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 http://bit.ly/b5z5VO


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: http://bit.ly/b5z5VO


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.

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

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