Come spring 2019, residents of North Asheville may be preparing to slim down — at least regarding vehicle traffic on Charlotte Street. If City Council votes to approve the proposed Charlotte Street Improvement Project at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13, the road would be cut from four car lanes to three, making room for dedicated bike lanes and pedestrian improvements.
While the project has been on the city’s agenda since the 2014-15 fiscal year, Council members only finalized their approach to Charlotte Street in April. Commenters at that meeting largely supported the road diet, although some community members expressed concerns about the reduction of vehicle lanes on emergency service access and traffic congestion.
The city’s adopted capital budget includes $1.25 million for the project, the $155,000 design and administration contract for which was awarded to Pennsylvania-based Traffic Planning & Design after a public request for qualifications. Should Council approve the plan, bidding for construction is projected to begin this winter, with construction to start next spring or summer and finish by fall.
Mike Sule, executive director of Asheville on Bikes, called for citizens to support the project in a Nov. 9 newsletter. “Charlotte Street has the potential to connect a large residential area to downtown; it represents a key link in our future multimodal grid,” he wrote. “It will also be used as a safer route for recreational cyclists who come and go from Elk and Town Mountain.”
City staff also recommend moving forward with the project. In a staff report, Capital Projects Director Jade Dundas listed the implementation of multimodal principles and enhanced safety as advantages of the road diet. However, he noted that the approach could also lead to a “reduced level of service for automobiles and increased queue lengths during peak hours.”
In other business
Council will be asked to consider a revised approach to affordable housing at 360 Hilliard Ave., city-owned land that had previously been earmarked for a 64-unit rental development. Now, the Charleston, S.C.-based Kassinger Development Group in charge of the project wants to shift the project to for-sale condominiums.
As explained by city consultant Jeff Staudinger in a staff report, Kassinger found that “significant increases in construction costs, reflecting national conditions, made the project as proposed unfeasible.” Condos, he wrote, “make financial sense” — if the city also maintains its $1.28 million Housing Trust Fund loan and discounts the land by $375,000.
The number of affordable units in the project would remain the same at 33, with 28 one-bedroom units for sale at $135,000 and 5 two-bedroom condos at $155,000. The remaining 31 units would be market rate: 21 one-bedroom condos at $224,738 and 10 two-bedroom units at $312,800. The developer would pay for the first year of homeowner association fees for the affordable units, but it is unclear what those fees would be moving forward.
Council will also hear an update about its strategic priorities for the year. Accomplishments to date include hiring Yashika Smith as an inclusive engagement and leadership manager, advancing the Riverfront Greenway project, supporting a “tactical urbanism” project on Coxe Avenue and launching a new app service for transit riders.
The consent agenda for the meeting consists of seven items, which are typically approved as a package unless specifically singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- Resolution setting a work session on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 3 p.m. in council chambers to discuss city revenue sources. As reported by Dillon Davis of the Asheville Citizen Times, Mayor Esther Manheimer told a Nov. 9 meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners that these sources could include new sales, food and beverage taxes.
- Resolution selling 1.72 acres of city-owned land to the City of Hendersonville for a new emergency water intake on the French Broad River. The land, valued at $14,625, is currently part of a 50-acre water quality buffer.
- Resolution authorizing up to $114,104.88 in spending to create design and construction documents for the Asheville Greenway Connectors project. The contract will be awarded to Alta Planning + Design.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. A work session for the fiscal year 2019-20 budget will be held in the same space starting at 3 p.m. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.