As the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners continues to explore its plans for spending nearly $51 million in COVID-19 relief, a hearing on a smaller pot of federal cash is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 7. At its regular meeting that evening, the board will invite public input on its application for $750,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In a presentation available before the meeting, county planners Matthew Cable and Andrew Mayronne explain that the neighborhood revitalization grants must be used for projects outside the city of Asheville. Work under the program must “promote equitable, affordable housing; support existing communities; and/or value communities and neighborhoods.”
Cable and Mayronne provide numerous examples of projects that might meet those criteria, including greenways, housing rehabilitation, new housing development and public recreational facilities. They note that funded activities must also benefit low- or moderate-income residents or prevent “slums or blight” to satisfy federal requirements.
Buncombe must submit an application to the N.C. Department of Commerce, which is administering the money, by Thursday, Oct. 14. If approved, work on funded projects would likely start in January.
Commissioners slated to appoint key board members
Two of the county’s most powerful appointed boards are expected to take on new members pending decisions by the commissioners. Three applicants — Scott Kerchner, HP Patel and Sagar Patel — are vying for two seats on the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority vacated at the end of August by Gary Froeba and John McKibbon. The BCTDA is projected to manage over $27 million in occupancy taxes for the current fiscal year.
The seat vacated by Dot Cordell on the county Board of Adjustment, which grants conditional use permits for large and often contentious projects such as the 660-unit apartment complex on South Bear Creek in West Asheville approved in December, will also be filled. Two of the candidates listed on the Board of Commissioners’ agenda, Joel Mazelis and Damien Vacaflor, are current board alternates; Wesley Greene and Paul Kelman have also applied. Additionally, Greg Phillips is up for reappointment to his own regular seat on the board.
And Buncombe’s newest board, the Environmental and Energy Stewardship Subcommittee, will fill out its initial complement of up to four community members from a field of 15 hopefuls. The subcommittee was established in June and will provide input on conservation easements, carbon emissions, renewable energy and other county sustainability projects. Appointees will serve alongside Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman, as well as Commissioners Parker Sloan and Terri Wells.
Consent agenda and public comment
The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 15 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:
- Approval of a report outlining nearly $333,000 in legal settlements paid by Buncombe County during fiscal year 2020-21. The largest payment of $167,500 was made to the family of Randy McMahan in December to settle claims of excessive use of force by Sheriff’s Office deputies.
- Two budget amendments accepting over $127,000 in state funds to reimburse the county for deploying its urban search and rescue task force in response to extreme weather events in 2020. Both amendments note that state reimbursement for such missions “typically involves significant lag time and overlaps fiscal years.”
- A budget amendment approving $173,200 to fund transaction costs for five conservation easements that will together protect more than 400 acres. The money will come from the county’s existing conservation budget and savings on previous easement projects.
The commissioners will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss the county’s COVID-19 metrics and other matters. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.
In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in Room 326 at 200 College St. in Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.