Commissioners to get update on Isaac Coleman grants

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS: Participants in the Word on the Street program, which has benefited from Isaac Coleman grant funding, produce stories and video for a bilingual online magazine. Photo by Sekou Coleman courtesy of Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community

On March 6, Buncombe County commissioners are scheduled to hear from recipients of the first round of Isaac Coleman grant funding, an investment of $635,426 that the county awarded to seven local grassroots organizations in June 2017.

Named for a late social justice advocate, the county established the Isaac Coleman Community Investment Grants to promote equal opportunity and foster increased health, safety and self-sufficiency in local communities (see “Isaac Coleman grants spotlight grassroots groups”). As part of their contracts with the county, all grant recipient organizations must submit quarterly reports that include updates on their budget and project outcomes.

One of the grant recipients, United Community Development, received scrutiny from the county after the organization tabled a planned masonry job skills program (see “County letter prompts scrutiny of Southside training program”). UCD set the program aside after negotiations with the masonry instructor fell through over pay rates, paid time off and other contract provisions, according to UCD’s first quarterly report.

In a revised report, Dee Williams, the project manager of the UCD grant contract, suggested replacing the masonry program with a green infrastructure training program. A second-quarter summary put together by the county indicates that the masonry training program has instead been changed to a weatherization training program. The summary says the program trained three workers during the second quarter, with 10 more trainees on the waiting list, and that four houses in Asheville’s Southside neighborhood have been weatherized.

In total, the Isaac Coleman grant program’s 2017 funding is composed of $500,000 allocated by the county and $135,426 in additional funding secured through outside grants. The county awarded:

  • $53,707 to the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement
  • $44,520 to Buncombe County Schools as part of a partnership with the residents of the Deaverview neighborhood
  • $71,460 to CIMA, which will partner with the Emma Community Ownership Project
  • $111,804 to United Community Development of North Carolina
  • $112,500 to YTL Training Program
  • $116,435 for the My Community Matters Empowerment Program, Positive Changes, and Writers in Schools
  • $125,000 for the Shiloh Community Association/Pearson Plan

Public hearing

The board is slated to conduct a public hearing on a request to change the zoning of a 4-acre parcel at 1648 Brevard Road from residential low-density to commercial service district. County staff and members of the county Planning Board have recommended that the Board of Commissioners deny the request.

The county originally scheduled the hearing for the Feb. 20 commission meeting but bumped it to March 6 because the petitioner, Heath White of Zen Tubing, was dealing with a personal matter and couldn’t attend the meeting.

Zen Tubing uses the property on a seasonal basis and wants the rezoning to allow the outfitter to seasonally locate a shipping container on the land to act as a bar for alcohol sales, according to an analysis put together by Buncombe County’s planning and development department.

The property is located entirely in a Federal Emergency Management Agency-designated floodway, and the properties to the west, east and south are all vacant and zoned residential low-density. The analysis also says the property contains a small amount of steep land.

“Staff’s main concerns with this rezoning request are that it represents a potential ‘spot zoning,’ and that the alcohol sales would represent an intensification of a commercial use completely surrounded by a rural undeveloped area zoned residentially,” the analysis states.

In other business

Commissioners will consider a proclamation making April 3 National Service Recognition Day and will also hear from Mountain Mobility, the county’s community transportation system, about an award it received from the N.C. Department of Transportation Public Transport Division.

In fiscal year 2017, the system saw an improvement in both its on-time performance, which hit 94 percent, and vehicle operator turnover rate, which decreased to 25.9 percent.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. on March 6 at 200 College St. in Asheville in room 326. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.

For more of the latest city and county news, check out Xpress’ Buncombe Beat.

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About David Floyd
David Floyd is the Buncombe County reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press. Email him at dfloyd@mountainx.com.

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