According to a staff report available before the Tuesday, Jan. 21, meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, design of the project’s Riverside Drive segment had initially been estimated at $660,000, with 80% of the cost to be covered by federal grants. That projection, however, covers just 40% of the now-finalized price for laying out the greenway.
Jessica Morriss, Asheville’s assistant director of transportation, explained that the higher costs were primarily driven by federally mandated door-to-door paratransit service for residents with disabilities. The remaining transit budget gap, she said, was due to higher-than-expected prices for fuel and electricity to power city buses.
The county planning department supports changing the roughly 6.4-acre property from its current residential zoning to commercial service. The Buncombe County Planning Board, however, recommended denial of the rezoning in a 6-1 decision on Oct. 21, citing concerns over resident displacement and steep slopes.
Dawn Chávez, the executive director of Asheville GreenWorks, found many threats to the region’s sustainability in 2019. She listed the top five of her worries for Xpress’s year-end review.
The final cost for the library now comes in at roughly $6.98 million, which includes previously unaccounted-for expenses to provide fixtures, furniture and equipment for the building. The project had initially been estimated at $4.5 million, and commissioners approved a $1.3 million budget increase last year.
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.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners must whittle down 25 applicants to fill nine available slots on the new advisory group. According to the resolution establishing the group, members must be selected evenly from each commission district and should represent the community’s gender, age and racial diversity; notably, all of the current applicants are white.
As outlined in a presentation available before the meeting, Buncombe’s 26 county-owned buildings have an average age of nearly 50 years, with total maintenance costs running over $789,000 in each of the past two fiscal cycles. The county hopes to hire an outside firm to evaluate those buildings against Buncombe’s needs.
Climate Change and Asheville’s Urban Forest, a symposium organized by Asheville GreenWorks for Thursday, Nov. 14, 5-7:30 p.m., brings together a broad coalition around the results of the city’s recently released canopy study. Urban forest advocates emphasize that trees are critical to help Asheville avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Buncombe County has identified over $2.9 million in solar energy projects that could be installed at government-owned facilities. The projects are estimated to generate more than $4.7 million in energy savings over their estimated 30-year operational lifespan and help the county reach its goal of powering all government operations with 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Xpress reached out to candidates across the two counties to understand their motivations for participating in the municipal elections. Many of the topics the hopeful elected officials raised — diversity, transportation planning and preservation of small-town character — may give WNC politicos a sneak peak at what will be important to area voters in 2020.
County planning staff members say special and family subdivisions have been abused by developers to skirt regulations on infrastructure and hillside protection. The Board of Commissioners will consider whether to approve new rules to fix those issues during its regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 15, in room 326 at 200 College St.
Down from 460 homes in November 2014, only 63 houses listed at less than $200,000 were available for sale in Buncombe County as of July 2019. Median rental costs in the area have also increased at a 5.4% annual rate over the same period.
Nine residents spoke at the Oct. 1 meeting of the Board of Commissioners about the county’s new agreement with residential waste collection contractor Waste Pro, the second consecutive meeting at which the issue was on the agenda. All of the commenters were critical of the contract, which requires customers to use Waste Pro-provided carts for their trash and recycling.
Beginning next week, contractors will begin installing roadside signs and safety barriers on an approximately 18-mile stretch of Interstate 26, the first step in a $534 million project that will add multiple lanes to the heavily trafficked road. The N.C. Department of Transportation anticipates that construction will wrap up by the summer of 2024.
The report notes that the county approved nearly $19.57 million in capital spending for the last fiscal year, including more than $7.95 million for Buncombe County Public Schools. However, less than $1.12 million has been spent to date on those school needs, with just over $1.87 million spent on other county projects.
“Many artists, creatives, musicians and performers are leaving due to the rapidly increasing cost of living, putting Asheville’s culture at risk,” says Stephanie Moore of the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design. Despite a flurry of concern and initiative, local leaders and developers are finding that providing affordable living and working space for the area’s working artists remains a difficult challenge as property values and rents continue to climb in the city.
Building permits and inspections, birth control through county Health and Human Services and disposal of solid waste are all slated to become more expensive in Buncombe County’s newly proposed fee schedule. The Board of Commissioners will vote on the new fees during its regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17, in room 326 at 200 College St.
“We recognize that the impacts of tourism are creating some experiences in our community that residents don’t like, and there are feelings that we’re being overwhelmed by tourism,” said Stephanie Brown, president and CEO of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, in a Sept. 3 presentation to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.
Asheville’s current short-term rental rules do not allow homestays to offer rooms that contain either a stove, a full-sized refrigerator or a kitchen sink. A new definition of “kitchen,” proposed by local host organization the Homestay Network, would still forbid stoves in homestay dwellings but allow sinks and refrigerators.
The $100,000 report, commissioned from Massachusetts-based consultants The Cadmus Group, finds that local government action will be insufficient for Asheville and Buncombe County to run operations entirely on renewable energy by their goal date of 2030 without the purchase of renewable energy certificates or significant state-level regulatory changes.