There’s a saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good.
A majority of Asheville City Council members may have had that aphorism in mind as they voted to approve a conditional zoning request Oct. 11. The new zoning, approved 6-1 with Kim Roney opposed, allows for the construction of a townhome development in West Asheville despite some reservations about the project’s design.
The project, proposed by developer Trilogy Residences, is on 9.12 acres on Woodland Drive in West Asheville and will contain 72 two-story townhomes across 10 clusters, along with 177 parking spaces, a playground and a nature trail along the perimeter.
A Sept. 21 hearing on the development by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission led to a 2-2 split vote on recommending the plan due to concerns about the project’s design and accessibility. Those concerns were echoed during the Council meeting by three members of the public, who claimed the project didn’t match the character of surrounding neighborhoods and argued that increased traffic in the area could cause safety issues for pedestrians and drivers.
Council member Roney also asserted that the development, which did not include sidewalks or bike lanes to a nearby bus stop, was “car-centric” in its design. “I think that speaks to the situation of today, but not the situation for a hopeful future,” she said. “And I think that our neighbors deserve resilient options for transportation.”
But two other members of the public, both of whom said they worked in real estate development and construction, supported the plan, citing the difficulty of the building site and the need for more housing supply in Asheville. Mayor Esther Manehimer reiterated those sentiments, saying that while the development contained some flaws, the pros outweighed the cons.
“The easiest thing to do would be to vote ‘no’ on this, because it would be the popular thing to do and there’s not really any backlash for doing that. But this Council has been really struggling with how to address affordable housing in our community,” Manheimer said. “If we aren’t brave enough to say, ‘yes’ when these projects come forward, even in the face of a lot of opposition, we will stymie our city, and we will stymie the opportunity for the future of our city.”
“I’m a little taken aback by the opposition to this project. I think it’s just because I see so clearly the dire need for housing [and] adopting different types of housing,” added Council member Sage Turner. “When we have this much of a crisis going on, I really struggle to hear folks say, ‘I walk my dog there.’ Because I think hundreds of people need to live here as well.”
Derek Allen, the attorney representing the developer, did offer some changes to the project prior to its approval that better align it with city goals. He raised the number of units designated as affordable to those earning at or below 80% of the area median income ($45,000 for an individual; $64,250 for a family of four) for a minimum of 20 years from four to seven; four of those units will also accept housing choice vouchers, up from two. Allen noted that the developer was not requesting a land use incentive grant or other city incentive to include the affordable units. He also agreed to a new zoning condition that would require the construction of two electric vehicle charging stations.
Council greenlights development of plastic reduction ordinance
Council also voted unanimously to approve a roughly yearlong process for developing and implementing a ban on single-use plastic within the city. If passed, the ordinance would specifically prohibit the distribution of plastic grocery bags and plastic foam takeout containers. A separate update to the city waste ordinance would ban plastic bags used for curbside leaf collection; that measure could be voted on as early as December.
City staff recommends that a vote on the more extensive plastic ban ordinance take place next October following internal research and engagement, a 30-day public survey and a six-month period to “review and refine engagement.”
More than 20 members of the public spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance, many of whom asked Council for an accelerated timeline.
“Sixty million more plastic bags are in the environment every single year just within Asheville, and for each month this plastic ban ordinance is delayed, [there’s] another 5 million more plastic bags within the environment,” said Zola Ferraby, a senior at Asheville High School. “We don’t have the time to wait on this. And I understand that this is a very important step in order to implement this properly. But as the youth, we don’t have time. This is our reality.”
“We do not want to overstate and underdeliver,” said City Manager Debra Campbell. “If we can accelerate, we will. But for now, we don’t want to promise you that we can deliver something sooner than that date.”
Monday, Oct. 24 at 3:57 p.m. — This story has been updated to include the correct name of the developer.