Parkside will dominate June 24 county commissioners meeting

Parkside will dominate June 24 county commissioners meeting-attachment0

On Tuesday afternoon, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners heard the tip of the iceberg of the controversy surrounding the proposed nine-story Parkside condominium project. The board will discuss the issue at length during its June 24 meeting.

The specific matter before the board on Tuesday was the approval of an affidavit, necessary for any development bordering county property to go forward to the city’s Technical Review Committee. Normally, this would be a brief, technical step. But Parkside has drawn criticism from many citizens who see the project as simply a back-room deal to give valuable property to a private developer.

Recently, developer Stewart Coleman scaled back the height of the project and consequently avoided having to present the proposal to Asheville City Council. Now the project must simply go before TRC.

What the affidavit didn’t address was the use of county property in Pack Square Park for staging construction equipment or easements surrounding the project needed emergency services.  The board may have to tackle those issues at a later date.

At its regular meeting yesterday, the board wasn’t voting on anything yet, but commissioners heard voices from both sides of the debate.

“I would implore you to very carefully consider the errors that happened a few months ago,” Asheville resident and activist Elaine Lite cautioned. “If there’s any way for the county commissioners to redeem themselves and reclaim our public space, even if it requires denial of certain necessary papers, if it is within your legal bounds I would request that you do whatever is necessary to put this to an end.”

“Our park is being held hostage for a speculative land deal,” local resident Barry Summers told the board. “This is not how a world-class city does anything. This should be stopped. Do we really want to have our city and county governments going to war over a building the public doesn’t want, that violates the conservancy guidelines and that was initiated in a back room deal to grab valuable public land? If you’re not stopping it, you’re helping it and we are watching how you vote.”

Chairman Nathan Ramsey took issue with Summers’ statements.

“We didn’t sell this behind the scenes, we sold it in a public meeting just like we’re doing today,” he said. “We might not have notified enough people, but there’s notices out, that’s a legal process. To say the county was doing anything behind the scenes is just incorrect.”

Coleman himself also offered a brief statement, asserting that the project hasn’t gotten a fair shake in the public eye.

“It’s been a misfortune that there’s been so many misunderstandings, so many misstated information and so many misstated truths,” he said. “We’ve jumped through all the hoops with this building that it’s possible to jump through, including removing floors, including setting the building back off the park. We’ve been challenged every time we’ve made a concession. We’d like to move forward with this project.”

Vice Chair David Gantt said the board will consider information on all available options involving the site at the June 24 hearing.

— David Forbes, staff writer

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12 thoughts on “Parkside will dominate June 24 county commissioners meeting

  1. Gordon Smith

    Some thoughts:

    - George W. Pack gave Pack Square to the “Public Forever” in 1901. The Pack family has sued Stewart Coleman over ownership of the park land.

    - Stewart Coleman met with former City Planner Scott Shuford up to a year before buying property on Pack Square. They discussed swapping the park land for City-owned land. Coleman then bought the building, sought a swap, and was rejected by the City Council in a closed session last summer.

    - County staff wrote that they wanted to sell the park land to a developer. They offered it to Mr. Coleman after he bought the adjoining Hayes & Hopson building. He bought Hayes & Hopson from Wallace Hyde, who soon thereafter hosted a $60,000 fundraiser for Commissioner David Young’s run for State Treasurer. Wallace Hyde purchased it from County Commissioner Bill Stanley years before.

    - Mr. Coleman planned to leverage the park land to get the City to give him our most valuable property.

    - Among the groups that oppose Mr. Coleman’s Parkside project are Pack Square Conservancy, Asheville’s Downtown Association, the Buncombe County Democratic Party, Asheville’s Chapter of Democracy For America, and others.

    - Mr. Coleman said to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “I think that City Council is political, and unfortunately this town listens to the noisy 80 people that jump around and dance around trees and do foolish stuff”

    - The following County Commissioners have admitted the sale was a mistake: David Gantt, Carol Peterson, and Bill Stanley. Somehow not a single person in the entire County government apparatus claimed to know they were selling a piece of the park.

    - Mr. Coleman was offered $1.6 million dollars in a buyback offer. He has refused, saying he wants three times that amount for his trouble. His surrogates claim that no offer has been made despite verifiable evidence to the contrary.

    - Mr. Coleman, two weeks before he was scheduled to bring his Parkside project before the public and City Council for a hearing, pulled his plan. The building had been over 100,000 sq. ft., which automatically trigerred a Council review. After Coleman tinkered with the design, it was 99,380 sq. ft., meaning that Council would not review it. All it would need is a simple rubber stamp from the Technical Review Committee.

    - Mr. Coleman could choose to return our public park land to us. He could use the private holdings he obtained and build whatever he likes within the Pack Square Guidelines. Instead he is holding the park land hostage and trying to ram his building through the process without City Council review.

    - The City of Asheville could join the Pack Family lawsuit to reclaim the land. They could deny Mr. Coleman staging rights on any City-owned property. They could join with the County in a buyback effort.

    - The County could deny Mr. Coleman an Owner’s Affadavit until the court case is settled. They could use eminent domain to take the property back. They could join with the City in a buyback effort. They could deny Mr. Coleman staging rights on County-owned land.

    - Mr. Coleman is playing hardball with the citizens and government of Buncombe County and the City of Asheville. The question remains whether our government will rise to the occasion or be bullied by Mr. Coleman and his associates.

  2. Richard

    Gordon,

    Did you stop talking about the tax assessment/appraisal issue? I have not heard that from you in a while.

  3. Gordon Smith

    Richard,

    It’s my understanding that the property was appraised at $322,000. After the sale it was assessed/valued for tax purposes at $600,000. Mr. Coleman then had a private meeting with the County for which there is no record and the assessment/valuation was dropped to $306,000.

    There’s so much to mention that bits fall by the wayside sometimes…

  4. Dwayne

    Mr. Coleman said to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “I think that City Council is political, and unfortunately this town listens to the noisy 80 people that jump around and dance around trees and do foolish stuff”

    The noisy 80 people? That dance around trees?

    Who IS this guy????

  5. William P Miller

    Gordon, let’s go back to the sale of the property in the first place. It is my understanding that Carol Peterson and Stanley voted for the sale of public land to a private developer. They are both democrats. How can this be that the party who is supposed to be for the people appears to be in the back pocket of developers out for a quick buck, the public be damned??? There is no way I will vote for either of them come the election. I may even hold my nose and have to vote republican to see them defeated.

  6. William, boy, you in the South now. “Democrat” here don’t mean the same as “liberal” — it means “the opposite party from Abraham Lincoln.” And in North Carolina, it’s simply the party that’s always been in power.

  7. More to the point: The “most valuable property” Gordon mentions that Coleman wants to swap the park land for is the city parking lot nearby on Marjorie St. — which the city is considering as the site for a new Performing Arts Center.

    Coleman originally tried to do an inside deal to get that land, but the city refused (as I understand from Robin Cape), insisting he go through the same open-bidding process as everyone else. So Coleman went to someone who would do a back-room deal with him — our notoriously corrupt County Manager, Wanda Greene — and got the parkland he’s now holding hostage.

    If he succeeds in forcing the city to do the swap to save the park, he will have gotten a large chunk of extremely valuable real estate for the bargain price of $322,000 (the price he paid for the parkland).

    What a smarmy operator this character is!!!

  8. William P Miller

    *Diuvel said: “William, boy, you in the South now. “Democrat” here don’t mean the same as “liberal”—it means “the opposite party from Abraham Lincoln.” And in North Carolina, it’s simply the party that’s always been in power.”

    LOL, good one Duivel. Yes I understand your point. Actually I just wanted to see if Gordon Smith could bring himself to criticize any politician with a (D) after their name. Actually, since Reagan, the South has been much more republican than in the past, Lincoln be damned.

    Gordon, your thoughts here? It is a fact that democrats do things wrong, not just republicans. Can you comment on this?

  9. Gordon Smith

    William,

    Your question seems academic to me. If you’ve visited ScruHoo lately, you know I’m supporting Charles Thomas’ Energy Efficient State Vehicles bill, and I’ve been repeatedly clear when it comes to my views on Peterson, Stanley, and the rest of the Buncombe County Democratic Party’s ossified Old Guard.

    You have a caricaturized version of me in your mind. Strange.

  10. William P Miller

    Well, my apologies then Gordon. I don’t read your blog very often. I asked you this same question a week ago and you didn’t respond, so I thought perhaps you purposely were dodging it. I am glad you are not supporting them also. And I am glad to know you are more issue oriented than party loyal. Have a good day. Let’s all get together and oppose the selling our our dear town.

  11. Barry Summers

    There were some factual errors here, and to be fair to those who made these statements, let’s assume they are just misunderstandings.

    First, the Affidavit that the County signed once before, and is contemplating signing again, has “construction staging” typed very clearly on it, and a check mark next to the line where that appears. Anyone who says this document doesn’t address staging simply hasn’t read it.

    Second, both Nathan Ramsey and County Attorney Michael Frue stated unequivocally their belief that Parkside will not use any County land for staging. The staging plan on file at the City clearly shows a construction trailer and other staging purposes located on County park land in front of Coleman’s property. City Development Director Shannon Tuch confirms this, and denied that she told Mr. Frue anything different, as he claimed.

    Lastly, Parkside spokesperson Tom Israel stated that they had “met or even exceeded” the Pack Square Design Guidelines, and that the Asheville Downtown Association had “endorsed” Parkside. These statements are not true, either. ADA Vice President Joe Minicozzi relayed to the County Clerk the information that the ADA had unanimously approved a resolution stating that their independent analysis determined that Parkside “does not meet the requirements or spirit of the 2003 PSC guidelines”. Further, they state that “the County should buy back/re-acquire the property”. Hardly an endorsement.

    Do they think we can’t read? Sorry if I seem confrontational, but eventually you have to stand up & tell the truth.

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