$7 million in grants, incentives on commissioners’ agenda

BUDGET FINALIZED: The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved a budget during its meeting June 21. The spending plan includes a property tax hike of 2.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
BUDGET FINALIZED: The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved a budget during its meeting June 21. The spending plan includes a property tax hike of 2.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners may be in for a long night when it confronts a full agenda at its Tuesday, April 18, meeting. Commissioners will hear presentations for two grant requests totaling $6.2 million, and consider approval of an economic development incentive package worth $881,960. Commissioners will also hold public hearings on two rezoning requests and get updates from the Asheville Regional Airport and Asheville-Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative.

Expansion incentive

Last September, Avadim Technologies Inc. announced it was expanding its Asheville operations to Black Mountain. The company says the move means an investment of at least $20 million and creation of 551 full-time jobs with an average pay of $50,946. County staff describe the breakdown of those positions as: 100 jobs paying $89,440 a year; 161 jobs paying $64,480 a year; and 290 jobs paying $30,160 a year for a total of just over $28 million in new salaries. The company says it will hit those benchmarks by 2021.

In return for Avadim’s investment, job creation and future tax value, commissioners are considering giving the company an economic development incentive grant worth $881,960 that would be paid out over five years. County staff note that investment values, job-creation numbers and salaries will be verified by the county’s tax department and N.C. Employment Security Commission, respectively.

Commissioners will take public comment before making a decision.

Grant requests

Last month, commissioners heard funding requests from nonprofits totaling nearly $11 million. While no action was taken, commissioners did ask for two of the organization’s to come back before them because of the size of the projects and amount of money requested.

Up first will be a $4.2 million request from the Asheville Housing Authority. The funds would go toward the redevelopment of Lee Walker Heights, a public housing development on Asheville’s South Slope. According to the AHA, the plan is: “To replace 96 obsolete public housing units with a new 212-unit mixed income development, that includes replacement of 96 subsidized units with new project-based voucher units.”

Asheville City Council has already pledged $4.2 million to the project.

The second project concerns a $2 million request from the Town of Woodfin. The money would go toward the town’s greenway plans. Woodfin officials assert the greenway would bolster transportation, encourage commercial and residential infill development, boost tourism and more.

Last year, Woodfin voters approved a $4.5 bond package for the town’s greenways, parks and other projects. However, Woodfin officials stated via documents provided to the county:

“The project budget remains a work in progress as we are moving forward relatively quickly. The Town has secured a majority of the project funding through anticipated bond proceeds. In addition to municipal funds the Town anticipates significant funding is likely to be received from Buncombe County, the Tourism Development Authority, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, private citizens, corporate sponsorships and other grant sources. The Town will continue to evaluate opportunities for project collaboration and funding throughout the development, planning and implementation process.”

Commissioners are not expected to take official action in regard to funding these projects, as they are tied to the next fiscal year’s budget, which isn’t slated for approval until June. However, the Board could informally pledge support and direct county staff to find funding for those projects for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1.

Updates and reviews

The Asheville Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative will give a presentation to commissioners regarding the results of the group’s recent survey and its ongoing effort to make preschool more accessible. The ABPPC’s survey found that 71 percent of county residents say preschool is too expensive, while 42 percent could not find an available space.

Preschool Survey

Earlier this month commissioners approved a measure that will add 60 preschool spaces for county children.

Commissioners are not expected to take any action at the meeting on this issue.

Earlier this year, Xpress published an in-depth report about the ABPPC’s push to expand access to preschool, which can be read here.

Next, commissioners will hear a 2016 review of the Asheville Regional Airport from Lew Bleiweis, its executive director.

The airport report touts a third consecutive year of passenger growth, stating it had 826,648 people fly in or out of Asheville last year, a 5 percent increase from 2015. The report also states: “Assets exceeded liabilities by $115,004,382 on June 30, 2016. That is an increase of more than $16.7 million from 2015, and an increase of more than $29.4 million from 2014.”

Airport revenues

Commissioners are not expected to take any action at the meeting regarding this item.

Also slated for review is a list of goals and priorities identified during the commissioners’ retreat earlier this year. Among those included are: exploring tax breaks for elderly and low income residents; expanding preschool offerings; combating opioid addiction; and reducing the county’s carbon footprint.

Commissioners won’t take any formal action at the meeting, but will likely take inventory of what items have moved forward and which ones still need to be addressed. The Board may direct staff to look into ways to move those initiatives forward.

Rezoning requests

The first rezoning request will be for a 6.85-acre plot of land adjacent to 220 Pine Hill Road in Swannanoa. The request would change the property from R-LD to R-1, which would allow more homes to be built on it.

The Planning Board is asking commissioners to deny the request, stating the rezoning is inconsistent with the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, noting:

“Single-family/duplex development [should] be located outside of high elevations (greater than 2,500 feet), and the Plan ‘highly suggests’ single-family/duplex development be located outside of moderate and high slope stability areas. The proposed map amendment would be inconsistent as the subject property contains an area that exceeds 2,500 feet in elevation and may be prone to slope stability hazards.”

However, the county Department of Planning and Development is recommending approval of the request. County documents state: “The bulk of the subject property is located outside of high elevations greater than 2,500 feet.”

The second rezoning request concerns a 2.58-acre plot of land at 227 Bent Creek Ranch Road, located in Bent Creek. The request would change the land’s zoning from R-1 to R-3, which would allow for manufactured homes, among other higher density uses.

Both the Planning Board and county staff are recommending commissioners deny the request, noting that it is “inconsistent with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan” and “would be detrimental to the adjacent neighbors.”

A public hearing on both requests will be held before commissioners vote on them.

You can view the full agenda here. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meets at 200 College St. at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18.

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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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One thought on “$7 million in grants, incentives on commissioners’ agenda

  1. Deplorable Infidel

    hopefully the county commissioners will allow the housing authority to remain AUTONOMOUS and DENY this $4.2 M request in order to prevent a cease and desist lawsuit to stop this taxpayer THEFT ! We NEED the taxpayers to raise HELL about this NOW!

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