Taking it Downtown

The Downtown Master Plan currently being drawn up by consulting firm Goody-Clancy with the help of a committee of Asheville residents may seek to shift the approval of development details away from City Council and to the Downtown Commission.

In a Dec. 12 meeting, members of the Master Plan Advisory Committee said the change would be intended to “depoliticize” the approval process and reduce the chance that a project would go through all of the necessary boards and commissions only to be blocked or greatly altered by Council.

“The feeling was that the current process is pretty broken,” said committee member Pat Whalen.

Under the proposed system, which is still being fine-tuned and requires Council approval, as does the rest of the master plan, developers would hash out changes and adjustments to their projects with the Downtown Commission. If an agreement were to be reached between that body and the developer, Council’s approval role would be greatly reduced.

And the master plan itself would preclude the need for Council deliberation on such matters, since it would provide the Downtown Commission with defined guidelines to work with rather than loose interpretations.

Additionally, the step is a way to sweeten the idea of a master plan proposal for developers concerned about its restrictions, and may be a deal-breaker if Council tinkers with it.

“If they take that out, it will kill [the master plan],” said committee member Albert Sneed.

Meanwhile, the committee appears to have broken the impasse that pushed the plan’s release date back four months and caused city staffers to bring a mediator to the negotiation table. A draft master plan may be introduced to the public by mid-January, with an appearance before Council some time in March.

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One thought on “Taking it Downtown

  1. Whoa — are the foxes taking over the henhouse again? Taking final approval out of the hands of elected officials — who are accountable to the public — and putting it in the hands of insulated appointees takes what little power citizens have to stop bad developments and puts it completely in the hands of developers. That’s how they run the show in Atlanta and Charlotte.

    Take Parkside — the Downtown Commission rubber-stamped it. City Council’s refusal to apprve it is all that will stop it if Stewart Coleman’s appeal over the Pack deed is upheld.

    Anyone who’s lived here long knows that developers — especially CIBO — have dominated development-related boards and commissions here for decades. It’s easy — politicians who need developer money for re-election just claim they are appointing the “best-qualified” people, and of course those are pre-defined as people who work in the development industry! Developers and architects dominate the Downtown Commission right now.

    And these “defined guidelines” — will compliance with them still be voluntary, as it is now? The Master Plan consultants, Goody-Clancy, discovered the only legal mechanism in our state for enforcing mandatory compliance is local historic districts — which downtown developers vehemently oppose.

    If we give up BOTH mandatory compliance AND City Council approval to the developers, then the Downtown Master Plan will be nothing but another expensive swindle.

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