$4.2 million Lee Walker Heights grant on docket for March 26 Council meeting

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The approximately $39.7 million redevelopment of Lee Walker Heights, the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville’s oldest public housing neighborhood, is being cobbled together from a veritable jigsaw of sources, including federal low-income housing tax credits and Housing and Urban Development funds, a Buncombe County grant and money from HACA itself. Asheville City Council will be asked to add a $4.2 million piece of the puzzle at its meeting of Tuesday, March 26.

That piece is itself comprised of multiple funding streams, as city Housing Development Specialist Paul D’Angelo and CFO Barbara Whitehorn explained in a staff report issued before the meeting. The 2016 General Obligation Housing Bond will provide $1.82 million, while $1.38 million will come from the city’s general fund and $1 million will be spent from the Affordable Housing Capital Improvement Program.

D’Angelo and Whitehorn noted that the bond money is earmarked for “demolition, site work improvements and infrastructure improvements” at 319 Biltmore Ave. — the former Matthews Ford Site, which the city has an option to purchase from Duke Energy and has previously considered for affordable housing. New building pad sites and a city street connecting to Lee Walker Heights, they said, would contribute “to the long-term redevelopment of both properties.”

The city’s strategy represents a shift from the funding sources it considered in 2016, when Mayor Esther Manheimer and former City Manager Gary Jackson signed letters of commitment to the project. While HUD Section 108, HOME and CDBG monies were initially on the table, D’Angelo and Whitehorn said staff members now recommend using those funds for future community needs.

Funding will be disbursed over the course of the year as the redevelopment work is completed. D’Angelo and Whitehorn said that HACA “will seek no other sources of city funding” for the Lee Walker Heights project.

History and hotels

Two weeks after approving a seven-story, 103-room hotel on the same road, Council will be asked to OK a second project spread across four Biltmore Avenue addresses. The development, which was continued from Dec. 11 at the applicant’s request, would create a new five-story building at 155 Biltmore Ave. and repurpose historic houses at 123, 129 and 134 Biltmore Ave.

The Planning and Zoning Commission was split on the project, according to a staff report prepared by city planner Sasha Vrtunski before the Dec. 11 meeting. Members Laura Berner Hudson and Joe Archibald voted against five of their colleagues to reject the project, noting that the historic houses already hosted businesses and that the property could be suited for needed residential development.

Council will also consider a proposal amending the zoning code to add additional protections for locally designated historic districts and landmarks. If the changes are approved, subdivisions of those properties would face mandatory review by the city’s Historic Resources Commission.

In a report issued before the meeting, staff members said the change “may help the city to avoid potential legal challenges that might result from the HRC denying a certificate of appropriateness for development on a newly created parcel that is incongruous with the historic character of the neighborhood.”

Consent agenda

Council’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 10 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include resolutions to:

  • Authorize HACA to issue up to $22.5 million in housing revenue bonds for the redevelopment of Lee Walker Heights. No members of the public commented at a hearing about the bonds held on March 20.
  • Create a new lease agreement between the city and the Asheville-Buncombe Youth Soccer Association for facilities at the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex. Under the lease, the city will pay up to $50,000 every year for flood repairs to the facility and contribute $15,000 annually for 12 years to a field replacement capital fund. The ABYSA will be responsible for all repairs over that $50,000 yearly cap.
  • Expand the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee from nine to 11 members. In a staff report issued before the meeting, D’Angelo said the change will add diversity and expertise in development and banking to the committee.
  • Adopt the updated Municipal Records and Disposition Schedule published by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. This document, last revised in 2012, provides guidance on when public records no longer serve “reference value” and can be destroyed.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. Council will convene in the same space starting at 9:45 a.m. to interview candidates for the Asheville City Board of Education, who will be appointed as part of the formal meeting. Council will also hold a work session on the annual operating budget beginning at 3 p.m. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the News Editor of Mountain Xpress, coordinating coverage of Western North Carolina's governments, community groups, businesses and environment. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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6 thoughts on “$4.2 million Lee Walker Heights grant on docket for March 26 Council meeting

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Please show up at city council Tuesday, and help to stop more ghetto creation in Asheville! We have too much already public housing!

  2. C-Law

    How insulting and rasis of Council! I demand We descendants of slaves and those forcibly indentured and brought against their will to AmeriKKKa receive full reparations immediately in the amount of no less than 5.23 quadrillion dollars or Council just proves yet again that they are only typical hypocritical leftist DemonKKKrats…all words and moral/virtue signalers, never doin anything real the oppressed!
    We want full reparations and the Black New Deal and we want it NOW!!

  3. Denial

    JBL is used almost exclusively by ABYSA. Maybe they should cover the costs of flood clean up by 100%.

  4. luther blissett

    “noting that the historic houses already hosted businesses and that the property could be suited for needed residential development.”

    Using houses for office space is never entirely ideal — it’s often an ADA problem, especially for professionals who work with elderly clients — but it’s office space. It’s going to be up to the city this year to decide whether it wants to evict people thrashing out a fragile middle-class existence from their work spaces or whether it wants… more hotels.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      clearly more hotels if city council can extort half a million dollars from the developers for each one built…

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