The Buncombe County Planning Board and county staff stand at loggerheads over a proposal to rezone nearly 9 acres in Arden that would allow the expansion of vacation rentals. At its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, the county Board of Commissioners will get the final say.
The change, requested by Brett Turner of Georgia-based Whitaker Investment Group, would shift the zoning from residential to public service, a designation that allows “recreation parks and facilities.” Supplemental information provided by attorney Bob Oast clarifies that Turner plans to develop vacation rental cabins; although some rentals exist on the property, adding new units would be considered a nonconforming use under residential zoning.
Planning board members unanimously voted not to recommend the rezoning on Nov. 2, citing the property’s location in a flood hazard zone next to the French Broad River. However, county staffers recommended approval in a report posted with the commission’s agenda, saying they would work with Turner “to assure compliance with flood standards.”
Oast criticized the planning board’s recommendation, calling the basis for their decision “puzzling.” He did not address staff’s finding that at least three of the rentals currently located on the property are apparently in violation of the county’s flood damage and prevention ordinance.
In other news
After a lengthy discussion during its Nov. 5 briefing, the board is slated to vote on adopting a paid parental and family leave policy for county employees. Staffers could take up to eight weeks of paid leave per year for the birth or adoption of a child or six weeks to care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition.
In a presentation to the board, Sharon Burke, the county’s director of human resources, identified four other North Carolina counties with similar paid leave policies; of those, only Mecklenburg offers paid time off to care for family members. Although commissioners were generally supportive of the policy at that briefing, Democrat Amanda Edwards said her colleagues should be “really cognizant from a transparency and accountability [standpoint]” about the benefits they offer to staff.
And after a public hearing, the board will vote on approving a $27 million subsidy for aerospace manufacturer Pratt and Whitney, which plans to develop a $650 million manufacturing facility in Bent Creek. As previously reported by Xpress, the money would effectively refund 10 years of county property and excise taxes for the company, a subsidiary of military contractor Raytheon Technologies.
The resolution authorizing the incentive states that “P&W informed the county that if the county did not promise such economic development incentives, then P&W would not plan to come to Buncombe County and complete the project.” Money would be paid over 14 years, contingent on the manufacturer’s capital investment and job creation.
This meeting marks the last for Republicans Joe Belcher and Anthony Penland, both of whom lost their seats to Democratic challengers in this year’s general election. Both commissioners are scheduled to receive recognition of service to the county.
Consent agenda and public comment
The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:
- Allocating an additional $60,000 for the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Emergency Home Repair Program, bringing total county support to more than $288,000. The funds would come from previously unallocated money budgeted for Buncombe’s Affordable Housing Services Program.
- Accepting $7,500 from the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program to support the DWI task force of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. The money would be used to purchase three radar units.
- Granting an easement at the Buncombe County Sports Park to Duke Energy. The arrangement will allow the utility company to install power lines for field lighting.
The commission will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss the county’s COVID-19 response and other matters. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.
Public comment will only be permitted through live telephone calls at the start of the meeting; no in-person comments, emails or voicemails will be accepted. Those planning to comment must sign up online or call 828-250-4001 by Monday, Nov. 16, at 3 p.m. All commenters will receive three minutes to address the board.