It’s been nearly eight years since Buncombe County citizens were last asked to approve new borrowing by local government. That series of three referendums in 2016, which together sought to authorize $74 million in city of Asheville bonds for transportation, parks and affordable housing, passed with over 70% of voters in support.
Buncombe County is now approaching its residents with proverbial hat in hand, asking for authority to issue $70 million in new debt. Two separate issues are on the ballot: The first would approve $30 million in borrowing to conserve open space and create greenways, while the second would OK raising $40 million for affordable housing work.
Bond advocates have been busy gathering support for the cause. The Better With Bonds campaign, organized by Velo Girl Bikes founder Jennifer Caldwell-Billstrom and former Asheville Vice Mayor Marc Hunt, announced Oct. 12 that 14 community organizations were backing the measures. Among those groups are the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, RiverLink, the Land of the Sky Association of Realtors and the WNC Sierra Club.
Criticism of the proposed bonds has been comparatively muted. The most vocal opponent has been Chris Peterson, another former Asheville vice mayor, who has taken out multiple full-page ads in the Tribune Papers arguing that county government cannot be trusted to manage the bond proceeds wisely.
Previous Xpress coverage of the bond issues is available at avl.mx/c3c. The language of the two referendums is printed below as it will appear on the ballot.
Buncombe County Open Space Bonds
SHALL the order authorizing $30,000,000 of bonds to pay the capital costs of acquisition and improvement of land or interests therein for conservation and protection of natural resources and preservation of farmland, including but not limited to, the development of greenways and trails for recreation purposes, and providing that additional taxes may be levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds be approved?
Buncombe County Housing Bonds
SHALL the order authorizing $40,000,000 of bonds to pay the capital costs of housing for the benefit of persons of low or moderate income, including construction of related infrastructure improvements and the acquisition of related land and rights-of-way, and providing that additional taxes may be levied in an amount sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds be approved?