An online petition that opposes the creation of a North Asheville dog park triggered confusion from both developers and community members, while amassing more than 200 signatures within the last 24 hours.
Created by 22-year-old Beaverdam resident Natalie Flores, the local campaign calls for the proposed North Asheville dog park to be built elsewhere. The proposed site for the off-leash dog park would be located on an approximately 8-acre parcel of land off Beaverdam Road and Wild Cherry Road. The property would be donated to the City of Asheville by Gated Communities of Asheville.
Flores says the reason she created the petition last night literally hits close to home. On Tuesday, July 16, Flores says she was leaving her family’s house at 298 Beaverdam Road, a place where she and her parents have been renting for more than 20 years, when she saw a piece of paper taped to her front door.
“This notice is to inform you that you are occupying the property without a lease agreement. As such, you are hereby given notice that you have 10 days to vacate the property,” reads the eviction notice from lawyer Scott C. Best of the law office Best and Best.
However, Flores alleges the real reason her family was given the notice is because of the proposed dog park.
“A bunch of people who are on this road are just not happy with this dog park happening. I’m not happy that my family is being put in the middle of this and getting hurt by this as well,” Flores says.
But according to Kevin Reese, director of development and construction at Ark Development, that’s simply not the case. In the past couple of months, Reese has been attending meetings with both city officials and the grassroots group of about 30-40 people that pushed for the park’s creation, Friends of North Asheville Dog Park.
The developer states that neither the park nor its organizers have anything to do with the eviction notice.
“The dog park people are not the reason that the eviction notice was put on the door,” Reese says. “People think that, but I know that’s not true. It’s not a part of the deal. I’ve had to correct folks who have been calling today over and over. The house [298 Beaverdam Road] was never going to be part of the dog park deal.”
Last night, Reese visited with Flores and her family to explore options on ways the family might be able to continue to live at the home.
“We’re negotiating with them in good faith and we’re going to put the eviction on hold until we get something worked out with them,” Reese says. He adds, “It’s just terrible timing all the way around. This issue is between us and the Flores family.”
Council member Chris Pelly, who will be attending tonight’s community meeting about the proposed park, says that he received phone calls and emails about Flores and the dog park. He notes that the 6:30 p.m. meeting at Ira B. Jones Elementary this evening will be to talk about the next steps for the dog park and provide general clarification that people may have about the project.
“This idea [for the dog park] has been circulating for more than a year now. It’s time to bring the neighborhood into the conversation,” Pelly says.
According to Rob Ropeneck, a spokesman for the Friends of North Asheville Dog Park, the organization began talking seriously about the space last fall.
According to minutes from a May 18 Asheville City Council meeting, the Beaverdam site was verbally promised to the city by the property owner and head of Ark Development Ron Brittain. At that meeting, no one spoke during public comment before City Council members adopted the resolution to support a dog park in North Asheville.
But going forward, Ropeneck says, the group will have to work closely with city officials to make sure they do their due diligence for the proposed park.
“We have to address traffic, environmental impact, dog park design — all of these things are being considered, but nothing has been decided officially at this point. We haven’t even got a full-blown design plan for the site,” he says.
Yet Flores still isn’t convinced about what the dog park will mean for her neighborhood. She has since closed the online petition, which once read, “The North Asheville Dog Park! Help the Flores family keep their historical home! : Build the dog park somewhere else!” It now reads “We don’t need a dog park!” However, after the eviction scare, she says she wants to know more.
“I’m just relieved at this moment,” Flores says. “I still don’t know how I feel about it, but I want to find out more information about this so-called dog park.”
The Friends of North Asheville Dog Park will host a meeting tonight, Thursday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m., in the auditorium at the Ira B. Jones Elementary School located at 544 Kimberly Ave. in North Asheville. The group is inviting the public to comment on the group’s dog park proposal.
— Caitlin Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-1333, ext.140.