Asheville Council says no to fracking, asks state to re-instate ban

The Asheville City Council had to temporarily relocate its meeting space to the U.S. Cellular Center this week.

On Tuesday night, Jan. 13, Asheville Council made its opinions known in regards to hydraulic fracturing throughout the state, region and city: They approved a resolution that asks North Carolina legislators to halt fracking operations.

The resolution, approved through the consent agenda, calls on the state “not to explore future horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Western North Carolina, Buncombe County and the City of Asheville; … re-instate the ban on fracking and support the continued moratorium on injection wells in Western North Carolina, Buncombe County and the City of Asheville [and] calls on the General Assembly to re-instate the authority of local governments to regulate fracking and its impacts if local elected officials deem it necessary.”

There were only two public comments prior to approval, both applauding Council for taking the anti-fracking stance.

The Council meeting was held at the U.S. Cellular Center this week due to a major water line break last Thursday, Jan. 8, which flooded the 6th floor of City Hall, led to an evacuation and halted elevator service.

James Ayers, director of general services for the city of Asheville, presented a special report detailing the cause of the damage.

A fire sprinkler fitting on the 7th floor of the building broke just before lunch, activating the fire alarm, he said. Ayers explained that the pipe fitting was an old piece of equipment that was in an unoccupied area slated for renovation later this year. He also said it’s unclear if cold weather played a part in the pipe failure, but a drop in power the night before did chill the building.

“Building temperatures had dropped well below normal that day due to an electrical brownout that affected the heating system at City Hall,” said Ayers, who called the brownout unforeseeable. “We are not privy to the information as to the brownout, but we did observe the low voltage conditions coincided with the weather dropping into the single digits.”

James Ayers, director of general services for the city of Asheville, said a broken sprinkler fitting caused the flood in city hall last week. Cold temperatures may have exacerbated the situation, although the exact cause isn't known.
James Ayers, director of general services for the city of Asheville, said a broken sprinkler fitting caused the flood in City Hall last week. Cold temperatures may have exacerbated the situation, although the exact cause isn’t known.

The 6th floor is now considered a construction zone, with carpeting and drywall needing replacement. Moving forward, Ayers said, his team will continue to monitor building systems to prevent another incident in the future.

“The ingenuity and quick thinking of everyone in the building, as well as first responders, made sure we were able to avoid significant damage during the flood,” he said.

In other business

Council also approved a $3.5 million economic incentive grant for Linamar Corp., a Canadian industrial gear manufacturer that is planning to invest $190 million in additional production equipment and facility improvements at its South Asheville plant.

The move aims to bring 400 new manufacturing jobs that pay an average of $39,000 per year. Linamar had previously announced a $75 million commitment in June 2012, but has now upped the ante by $115 million.

“This is one of the largest new capital investments in Asheville’s history,” said Sam Powers, the city’s economic development director. “Payments do not begin until the investment is made, the taxes are paid and verified, and the company has requested the incentive payments.”

The goal is to bring high-paying jobs to the area, increasing the tax base and boosting the local economy.

The incentive payments are subject to a legal agreement — adjustment or recapture is allowed if the terms and conditions of the agreement, as well as job creation, are not fulfilled. The city will fund the incentive from its general fund.

“With incentive grants, that is the way the game is played for industries of this scale,” said Vice Mayor Marc Hunt. “At the end of the day, it’s a net win.”

Zoning news on E. Chestnut

A small local law firm which sought a re-zone for homes at 10 Madison Ave. and 202 E. Chestnut St. was denied.

Jim Siemens, owner of Siemens Law Offices, said he has six employees and just wants to hire another lawyer. This would require modification to the office, such as enclosing the front porch of 10 Madison, moving pedestrian access to the south side, and adding shared parking spaces behind the E. Chestnut building.

“I want to re-orient the entry. I suspect when the proposal comes to fruition, it won’t be offensive,” said Siemens. “This is adaptive re-use. Yes, it’s loss of housing stock, but it’s a one-bedroom bungalow. It won’t affect overall housing in Asheville.”

Asheville’s Planning and Zoning Commission initially denied the request.

“The staff has indicated we do not support this,” said Jessica Bernstein of the city’s planning services division. “This small structure is an ideal location for residential zoning. It’s walkable to grocery and transit. We’ve spoken with a number of neighbors and residents. They are concerned with commercial encroachment into the neighborhood.”

For Council’s complete list of actions taken, see the “action agenda” below or here.

Despite the subject of fracking on the agenda, traffic was relatively light at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
Despite the subject of fracking on the agenda, traffic was relatively light at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

ACTION AGENDA January 13, 2015

The action agenda is intended to provide the reader with an overview of the council meeting and any decisions that were made. It does not provide action on ceremonial or non-substantive matters.

THIS ACTION AGENDA IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. Authority to carry out actions related to any council decision should be obtained through normal departmental procedure.

Please call the City Clerk’s office at 259-5601 if you have any questions.

Present: Mayor Esther E. Manheimer, Presiding; Vice-Mayor Marc H. Hunt; Councilman Cecil Bothwell; Councilman Jan B. Davis ; Councilman Christopher A. Pelly; Councilman Gordon D. Smith; Councilwoman Gwen C. Wisler; City Manager Gary Jackson; City Attorney Robin T. Currin; and City Clerk Magdalen Burleson

Absent: None

ITEM AND SUMMARY

Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute an agricultural lease with Balsam Gardens, LLC, for 11 +/- acres of land for commercial agricultural production at Azalea Park. Continued to 1-27-15

Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a contract with with Michelin North America, Inc. for the lease of tires to the Asheville Transit System. Adopted Unanimously

Resolution opposing hydraulic fracturing. Adopted Unanimously

Motion to approve the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law for the conditional use permit for River Mills Loft, located off of Thompson Street. Adopted Unanimously

Resolution setting a public hearing on January 27, 2015, to consider an economic development incentive grant land use incentive grant for Tutco Farnam. Adopted Unanimously

Resolution setting a public hearing on January 27, 2015, to consider an economic development incentive grant for Highland Brewing. Adopted Unanimously

Resolution setting a public hearing on January 27, 2015, to consider an economic development incentive for Project LAB. Adopted Unanimously

Resolution directing the City Clerk to advertise for upset bids for the sale of 0.03 acres of real property located at Tuskeegee St. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to Russ Stallings. Adopted Unanimously

Resolution finding that an unopened 40- foot right-of-way off Baker Drive, known as Shamby Drive, is not part of an adopted street plan. Adopted Unanimously

Resolution authorizing the City Manager to convey a sanitary sewer easement to the Metropolitan Sewerage District for the Hilliard Avenue at Aston Park General Sewer Rehabilitation Project. Adopted Unanimously

Budget amendment, in the amount of $5,863, to add funds to a project in the City’s Special Revenue Fund to purchase two additional shelters under the stimulus funding grant. Adopted Unanimously

Public hearing to consider a resolution to permanently close an unnamed alley off Broad Street. Adopted Unanimously

Public hearing to consider authorizing an economic development incentive grant for the expansion of Linamar Corporation. Adopted Unanimously

Public hearing to consider an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance regarding conditional zoning general requirements to clarify that conditions imposed may be more or less restrictive than the general use standards of the underlying district. Adopted Unanimously

Public hearing to consider the conditional zoning of 10 Madison Avenue and 202 East Chestnut Street from RM-8 Residential Multi-Family High Density District and Office District to Office District/Conditional Zoning with changed conditions to landscape and setback requirements to allow the use of an existing single-family residence as a law office. Denied Unanimously

Continuation of public hearing to consider a conditional zoning for Greymont Village Apartments, located on Sardis Road, from Industrial District and Commercial Industrial District to RM-16 Residential Multi-Family High Density District/ Conditional Zoning for the construction of a multi-family apartment development. • The applicant has requested a continuance until February 24, 2015. Continued to 2-24-15

Boards & commissions
(Council to determine who, if any, to interview)

Board of Adjustment: Reappted Nelda Holder and Daniel Summerlin as Alternates; Appted Richard Fort andPhillip Hardin as Regulars; Appted Pratik H. Bhakta & Christine Longoria as Alternates.

Chair of Civil Service Board: Continued to 2-10-15

Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council: Reappted Mike Hahn & Rachael Tanksley-Russell;
& Clerk to Arrange Interviews

Downtown Commission: Reappted Michael McDonough, Byron Greiner & Jimi Rentz

Sustainable Advisory Committee on Energy & the Environment: Reappted Lael Gray; Appted Katie Bray; & Clerk to Arrange Interviews

Firemen’s Relief Fund: Appted Barbara Whitehorn

Metropolitan Sewerage District: Appted Councilwoman Gwen Wisler

Noise Ordinance Appeals Board: Appted Victor Fahrer

Tree Commission: Appted Marc Williams, Carl Nyberg, Justin Price, Leslee Reiter and Stephen E. Hendricks

 

 

 

 

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About Pat Barcas
Pat is a photojournalist and writer who moved to Asheville in 2014. He previously worked for a labor and social rights advocacy newspaper in Chicago. Email him at pbarcas@gmail.com. Follow me @pbarcas

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One thought on “Asheville Council says no to fracking, asks state to re-instate ban

  1. Jonathan Wainscott

    Fortunately, City Council has saved us from something that would never happen (fracking in Asheville) with a non-binding resolution that has no power against the State. This is great! And, Asheville has also banned baby seal served with ivory chopsticks, because Asheville wants everyone to know this town will not stand behind baby seal entrees!

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