City Council will kick off a busy Tuesday with a 10 a.m. work session to discuss the possible city bond referendum, which Council is studying for inclusion on the general election ballot in November. The meeting will take place in the fourth floor training room of the municipal building (the downtown fire and police headquarters building at 100 Court Plaza) and will offer a first look at the some of the specific projects being vetted for possible inclusion in the bond proposal.
At Council’s directions, city staff has assembled a list of potential projects in four categories:
- Parks & Recreation: $17 million for projects including a new gym facility at the Wesley Grant Center, upgrades to Memorial/Mountainside Stadium, Jake Rusher Park, Montford Center improvements, Richmond Hill Park restrooms, outdoor courts and playgrounds, ball field lighting and land acquisition for parks.
- Infrastructure: $30 million, with $16 million associated with road resurfacing projects. Other initiatives include sidewalk improvements and new sidewalks, transportation safety upgrades (such as crossing signals, crosswalks and bus shelters) and greenways.
- Public safety: $13 million for deferred maintenance, updates and upgrades at existing city fire and police stations, including the downtown police and fire headquarters building at 100 Court Plaza.
- Affordable housing: $30 million for programs including homeowner developer loan program, increased housing trust fund, community land trust formation and land banking or repurposing city-owned land ($15 million).
A memo attached to the notice of the meeting provides an interesting historical and comparative overview of property tax rates in the city. 1982 saw the city’s highest-ever property tax rate at $1.07 per $100,000 of assessed property value. The city’s current tax rate is 47.5 cents per $100,000.
Another analysis compares Asheville’s tax rate and per capita debt to other municipalities in North Carolina. For those cities that collect an additional sales tax to fund transit systems, the average property tax rate is 51.27 cents; for cities like Asheville that fund transit out of property taxes alone, the average rate is 54.87 cents. Average per capita debt in the state is $867, compared with Asheville’s per capita debt level of $234. “This is a very low ratio, less than 1/3 of the average statewide,” the memo states. The potential impact of different levels of bond funding on property tax amounts is also explored. Both the amount of money borrowed via bond funding and the upcoming tax revaluation have the potential to impact 2017 tax bills.
City Council regular meeting
At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Council will convene its regular meeting in City Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall. A resolution in memory of local community activist and recent County Commission candidate Isaac Coleman will lead off the meeting.
Items in Council’s consent agenda include a resolution to rebid the contract for resurfacing playing fields at the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex on Azalea Road; an ordinance lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour on certain city streets; and authorization to participate in an effort to pursue regional gigabit broadband advancement in Western North Carolina in cooperation with other municipalities and Land of Sky Regional Council.
An annual report on the city’s stormwater management program will lay out priorities for capital improvement projects.
Council will hear reports and public comment on four rezoning requests. The first concerns a nonconforming lot on Lookout Drive. The owner, Eric Workman, requests the rezoning to support development of the lot for a single-family residence.
The second hearing will be a request for a conditional use permit for a six-story, 88-unit veteran
housing development on 4.54 acres at 1401 Tunnel Rd. City Council must grant conditional use zoning for multi-family housing projects containing more than 50 units. The developer, Asheville Buncombe County Christian Ministries, also owns and operates an existing veterans housing complex on an adjacent parcel at 1329 Tunnel Rd.
A request to amend a conditional use zoning at 311 and 315 Old Haw Creek Rd., owned by Bethesda United Methodist Church, proposes to remove a previously approved student housing component of a project to redevelop church-owned property. The requested amendment will divide portions of the church property for residential development.
The final public hearing will feature a controversial development proposal for 272 units of rental housing at 60 Mills Gap Rd., the former site of the Plasticorp manufacturing facility. Proposed by developer Rusty Pulliam, the project has been the focus of fierce community opposition from neighborhood groups along Sweeten Creek and Mills Gap roads. The neighbors argue that traffic congestion and delays along the two arteries already create long delays and possible public safety concerns. Of the 800 rental housing units within one mile of the project site permitted since 2013, almost 600 are not yet completed and occupied. The North Carolina Department of Transportation owns both roads, and widening plans are on the books for both. The projects will not be completed until 2020 and 2021.
City staff have objected to the project on the grounds that it will result in the loss of scarce industrial property, which city economic development plans seek to preserve. City staff also has argued that the location of the project is too far from transit and pedestrian amenities. The site lies a quarter of a mile from Hendersonville Road, which is served by the city’s S3 bus line. Crossing busy Sweeten Creek Road and traveling along a section of Mills Gap Road that lacks sidewalks makes pedestrian access difficult, staff have commented.
The project was reviewed by the Planning & Zoning Commission on November 19 last year; the developer asked that the Commission defer its vote to a later meeting. On January 6, the Commission again considered the project and, after hearing extensive public comment against the development, nonetheless voted 6-1 to approve it. Pulliam held two meetings with the community after the January 6 meeting and modified some aspects of the proposal. Instead of designating 20 percent of the units as affordable for a period of 10 years, he instead agreed to a term of 15 years of affordability for 15 percent of the units. He also agreed to extend the length of a turning lane at the intersection of Mills Gap and Sweeten Creek roads.
In a staff memo, the city planning department recommends against approval of the project in order to preserve viable industrial property. The staff memo also cites the department’s opinion that the location is unsuitable for dense multifamily development.
Council will consider a recommendation to reject all bids received in the city’s recent request for proposals for the management of the city transit authority. Citing irregularities in the bid process, Council will vote on extending the management contract of the current contractor, First Transit, on a month-to-month basis while another RFP is issued.
Boards and commissions
In its consent agenda, Council will vote to appoint Sir Charles Gardner to the Citizens Police Advisory Committee and to reappoint Alan Coxie as Chair to the Civil Service Board. Under new business, Council will consider two candidates for the Western North Carolina Air Quality Agency Board, Robert Lane and Joel Storrow. Finally, Council will consider appointments to the Accessory Dwelling Unit Task Force.
The full agenda and supporting documents can be found online here.