Bond lawsuit calls Asheville’s 3.5-cent tax increase ‘illegal’

SUING THE CITY: On July 14, Sidney Bach and Chris Peterson filed an amendment to their lawsuit against the city of Asheville's $74 million bond program. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Retired Asheville attorney Sidney Bach has been a fixture at City Council meetings and work sessions since the city first announced it was exploring a bond referendum last summer. Council eventually voted to place three bond issues on the Asheville ballot last November, totaling $74 million for transportation, affordable housing, and parks and recreation. Each of the bond issues passed with at least 70 percent of the vote.

In January, Bach and former Asheville Vice Mayor and commercial property owner Chris Peterson filed suit against the city, alleging that inconsistencies between the language used in City Council resolutions authorizing the bond referendum and the wording used on the actual election ballots invalidated the election results. On April 4, Buncombe County Superior Court Judge Greg Horne denied the city’s motion to dismiss the suit.

This month, attorney Albert Sneed, who represents Bach and Peterson, filed a motion to amend the January complaint. The July 14 motion contends that developments since the original filing strengthen the plaintiffs’ case against the city.

Specifically, the revised portion of the complaint quotes the state statute establishing the words municipalities must use to publish a bond order. According to NCGS 159-56, the required wording includes, “A tax will [may] be levied to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds if they are issued.” [emphasis added]

Asheville City Council voted on June 13 to approve the city budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The budget includes a 3.5-cent increase (above the revenue-neutral rate) per $100 in taxable property value, which is specifically designated to pay for principal and interest on the bonds.

But, asserts the lawsuit, the city of Asheville has stated it does not plan to issue any bonds for two years. Thus, the additional tax increase that will be levied this year is “contrary to the notice given to the public and is, therefore, illegal,” since taxes may only be imposed if the bonds are issued.

Furthermore, Bach says, the city must obtain certification that its bonds aren’t the subject of pending litigation before a bank will issue the money. “So they can’t issue any bonds until this is resolved,” he claims.

A hearing on the motion to amend the suit has been set for Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 2 p.m. in Buncombe County Superior Court.

According to Keith Miller, interim director of the Buncombe County Tax Department, tax notices for all property owners in Buncombe County will be mailed around Aug. 10. Taxes are due by Sept. 1; tax bills unpaid after Jan. 5, will begin to accrue interest charges, Miller says.

City spokesperson Polly McDaniel says no member of the city’s staff will have comment on the matter while the legal case is pending.




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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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31 thoughts on “Bond lawsuit calls Asheville’s 3.5-cent tax increase ‘illegal’

    • Lulz

      Per the comment below, the city is becoming a crony proxy simply because it’s filled with types who have no concept of private businesses. Lawyers know what about job creation? Not a damn thing. But they sure know how to spend money.

  1. Jonathan Wainscott

    We have a city attorney, Robin Currin.
    Our Mayor is a lawyer.
    A sitting councilwoman, Julie Mayfield, Is a lawyer.
    That’s a lot of legal acumen that dropped the ball over such simple language.

  2. Deplorable Infidel

    Thanks for keeping this in court! Now WHEN are the citizens of AVL going to SUE to stop the $4.2M being stolen for the housing authority to create MORE ghettos ? ? STOP this shite!

      • bsummers

        Never too late to mount a write-in campaign, ̶D̶e̶p̶l̶o̶r̶a̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶I̶n̶f̶i̶d̶e̶l̶̶ I mean Fred Caudle.

        • Lulz

          Next up, the other entry posted by an elitist who has no concept of why people are ditching Democrats. And that people are not as stupid as he assumes.

    • John

      I have to agree with this comment, although perhaps not with quite the same wording. I do not understand how a city can use property taxes paid by residents to build housing for other individuals in that city. Many of us live close the edge economically with high city, county and school taxes having to be paid. Property taxes paid by residents should not be used to pay for housing for others. It just seems incredibly unfair. Added to this issue is the hiring of an individual as Equity Manager to focus on race. Really? This is abuse of my taxes. Will all races be cared for equally? I doubt it!

      • Mike

        The fact is that this is precisely how socialism is SUPPOSED to work. And when Asheville elects a socialist city council they should not be surprised to get socialist policies… (Recall that last year some intrepid news people asked both Mme. Clinton and Mme Wasserman-Schultz.. “What is the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist now?” The both seemed taken aback by the question and futzed in vain for a cogent answer (because there is not one) … Both of them finally fell back on the tried and true “I’ll tell you the difference between a Democrat and a Republican though!… Repubs are the mean spirited , racist, homophobic, deplorabale, islamophobic, irredeemable party of the rich! Democrats are loving and nice!

        • Lulz

          Oh they love your money. Once it’s gone though, they send a deputy to kick you out. And will even kill someone to ensure their flow goes uninterrupted.

          • bsummers

            You’re accusing someone within City government of murder?

          • Lulz

            Refuse an order to abandon and see what happens. Dont you know the state will enforce tax evictions via force?

          • bsummers

            Got it. City officials will have you murdered. Thanks, and enjoy the tinfoil.

          • Alan Ditmore

            Lulz is right on this one, all laws are death threats because resisting any of them can get you killed. this is pretty much inherent to the definition of government. Government is inherently terrorist.

        • bsummers

          “socialist city council”

          It is to laugh. The criticism from the left in this town is that this Council is way too friendly to high-end developers and the tourism industry.

          But sure, go one – keep trying to claim that the true political center is three quarters of the way to the right, and then throw in some Clinton! for added seasoning. These are all fine tactics in lieu of honest debate.

          • Lulz

            LOL but muh Russians. True center is not left. Nor do taxpayers rally around bathrooms. Only ones convoluted mind does that take precedence over say eating. But local rich care more about bike Lanes while wearing corporate names on their jerseys. And of course claim to empathize. With who, who knows. But it ain’t with working stiffs.

          • luther blissett

            Actual socialism (in the “democratic socialism” sense) would require City Council to build *and own* housing as a publicly-held asset that it maintains. City Council explicitly doesn’t do that. Existing public housing is delegated away, while private landlords have to be bribed and berated into offering rents at rates under $1000/mo for people on minimum wage. (“Oh,” say the whiners, “just live in Fletcher and drive into town every day in your magic car that needs neither gasoline nor maintenance.)

            “Property taxes paid by residents should not be used to pay for housing for others. It just seems incredibly unfair.”

            Clean somebody else’s toilets and dirty bedsheets, as many people do in Asheville, then get back to us on “fairness.”

          • Lulz

            Oh and your debate centers around the notion in your mind that one who disagrees with you is either racist or just plain ignorant. And the standard ploy is to use labels to shut down any debate or criticisms. I love how leftist blame everyone except their piss poor message and corrupt people that they support.

          • Lulz

            LOL oh boy can you not see it’s corporate welfare you are supporting. These people you describe are probably immigrants being subsidized because sell outs want big flashy hotels with cheap wages. Not real jobs. I wonder, do BMW employees need welfare?

          • Mike

            Actually, “In actual socialism” (see Sweeden, Russia, or the PRC for examples), rich folks can build and own their own mega (not mac) Mansions.. Only the proles are condemned to gubmint housing! The City of Asheville DOES finance and/or own housing for the ever increasing number of proles.

          • luther blissett

            “your debate centers around the notion in your mind that one who disagrees with you is either racist or just plain ignorant.”

            No, it’s mostly the hypocrisy and faux blue-collar posturing of the “what have the Romans done for us?” crowd.

      • The Real World

        I had not heard about the new City Equity Manager focused on race. What the heck? In a town that is close to 85% white? She’ll be rooting around looking for needles in haystacks. Nuts.

        Here’s what a commenter on AVLCitizen Times said, ” She will concentrate on keeping the racial divide because that’s why she was hired in the first place. The city leaders need her walk point as a woman of color to move their collective agenda. Little more than an affirmative action hire for a position designed to perpetuate its own existence.”

        Exactly. So, she’s going to endeavor to ultimately try and eliminate her own paycheck? No way.

        It’s the same as the homeless guy who wrote an article for this paper and made online comments here (that none of the “progressive readers” were interested in). He said, the people who work to ‘help’ the homeless don’t actually want them to stop being homeless, because then they’d be out of a job.

        This city is on track to drive itself into the ground. See Illinois for how bad it can get if this stuff continues. Hint: it can get really bad and your taxpayers leave. Then it gets even worse.

      • Alan Ditmore

        Housing is the one good bond of the three, though they should tax for housing up front without borrowing. I’m trying to decide if I should support a lawsuit against all 3 bonds in order to oppose the other two, since at this point virtually all city funds should be going to affordable housing, or contraception to reduce housing demand. And all funds to housing means none for transport or parks.

      • Alan Ditmore

        The one legitimate use for city transport funds is to transport people to workforce housing, which would be a bus to Canton because canton is protected from gentrification by the smell.

      • Alan Ditmore

        Low income homeowners are vastly more burdened by the unfair, unmetered per unit fees on trash, water and sewer than on property taxes, most of which are paid by the rich, who also use more water, sewer and trash. these fees should be replaced by property tax, as should all other city taxes.

  3. Deplorable Infidel

    Can you believe they are paying this woman $80,000 for this BS ??? We have elected CRIMINALS running this cesspool … nasty a** criminals. So sick of this city council …

    Does anyone know why Terry Bellamy was let go from the Housing Authority ? ? ? Have not seen a news report about her sudden departure …

    • Alan Ditmore

      Probably because Bellamy is a homophobe and would be unfair to gay housing residents.

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