At its Tuesday, Sept. 8 meeting, Asheville City Council is set to consider plenty of real estate development projects — including one of the warm, fuzzy variety.
Among other zoning changes and amendments on the agenda, council will hear a presentation and public comment on a downtown cat café proposed by local no-kill shelter and nonprofit Brother Wolf Animal Rescue.
First pioneered in Japan to cater to stressed-out urban cat lovers, the cat café concept has been tweaked by North American animal rescue organizations to encourage cat and kitten adoptions. To meet health department regulations, cat areas are separated from food and drink areas.
Asheville’s Unified Development Ordinance currently prohibits animal uses in the central business district, so allowing Brother Wolf’s proposed cat café will require an alteration to the code. The proposed wording of the amendment to the UDO reads:
Cat café means any premises used to house or contain homeless, orphaned or unwanted cats and that is owned, operated or maintained by an organization that is licensed by the State as an animal shelter and devoted to the welfare, protection and humane treatment of animals for the purpose of adoption, and which incorporates retail sales to support the interaction of patrons with cats, such as a café, bookshop or other permitted use.
Both the Downtown Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission have reviewed and unanimously approved the proposed change.
A new face
New Director of Planning & Urban Design Todd Okolichany will wrap up a long first day on the job with an introduction and welcome at the meeting. A city press release from August 2015 describes Okolichany’s recent background:
Okolichany comes to the City of Asheville from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he served as principal planner for the Department of Sustainable Development. A LEED-Green Associate accredited by the Green Building Certification Institute, Okolichany supervised major programs of the city’s Urban Design and Planning Division, including work related to strategic planning, design standards and form-based codes.
Council will proclaim Sept. 14-18 as “Minority Enterprise Development Week” and Sept. 21 as “Day of Peace.”
In addition to business-as-usual matters to be voted upon as a group under the consent agenda, three more-notable items are included: adoption of an open data policy for the city, a resolution to support redistricting reform and a motion to refer the amendment to the UDO regarding homestays to the City Council Planning & Economic Development Committee.
“Open data,” reads a memo by Chief Information Officer Jonathan Feldman, “is the automation of data records that are already considered ‘open’ by state law. Open data removes the manual labor associated with providing data and makes city government more efficient by creating a self-service portal that serves interested parties, such as media, business and interested citizens.”
The purpose of the open data policy, according to the memo, is to continue to expand the city’s efforts to provide 24/7 access to data to facilitate “economic development, commerce, entrepreneurship and a higher level of civic engagement in the community.”
The proposed resolution to support redistricting reform aims to clarify Council’s support for the creation of “an independent redistricting process that ensures diversity, partisan balance and geography, for all future redistricting.”
Finally, if approved as part of the consent agenda, Council will redirect the amendment concerning homestays (discussed at the City Council Aug. 25 meeting) to the City Council Planning & Economic Development Committee. The agenda document does not specify what the process for final approval of the amendment will be.
The full text of the consent agenda and links to supporting documents can be found here.
Presentations and Reports
Council will hear a report about the online tool SimpliCity, which allows users to simultaneously search several types of city records by property address, yielding information about property ownership, tax valuation, zoning, recent nearby development, crime statistics and trash and recycling pickup times. SimpliCity shows which governmental entity is responsible for street maintenance at a specific location and provides a link to The Asheville App for reporting problems and requests.
Council will also hear a legislative update on activities of the North Carolina General Assembly relevant to Asheville.
Council will hear a presentations and public comment on the proposed adoption of the Historic Preservation Master Plan as part of the Asheville City Development Plan 2025, as well as five zoning requests related to real estate development.
According to a memo from Stacy Merten, director of the Historic Resources Commission, the Historic Preservation Master Plan is intended to “help guide the future work of the commission and further historic preservation efforts as supported through the city’s adopted comprehensive and downtown development plans. This will ensure that historic preservation remains integral to quality urban design, sustainability and the strategic planning vision of Asheville and Buncombe County.”
The full text of the Master Plan is available here.
Zoning requests on which Council will hear public comment include:
- Resolution to permanently close an unnamed alley between Wyoming Road and Keebler Road
- Rezoning 200 Asheland Ave. from Regional Business District to Central Business District and associated amendments to the officially adopted Height Zone Map
- Modification to a conditional use permit for Biltmore Gardens originally approved in 2005 (now known as Commercial Properties at Biltmore) to include the development of the commercial portion of the project with three, 2-story office buildings and associated parking on property known as 700 Biltmore Ave.
- Amendment to the Code of Ordinances to create a new land use that permits feline adoption together with retail sales, known as cat café, within the Central Business District
- Conditional zoning of property located at 311 and 315 Old Haw Creek Road from RS-4 single-family medium density district to Institutional District/Conditional Zoning for church renovation, parking area, added sidewalks and construction of 10 student housing units with associated infrastructure, with conditions for reduced property line buffers for portions of the site.
The final item on the meeting agenda is consideration of which, if any, of the candidates for open commission seats City Council will interview. The commissions adding new members include the HUB Community Economic Development Alliance, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee and the Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy & the Environment on the Multimodal Transportation Commission, the Recreation Board and the Tourism Development Authority.
The meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. in the Council Chamber on the second floor of City Hall. The full meeting agenda can be found here.