While local and state officials with the N.C. Department of Transportation say the nearly-$1 billion I-26 Connector project remains on schedule, recent financial woes at the agency have delayed some projects in the region. And those in the know say it’s too soon to say whether the domino effects from those delays may push off the start of construction for the connector project or affect later project stages.
Coronavirus relief is just the latest topic in an ongoing debate over whether the Tourism Development Authority, with its mission to bring ever more overnight guests to Buncombe County, is good for county residents — or just good for the hotel industry that has controlled it since its inception nearly four decades ago.
Like most states, North Carolina was unprepared when unemployment claims skyrocketed as COVID-19 cases shut down large swaths of the state’s economy. When the crisis began, no benefits were available to those who didn’t previously work in a traditional job. That changed recently, so Xpress talked with locals who make their living in the gig economy about the experience of seeking newly available funds through the state Division of Employment Security. Spoiler alert: It hasn’t always gone smoothly.
While many local residents laud efforts to ensure safety for shoppers and employees at retail stores that remain open — among them grocers, drug stores and hardware retailers — others criticize certain stores and fellow shoppers for failing to wear masks or be mindful of social distancing requirements.
The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped visits and other contacts between families and thousands of seniors who live in nursing homes, retirement communities, rest homes and other group facilities in Buncombe and nearby counties. The well-being of those seniors is a major worry for both families and public health officials. The odds of a senior citizen dying if he or she contracts the virus are higher than for the general population, and residents typically live close to one another, meaning an infection could spread rapidly if it breaches the walls of a facility.
Area hospitals have taken somewhat differing approaches to the question of whether to stop performing elective surgeries and other medical procedures. There are worries nationally about whether there will be enough personal protective gear like masks and gloves for health care workers, but hospitals in the Asheville area say they have good supplies for now.
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper issued a March 17 executive order making it easier for people statewide who have lost their jobs in the wake of business closures related to the coronavirus epidemic to get unemployment benefits, but many workers will find the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow to be comparatively skimpy.
Fall Line Development wants to build 585 apartments or condominiums, 80 townhomes and 32 single-family homes on Pond Road, not quite half a mile north of the road’s intersection with Sardis Road in Enka. Neighbors have raised concerns about the development’s potential impact on traffic and the character of the area.
Political scientists and women who have run for office in Buncombe County suggest that obstacles for women to get elected to local office here are much lower now than they once were — even though the proportion of female elected officials is still a good bit less than their share of the county’s population.
Local elected officials, ordinary citizens and even a Mission nurse all blasted the stewardship of Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA Healthcare, which bought the collection of hospitals and other health care institutions for $1.5 billion and began running it in February 2019. The comments came at a Feb. 10 meeting in Asheville to get public input on the performance of the system since it was taken over by the for-profit company.
After hearing roughly seven hours of testimony on Dec. 11, the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment continued its deliberations on the approval of Crossroads West Asheville until Thursday, Jan. 23. The project could bring over 800 apartments, as well as retail and commercial space, to 68 acres off South Bear Creek Road.
Both WNC congressmen, Reps. Patrick McHenry and Mark Meadows, represent districts that are staunchly Republican. But most of the money they used to run their campaigns and boost GOP candidates in more competitive races came from outside of North Carolina.
Taking place Friday, May 31, at Sierra Nevada Brewing in Mills River, the summit will discuss the role that land use plays in shaping the greater Asheville area’s transportation system and what that system might look like 40 years from now.
Some places in Buncombe County still offer outdoors solitude without a lengthy drive to Great Smoky Mountains National Park or an obscure corner of Pisgah National Forest. Mark Barrett offers the following guide to nearby destinations where you typically won’t meet someone at every turn.
The city of Asheville has taken initial steps toward rezoning real estate in four places around town in hopes of encouraging new development that would offer a denser mix of housing, shops and office space, similar to Biltmore Park Town Square or Reynolds Village in Woodfin. “Asheville wants to move in a direction that is more urban, that is more walkable, that has a greater mix of uses,” says city planner Vaidila Satvika.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican, on April 16 introduced a bill in the state House to require the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County to add Fletcher, Mills River and some unincorporated areas of northern Henderson County to its service district if a state board approves. The following day, the Buncombe MSD board voted to oppose the bill.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has begun planning for a project intended to improve traffic flow and add facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists along the corridor that connects West Asheville and Biltmore Village. But with neighbors gearing up to oppose what they feared would be a plan to widen both Amboy and Meadow roads to four lanes, a DOT engineer says the agency has already taken that option off the table.
The sale of Mission Health to HCA Healthcare means several changes to organizations and services once affiliated with Mission, including a shift of adult day care services from CarePartners to a new nonprofit, MountainCare.