A cooperative effort by Conserving Carolina, state and local governments, other nonprofits and the general public is gradually developing the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail in and around the rugged terrain that lies just beyond Buncombe County’s southeastern border. In late April, a new 2.5-mile trail section is scheduled to open.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and other supporters say jobs at the aerospace manufacturing plant will provide opportunities for workers to improve their standards of living. Critics say those wages are not worth the moral cost: Bolstering a military-industrial complex that causes deaths half a world away and eats up government funds better spent on other needs.
Xpress contributor Mark Barrett unpacks the surprisingly static results to emerge from a politically tumultuous year in Western North Carolina.
With COVID cases rising, Black Mountain retailers worry that the modest rebound they’ve seen this fall might fade away before the holiday shopping season can give their balance sheets a much-needed yearend boost. But several factors could work in their favor: a strong commitment from residents to support their local stores, a sense that smaller shopping districts pose less risk than crowded city centers and widespread compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.
The money faucet is open in the race to represent Western North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Republican candidate Madison Cawthorn has raised more than Democratic candidate Moe Davis, but Cawthorn’s campaign has also spent heavily to bring those dollars in. As of Sept. 30, Davis had more cash on hand than his opponent.
A look at the online rosters of agents at the largest real estate firms in Buncombe County suggests that women make up a majority of brokers here also, although many top-level jobs are still held by men.
Xpress contributor Mark Barrett shares his pick of lesser-known Western North Carolina hikes with opportunities to take in the region’s autumn splendor.
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.
A bill that would have changed the distribution of Buncombe County’s controversial hotel tax to better benefit local government is likely dead until at least next year. The change would have reduced the share of room tax money to market and advertise Asheville as a tourist destination.
The Farm at Pond Road, to comprise 575 apartments, 80 townhomes and 32 single-family homes, will be one of the largest residential projects in Buncombe County in recent years. It is to be built in two stages over the next few years.
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.