The revision comes thirteen years after the county Board of Commissioners first adopted the plan and reflects myriad changes to Buncombe’s agricultural sector, from the vibrant expansion of its direct-to-consumer markets to the gradual evaporation of its commodity dairies.
At its meeting of Tuesday, Sept. 22, Asheville City Council will vote on a budget amendment that would fund the APD at roughly $29.3 million, a reduction of $770,000 from a previous proposal. Many activist groups, including Black AVL Demands, have called for a 50% reduction to the APD and reinvestment in community services.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on a resolution to adopt LEED Gold standards for new public facilities over 10,000 square feet and major renovations. The county’s policy would also require all new buildings to be constructed with solar-ready design and achieve net-zero energy use “where feasible.”
Board member Rick Livingston, who made the motion to deny the recommendation, said the proposed SE Asphalt plant’s location in a “very residential area” off the Spartanburg Highway was incompatible with both the county’s comprehensive plan and East Flat Rock’s community plan.
From Mars Hill in the north to Rosman in the south, from Black Mountain in the east to Maggie Valley in the west, the Hellbender Regional Trail system would link major municipalities in the five-county French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization region through paths devoted to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Environmental advocates urged Asheville City Council to adopt a series of proposals to strengthen protections for Asheville’s urban forests.
“Folks are really starting to get weary of the pattern of hurricanes and extreme weather and are looking for more stable environments such as Western North Carolina,” says local real estate agent John Haynes, about clients seeking to move to the region from coastal states like Florida, New Jersey and Texas.
Asheville City Council will take a brief respite from conversations about policing and budgets to consider new standards for tree canopy preservation at its meeting of Tuesday, Aug. 25. Three public hearings will address different parts of the proposed standards.
With permission from the city, businesses with private parking lots can now convert 50% of their parking area to dining. To expand onto public sidewalks, businesses must be able to maintain 6 feet of clear space for diners and pedestrians.
Commission Chair Laura Hudson argued that the rules placed too much emphasis on tree protection and could become an untenable burden for developers. “If you jam too many requirements onto one small parcel, I think you’re going to kill the development altogether,” she said.
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.
Two lawsuits filed in 2018, both of which reached final settlements on June 8, challenged several of the fees Asheville has used to raise money for repairs and updates to the water system. Together, the settlements could have the city pay nearly $2 million to dismiss claims that those fees were charged illegally and prevent the collection of $37 million in fees over the next five years.
The proposed general fund budget of nearly $335.65 million marks a 1.1% decrease from the current fiscal year’s $339.46 million total. To support those expenditures, the county would use more than $11.33 million of its fund balance, down roughly 23% from the $14.79 million in reserves spent this year.
Since March 16, local government boards and commissions meetings have been canceled, meaning citizens have largely been shut out of formal policy discussions as Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners manage the tandem economic and public health crises caused by the coronavirus.
The total fiscal 2020-2021 city budget proposal stands at $184.6 million, a 3% decrease from last year’s total of $190.3 million, and will continue funding for existing services while limiting new programs, service enhancements and initiatives. The property tax rate would remain the same under the proposal, and no fee increases are recommended.
Council members will consider approving multiple incentives for projects at 11 Collier Avenue and 2 Restaurant Court. The first would receive a Land Use Incentive Grant of more than $383,000, while the second would get a LUIG of more than $289,000, as well as a $1 million loan from the city’s Housing Trust Fund.
Debra Campbell, Asheville’s city manager, said she was recommending no new spending for projects that Council had previously explored, such as renewable energy on city buildings. All departments have also been asked to cut their budgets as much as possible, “with a focus on minimizing operational impacts.”
According to a staff report available before City Council’s meeting of Tuesday, May 12, 60 hotel rooms at the Red Roof Inn in West Asheville would replace the city’s emergency group shelter at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville, which has a capacity of 50 and currently houses 32.
The legislative change allows the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to use $5 million from its Tourism Product Development Fund — which previously had to be allocated to nonprofit entities or local government and spent on capital projects — for grants of up to $50,000 in support of tourism businesses other than lodging.
The plan, which has been under development since July and was initially expected to be adopted in September, lists four “community focus areas” for Buncombe’s leaders: an educated and capable community, environmental and energy stewardship, resident well-being and a vibrant economy.
The spending reductions presented on April 21 by Budget Director Jennifer Barnette totaled about $1.5 million — less than 7% of an estimated $22 million gap between revenues and expenditures for fiscal year 2021 — in areas ranging from the Buncombe County Detention Center to information technology.