Members of Asheville City Council will take on a bit of unfinished business at their next formal meeting on Tuesday, June 13: voting on the city budget for 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The vote looks likely to be split, with Council member Brian Haynes having declared he doesn’t support increased funding for expanding the Asheville Police Department.
Will other Council members join Haynes in opposing the budget as it stands? Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler seemed to think some might when Xpress reached her by telephone on June 7. “I don’t know where it’s going to land,” Wisler said, noting that she supports the police funding request to create a downtown police unit that will be staffed 24/7.
Now, said the vice mayor, officers from neighborhood units including public housing communities must cover the downtown area on nights and weekends, which diverts resources from other parts of the city. “We want our police to be responsive,” said Wisler. “If we continue to not increase the head count, then we could force them into a situation where they can’t be responsive to calls. That’s not what I’m hearing people want out in the community.”
Wisler went on to acknowledge that increasing the size of the department will be an ongoing cost to the city. She also emphasized that Police Chief Tammy Hooper and the city’s Human Resources Department are working to better understand high rates of turnover in the department as a first step in reducing officer attrition.
Council will proclaim June “Bee City USA Pollination Celebration Month.”
In its consent agenda, Council is expected to approve various contracts and agreements.
Items of special note include:
- Naming city Fire Station 9 in memory of firefighter Grady Wilson, Sr.
- A resolution supporting a state goal of 100% clean energy by 2050 and the creation of
- Setting a public hearing on June 27 for a performance-based economic incentive grant with a maximum possible value of $95,000 to Riverbend Malt House.
- Setting a public hearing on June 27 on changing the name of Hillcrest Drive to Luna Lane to avoid possible confusion for emergency response vehicles.
- Setting a public hearing on June 27 on changing the spelling of the name of Kitchen Place in Biltmore Village to Kitchin Place.
Council will hear a presentation on its homestay short-term rental permitting program from November 1, 2015 through May 26, 2017. A homestay is a type of short-term rental in which a property owner or tenant offers up to two bedrooms within a residence to guests for stays of fewer than 30 days. The permanent resident must be home overnight during the rental period, and they must maintain a special permit from the city. Homestays are not allowed in separate, self-contained living units such as garage or basement apartments.
According to a staff report, a total of 326 active homestay permits are on the books. Enforcement of the city’s statutes on short-term rentals — which prohibit renting out a separate house or apartment for short-term stays (except downtown) — has increased over 700 percent over the past seven months, thanks to a contract with a third-party monitoring service.
A public hearing on proposed screening standards for utility substations has been continued until Aug. 22.
Council will hear public comment on a plan to redevelop 338 Hilliard Ave., which was the former location of a Parks and Recreation Department maintenance facility. City Council relocated the parks facility to 75 Shelburne Rd. and selected Tribute Companies to develop affordable housing on the site. Tribute Companies was scheduled to ask Council for a land-use incentive grant on Feb. 28 to waive some city fees for the project, but withdrew that request prior to Council’s meeting. In April, Tribute Companies stepped away from the project.
Now the other original bidder for the 338 Hilliard Ave. site, Kassinger Development Group, will present its proposal for developing 64 units on the site. The company proposes that 33 of the units will be affordable to households earning 60 to 80 percent of the area median income, while 31 units will rent at market rates. The development will include 49 one-bedroom and 15 two-bedroom units.
The company is seeking a $1.28 million loan from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and a land-use incentive grant of $291,430, which represents a waiver of building permit, grading permit, water connection and plan review fees. The developer will commit to a 50-year period of affordability for the units designated for lower-income residents. According to a staff memo, the city’s total incentives would amount to $24,554 per unit. For each affordable unit, the city’s support would total $47,619.
Fairview Road pedestrian safety
Council will consider a project to improve pedestrian safety on Fairview Road. In December 2016, three pedestrians were struck on the road near the River Ridge Business Park. Two children were killed, and the third victim was injured. The $900,000 project would be undertaken in partnership with the N.C. Department of Transportation and would include a new sidewalk on the north side of Fairview Road from Bleachery Boulevard to Swannanoa River Road, safety rails along bridges, and pedestrian signals and marked crosswalks at three intersections with traffic lights.
The city proposes using $450,000 in funds paid by developers in lieu of constructing sidewalks; the NCDOT would pay the balance of the cost. If approved, construction could begin this summer. The staff report also points out, “The city is moving forward with Duke Energy to install new street lights along the Fairview Road corridor.”
Support of Paris climate accord
Council will consider a resolution pledging Asheville’s continued commitment to reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The resolution states, in part, “The City of Asheville continues to support the principles of the Paris Agreement and the participation of the United States of America as a party to the Paris Agreement; and that the City of Asheville will continue to stand with cities and other public and private sector partners throughout the world to advance actions to reduce climate change.”
Resolution establishing six districts for seats on Asheville City Council
Council will consider adopting a resolution of intent to consider an ordinance establishing six districts for seats on Asheville City Council and, at the same time, call a public hearing for June 27 on the proposed ordinance.
City Attorney Robin Currin developed the city’s district election strategy in the wake of state legislation proposed by Henderson County senator Chuck Edwards earlier this year. Edwards’ legislation would force Asheville — which now chooses its Council members via at-large elections — to adopt six districts for seats on the Council. By proposing an ordinance that would do just what Edwards has demanded, Asheville can put the question directly to city voters in a referendum, though it’s still not clear what would happen if voters rejected the idea.
Boards and commissions
Council will consider appointments to city boards and commissions, including:
- African American Heritage Commission
- Civic Center Commission
- Historic Resources Commission
- Multimodal Transportation Commission
- Neighborhood Advisory Committee
- Public Art & Cultural Commission
- Recreation Board
Council will also consider nominees suggested by Council members for a blue ribbon committee that will consider the possible formation of a Human Relations Commission. In addition to Council’s nominees, at-large nominations are also sought. The deadline for applications is June 19; call the office of the City Clerk (828-259-5839) for more information.
Council will hear comment from members of the public on items not previously discussed on Council’s agenda.
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.
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