Infrastructure issues front and center as West Asheville has its say

With a high turnout for an Asheville City Council community meeting, West Ashevilleans told their elected officials about their concerns, including the impact of a future Interstate 26 connector and the need for better infrastructure in the area.

About 70 people showed up to Hall Fletcher Elementary. City staff informed them about improvements to the area, including $1 million in sidewalks and $2 million in water lines upgrades. The city also plans to use West Asheville as the first place to roll out a form-based code, a type of planning that regulates on the physical form of a building rather than its use, and that planners believe will provide greater predictability and flexibility in developing the area.

Vivian Conley, head of the Burton Street Community Association, called uncertainty about the I-26 connector “a looming cloud” that prevents the neighborhood from moving forward. The area also needs sidewalks, she noted, as their only one dates back to the days of desegregation. Representatives from other areas noted a lack of traffic calming measures or the disrepair of their roads as important issues, and that concerns about the impact of the coming New Belgium brewery still remain.

Unfortunately, the city is on an 80-year cycle of replacing its roads, something Council member Gordon Smith attributed to a lack of support from the state and constraints on how the city can gather revenue.

Bill Rhodes, of West Asheville Watch, a group that started with online conversations about fighting crime in the area, noted that none of the citizens had complained about crime issues; a big change from just a year ago.

West Asheville’s array of community groups was praised by Council and Mayor Terry Bellamy, who credited them as playing a major role in the area’s revival. Bellamy remembered that she used to bristle when people called the area “Worst Asheville.” Now, she never hears the term.

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