Biltmore Apartments gets go ahead from Asheville Council

Jeff Hicks, a resident of the Oakley neighborhood, said the negatives are more than just increased traffic with the Biltmore Apartments. He said the development just doesn't fit the area and would be an eyesore in the neighborhood. Pat Barcas

After listening to the results of a five-year housing study that shows the area lacks sufficient housing, the Asheville City Council has approved construction of 477 apartments in two developments — one in East Asheville, whose residents wore “Keep Oakley safe” stickers and urged denial of the project.

“There is zero vacancy in the rental housing sector throughout the region, at all price points, with all stock,” said Jeff Staudinger, the city’s assistant director of Community and Economic Development.” There is a significant demand for housing of all kinds, particularly those at lower price points.”

Council members said they were also swayed by a last-minute promise of $200,000 to improve sidewalks in the area, offered by attorney Lou Bissette, a former Asheville mayor who represents builder Flournoy Development Co.

Residents voiced their disapproval of the plan during the lengthy public hearing process, saying the added traffic would be unsafe, the retention walls needed for the five- and six-story project too large and unsightly, and the available affordable housing units too low.

“This development is completely out of place with this neighborhood,” said Jeff Hicks, who represented several residents of the Oakley neighborhood in speaking to the board. “We are not opposed to development, and we’d be excited about a true mixed-use development, of which this is not.”

The developer had agreed to keep 7 percent of the units, or 22 total, as affordable housing for the first 10 years.

“That’s insufficient,” said resident Dana Davis. “I’d like to see 62 units devoted indefinitely. You think this developer will walk away if we offer that? They won’t. Once you give them the land, it’s gone.”

Near the end of the public comment period, prior to a brief recess of the Council, Bissette approached the microphone and said his client was willing to double his initial $100,000 offer to improve area sidewalks as a condition of Council approval. The offer brought dissenting whistles from the crowd of 75 and a question from Mayor Esther Manheimer about noise.

The infusion of extra cash seemed to push some Council members toward approval.

Council member Chris Pelly said he thought long and hard about his vote on the development. The city’s Public Works staff had advised it would cost $212,000 to construct safer sidewalks connecting Oakley with Biltmore Village, he said.

“I feel like if we have a commitment from the developer for $200,000 to make improvements, this is a tough one, but I move to approve,” said Pelly.

The measure to approve zoning changes that will allow construction of the $25 million, 309-unit Biltmore Apartments on Fairview Road subsequently passed 6-1, with Council member Cecil Bothwell casting the dissenting vote.

Also approved 6-1, but with zero citizen protest, was a conditional-use permit that will allow an addition to the Hawthorne South Apartment Complex on Turtle Creek Drive. Council member Gordon Smith was the only no vote.

Prior to the apartment ruling, Staudinger presented a five-year Asheville housing assessment. The information from the assessment is used to develop priorities for the use of public funds to meet community affordable housing needs.

Jeff Staudinger presents to the board.
Jeff Staudinger presents to the board.

Through a ground level and statistical evaluation, an independent consultant found that Asheville is growing quickly for a city of its size, with 23,000 people to the population expected within the next five years. That population increase may worsen what Staudinger called a deficit of housing a crisis.

“We are growing more quickly than the national average, and in the last five years, we have grown quicker than the state average,” he said, noting the very low vacancy rate in the city — a sign that that there’s not sufficient housing stock in the city.

Although it is inline with the nationwide trend, Asheville has many people in poverty, with a higher percentage than the rest of the country and the region, he noted. One in five children are impoverished in Asheville, reported Staudinger, and one in 10 seniors as well.

“We’re not different than the rest of the country,” said Bothwell. “Housing is scarce, but not unusually pricey compared to wages.”

Staudinger said it is Asheville’s economic success that has led to the crisis.

“If the supply gap is not shrunk, we will continue to see escalation of rental rates in Asheville. It’s a seller’s market, not a buyer’s market,” he said.

In other business

Three economic development incentive agreements were passed unanimously:

Tutco Farnam was approved a $30,000 grant for an expansion that is planned to bring 50 new jobs to Asheville. Highland Brewing Company was approved a $60,000 grant for an expansion that will bring 15 new jobs, and White Labs received approval for a land lease of five years for $1 per year that will bring 65 new jobs. The company has the option at the end of five years to purchase the land for 80 percent of the market value.

Council also authorized unanimously to execute a three-year agricultural lease with Balsam Gardens for 11 acres of land for commercial agricultural production at Azalea Park.

Action agenda
from the city clerk

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


Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a professional services contract with Brown and Caldwell for the City Wide Stormwater Assessment. — Adopted Unanimously

Resolution authorizing the City to apply to the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization for grants of federal transportation funding, and if successful, to accept such grants and execute necessary agreements. — Adopted Unanimously

Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a professional services contract with Clark Patterson Lee for the architectural and engineering services necessary to design and remodel the 7th and 8th floors of City Hall. — Adopted Unanimously

Motion approving the Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s travel policies adopted June 28, 2011. — Adopted Unanimously

Resolution appointing a member to the Tree Commission. — Reapptd Amyh Kemp, adopted unanimously

Resolution authorizing the City Manager to sign an agreement with the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation and Social Profit Strategies to facilitate the development of training materials and process to enhance partnerships to build neighborhood capacity. — Adopted Unanimously

Budget amendment, in the amount of $30,000, from the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation, to facilitate the development of training materials and process to enhance partnerships to build neighborhood capacity.— Adopted Unanimously

Multimodal Transportation Commission Update — Heard update

2015 Housing Market Study and Needs Assessment — Heard assessment

Public hearing to consider the conditional zoning of property off Fairview Road from Urban Village District to Urban Place District/Conditional Zoning for the development of a mixed use project containing apartments and retail, with modifications to parking standards found in Section 7-8-26 of the Unified Development Ordinance. — Adopted 6-1, Bothwell voting “no”

Public hearing to consider a conditional use permit for the construction of a 168-unit multi-family development on property located off of Turtle Creek Drive. — Adopted 6-1, Smith voting “no”

Public hearing to consider an economic development incentive agreement for the expansion of Tutco Farnam. — Adopted Unanimously

Public hearing to consider an economic development incentive agreement for the Highland Brewing Expansion Project. — Adopted Unanimously

Public hearing to consider an economic development incentive agreement for White Labs (formerly identified as Project Lab). — Adopted Unanimously

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. — Adopted Unanimously

Resolution appointing members to the Community Relations Council. — Reappted Mike Hahn & Rachael Tanksley-Russell; Appted Kelly Denson

Resolution appointing a member to the Sustainable Advisory Committee on Energy — Appted John Noor





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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 Follow me @pbarcas

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4 thoughts on “Biltmore Apartments gets go ahead from Asheville Council

  1. On what legal grounds would the City of Asheville have denied the Oakley property owner the use and development of his property?

  2. Doug

    Public health, safety and welfare, generally speaking. Sometimes communities also regulate land use to promote morals as well.

    • Joseph Minicozzi

      Don’t go fussing about constitutionally upheld principles to Time, tat might upset him.

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