On the same week that NFL quarterbacks take to the field for the regular season, Asheville City Council members plan to call their own sort of audible. As listed on the agenda for Council’s upcoming regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 5 p.m. in council chambers, the group will discuss a resolution updating its strategic priorities for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The changes, first discussed at Council’s annual retreat in February, affect current goals in all eight categories of its 2036 Vision. In alignment with the city’s newly expanded Office of Equity and Inclusion, for example, “equitable” is now added to the category of “a diverse community,” and the category’s goals make reference to the recently adopted Equity Action Plan. A new goal is also added to develop and implement a strategy for economic mobility based on a National League of Cities report.
A number of other new goals pop up throughout the list of priorities. Council will seek to make its zoning and development regulations more consistent with those of Buncombe County and neighboring municipalities, reduce police turnover while enhancing minority and local recruitment, update the Sustainability Master Plan and integrate multi-year financial planning into the budget process.
But as new goals move onto the list, some others are on the way out. Council will no longer prioritize revisiting the Food Action Plan, implementing an effective neighborhood planning process, redeveloping Lee Walker Heights or exploring innovative housing strategies such as tiny homes and container homes. Evaluating the success of tax economic development incentives is also off the list.
On a more tactical level, Council will consider revisions to its Land Use Incentive Grant policy. As explained in a memo by Sam Powers, the city’s director of community and economic development, the changes are meant to expand affordable housing in projects that receive grant benefits.
The proposed changes increase the minimum period for which developers must guarantee affordable units in LUIG projects from 15 to 20 years. Applicants will also receive larger incentives if they offer units for households earning 60 percent or less of the area median income (roughly $30,000); the current policy offers the same support for all units at 80 percent AMI or less.
Additional changes would create new incentives for projects served by one-hour frequency bus routes under the Transit Master Plan, located downtown or guaranteed as permanently affordable (for a period of 50 years or more). While Powers notes that some developers “may feel that the minimum period of affordability is too long,” he adds that those consulted in the development of the changes “did not generally object.”
In other business
The rest of Council’s agenda is relatively light compared to that of its previous meeting. Only two public hearings are on the docket, the first to rename a portion of Riverside Drive and the second to rezone properties on Brevard Road from residential to Highway Business District. Council will hear one presentation, an update on the Asheville Police Department’s progress on open data initiatives.
Council members will also consider a resolution to implement the Mountain Community Capital Fund. Under this new program, conducted in partnership with Mountain BizWorks, Self-Help Credit Union and the Carolina Small Business Development Center, the city will make a $250,000 interest-free loan to be used as collateral for other loans to small and minority-owned businesses. Buncombe County government is expected to contribute $200,000 to the program at a later date.
Finally, Council will consider items on its consent agenda. Unless specifically singled out for separate discussion, these items are typically approved as a package. Highlights include the following:
- A motion approving a new cell tower at 1256 Hendersonville Road, as decided in a quasi-judicial hearing at the last Council meeting.
- A resolution authorizing up to $300,000 for RESTOCON to complete repairs in the Civic Center Garage.
- A resolution authorizing over $456,000 for ADW Architects to plan, design and oversee construction of Fire Station No. 13.
- A resolution authorizing up to $200,000 in hourly legal services from McGuire, Wood & Bissette to cover recently announced resignations from the city’s legal department. The resolution notes that City Attorney Robin Currin, Deputy City Attorney Kelly Langteau-Ball and Assistant City Attorney Catherine Hofmann are all planning to leave the department. Currin has previously said she will be accepting Raleigh’s city attorney job; Langteau-Ball and Hofmann did not respond to requests for comment about their departures.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.