City Council keeps $74 million bond referendum on schedule

Asheville city seal

As expected, City Council made short work of their agenda on July 5 — though at around 20 minutes in length, the meeting probably didn’t set the record for brevity. In passing its consent agenda unanimously, Council accomplished the main purpose for the meeting: keeping a proposed bond referendum on schedule for a possible appearance on the general election ballot in November.

One Asheville resident, retired attorney Sidney Bach, questioned three aspects of Council’s proposed bond package. First off, Bach cited a North Carolina statute that appears to require 10 days between the publication in local newspapers of the city’s intent to seek approval for its bond package from the Local Government Commission and submitting its application to that body. Council’s schedule, included in the resolutions it passed on Tuesday evening, showed publication on July 6 and making application to the LGC on July 7. City Finance Director Barbara Whitehorn said she would review the matter with the city’s bond attorney, Parker Poe. If the city delays making application to the LGC until July 18, she said, the city could still stay on track for including the measure on the general election ballot.

Second, Bach argued that Council needs to “publicly inform citizens of the estimated minimum and maximum increase in property taxes” that could be associated with the bond if it passes. At Council’s recent bond work sessions, several possible scenarios for property tax impact have been presented, but the question is also complicated by a Buncombe County tax revaluation which will take effect in January 2017.

Though Bach ran out of time and wasn’t able to deliver his third point to Council during the meeting, he spoke separately with the media and with several Council members after the meeting. He explained that he objects to bond financing being directed toward initiatives that could benefit private investors (in the form of low-interest loans) as part of possible affordable housing funding. Council member Julie Mayfield explained after the meeting that the city already pursues its affordable housing goals by making loans to private developers out of the city’s affordable housing trust fund, and that the proposed bond items follow the same procedures. Bach responded that, while he supports the development of affordable housing, he objects to the city contributing to the profits private investors stand to make on affordable housing projects.

Though subject to change, the referendum as it stands today includes $32 million for transportation, $25 million for affordable housing and $17 million for park improvements. With the passage of the bond-related items in its July 5 consent agenda, Council cleared the way for the next steps in the process:

  • July 26: the bond orders will be introduced and Council will set a public hearing on the bond orders for August 9.
  • August 9: Council will hold a public hearing on each of the bond orders, approve the bond orders (including the form and language of the ballot) and set a special bond referendum.
  • After November 8, the City Council will adopt a resolution certifying and declaring the results of the special bond referendum. This action will occur after the Buncombe County Board of Elections certifies the results of the vote.


About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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22 thoughts on “City Council keeps $74 million bond referendum on schedule

  1. Avl Resident

    Is there anywhere we can find a list of the specific projects that the bond is going to be used for? I’m particularly interested in the affordable housing money. Also, is the entire bond going to be lumped into one question or will residents be able to vote on the specific categories of infrastructure, housing and parks?

    • bsummers

      Good questions – but I’d be very surprised if the bond would be split up into separate categories. The financials of securing a bond are based on the total amount. Introducing an aspect of uncertainty re: the total amount, would throw that into question, and might even violate Local Govt. Commission rules. The LGC has to approve the bond package before it’s put on a ballot, as I understand it.

    • Virginia Daffron

      Hi Avl Resident,

      On the city’s blog, there are links to documents detailing the projects in each of the three categories. I’ll link them here for you rather than restate them, since the city has included a lot of detail and maps with their summaries.

      Infrastructure and transportation:

      Parks and recreation:

      Affordable housing:

      I will get back to you on the question of whether citizens can vote for certain categories but not others.


      • Avl Resident

        Thanks, Virginia. The links for the Infrastructure/Parks have documents that note the specific projects so I can see where the money will likely be spent. For the affordable housing component, I see “programs” but not actual projects for most of that money – and even those seem to be examples. Does the City have identified projects for this money? It looks like a lot of the affordable housing money is possibly for a major South Charlotte Street project. Has the City done a feasibility study on that project? I ask about splitting up the questions because asking to borrow $25 million ($7 million less than infrastructure and $8 million more than parks) without greater certainty about where that money is going may sink this.

        • Virginia Daffron

          If I am understanding the city’s proposals correctly, there are not specific projects targeted by the affordable housing bond category. Yes, there was discussion of repurposing city-owned land on South Charlotte Street, but at least two Council members expressed hesitation about that item. Even if Council did more forward with that project, the $15 million allocated to it would mostly be spent on relocating the city departments now housed there and performing a small amount of environmental remediation (and not on developing the housing directly). The city’s current practice for supporting affordable housing development is providing loans to private developers (both nonprofit and for-profit) after a competitive vetting process, and the bond would basically grow the amount of money available for that purpose. Still waiting to hear back from the city about whether voters can vote for only some of the categories.

          • Avl Resident

            Thanks again, Virginia. Do you know (or has the City provided) any projects identified to go through that competitive vetting process? If there aren’t any, then it’s hard for me to support borrowing $25 million and paying interest on it. The fact that $15 million of this amount seems to be a placeholder tells me that the City is trying to find a justification for the borrowing as opposed to having specific projects in mind. I’m not opposed to bonding for affordable housing, but this just doesn’t seem ready to go to the voters yet.

    • Virginia Daffron

      From the city’s blog: “Bonds have to be put on ballots by category with voters deciding on them separately by category.”

  2. Virginia Daffron

    Another clarification, this one from city Director of Communications and Public Engagement Dawa Hitch: “The public will be able to vote on specific categories. There has not yet been a final determination on the package for which the City would apply. The categories under consideration now are transportation, affordable housing and parks & recreation.”

  3. Lulz

    But, but there’s another article stating what the parking garages are worth. Or what about all those millions that go untaxed via the non-profit crony system at play here? Or why is it that there are no funds available for infrastructure yet the pet projects seem to always get money? I don’t know why you think giving these idiots more money is the solution to the real crux of the matter. Spending money in areas that government has no business spending it. But go on lefty loons and think that giving them even more money is the solution. Property taxes are going up next year at least 50% if not outright doubled and many are probably going to lose their homes because of it. But that’s OK because they’re just unintended victims for the cause. And so what if some become homeless so that council and the rest of you loons can spend 25 million for low income housing. Yet that issue won’t resolve itself at all. Just like the rest of bogus issues that have been at the forefront of lefty loony causes for at least 50 years now.

    • luther blissett

      “why is it that there are no funds available for infrastructure yet the pet projects seem to always get money?”

      Funny that, because I remember infrastructure projects funded over recent years, including the Tunnel Road and Hendersonville Road sidewalk projects. The question is whether it’s better to raise money for long-lifespan projects now while bond funding is historically cheap, or to eke it out over years and leave things half-done. Every project that is included in this bond package needs to be judged on its long-term benefits: that doing it now instead of in say 5 years’ time delivers an economic return that makes up for the cost of borrowing. The affordable housing funding is harder to justify in those terms because it’s not a discrete capital project that can be assessed on its merits, or one where the city retains control and accountability for the duration.

      “Property taxes are going up next year at least 50% if not outright doubled”

      [citation required]

      If you’re talking about the county-wide re-assessment, which clearly chafes your rear given how much you’ve whined about it: once again, if you were selling your property, would it be on the market at its current assessed value? If not, why not?

      You’ve been told what the city is working with in terms of revenues. You’ve been told where it gets spent: cops, firefighters, then everything else. Either you can ride your hobby horse around town, ranting and moaning about “lefty loons”, or you can actually engage with the issue of how to fund capex projects, e.g. how $16m of overdue road resurfacing gets done when the annual budget is around $2m. And if that’s too much of an effort, you might be happier living off a dirt track in Candler and burning your trash.

      • Lulz

        LOL, but with so much growthq here and record tax revenues, why are they so behind? So you’re saying that they spend 100 mil on city services? LOL taking my own garbage to the dump would save me money lulz. Again, you,’re making excuses for bad spending habits. If ifrastructure is delayed whilst the art museum is funded, then buddy it’s a shame you are too ignorant to be mad. And tax values aside, city services for residents is in decline. And nobody walks on Hendersonville mfing HIGHWAY. Sidewalks there are a total waste of money. Nor was there a vocal calling for sidewalks to be built. But there is for leaf collection which is a service that was done 30 effing years ago.

        • Lulz

          LOL, and if you think that literally doubling the money people pay for absolutely nothing of value while they also see huge increases in fees, the vehicle tax just went up 200%, you’re living in a fairy tale. People involved in local government are out of touch with reality. They sell out to the rich and tax the rest to death. And then pat themselves on the back claiming that the economy here are something to be proud of. Well it would be if it wasn’t SUBSIDIZED fool. But that’s OK, right? Why if someone can’t afford their taxes and is forced out of their home well that’s their problem lulz. God bless America but pay up too. Because we got cronies to feed and a tourist industry here THAT DOESN’T PAY FOR THE RESOURCES IT USES. Never mind all the other crap that every crony with their hand out expects others to fund.

        • luther blissett

          See, there’s that ranting and moaning again. Makes you look like a uNHinGEd ranter and moaner fixated on a few talking points.

          “nobody walks on Hendersonville mfing HIGHWAY. Sidewalks there are a total waste of money.”

          Strange, that, because I’ve seen plenty of people walking different stretches of Hvl Road, often on muddy and dangerous grass verges, laden with shopping bags. A few times when it’s been raining or snow on the ground I’ve stopped and given them rides. Maybe you just don’t notice ordinary people? But heh loL lulz Lol, way to sound like a selfish piece of work. Go and rake your leaves.

          • Fin

            Luther drank the cool aid, Good job helping less then .1% percent of the population at astronomical costs. The sidewalks on hendo road are a complete waste of money but continue to think you actually helped the greater good. I will be voting no for the bond until it’s smaller and focused only on sidewalks and streets.

          • Lulz

            LOL, I drive it everyday and no one walks it lulz. It’s a commercial corridor for effing sakes.

            Typical left wing loon you are. So if money is being wasted by the crony corrupt council and the only people making traction here are the rich, I’m selfish? Hey lefty loon, I work for a living. I’m tired of handing out even more money for nothing of value. I’m tired of subsidizing the rich developers and brewers here who DO NOTHING AND CONTRIBUTE NOTHING and are here for their OWN SELFISH GAIN. You are absolutely and utterly OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY. Unbelievable that people like you are just willing to hand over money without demanding any accountability for it. Unbelievable that morons exist out there that put their faith in government without questioning why they need even more money. Do they not collect enough? Where does it go?

          • Lulz

            One other thing. People like you assume that those who comment have money to burn. It must be the notion that only the well off comment and that the peons who work AND PAY aren’t capable of thought. It’s the same mistake those cronies in government in make.

            These loons in council with their reckless spending are making the mistake of thinking that people will pay up or simply go away if they can’t pay. I say they should personally force people out of their homes. I want to see Bothwell go kick someone out of their house because they can’t afford to pay for HIS SPENDING. But he’s a coward and drunkard. Smith is an overpaid moron who isn’t brave enough to do the same. And that’s because they don’t live in reality and sure as hell have never dealt with those that can barely afford to pay for their habits.

          • luther blissett

            Yet more unhinged ranting and moaning. It’s such a schtick.

            “I say they should personally force people out of their homes.”

            It’s hard to tell amid all the ranting, but you’re seriously arguing that home owners in Asheville are going to be put on the streets by an increase to their property tax bill? If you own a $200,000 home in Asheville and can’t pay an extra $2 per week in property taxes, then you have problems that can’t be blamed on city government. That’s like owning a Cadillac and saying you can’t afford to drive it because of the gasoline tax. This scenario is just a fiction: you’re making stuff up.

            “Unbelievable that people like you are just willing to hand over money without demanding any accountability for it.”

            See, more frothing. What did I say in this thread? When interest rates are at historic lows, bonds make sense for capital projects with a lifespan that extends well past the term of the bonds, where accelerating the completion date has clear gains over an extended timetable with contingent funding, and where the city retains ownership throughout for direct accountability. Given those criteria, I can’t support the affordable housing portion: the project list has too many placeholders, and as a matter of principle the city shouldn’t be borrowing money to lend it. Bond funding is the wrong tool for that job.

            But I’m sure that yelling to yourself constantly makes it easier to drown out what people actually say.

  4. Real Person

    Express moderates comments in the typical liberal agenda. Your junk mail paper is garbage and are not an actually journalistic entity since you never ask real questions.

    • bsummers

      Express moderates comments in the typical liberal agenda

      Yes, they constantly censor the opinions of Lulz, Tim Peck, Yep, and all the other rightwing commenters… oh wait – but they don’t. Never mind.

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