Upwards of 60% of the 403 Asheville voters surveyed support the city’s proposed bond referendum, a pollster told City Council at its regular meeting on July 26. Citing the results of a poll conducted by his firm, Campaign Research + Strategy, Tige Watts said the data show “a very clear indication that there is support in the community” for the transportation infrastructure, parks and recreation and affordable housing spending proposed by City Council.
In response to a question about infrastructure spending,
There could be a bond measure for $32 million which would make improvements to our transportation networks. Nearly half of this amount would be dedicated to resurfacing many roads and bikeways. The other $16 million would be used to improve and build new sidewalks, build the Swannanoa River Greenway, build bus shelters and projects aimed to improve pedestrian safety and calm traffic. If the election were held today, would you vote YES or NO on the bond measure?
50 percent of poll respondents said “strongly yes,” 17 percent said “somewhat yes,” six percent said “somewhat no,” 15 percent said “strongly no,” and 12 percent were unsure.
To a question about parks and recreation facilities,
Another bond measure could provide $17 million that would be used to improve parks and recreation centers. Among projects are building a gymnasium and program space at the Wesley Grant Center, and upgrades to Memorial Stadium, Jake Rusher Park in South Asheville, the Montford Complex and Richmond Hill Park, as well as citywide outdoor courts and playgrounds in the city, lighting at ball fields and the purchase of additional land for recreation. If the election were held today, would you vote YES or NO on the bond measure?
41 percent of respondents said “strongly yes,” 19 percent said “somewhat yes,” six percent said “somewhat no,” 21 percent said “strongly no,” and 13 percent were unsure.
To a question about affordable housing investments,
A third and final bond referendum could provide $25 million to address the city’s need for affordable housing. Individual projects would dedicate funds for home ownership loan programs, a trust fund to enhance rental housing, a community land trust aimed at providing permanent affordable housing options, and using City-owned land for affordable housing. If the election were held today, would you vote YES or NO on the bond measure?
56 percent of respondents said “strongly yes,” 11 percent said “somewhat yes,” eight percent said “somewhat no,” 15 percent said “strongly no,” and nine percent were unsure.
If approved by voters in November, investments in those three areas would be funded by general obligation bonds backed by city property tax revenues. As part of the poll, survey respondents were told that, though the bond amount is not yet final, a $74 million bond package could increase property taxes by about $110 a year, or a little less than $9 a month, for the owner of a home valued at $275,000. A property tax revaluation which is now underway could affect the amount of the tax increase necessary to fund the bond, making it difficult to estimate the exact impact the bond would have on city tax property tax rates.
After hearing about the potential property tax implications of the bond, 48 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to support the bond, 37 percent were less likely to support it, five percent said it made no difference and nine percent were unsure.
City Council advanced its plan to put the question on the general election ballot by reading the bond orders and setting a public hearing on the bond referendum for Council’s next meeting on August 9.
After hearing comments from Lia Kaz, Dee Williams, Ray Mapp and another Asheville resident, City Council announced plans for responding to public concerns related to the July 2 shooting death of Jai “Jerry” Williams by Asheville Police Department Sgt. Tyler Radford. Council members said they have asked the Racial Justice Coalition to recommend members for a task force to explore the APD’s use of force policy, as well as possible training or policies focusing on deescalation techniques and an examination of implicit biases affecting policing in Asheville.
Council heard reports on the city’s Homestay short-term rental program and an update on process improvement efforts at the Development Services department. Council approved a land-use incentive grant application for 72 units of affordable housing at 29 Oak Hill Rd., an award that could reduce the developer’s tax payments and other city fees by an estimated $302,617.86 over 9 1/2 years.
A request by Ingles Markets for an exception to the city’s sign ordinance for signage at the company’s 863 Brevard Rd. retail complex, which is currently being redeveloped, was continued until the Sept. 6 meeting of Council. The Council voted 6-1 in favor of the continuance, with Councilmember Brian Haynes voting “no,” and indicating that he would deny Ingles’ request.
City Council appointed the following individuals to the city’s boards and commissions:
- African American Heritage Commission: Antanette Mosley
- Citizens-Police Advisory Committee: Shana McDowell
- Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee: Blake Esselstyn, Linda Giltz and Steven Sizemore
- Multimodal Transportation Commission: reappointed Bruce Emory, Terri March, Phil Lenowitz and Kristy Carter; appointed David Nutter and Billie Lofland
- Neighborhood Advisory Committee: Pat Deck
- Tree Commission: Diane Hillgrove
For the Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment (SACEE), Council voted to interview Bridget Herring, Emily Boyd and Brad Rouse.
The next meeting of City Council will take place at 5 p.m. on Aug. 9 in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall. Public hearings for the meeting will include the General Obligation bond referendum and a proposed amendment to Chapter 7 of the Code of Ordinances to establish requirements for utility substations.