City Council agenda a mixed bag of zoning, incentives, board and commission matters

Proposed zoning changes for the Patton-Parker House on Charlotte St. will be the subject of a public hearing at Council's Sept. 22 meeting. Photo courtesy of PSABC.org.

From the reuse of the historic Patton-Parker House on Charlotte Street to the city’s acquisition of 30 new “conducted electrical weapons” — you may know them better by the brand name “Taser” — Tuesday’s City Council meeting will cover diverse territory.

Under the meeting’s consent agenda, some of the issues presented for council members’ votes include:

  • Consulting contract with Kimley-Horn Associates to study the Matthews Ford property on Biltmore Avenue. According to a staff memo, “The City of Asheville would like to evaluate the property to see if it can be developed in conjunction with the Lee Walker redevelopment to allow additional access to Lee Walker, include mixed-use and affordable housing.” City staff is requesting an exemption from the written request for qualifications (RFQ) procedures to hire Kimley-Horn for the $30,000 contract.
  • Purchasing contract for new water meter boxes. Asheville’s previous supplier of water meter boxes has gone out of business, and it has transferred its production of the boxes to another company, Fortiline Waterworks. The city wants to forgo the usual competitive bidding process for this year because it says Fortiline is presently the only company that produces boxes that meet the city’s standard.
  • Permission to accept $40,000 from federal drug seizure assets. The money, which is shared between federal government and local authorities, is proposed to fund law enforcement training and book purchases as well as additional first aid training for police officers.
  • Changes to the Civic Center Commission’s guidelines for appointing ex-officio members and for appointing members to committees from members of the community at large.
  • Resolution increasing the living wage rate for full- and part-time City employees and increasing its applicability to all City employees, retroactive to July 3, 2015.
  • Allowing the City Manager to accept federal grant funds for the purchase of 30 new “conducted electrical weapons,” commonly known as “Tasers.”

Presentations and Reports

Barbara Whitehorn, Chief Financial Officer for the city, will introduce a staff member to present a report on Asheville’s recently-upgraded financial rating.

A newly-compiled Boards & Commissions Manual will be presented to council. While the majority of the documents that make up the manual previously existed, the new compilation brings them together into one easily-referenced resource.

Council will hear an update on activities of the N.C. General Assembly relevant to the city.

Public Hearings

The future of the 1869 Camp Patton-Parker House at 95 Charlotte Street has been up in the air since the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County (PSABC) began marketing the property on behalf of the Parker family in March 2013.

As a local historic landmark, the Victorian-era house on 1.23 acres of property is protected against demolition for a period of one year following a sale. However, the PSABC will add private deed restrictions which will make the Patton-Parker House “one of the most protected historic resources in this community,” according to PSABC director Jack Thompson.

Council will hear public comment on an application to reuse the property as a law office for local attorney Jim Siemens, who also proposes constructing a two-unit residential structure behind the main house. Siemens’ requested use will require a change in the property’s zoning from RM-16 Residential Multi-Family High Density District to Office District/Conditional Zoning, as well as further approvals from city building officials and the Historic Resources Commission.

According to Thompson, neighborhood response to the proposed use has been positive.

Council also will hear public comment on a request by Givens Estates to increase by 22 the number of senior housing units previously approved for its Gerber Park project in South Asheville. If granted, the project will create a total of 262 units of senior housing, of which 202 will be designated affordable units for those earning 60% or less of average median income (AMI) and 60 will be “workforce housing” for those earning 61-100% of AMI.

New Business

Originally adopted in 2010, the Land Use Incentive Program (known as the Land Use Incentive Grant, or LUIG) has seen limited use. According to a staff memo, “The interest of Council members in potentially expanding and evaluating the effectiveness of the City’s financial investments in affordable housing has led to an assessment of the policy and its goals.”

Council will hear proposed revisions that aim to make the program (and, by extension, the development of new affordable housing) more attractive to potential developers. The LUIG awards points based on factors such as the percentage of affordable or workforce units in a development, the duration of the term of affordability the developer commits to and the project’s proximity to services, job centers and transit. Points earned through the LUIG translate into reductions in city fees and taxes.

The city memo describes the reductions:

Every 10 points can also earn a 10% reduction in the following fees and charges: Zoning Permit, Building Permit, Driveway Permit, Grading Permit, Plan review fees and Waterservice connection fee. This reduction is in addition to the existing fees rebated for affordable housing projects. Affordable housing projects eligible for the 50% fee waiver are eligible for additional fee waivers for points awarded to the project above 50 points. Permit fees must be paid according to the schedule of fees published by the City of Asheville; the LUIG grant will rebate the percentage of those fees as determined by Council, after the release of the all occupancy permits for the project.

Also under New Business, Council will hear an update on candidates for the Tourism Development Authority (TDA). The deadline for applications for the TDA was extended until noon on 9/21/15 after the only candidate who submitted an application in the previous selection period was determined to be ineligible due to having already served the maximum number of terms permitted.

The full agenda for the Tuesday, Sept. 22 meeting at 5 p.m. in the Council Chamber on the second floor of City Hall can be found here.

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

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