WNC’s congressio­nal seat may truly be in play this year

The contest to represent Western North Carolina in the U.S. House features candidates from different generations with different backgrounds and very different ideas about what needs to happen next in Washington. The main thing Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Morris “Moe” Davis might have in common is they have spent time in the national spotlight, albeit for very different reasons.

I-26 Connector moving ahead, but money issues loom

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.

White Duck Taco Shop

From AVL Watchdog: $5M TDA relief bill for small businesses helps hotels too

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.

Lenny Pettinelli

Getting unemployme­nt benefits another challenge for gig economy workers

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.

COVID-19 fears separate nursing home residents from families

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.

Health care workers wearing masks

Hospitals brace for COVID-19 cases, clamp down on visitors

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.

Mission criticized on staff shortages, patient care

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.

Paradigm shift: City urges denser, greener developmen­t

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.

First water, now sewer: McGrady, local officials disagree

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.

Ahead of meeting, DOT backs off four lanes for Amboy and Meadow roads

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.