Downtown Master Plan action committee activated

During the two years it took to draw up the Downtown Master Plan, adopted by Asheville City Council in May, skeptics frequently invoked the specter of other city plans gathering dust on some literal or figurative shelf. That, says project manager Sasha Vrtunski, will not be the fate of the DMP.

"We don't want to hear that ever about this plan, that it sat on a shelf," she said on Monday, Nov. 9, at the first meeting of the Downtown Master Plan Action Committee. The committee, which met in the meeting room on the ground floor of the Asheville Art Museum, is charged with monitoring the implementation of recommendations made in the draft plan. Its 50 or so members have been divided into five subcommittees that will focus on urban design, transportation, historic preservation, arts and culture, and downtown management.

Many of them were involved with developing the DMP in some way. Some served on the Downtown Master Plan Advisory Committee or on other city boards and commissions. Others are property or business owners or stakeholders in the city's arts community. A few were frequent critics of the direction parts of the plan were taking.

"What has come out of this process is going to be a great framework for developers to use," said committee chair Jesse Plaster, who also serves on the Downtown Commission.

Much time was spent with personal introductions and with establishing subcommittee meeting times. The frequency of meetings will depend on each topic, Vrtunski said. For instance, urban design issues are expected to come up quickly, and that subcommittee has already begun to meet.

Vrtunski also outlined subcommittee responsibilities and the chain of command: the subcommittees report to the larger action committee, which reports to the Downtown Commission, which makes recommendations to Asheville City Council for a final vote.

Committee members were urged to stick to the draft plan recommendations and resist the temptation to insert their own policies. "It's going to be very easy for us to take off in different directions," said restaurateur Dwight Butner. "But that is not what we are here to do."

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