellamy apologizes for length [of meeting], promises to be out quickly. Council goes into “7pm” recess/closed session at 7:49

8:11 p.m. Council emerging from chambers, smell of food wafting out. Major item left: allowing cellphone towers in some residential areas

8:13 p.m. Council briefed on new rules for cell towers, incl possible expansion to residential areas, 3rd time Council’s considered matter

8:15 p.m. New revisions add rules for setbacks, lot size, co-location to allowance of towers in some residential areas

8:17 p.m. Staff: Changes required by fed, state allow that prohibit local restrictions from harming service

8:20 p.m. Planner Shannon Tuch suggests considering rules for relaxing restrictions for towers on city-owned property

8:26 p.m. Manheimer: Studied cell-tower zoning in crafting city’s original ordinance as lawyer. “Extremely concerned” about towers in res areas

8:27 p.m. Manheimer: “By allowing cell towers into res areas, open the door” to loss of property value, security for residents

8:28 p.m. Manheimer thinks even if city allows towers, will still be vulnerable to lawsuit challenges

8:29 p.m. Manheimer makes motion to accept new requirements, w/out expansion into residential areas. Davis seconds

8:32 p.m. Beaverdam Susanna Aedile holding petitions supporting ban, believes “neighborhoods will suffer greatly”

8:32 p.m. Aedile: Letting celltowers into areas like cemeteries is disrespectful to dead, “harms natural beauty”

8:36 p.m. Skyway Drive resident and retired developer/preacher Tyler Martin: “Towers decrease value of homes,” children shouldn’t be near towers

8:37 p.m. Martin: “If they build that tower, it costs me money”

8:38 p.m. Beaverdam resident Andy Bladstein: “One of few things we have left is our neighborhoods” cell towers “will destroy them”

8:46 p.m. Beaverdam resident noting they have cell service in area, says problem w some cell companies’ technology

8:49 p.m. Beaverdam res Dave Pestel: Evidence of cell tower health damage “inconclusive” but “it might happen, so bravo” in considering the ban

8:51 p.m. Atty Patsy Bryson, who’s representing US Cellular: If Council passes this motion, will violate fed, state law

8:53 p.m. Bryson: “Respectfully urge that this motion fail. You are in violation of fed, state law” and we’ll proceed accordingly

8:54 p.m. Bryson: Only heard from one neighborhood, coverage issues all over city. You pass this, we want a legal justification in writing

8:59 p.m. City Atty Bob Oast: As state law doesn’t allow placement only on city-owned property, residential ban may violate federal law

9:02 p.m. Bellamy: Got some e-mails from other neighborhoods supporting towers

9:03 p.m. Bellamy: “If we pass this, we’re saying it’s ok to not have service in some areas” Issue will return

9:04 p.m. Bellamy: most areas that have banned cell towers in residential areas are flat, “they can do that” we need to increase service

9:06 p.m. Bellamy adds friendly amendment calling for searching out other ways to increase service

9:11 p.m. Continuance of ban on cell towers passes unanimously

9:18 p.m. Bryson to Xpress: Want written opinion from city. “Ball’s in their court” As for lawsuit “We’ll consider our options”

9:20 p.m. State legislative update now. Oast: Assembly will mostly be occupied w budget

9:22 p..m Oast: Think we’ve reached agreement on exact boundary w Woodfin, want cable franchise rules revised, ability to use water to annex

9:25 p.m. Bellamy: Council members will submit desired issues, discuss on Dec. 14

9:26 p.m. Russell: We should use a work session to consider these issues, due to complex issues like annexation

9:27 p.m. Oast: “Legislators put a lot of weight on the votes these items get… Look for unanimity”

9:29 p.m. CLARIFICATION: Council unanimously voted to continue ban on cell towers in res areas except for publicly-owned property

9:31 p.m. Council now taking up vote on new process for appointing planning board members, will interview during reg meeting

9:31 p.m. New process passes unanimously

9:36 p.m. Council discussing schedule for community meetings in neighborhoods around city. Smith commending effort

9:39 p.m. Newman says dialogue process to review area’s issues before meeting there works well

9:41 p.m. Meetings in South Asheville next March, West Asheville next August

9:46 p.m. Smith touting locally-owned social Thurs, 6pm

9:46 p.m. Meeting adjourned.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987. Follow me @mvwilliams

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