A sewage treatment plant, an outpost of Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery, a 416-unit subdivision that gave former Asheville City Council member Keith Young “physical anxiety” — over the past two decades, many plans have been proposed for a 137-acre parcel of county-owned property on Ferry Road. At its meeting of Tuesday, March 2, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will consider a contract with Asheville-based Equinox Environmental Consultation and Design to develop even more possibilities for the site.
As outlined in a staff report available before the meeting, the first phase of the contract would cost roughly $60,000 and include “environmental and natural resource inventory/assessment, transportation and access assessment and initial community input/awareness.” Equinox would then develop up to six land-use scenarios for Buncombe officials to consider.
Tim Love, the county’s director of economic development and governmental relations, told commissioners during a Feb. 16 briefing that the consultants would focus on mixed-use development opportunities. A single plan, he suggested, could include a balance of affordable housing, recreational opportunities and environmental stewardship.
Should the commissioners find Equinox to be on the right track after Phase 1, they could approve additional work at an extra cost of roughly $90,000. Those tasks would include deeper public engagement and cost estimation for the chosen land use.
In other news
After the controversy surrounding a $27 million economic development incentive for aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, the board will consider a much smaller payment to propulsion system maker BorgWarner Turbo Systems. In exchange for a $62.25 million capital investment and retaining 600 jobs at its South Asheville facility, the company would receive $460,000 from the county in annual installments through 2026.
And several items up for board approval paint a rosier picture of county finances than had been expected at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the fiscal year 2019-20 audit prepared by accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen, the county’s fund balance — budgeted for a $15.5 million decrease — increased by $2.5 million. County revenues also came in $2 million over budget.
With extra cash in Buncombe’s coffers, board members may fund several items that had been cut from the current fiscal year’s budget, including new audit management software and 14 new county staffers. The board will also consider salary increases for 31 employees identified by a recent compensation study as underpaid.
Consent agenda and public comment
The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains eight items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:
- Accepting $100,000 from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for the Crisis Intervention Program, which provides emergency heating and cooling assistance for county residents. Recipients must not be eligible for any other “sufficient, timely and appropriate assistance.”
- Accepting a more than $17,000 grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for education to reduce foodborne illness. The money will fund a new printed manual, available in English, Spanish and Mandarin and distributed to every food establishment in the county.
- Accepting over $8,000 in support of the joint Asheville-Buncombe Arson Task Force. The funds come from a charity golf tournament established by former District Attorney Ron Moore.
The commissioners will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss the county’s COVID-19 response and other topics. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.
Public comment will only be permitted through live telephone calls at the start of the meeting; no in-person comments, emails or voicemails will be accepted. Those planning to comment must sign up online or call 828-250-4001 by Monday, March 1, at 3 p.m. All commenters will receive three minutes to address the board.