Commission weighs $680K Habitat for Humanity loan

Buncombe County seal

“To be determined.” That’s the entirety of County Manager Avril Pinder’s current comments and recommendation regarding a proposed loan of over $680,000 from Buncombe County to the nonprofit Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. Thus, the Board of Commissioners will have to wait until its regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 6, to find out whether it will have to make a determination on the loan without the benefit of Pinder’s advice.

According to a presentation available before the meeting, Habitat plans to use the money to provide down payment assistance for 38 affordable housing units at its proposed Old Haywood Road neighborhood in West Asheville. Households earning 80% or less of the area median income ($52,800 for a family of four) would receive $20,000 toward the purchase of a home.

Last fiscal year, the county approved a $240,000 loan for the same project as part of its Affordable Housing Services Program, which included $160,800 in construction loans and $79,200 in down payment assistance. While the construction loan bears 2% interest, the down payment loans are interest-free.

The county’s Affordable Housing Committee, consisting of board Chair Brownie Newman and Commissioners Joe Belcher and Amanda Edwards, recommended approval of the Old Haywood Road project at a May 28 meeting. They noted that Habitat’s ask was more than $88,000 less than its initial request of nearly $769,000.

In other business

Commissioners will be asked to approve a $540,000 budget amendment to support the Reems Creek Greenway Project in Weaverville. Only $60,000 of county money will be involved; $480,000 will come from the N.C. Department of Transportation, with the remaining $60,000 of the project’s $600,000 budget kicked in by Weaverville’s town government.

Three rezoning proposals are also on the docket, including the second submission of a property on Woodland Drive in Swannanoa. The original application, withdrawn during the commission’s June 18 meeting, would have rezoned 14 acres to a denser residential district; as updated, the new zoning would apply only to approximately 1.7 acres. Although staff members approve of the change, the Buncombe County Planning Board voted 5-0 to recommend denial on July 15.

The remaining proposals would rezone roughly 6.4 acres on Long Shoals Road and roughly 1.2 acres on Brevard Road, both in Arden, from residential to business use. Both plans have unanimous support from the planning board and county staff.

The commission expects to reappoint Leah Ashburn, president and CEO of Highland Brewing Co., to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, which manages nearly $19 million in annual occupancy tax revenue. Other board vacancies to be filled include four spots on the Health & Human Services Board and one seat on the Historic Resources Commission.

Consent agenda

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 12 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include resolutions to:

  • Allow Pinder to enter a $58,287 contract with SCS Engineers for designing and overseeing an expansion of leachate recirculation injection trenches at the Buncombe County Landfill. The project will not capture the landfill’s methane emissions; according to trade website Waste360.com, recirculation may speed the decomposition of existing trash and reduce leachate management costs.
  • Approve Tax Collector Jennifer Pike’s report of settlement for the county’s fiscal year 2018-19 property taxes. Of roughly $198.77 million in total levied taxes, the county failed to collect just over $265,000, a collection rate of 99.87%.
  • Dispose of miscellaneous surplus county property through public auction. Items to be sold include a NordicTrac Exercise Machine and popcorn machine from the Buncombe County Public Libraries, 375 laptop computers and six high-mileage cars from the General Services department.

The board will hold a pre-meeting at noon in the first floor conference room of the same building. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Green Scene editor and a reporter for Mountain Xpress. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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