The debate surrounding House Bill 2, the recent law that prohibits North Carolina municipalities from passing ordinances that would allow people to use the restroom that matches the sex with which they identify (but which may for some differ from the sex indicated on their birth certificate), is set to come to Asheville City Council at its regular meeting on April 12.
At its March 8 meeting, Council received public comment on the issue of bathroom choice after Charlotte’s City Council passed an ordinance allowing individuals to choose the public bathroom matching their gender identification. Asheville citizens spoke both in favor of Charlotte’s ordinance and against it. Mayor Esther Manheimer said that the Council Governance Committee had heard a report on the Charlotte ordinance earlier that same day, and had concluded that Asheville did not need to take any action in response. Charlotte, Manheimer explained, had an ordinance on its books requiring people to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex. Thus, the Charlotte measure was needed to fix a problematic ordinance. Asheville, she said, had no such law and therefore no fix was required.
On March 23, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on April 5 passed a resolution reaffirming the County’s support of the rights of its LGBT employees on a 4-3 vote split along party lines.
Now City Council will take up the issue and consider its response to the state legislation. Council’s meeting agenda included a proposed resolution that some LGBT advocates and allies immediately repudiated as insufficiently critical of HB2. Councilman Cecil Bothwell has proposed an alternate resolution, based on a measure passed by the Board of Aldermen of Carrboro. Unlike the draft Asheville resolution, Bothwell’s version calls on the NCGA to repeal HB2. Meanwhile, Bothwell’s version continues, “Council will look to the court system for remedy…” will “…adopt appropriate local ordinances to advance the cause of equal protection…” and will encourage other governmental authorities to do the same.
The resolution is included in Council’s Consent Agenda, but it seems likely that Council will opt to discuss the measure separately.
Council will issue proclamations recognizing:
- April 2016 as “Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month”
- April 2016 as “Child Abuse Prevention Month”
- April 18, 2016 as “Lineman Appreciation Day”
Council also will recognize city employees and will sign a two-by-four for the first wall for the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity house built in recognition of generous support from the City of Asheville and Buncombe County.
In addition to Agenda Item I (discussed above), “Resolution supporting the constitutional rights and equitable treatment of all individuals in employment and public accommodations,” additional notable agenda items include:
- Approval of a contract to undertake a Comprehensive Parking Study to guide parking planning and funding strategy over the next 10 to 15 years
- Granting permission to serve alcohol at ten upcoming events
- Approval of a $180,000 contract for design services provided by Novus Architects for facility assessment and conceptual design of improvements for McCormick Field facilities
- Consideration of a waiver of $90,000 in city permitting fees for construction at the Asheville Art Museum at 2 Pack Square
- Amendment to the 2016 City Council meeting schedule which would cancel the May 24 regular meeting and reschedule that meeting for May 17. The public hearing on the fiscal year 2016-17 annual operating budget will also be rescheduled for May 17.
Council will hear public comment on proposed changes to the Unified Development Ordinance for the review and administration of the city’s subdivision standards. Most of the proposed changes focus on updating and clarifying the standards, as well as ensuring consistency with North Carolina statutes which have changed since the most recent update of the standards.
According to a city memo, the most substantial proposed change to the standards concerns the review of major subdivisions by the city Planning & Zoning Commission. The memo explains:
For many years after the UDO was adopted, the Technical Review Committee was the final review and approving body for major subdivisions. This was changed in 2011 and final review and approval was shifted to the Planning and Zoning Commission to explore whether there was a community benefit to holding a public hearing and providing the opportunity for public input. This change has had a mixed response and questionable success.
The proposed amendment recommends moving the final review and approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission back to the TRC. This change is in alignment with the Planning & Zoning Commission’s established priorities for 2016 where the Commission has cited concerns over having limited understanding of the technical standards and limited authority on ministerial reviews, impacting their ability to respond to community concerns. Moving the final review and approval back to the TRC focuses the conversation on the subdivision’s ability to comply with the technical standards and places the approval responsibility on the technical experts.
Beaucatcher Greenway report
City staff will present a report on the Beaucatcher Greenway project. In a memo summarizing the project history, proposed alignment, environmental impact and public response to a survey on Asheville’s Open City Hall public engagement website, staff recommend two actions. First, staff advocate completing the design phase of the project and moving into the competitive bid process for the greenway’s construction. Second, staff recommend reallocating $972,137 originally budgeted for soccer field resurfacing to the budget for the Beaucatcher Greenway. The fund reallocation is possible due to the award of a Tourism Product Development Fund grant to the soccer field resurfacing project.
The total projected cost of the Beaucatcher Greenway project, including city land acquisition costs, is $3,751,264, or just over $3 million per mile of completed greenway. The total finished length of the greenway is 1.25 miles. Though high, the cost appears to be comparable to other planned city greenways, according to cost information contained in the city’s memo.
State legislative agenda
Council will hear a report on and vote to adopt a city legislative agenda for 2016. The agenda addresses the following categories:
- Municipal authority: car sharing, Municipal Service Districts
- Municipal revenue: lost revenue due to repeal of Privilege license fees, electronic posting of governmental notices, oppose sales tax distribution reform that would reduce sales tax revenue to Asheville
- Mandates: enhance state funding for education and transportation infrastructure without reducing municipal revenue
- City services: preserve local control of public utility systems, enterprise funds, building code, code enforcement officer’s authority to require changes during building inspection
- Transportation: maintain and increase funding, retain local control over multi-modal transportation planning and safety and continue Metropolitan Planning Organization, inter-governmental I-26 planning and strategic mobility formula
- Economic vitality: state housing trust fund, workforce housing loan program, state affordable housing tax credit
- Community standards: retain local control of tree regulation in the city and aesthetic controls in historic districts
- Environmental stewardship: coal ash cleanup, increase funding to natural resource trust funds
Boards & Commissions
Council will consider applicants for three city boards, the Haywood Street Advisory Committee, the Public Art & Cultural Commission and the Recreation Board.
Before the regular session
Prior to the start of its regular session at 5 p.m. in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall, Council will hold a budget worksession at 3 p.m. in the first floor north conference room at City Hall.
From the April 12, 2016 meeting of City Council:
- City Council calls for repeal of HB2, urges other cities to do same
- Beaucatcher Greenway gets nod from Council for construction bidding