In October, when local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel first brought their seven-story project on Biltmore Avenue up for an Asheville City Council vote, Mayor Esther Manheimer recommended they come back after officials had developed a plan to deal with tourism’s impact on city services — “in a year’s time, or whenever that might be.” That issue remains unresolved, but Bhakta and Patel aren’t waiting. Their hotel is back on the agenda for Council’s meeting of Tuesday, March 12, less than five months from its first consideration.
Council members were divided over the project during the October discussion. While Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield said the development made sense and would support visitors to nearby Mission Hospital, Keith Young and Brian Haynes joined Manheimer in wanting a broader conversation about hotels before they approved new construction. Attorney Wyatt Stevens, representing the two hoteliers, withdrew the project before a formal vote took place.
The resubmitted proposal, as described in a staff report posted before the upcoming meeting, appears functionally identical to that considered in October. It does not, however, include the previously submitted letters of support from community figures, such as Hi-Wire Brewing owner Adam Charnack, ABCCM executive director Rev. Scott Rogers and Caiyalynn Burrell Child Crisis Center director Pam Coppedge.
The proposal also does not list the community benefits Bhakta and Patel had offered as part of the October discussion. These included $125,000 for a new playground at Lee Walker Heights, a $500,000 contribution to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust fund and reduced-price accommodations for those staying overnight due to medical reasons.
Zoning of conflict
Two other contentious zoning proposals are scheduled for Council discussion. The first would reclassify a property at 130 Rock Hill Road from residential to community business, thereby allowing its use as an acupuncture clinic and wellness center. City staffers support the move, noting the site’s proximity to commercial activity on Sweeten Creek Road and its potential to serve the surrounding Shiloh neighborhood.
The city’s Shiloh Community Plan, however, calls for preserving single-family residential uses and limiting commercial development, and the Living Asheville Comprehensive Plan currently designates the area as a residential neighborhood. Although the building was most recently used for commercial purposes, the Shiloh Community Association does not support the rezoning.
The second proposal would rezone nearly 16 acres of Asheville Mall property on South Tunnel Road from regional business to mixed-use expansion, which would allow the construction of six new buildings in the space currently occupied by a Sears store. Uses would include a movie theatre, commercial space and 205 residential units, 21 of which would be designated as affordable for those earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income.
Staff members recommend denial of the request based on its clash with the town center standards of the city’s Future Land Use Map. Instead of “multi-story, high-density, mixed-use development in a compact urban form,” they argue, the proposal includes many one-story buildings and fails to promote multimodal transportation connectivity.
Council’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 19 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include:
- A resolution authorizing the acceptance of nearly $239,000 in federal grant money for the Asheville High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. These funds are in addition to more than $106,000 accepted in October and will finance supplies and overtime for local law enforcement agencies as they combat drug trafficking and production.
- A resolution authorizing a more than $481,000 contract with Richmond, Virginia-based Slurry Pavers for asphalt preservation on roughly 5.4 miles of city streets. The company was the only bidder for the contract over two rounds of bidding.
- A resolution prohibiting trucks along Sycamore Drive in South Asheville. In a staff report, Transportation Department Director Ken Putnam noted that large trucks routinely use the road as a shortcut between Sweeten Creek Road and Hendersonville Road but often get stuck due to the “limited horizontal clearance” at a railroad trestle, creating a hazard for the regular flow of traffic.
- A resolution delaying the start of Council’s budget work sessions. The first session was originally scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 12 but will now take place on Tuesday, March 26.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. Council will convene in the same space starting at 4:30 p.m. for a special meeting to appoint a new city attorney. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.