Buncombe County approves tech park, veteran treatment court, fire district changes

AvL Technologies (pictured here on Google Maps street view) has plans to expand across from its current North Asheville facility, inviting other local companies to share the space.
AvL Technologies (pictured here on Google Maps street view) has plans to expand across from its current North Asheville facility, inviting other local companies to share the space.

At the Tuesday, Nov. 3 Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting, the Board voted on a new technology park in North Asheville, a Fairview rezoning, a specialized treatment court for veterans and changes to the county’s fire and ambulance rescue districts.

Tech park

Earlier this year, Commissioners voted to approve the expansion of AvL Technologies, a local tech company producing and designing mobile satellite antenna, positioner systems and related equipment and software.

Now, the Buncombe County Industrial Facilities and Pollution Control Financing Authority has decided to issue revenue bonds to finance an industrial project for AvL Technology Park. But first, the Board of Commissioners must approve the issuance of these bonds.

Buncombe County itself will not be responsible for funding the new facility, which will be located at 22 N. Merrimon Ave., just across from the current AvL Technologies facility. The project consists of building and equipping a 60,000-square-foot building.

“We want to call this AvL Technology Park, because we’d like to bring in some other innovative technology companies to North Asheville,” focusing on bringing in manufacturing jobs and high-tech products, said company director Bryan Kerns at the meeting. “So we built the space; it’s dividable. We’re looking for a tenant to come in to the largest space, … and they will manufacture products with us.”

AvL Technology Park is currently looking for related tech businesses to lease a 5,000-square-foot space and a top floor office space “that would be ideal for software companies,” Kerns said.

The project will cost $8,600,000, with a $6,800,000 maximum of bonds to be issued.

Jim Oliver, President of AvL Technologies, explained to the Board that the space should be ready for move-in by Feb. 1, 2016.

“I want to thank AvL Technologies,” said Commissioner Joe Belcher. “I was able to tour the facility … with local teachers and we were able … to take the message back to local school children that there are great jobs here right in Buncombe County, … many of them right out of high school.”

The Board unanimously approved the industrial authority’s issuance of revenue bonds to fund AvL Technology Park.

To read more about AvL Technologies, click here.

Fairview rezoning

At the longest public hearing of the night, 11 members of the public came up to speak either for or against a rezoning along U.S.-74 ALT (Charlotte Highway) in Fairview.

Both county staff and the county Planning Board recommended commissioners deny the request to change the property from a residential low density district to a neighborhood services district, as the request is not consistent with the county’s land use plan.

A neighborhood service district is “primarily intended to provide suitable locations for … neighborhood-oriented [businesses, services and activities in] close proximity to major residential neighborhoods,” reads the county’s zoning ordinance.

This isn’t the first time the owner has proposed a zoning change for this property, which neighbors describe as a steep property along a dangerous winding road. The applicant, C. Daryl Rosenberger, made previous requests to rezone the property since the adoption of countywide zoning in 2009. All of his requests have been denied — with the previous request sparking a 55-signature petition against development on the property.

Resident Kendra Sarvodi and her husband Darren Stroupe both spoke at the public hearing, explaining that the property lies along a very “fragile area, along a steep slope [and] near a dangerous intersection,” Sarvodi said. Both had attended the property’s previous hearing, mentioning that the street “has gotten even busier since the last meeting.”

Zoning the property NS would not align with the character of the rest of the neighborhood, they said.

Even the Reynolds Fire Chief, who was at the meeting for another agenda item, stood during the public hearing, mentioning that he can remember at least six fatal accidents along that stretch of road in the last few years.

Commissioner Mike Fryar, however, sympathized with the property owner: “The man owns this property,” he said. “He wants to do something with it. The Planning Board needs to get with him to see what he can do other than just sit on it.

“I have a hard time telling people over and over that you can’t do this with your property, and you can’t do this with your property,” continued Fryar, who lives in the area and is familiar with the property. “But you bought it.”

Fryar made the point that, while the property might be inappropriate for a high-traffic shopping mall, the NS zoning would allow for only a small facility, such as a neighborhood dentist office. The current low-density residential zoning would likely bring in more traffic than a small neighborhood office.

Commissioner Brownie Newman disagreed. “Anybody traveling that section of road knows it’s an area where it feels unsafe,” he said. “It’s a wide road, it’s fast, it’s downhill. You grip your steering wheel a little tighter when you drive. In many cases topography creates problems [not in line with development], and this is one of those cases.”

Ultimately, Chairman David Gantt came out against the rezoning, saying that, from the comments, it’s very clear that the residents don’t want it — and therefore it’s simply not in line with the county’s requirement for a rezoning to be in the public’s best interest.

The rezoning request was denied 4-3, with Fryar, Belcher and Commissioner Miranda DeBruhl against.

Fire district changes

On the agenda for several weeks now, Commissioners finally had the chance to vote on changes to the county’s 35 fire and ambulance rescue service districts.

The changes, explained County Attorney Michael Frue at the previous meeting, is just a matter of the county “erasing [and redrawing] lines on a map. …  Everyone needs to understand that there is no service change. There is no change in tax rate. We have 35 service districts for 20 tax districts. That’s the mess we’re trying to correct.”

Under this proposal, there will be three sets of changes: 14 new fire protection and ambulance rescue service districts will be established, five current districts will be abolished (as they’re absorbed by the new districts) and six already established districts will merge with existing ambulance rescue service districts.

“We created this plan so that residents would see no change in their day-to-day lives,” Frue told Xpress last month.

The Board approved these changes in a 7-0 vote.

To read more about the proposal, click here.

New Veterans Treatment Court

Veterans Treatment Court coordinator Eric Howard stood before the Board and requested $10,000 from the county to fund a new court program for recovering local veterans.

Howard explained the plan for the specialized court with a presentation, mentioning that there are specialized courts for mental disorders and specialized courts for treated drug addicts — but veterans often have trouble with both areas after returning from war.

“There are an estimated 19,000 veterans in Buncombe County alone,” Howard wrote to the Board prior to the meeting. Led by Judge Marvin Pope Jr., and with support from District Attorney Todd Williams, “the VTC is a court designed to meet the needs of Buncombe County veterans who are facing legal challenges.”

The Buncombe County VTC is the third court of its kind in the state, focusing on treatment while bringing attention to PTSD, addiction and “other unfortunate challenges that may arise due to military service.”

Howard told the Board a personal story about how he visited a jail and spoke with a veteran arrested for use and possession of methamphetamine. The individual, he said, was suffering from such bad PTSD that he used drugs to stay awake — “to stop the nightmares.”

These individuals need more than just treatment for addiction or treatment for mental disorders alone, and that’s what the VTC aims to provide: a combined court system to reduce re-arrest rates and “reinstate their lives,” Howard said.

The funding requested will provide drug testing kits, mentor support, emergency housing, transportation and other specialized needs that may arise for individual veterans while in the program, which will serve up to 30 participants at a time. Once a veteran graduates the program, he or she will then become a mentor for new members.

Once the presentation was over, Gantt said, This program “is a big deal to us, and we understand how important this is.”

Commissioner Holly Jones added, “I can’t think of a better thing to do before Veterans’ Day.”

The Commissioners approved funding for the VTC in a 7-0 vote.

The next Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 4:30 p.m.

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About Hayley Benton
Former Mountain Xpress staff reporter and Clubland editor. Current culture and entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton@gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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