From 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., polls will be open throughout the region for citizens to decide who represents them in key local, state and national offices, as well as if six amendments will be added to the North Carolina constitution.
The new facility’s planned retirement is in 2059 — 17 years after Buncombe County government’s 2042 goal of transitioning all homes and businesses to completely renewable energy. Jason Walls, Duke Energy district manager, said his company is committed to helping local governments achieve their goals but that the new plant’s construction is based on forecasts of growing energy needs.
In place of its current small business and retail tenants, the Flatiron Building could play host to overnight guests as an 80-room hotel. Owner Russell Thomas and Charleston, S.C.-based developer Philip Woollcott say lodging use is the only business model able to support extensive needed renovations to the historic structure.
Todd Okolichany, Asheville’s director of planning & urban design, said the city’s Unified Development Ordinance was in need of an extensive and holistic review. While the city has made “Band-Aid edits,” he explained, the last major revision of Asheville’s main development code took place in 1997.
Rick Daniels, representing Mission, and Sean Devereux, a lawyer for the neighborhood, announced after a lengthy recess that the two parties would continue negotiations outside the appeals board process. However, the residents did not formally withdraw their complaint and could return to the board at a later date.
After Mayor Esther Manheimer and Council members Keith Young and Brian Haynes shared their intent to reject the project, attorney Wyatt Stevens pulled the building from consideration on behalf of his clients, local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel.
Carl Mumpower, chair of the Buncombe County Republican Party, encourages voters to support the six amendments. In contrast, both Democratic and Green party leaders aim to “nix all six,” while the Libertarians support only a lower constitutional cap on state income taxes.
The resolution would commit city government to meeting all of its energy needs from 100 percent renewable sources by the end of 2030. A previous version also called for all energy demand in the city to make the renewable transition “as soon as practicable,” but this goal is absent from the language Council will vote to approve.
“It’s like the playing field that everyone’s playing on — that the economy’s playing on, that companies are playing on, that the government’s playing on — that playing field is starting to erode,” says Josh Dorfman, CEO of The Collider in downtown Asheville. “I think there’s more on the line than many people understand.”
“Oh happy day,” proclaimed Council member Sheneika Smith after the unanimous appointment vote for the city’s most powerful unelected official. “As an organization, as a city, and even the county is rejoicing today.”
While city spokesperson Polly McDaniel had previously written, in a Sept. 11 email to Xpress, that “We expect there will be an opportunity for the public to meet the finalists,” no such community meet-and-greet is scheduled before Council’s planned vote on the manager on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 4 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall.
The Asheville city budget for fiscal year 2018-19 includes contains money to hire two new staffers, a security coordinator and technical support technician. Jonathan Feldman, city chief information officer, says Asheville’s IT department finds itself squeezed between increasing internal demand for digital work and “mushrooming” external security threats.
Reid Thompson has lost the most recent battle in his 13-plus-year fight with the city of Asheville. But the war, suggested Thompson’s representative and urban planner Joe Minicozzi, is far from over. “He’s got to file a civil suit to get his civil rights upheld,” Minicozzi said. “You can’t enforce the law on one side of the street and not enforce it on the other.”
Reid Thompson, the owner of 28 and 32 Maxwell St., seeks to rezone those properties from residential to lodging expansion, thereby allowing their short-term vacation rental use — because the activity of Greenlife Grocery, he says, has made it impossible for him to keep long-term tenants.
While the long-running planning process has made considerable progress toward a consensus vision for the forest, sticking points do still remain. Conservationists continue to disagree with some hunting advocates and logging industry groups about protected area designations and the exact extent of active management on the land.
Offered in response to public demand for greater transparency in the city’s finances, the work sessions allow each governmental department to explain how it uses its portion of more than $180 million in spending. The sessions also provide a forum for Council members to seek information on specific budget items, such as Pack Square Park maintenance.
Roughly 1,600 new hotel rooms have opened in Buncombe County since late 2015 — an increase of approximately 15 percent over that period — with 1,900 still planned. “Since the start of this construction cycle, we’ve been able to fully absorb a pretty enormous supply,” said Explore Asheville President and CEO Stephanie Pace Brown. “We just need to do that over again in the next three or four years.”
Earlier this summer, Kenilworth residents followed up on a complaint first sent to the city of Asheville in September 2017. They allege that changes Mission has made to address their noise concerns haven’t eliminated the problem — and that the health system wasn’t acting in good faith when it entered into discussions with the community.
No matter one’s political affiliation, it is difficult to deny that recent politicking at the national level has departed from traditional norms. Based on the Sept. 26 League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County candidate forum at the West Asheville Library, local races are sharing in that unconventionality as well.
The effort was sparked by the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, of which Asheville is a dues-paying member. Last fall, the MPO offered the city $157,500 (to be matched with $25,593 in local funds) for a corridor study of its choosing, with the goal of reducing automobile congestion and creating “an alternative to the auto-oriented cycle.”
Although Chicago-based 21CP Solutions finished its report on Asheville’s response to a police beating scandal in August, the city isn’t done hiring consultants to assess its policing approach. That’s one of the key takeaways from interim City Manager Cathy Ball’s memo discussing action items from the report, to be presented at Asheville City Council’s upcoming regular meeting.