While some items on City Council’s agenda for its April 26 meeting involve small sums or don’t directly relate to city dollars, others deal in very large amounts of money indeed. Within Council’s consent agenda, for example, city Chief Financial Officer Barbara Whitehorn requests authorization to continue negotiations to issue $46 million in limited obligation bonds to finance projects in the city’s Capital Improvement Program.
One of those projects is the redevelopment of Lee Walker Heights, an aging public housing community with 96 units. If the project moves ahead, the existing buildings on the 11-acre site will be demolished and a total of 212 new units for residents earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income will be constructed.
Funding for the project will come from a variety of sources. If the Asheville Housing Authority’s application is approved, the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit will cover about half the project costs. Despite this funding, a significant gap remains between the funding available from federal and other sources and the development costs.
A memo from Cathy Ball, the city’s executive director for planning and multimodal transportation, explains how the requested city funds will be used:
The Asheville Housing Authority is seeking $4.2 million in gap financing from the City of Asheville, or $20,000 per unit for the proposed build-out of 212 units. The funds, if granted, would be devoted to the construction of on-site infrastructure, including earth moving, and the construction of water, sewer, storm water, roadway and sidewalks.
If granted, the city funding would be conditional on the award of the tax credits. The Housing Authority has also indicated that it will not request additional funds from the city.
Also up for consideration by Council is a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and Duke Energy for the purchase of the former Mathews Ford property at 319 Biltmore Ave., adjacent to the Lee Walker Heights site. Owning the property would enable the city to develop an additional 200 to 300 units of mixed-rate housing, as well as commercial space, and would provide direct access to the Lee Walker Heights community from Biltmore Avenue. The purchase price for the parcel is $5.3 million, and the city could choose to (or choose to not) exercise its right to purchase it at any time in the next eight years.
City Planning and Urban Design Director Todd Okolichany will present an update on the public input gathered at recent community information sessions on downtown development review guidelines and design standards. According to Okolichany’s memo, public input has not yielded definitive conclusions about whether development review guidelines in place in the Central Business District should be changed from their current thresholds and, if so, in what way. Planning staff has received significant input asking for expanded notice requirements for meetings with downtown developers. Those meetings are currently required before developers may request city approvals, but community members want them to be more widely promoted, along with other modifications.
According to Okolichany, public input has largely come down against considering hotel projects differently from other uses.
In a second memo, Okolichany summarizes discussions and presentations city staff have convened to explore design review guidelines in the Central Business District. While design guidelines are currently in place, and developers are required to meet with the Downtown Commission, compliance with the guidelines or Commission recommendations is voluntary. Additionally, the recommendation of the 2015 Historic Preservation Master Plan to explore creating a historic overlay district downtown has not yet yielded new guidelines or requirements.
Rusty Pulliam, who hopes to develop a proposed apartment complex at 60 Mills Gap Rd. in South Asheville, has requested that the April 26 public hearing on the rezoning of the property (which is currently zoned for industrial use) be postponed to Council’s June 14 meeting.
A hearing on a resolution to submit the 2016-17 Consolidated Action Plan for Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concerns the use of over $2 million in federal funding to support affordable housing and community development programs in the four-county consortium area.
Related to the Lee Walker Heights project discussed earlier, Council will hold a public hearing on rezoning the Lee Walker site, 50 Wilbar Ave., from Residential Multi-Family High Density (RM-16) to Urban Place Conditional Zone (UP – CZ) to allow for the proposed redevelopment.
Council will vote on the repeal of the city ordinance permitting the operation of horse-drawn carriages on city streets. At the same time, Council will consider a franchise agreement that will allow Catherine Hunter of Asheville Horse & Carriage Tours LLC to continue operating her business. Despite complaints from animal activists, police records and inspection reports indicate that no serious problems or complaints have resulted from Hunter’s business since she began operating in 2013, according to the city memo.
Council will proclaim April 26 “UNC-Asheville Women’s Basketball Day,” “UNC-Asheville Men’s Basketball Day,” and “Support Public Schools Day.” Council also will proclaim May “Building Safety Month.”
Asheville City Council will meet at 5 p.m. on April 26 in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall. See the complete meeting agenda here.