FUTURE VISION: At the city planning department’s offices, Planning Director Todd Okolichany reviews documents with staff. Planner Stacy Merten, left of Okolichany, is the staff lead for the comprehensive plan update project. Photo by Virginia Daffron

The road ahead: Asheville launches comprehens­ive planning process

Asheville’s last comprehensive city plan was completed in 2003. Since then, the city has gained 16,000 residents and embarked on a wide range of revitalization, infrastructure and multimodal transportation projects. Now it’s time to begin a new planning process that will span a year and a half and involve a broad cross-section of the city’s residents.

Asheville City Hall and the historic Buncombe County Courthouse in May 2016. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Homestay vote looms large for May 17 meeting of City Council

In December last year, City Council directed city staff to analyze the potential impact of expanding the city’s homestay program for short-term rentals to separate living units known as ADUs. Six months later, much more information is available, but little if any consensus has emerged from the process. On May 17, Council will vote on a measure to allow homestays in ADUs, but the outcome of that vote is up in the air, meaning that another long night of testimony on the issue seems inevitable.

A landmark corner distinguishes the main entry into the Phase 1 development from Biltmore Avenue. Image: David Baker Architects

City Council commits $4.2 million to redevelopm­ent of Lee Walker Heights

At its April 26 meeting, City Council approved a rezoning request and committed $4.2 million in city funds to allow the Lee Walker Heights redevelopment project to move forward. Council also approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Duke Energy which gives the city the option to purchase the former Matthews Ford property adjacent to Lee Walker Heights at any time over the next eight years.

Seal_of_Asheville,_North_Carolina

Asheville City Council poised to consider HB2 response on April 12

A proposed Asheville resolution affirming the constitutional rights and equitable treatment of all in public accommodations — such as bathrooms — appears likely to spark extensive discussion on how Asheville will respond to House Bill 2 at Council’s meeting on April 12. Other agenda items include subdivision ordinances, the Beaucatcher Greenway and the city’s legislative agenda for the upcoming short session in Raleigh.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (second from right) declaring victory, surrounded by her wife Meghann Burke (center), mother (far left) and members of her campaign team. Photo by Able Allen

Making history: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara to become first openly gay Buncombe County Commission­er

With her win in the District 1 Democratic primary, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is slated to become the first openly LGBT Buncombe County Commissioner. To get there, she had strong competition from City Councilman Gordon Smith and from another civil rights activist, Isaac Coleman. Since no Republican filed to run for the District 1 seat, Beach-Ferrara is almost certain to take office in the fall after the General Election.

Park? Plaza? Revenue generating building? City Council approved a community visioning process for city-owned lots on Haywood Street and Page Avenue. All options will be on the table. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Council approves planning process for Haywood Street sites; will demo former Sister Cities building

Asheville City Council approved a public visioning process to solicit broad community input on the future use of city-owned property across from the U.S. Cellular Center and the Basilica of St. Lawrence. Council also voted to demolish a city-owned building adjacent to the area at 33-35 Page Avenue. The building was the headquarters of the Asheville Sister Cities organization before the structure was condemned in November last year.

Asheville City Hall. Photo by Virginia Daffron

City Council to talk housing: affordable housing loans, residentia­l density

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, City Council will consider strategies for housing the city’s growing population. Over $1 million in low-interest affordable housing loans will come to a Council vote, and city planning director Todd Okolichany will present a proposal for updating existing ordinances to encourage higher density infill development in residential areas.