At its meeting tonight, Oct. 11, Asheville City Council:
• directed city staff to find a temporary location for the Occupy Asheville protesters to camp overnight.
The move followed lengthy public comment, when representatives and members of the demonstrations asked Council to allow them to use part of Pack Square Park. The speakers asserted that the move would respect their constitutional right to assemble and give the protests a peaceful outlet. Council members generally expressed sympathy for Occupy Asheville and praised the protesters’ conduct, but noted that they were considering the needs of other groups who had already reserved the area, and that they had concerns changing park rules without publishing notice on the printed agenda or having more time to deliberate. In the end, Council agreed to find a temporary space and consider the matter again at its next meeting Oct. 25 in hopes of finding a more lasting location.
• unanimously voted to not authorize a community media contract with web development company Ponderwell.
Council members voiced concern that Ponderwell’s proposal didn’t meet the criteria they had desired when the RFP was created. Xpress had also entered a proposal for the grant and was a finalist in the assessment made by a panel of city, county and business representatives. That panel gave Ponderwell a higher score, and staff recommended contracting with them for the project. Council member Gordon Smith expressed concern about government funding a news organization. Ponderwell staff and supporters defended their proposal, saying it would help citizens develop the skills to report and edit news, but Council remained unconvinced. The $120,000 set aside for the contract will return to the city general fund.
• voted 4-3 to approve a rezoning that would allow the subdivision of a lot on Waneta Street in Montford. Mayor Terry Bellamy joined Council members Jan Davis and Esther Manheimer in opposing the measure. Proponents called it a reasonable compromise that provided affordable housing, while critics, including the Montford Neighborhood Association, said the proposal opened the door to excessive density in their area.