Four items on Council’s consent agenda aimed to improve how Asheville residents move about the city — and, thanks to a resolution supporting a statewide initiative for passenger rail in Western North Carolina, potentially across the country. The N.C. General Assembly could provide $890,000 to fund a bus connection between Asheville and Amtrak’s terminal in Salisbury.
City Manager Debra Campbell called the Feb. 12 capital budget briefing “food for thought” as she encouraged Council members to focus and prioritize their objectives. “This is why we’re presenting this information,” she said. “We’ve got some tough decisions that we need to make over the next several years.”
“We’re just learning that the microbiome has a central role in many of our chronic degenerative diseases, autoimmune conditions and mental illnesses,” says Asheville-area functional medicine practitioner Dr. Cynthia Libert. The complex gut ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms, she explains, may influence matters far beyond digestion.
The Down Payment Assistance Policy could provide $1.4 million, in no-interest loans of up to $40,000 each, toward mortgages on single-family residences within Asheville city limits. The policy is meant to promote homeownership opportunities among “moderate- and lower-income families” making up to 120 percent of the area median income.
Nearly 67 percent of surveyed businesses expected to grow their workforce over the next three years, representing up to 26,700 new jobs for the region. The manufacturing and hospitality industries anticipated the largest hiring booms — up to 7,556 and 6,618 jobs, respectively — but all sectors planned for at least some expansion.
“I’m shocked, and I’m disappointed,” said one commenter who identified himself as a Southside resident about the lack of attendance from his community. “If you’re not going to show up and voice your opinion, and then when something does happen, you get in a little group and then you voice your opinion, that’s not fair. That’s not right.”
At Asheville City Council’s Jan. 22 meeting, Mayor Esther Manheimer said the city would re-advertise its vacant city attorney position — after she and her colleagues unanimously approved an additional $300,000 for outside legal services. The role has been filled on an interim basis by Sabrina Rockoff since the departure of Robin Currin in September.
Since leaving her previous role as Charlotte’s assistant city manager to take the Asheville job in December, Campbell said, she has focused on meeting as many community stakeholders as possible. Those discussions, she explained, have led to a slate of priorities with the common theme of making the city “the best partner that we can be.”
Located at 252 Patton Ave. and 28 Knoxville Place, the new facility will feature a gas-insulated design that gives it a smaller footprint than a conventional, air-insulated substation. Duke representatives estimate that substation construction will be completed by the end of 2020.
Passenger numbers increased by 18.6 percent compared to 2017, assisted by new nonstop routes to destinations such as Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa, Fla. A recent economic impact study found that the airport contributes nearly $1.5 billion per year to the local economy.
Conservationists have been attempting to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2010, but as Elise Bennett with the Center for Biological Diversity explains, regulatory changes to the act proposed by the administration of President Donald Trump could hamper the path to protection for hellbenders and other at-risk wildlife.
“Don’t just think that this is going to be somebody calling on the phone about a bar down the street or their neighbor next door,” said Council member Keith Young. “This opens up a larger door. I am totally not comfortable opening up a new pathway into our criminal justice system.”
“The vagaries of climate and geology and time and the dispersal mechanisms of plants and animals too — all of those things, just over vast eons of time, have given Polk County this sweet spot,” says botanist David Campbell. His inventory of the county lists 32 significant natural heritage areas, as well as 127 rare or watch-list plant species found at those sites.
Council members will consider whether to authorize City Manager Debra Campbell to pursue funding for a final site plan at 68-76 Haywood St. and 33-39 Page Ave. The estimated cost of such a design is $340,000, including $16,000 for an updated survey of the property.
Josh Stein announced that his office had developed a new agreement after months of “extensive negotiations” involving Mission, HCA and the Dogwood Health Trust. He explained that the changes would strengthen HCA’s community commitments, make the DHT board more representative of its service area and ensure greater accountability for both organizations.
The document, set by the chamber’s advocacy and policy committee, adds opioid and substance abuse prevention to the docket for the first time. Affordable housing and expanded transit options throughout the Asheville metro region also made the cut, while Medicaid restructuring and the Interstate 26 Connector Project were both removed from last year’s list.
Sixteen Asheville-area startups will receive intensive personalized support from Venture Asheville as part of the entrepreneurship initiative’s Elevate program. Local business owners will be paired with successful company founders, executives and functional experts to help work through the challenges and opportunities of business growth.
“When I say I literally have physical anxiety about supporting this project, that is real and true,” said Council member Keith Young, citing his concerns over a lack of affordable housing in the Riverwoods development. “A part of me really feels like I’m letting folks down by approving this project.”
Citing unresolved questions about parking and a planned bike lane for Battery Park Avenue, the TRC continued its review until more information is available. The proposed 80-room hotel will likely come before the board again on Monday, Feb. 4, then face a hearing at the Downtown Commission on Friday, Feb. 8, followed by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, March 6.
Bryan Robinson, a licensed psychotherapist and professor emeritus at UNC Charlotte, wrote #Chill to leverage his expertise on work addiction for a broader audience. “[The book is] not just for workaholics by any means; it’s [about] how all of us can chill, take the time to take care of ourselves and pay attention to the knee-jerk reactions that we make,” he says.
On Tuesday, Jan. 8, Council will hold a public hearing on how to reallocate nearly $1.4 million in HOME funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Two other public hearings concern conditional zoning modifications for residential developments, including a 137-acre project on Ferry Road.