A house in the woods at UNCA

Sparking some local protest, the UNC Asheville Foundation is poised to begin construction of Pisgah House, a new chancellor’s residence that has been planned over the past eight years.

Running out of woods?: Critics assert that UNCA shouldn’t site a new chancellor’s residence in the school’s wooded South Campus. A university spokesperson says the home is needed and will not disturb the forest’s older trees. photo by Jonathan Welch

UNCA is required to provide housing for its chancellor. Up until now, the university has maintained a residence on Macon Avenue, more than 1.5 miles from the campus. The foundation decided to site the new building, which is slated to be completed by the summer of 2008, on a five-acre wooded area across W.T. Weaver Boulevard from the campus and adjacent to the Southern Forest Research Station.

Planners held two community meetings to keep neighbors informed of their intentions, but recently, Asheville resident Timothy Walsh has raised objections to the plan and has circulated a petition requesting that the UNCA Board of Regents relocate the planned residence in order to preserve the forested area “as a sanctuary for students, faculty and the greater community to walk and run or sit and contemplate the natural world.”

And James Wood, a local activist who last year drew attention to evironmental damage at the city of Asheville’s Richmond Hill Park, circulated an e-mail in which he charged that “the Chancellor will NOT live there, and most of the time the building will be empty.”

However, according to UNCA Public Information Director Marianne Epstein, Pisgah House will be the chancellor’s residence as well as a public space for university events. The 7,500-square-foot, two-story building will include 3,000 square feet of private-residence space. There will be parking for a maximum of six vehicles, and the building will have only residential lighting.

“One of the big plusses of that location is that the Forest Research Station will permit use of its parking lot for community events, so no additional parking areas will be needed,” Epstein says. She also pointed out that the 50-acre woods of which the parcel is part of was once a dairy farm, and that the white-pine trees in the area slated for the residence were planted after dairy operations ended. “The big, old oak trees are all on the back end of the property, away from the Pisgah House site,” she says.

To view the UNCA Foundation plans, visit www.unca.edu/construction/Pisgah.html ; to contact Leonard concerning the petition, e-mail timothink@gmail.com

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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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