Plans are in the works to renovate a large, historic building in the River Arts District to create a mixed-use space with a focus on lodging. At the Oct. 4 Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, White Point Partners brought a proposal to rework the 61,000-square-foot building at 95 Roberts St., which dates to around 1925, into a 70-room lodging with 4,600 square feet of retail and a 60-seat restaurant.
The property, owned by Greer Building LLC, backs onto the railroad right of way and is currently zoned as river district but is within the RAD form-based code zoning area, which is not yet approved by the city. The applicant requested that the commission consider a conditional zoning from river district to lodging expansion conditional zone.
Commissioner Laura Berner Hudson suggested that the developers put in a planting strip to soften the aesthetic of a 15-foot retaining wall that runs right up against a sidewalk along one side of the project site.
“This isn’t any kind of deal breaker,” Hudson said. “I realize you’re working in existing constraints and you have your requirements, but we’ve had some projects go through with these great big retaining walls and anything you can do to minimize that impact I think would be appreciated.”
Commissioners ultimately decided that a planting strip in particular wasn’t necessary, but that it would be nice if the owners found a way to make the area more visually appealing. Gregory Hoffman, the applicant who spoke on behalf of the project, indicated that adding the planting strip was something they could explore.
The commission unanimously recommended approval of the applicants’ conditional zoning request. It will next have to go before City Council for review.
Decreasing residential lot size
The Planning and Zoning Commission also took up the topic of residential density, which was tossed back to it by City Council. At its Aug. 22 meeting, Council approved wording amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance to incentivize small-scale residential infill, such as establishing design guidelines for multifamily projects.
“One issue that wasn’t addressed had to do with changes to lot size,” said city planner Vaidila Satvika. “The Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 2 — you guys — recommended that we investigate further whether or not we should incorporate reductions to lot size, and when we went to City Council, they recommended the same thing.”
Staff recommended reducing the minimum lot size standards and adjusting density standards for multifamily zoning districts to ensure consistency of the code.
Satvika said decreasing the minimum residential lot area by 20 percent citywide would affect 600 total lots, or about 3 percent of residential lots. In comparison, the reduction of width standards by 20 percent, which City Council approved in August, affects about 2,000 lots, or 9 percent of residential lots.
“We believe that this recommendation is compatible with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and provides compatible redevelopment and infill development,” Satvika said. “It supports walkable neighborhoods, incentivizing location-efficient housing, and contributes to the development of more transit-supportive densities in all residential districts.”
The commission unanimously recommended approval of the amendment, which will go to City Council at its Oct. 24 meeting for approval.
Planning for pizza to go
The commission heard a request by applicant Duncan Haggart to rezone property at 12 Miami Circle, off Long Shoals Road in Arden, from an institutional zone to a community business II conditional zone for the purpose of constructing a drive-thru window at the Pizza Hut onsite. Haggart co-owns the property with his wife.
“Institutional zoning allows for restaurants, but they do not allow for restaurants with drive-thru windows,” said David Hazzard, an urban designer with the city.
The drive-thru window at the site would be for pickup only, meaning customers would be ordering over the phone or online before driving to the restaurant to pick up their order. The hours of operation, which were part of the conditions, will be limited to 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Hazzard said city staff recommended that the applicant provide safe pedestrian access to the site from an existing sidewalk and requested that a bus shelter be installed at an existing bus stop offsite. The city hopes to make the area more friendly for multimodal forms of transportation.
“That’s why staff has recommended the bus shelter and the safe pedestrian connection — to help mitigate the auto-oriented nature of that drive-thru window,” Hazzard said.
Hazzard said staff recommended approval of the plan with those two conditions, but that the applicant had recently indicated that they were not intending to provide those two elements as part of the construction.
“We constructed the sidewalks along Miami Circle, but we could not provide a walkway because of the slope,” said Haggart, who brought pictures of the area in question so that commissioners would have a visual aid. “It’s going to require stairs any way you do it, so we could not provide an [Americans with Disabilities Act]-accessible walkway, so we constructed the safe dispersal area instead.”
Haggart said the bus stop would cost $7,000 if the individual pieces came in a box and $10,000 to $12,000 if it was installed. He also said the ADA-accessible walkway would cost $3,500, which his tenant believes is unreasonable and was already addressed during another approval process in April.
“I would ask that you approve the property without the last two conditions, which are the sidewalk and the bus stop,” Haggart said.
Commissioner Karl Koon challenged the notion that the slope was too steep construct a walkway. “Am I just used to hiking in steep areas or something?” Koon asked, looking at the picture Haggart provided to the commission. “It just doesn’t look steep.”
Hudson said she didn’t see any reason why the applicant should be responsible for building a bus stop offsite, a sentiment with which others on the commission seemed to agree. “But,” she said, “considering that what we’re trying to do is enhance circulation by automobiles and that this is built next to three different schools and we’ve identified this as a multimodal transportation corridor, it just seems like we would be remiss without saying there needs to be some pedestrian access as well if we’re going to provide enhanced automobile access.”
Commissioners indicated they were willing to let the bus stop slide, but Hudson asked Haggart if he and his tenant would be willing to rethink their stance on pedestrian access. Because the tenant wasn’t present at the meeting Haggart, couldn’t get definitive confirmation that they would install the walkway, but he asked the commission to approve the request on the condition that the sidewalk was constructed. On that condition, the commission approved the request.
New members, new chair
The commission welcomed new members, swearing in Joe Archibald and Sandra Kilgore to replace Jeremy Goldstein and Kristy Carter, who both recently completed the maximum of two three-year terms. Hudson, who was recently reappointed to another term, took the helm as chair and Tony Hauser was approved as vice chair.
The next meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled for Nov. 1 at 5 p.m.