Eight candidates are vying for three seats on the governing body for the town of roughly 8,000 people to the northwest of Asheville. Challengers and incumbents alike agree that concerns over development, particularly The Bluffs at River Bend proposal, are driving interest in a normally quiet race.
On Aug. 12, a subsidiary of nonprofit Conserving Carolina completed the $7.8 million purchase of the currently unused Ecusta rail line, stretching 19 miles between Hendersonville and Brevard, from the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad.
While the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners did not make a formal commitment to any plan for the 137-acre site, several members expressed a desire for denser development focused on housing.
At its regular meeting that evening, the Board of Commissioners will invite public input on its application for $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The largest single grant of $4 million will support broadband infrastructure expansion in unserved areas of the county. Brownie Newman, chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, said that investment would leverage an additional $6 million from the state of North Carolina and private broadband providers.
The requirement covers all “business establishments, offices and workplaces, public transportation facilities and vehicles, and any indoor place the public is invited or allowed to enter and gather,” with the exception of weddings, funerals, religious gatherings and “other activities constituting the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
Currently, Buncombe recommends indoor masking as a response to COVID-19 but has instituted no legal mandate. The city of Asheville also plans to reinstate a similar requirement, while rules in other county municipalities would be left to their governing bodies.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council passed an ordinance on Aug. 5 allowing production and use of the crop, which the body had previously voted to decriminalize on May 6.
The city’s urban centers initiative, as well as updates to open-space requirements for new projects, are meant to encourage denser development patterns, supporting less car-dependent communities and increasing the city’s tax base.
The recommendation aligns with the guidance of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which called for universal indoor masking “in areas of substantial or high transmission” on July 27.
At its meeting of Tuesday, Aug. 3, the county Board of Commissioners will vote on a more than $665,000 budget amendment to support regional vaccination efforts. The money includes a new allocation of $75,000 from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as over $590,000 in unspent funds from last fiscal year.
Scheduled for a vote at Council’s regular meeting is a series of revisions to the city’s noise ordinance that would set specific decibel levels for downtown, as well as commercial and industrial areas, as measured from any property away from the source of the noise.
Residents who have owned their primary residence for at least five years and make no more than 80% of the area median income — $60,100 for a family of four — could apply for aid to cover property tax increases starting Sunday, Aug. 1.
According to the N.C. Climate Science Report prepared by N.C. State University’s Asheville-based N.C. Institute for Climate Studies and other experts, the area will likely experience more landslides in the coming years due to climate change.
Although the county completed a strategic plan last year, which outlines general governmental goals, it does not have a comprehensive plan, which primarily evaluates land use and infrastructure. State law requires the adoption of such a document by July 2022.
When Xpress asked each of Buncombe County’s state-level representatives if they would support the new transparency measures contained in House Bill 64, only Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards gave an unequivocal yes.
“The school nutrition director was prohibited from implementing, completing and/or fulfilling various compliance requirements in the non-school programs,” notes a report compiled by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction regarding Asheville City Schools.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, just 0.2% of workers in the four-county Asheville metro area commute by bike, less than half the national average. But the owners of Asheville’s first electric bike dealership, as well as and regional transportation planners, think e-bikes are likely to change that number.
Xpress, along with the Asheville Citizen Times, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Carolina Public Press and Asheville Watchdog, had incurred nearly $4,200 in attorney fees after suing Asheville over its plan to hold a March 31 City Council retreat behind closed doors.
The Solarize rate of $2.45 per watt of electricity generation is roughly 9% cheaper than the statewide average of $2.67 per watt listed by EnergySage, an industry website. The program, spearheaded by the nonprofit Blue Horizons Project, is able to offer the discount through bulk purchasing of solar equipment for Buncombe County residents.
Buncombe County’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget — passed unanimously by the Board of Commissioners on June 15 — includes an effective property tax increase of 2 cents per $100 of valuation. It also includes $300,000 toward property tax relief grants.