With tonight’s forum, the city of Asheville kicks off a three-week public-comment period on the Downtown Master Plan draft. Share your thoughts on this controversial blueprint for the future of downtown in the comments below.
The 88-page draft of the plan, produced by Massachusetts-based consulting firm Goody Clancy for $170,000, details several initiatives aimed at increasing downtown’s economic prosperity and preserving its character. This plan calls for eventually turning the day-to-day running of downtown over to a powerful independent board known as the Asheville Development District, encouraging different types of development for each neighborhood “core,” better support for the arts, more green building, a shuttle system and police cameras on street corners as well as drastically reducing City Council’s authority over development.
The city’s forum will begin a three-week period in which city staff and the consultants will take comment and input on the plan before creating the final draft, which City Council will vote on in March.
The development of the plan was pushed back four months last September after rifts in the advisory committee compelled the city to bring in a mediator. Last July, a series of public forums revealed held by Goody Clancy revealed deep divisions in the community about what the plan should (or could) accomplish.
Some of the proposals have drawn controversy. Development activist Steve Rasmussen released a lengthy report criticizing what he sees as insufficiently powerful building guidelines and the moving of authority to unelected boards, a step he asserts will reward development interests over those of the citizenry.
The ADD in particular has met with criticism from Rasmussen, who dubbed it “Soviet-style central planning,” as well as from Scrutiny Hooligans blogger Gordon Smith, who wrote that “as it stands, the structure is a petri dish for corruption and mismanagement.” However, both Rasmussen and Smith have said that the plan also contains some good ideas.
For more information about the plan from the city, or to send comments regarding the plan, contact project manager Sasha Vrtunski at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 232-4599. And please share your thoughts on the plan below.
— David Forbes, staff writer