$2.5M city grant approved for 153-unit East Asheville complex

110 River Hills Rd. site plan
DOWN BY THE RIVER HILLS ROAD: A South Carolina-based developer will receive nearly $2.5 million in city subsidies to bring a 153-unit rental complex to East Asheville. Graphic courtesy of the city of Asheville

It’s been a busy year for Asheville’s land use incentive grant program, a city initiative that aims to entice developers to include affordable units in their projects by offering property tax rebates.

With a unanimous vote during their Nov. 15 meeting, Asheville City Council members approved the fourth such grant of 2022. The roughly $2.5 million award to South Carolina-based Orange Capital Advisors LLC brings the city’s spending on the program this year to nearly $5.4 million. In each previous year since the program’s 2015 implementation, the city has awarded just one or two LUIG subsidies to eligible developers.

As presented by city staffers Sasha Vrtunski and Will Palmquist, the developer’s 153-unit rental housing project in East Asheville plans to offer 31 units to people earning at or below 80% of the area median income ($45,000 for an individual; $64,250 for a family of four). That affordability would be guaranteed for a minimum of 20 years, with the city rebating about $146,000 to the developer for 17 of those years. The resulting subsidy, an estimated $80,000 per unit, is the maximum recommended under current city policy.

Of the 31 affordable units, 16 will also accept federal housing choice vouchers or rental assistance, and one would house someone who is currently homeless. Vrtunski noted that Asheville residents currently have 85 housing vouchers that are going unused due to lack of supply.

Council also unanimously approved a conditional rezoning for the project’s 110 River Hills Road location. Before that vote, member Kim Roney praised the developer’s inclusion of solar panels in shared areas and electric car charging stations.

“I’m really glad to not have to ask for solar panels,” Roney said.

Council updates committee structure

Council also voted unanimously in favor of reconfiguring the structure of its committees. These six groups each include three Council members and are tasked with managing specific policy areas, such as housing and community development.

According to a staff report, the duties of those committees had not been updated since 2006. Council members requested a realignment during their retreat in March to better match current city goals.

Under the new configuration, two existing committees — Governance and Finance, along with Human Resources — will be merged into a new Policy, Finance and Human Resources Committee. A new Equity and Engagement Committee will be created to address the city’s reparations efforts and “neighborhood resilience.”

The Public Safety Committee will be rebranded as the Environment and Safety Committee and consider environmental issues alongside concerns such as the management of the Asheville Police Department. The remaining three committees will remain unchanged: Boards and Commissions, Housing and Community Development, and Planning and Economic Development.

A farewell to Wisler

Words of thanks and goodbyes for outgoing Council member Gwen Wisler were interspersed throughout the meeting, culminating in a formal resolution of appreciation presented at the end of the evening.

Wisler, who said that the Nov. 15 meeting would be her last, was first elected to Council in 2013 and served as vice mayor from 2015-20. She will be succeeded by former city sustainability director Maggie Ullman Berthiaume, who was elected Nov. 8 and will start her term in December.

“It’s been an honor to serve the city,” Wisler said, holding back tears. “I’m proud of all the Council’s work during my tenure. I’m humbled every day by the tenacity, creativity and resourcefulness of our staff. … Thank you, Asheville. You stretch staff and electeds, and you make us better for it.”


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