Buzzworm news briefs

For the birds and others

There will be a number of special homes for sale this weekend, when the Bountiful Cities Project hosts its Fourth Annual Birdhouse Auction.

Donated by some 50 local artists and craftspeople, the creative and/or functionally crafted abodes for feathered friends will be up for bid, with local auctioneer Noel Cost in charge of encouraging high numbers for the benefit of the nonprofit organization.

Bountiful Cities develops urban agriculture and owns a community garden on Pearson Drive, which it is in the process of expanding. The group also manages the George Washington Carver Edible Park at the Stephens-Lee Center. The bounty from both programs is shared with the project’s volunteer gardeners, Loving Food Resources, residents of Battery Park Apartments and the Food Not Bombs organization. Bountiful Cities also partners with the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program to make extra-fresh food available there.

Coordinator Darcel Eddins says that all proceeds from the auction will be used to pay the mortgage on the Pearson Drive garden location.

The event takes place at the Artemisia Art Gallery (24 North Lexington Ave.) on Saturday, April 8. Doors open at 5 p.m. for viewing, hors d’oeuvres will be featured at 6 p.m., and the auction will begin promptly at 7 p.m.

For additional information about the auction or the Bountiful Cities Project, call 257-4000 or visit www.bountifulcitiesproject.org.

— Nelda Holder

Campaign Calendar

Rallying mountain-style: Plans are underway for a Democratic candidate rally in Mills River on Saturday, April 22, coordinated by congressional candidate Clyde Michael Morgan. Features for the event, which is patterned after an early 1900s-era rally, will include live music, cornbread and beans, and a lot of political dialogue. Additional information, tickets and a map will be available at Morgan’s Web site: www.CMMorgan4Congress.com.

Friday’s the last day: If you are not already registered to vote in Buncombe County, you must register by Friday, April 7, in order to vote in the May 2 primary election. Primary ballots are distributed by party affiliation (Democrat, Republican or Unaffiliated). Changes in party affiliation must also be made by April 7. For further registration information, call the Board of Elections at 250-4200.

Absentee ballot-request deadline: Registered voters who plan to vote by mail can request absentee ballots from the Buncombe County Board of Elections. The deadline for those requests is April 25, with exceptions for illness or disability.

Early voting: One-stop absentee voting (or “early” voting) begins April 13 and ends April 29. One-stop voting takes place at the Board of Elections office, 189 College St. in Asheville.

Your primary opportunity: Precinct workers are needed around the county for the May primary (and the November general election). To help out you must be a registered voter in Buncombe County and must be affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party. For additional information, contact the Board of Elections at 250-4200 or visit www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Election.

Send us your campaign news: Candidates, organizations and citizens are encouraged to send campaign-event news — as far in advance as possible — to nholder@mountainx.com, (fax) 251-1311, or “Campaign Calendar,” Mountain Xpress, P.O. Box 144, Asheville, NC 28802.

Board of Adjustment rejects CAN appeals

Standing outside of Staples office supply on Merrimon Avenue, Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods President Chris Pelly was succinct: “All CAN is asking for is consistent enforcement of the [Unified Development Ordinance]. Our appeals today challenge the culture of enforcement.”

Pelly, along with Vice President Barber Melton and several group members, held a press conference March 27 — a few hours before the Board of Adjustment rejected appeals filed separately by Kimberly Hodges, Mike Lewis and Heather Rayburn without examining the evidence (see “Overseeing the Overseers,” Feb. 15 Xpress). The three had each paid a $500 filing fee.

The city, they maintain, has failed to follow its own explicit rules. City staff, they say, approved UDO violations in connection with three recent projects: Staples, the Prudential Lifestyle Realty building and Walgreens. According to the UDO, these noncompliant plans should have been submitted to the Board of Adjustment, which is authorized to grant a variance after holding a public hearing.

Both the Prudential and Staples signs exceed the maximum dimensions stipulated by the UDO, and the Staples sidewalk fails to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, said Rayburn. She also used a measuring tape to support her contention that the Staples building violates a state law requiring “visibility triangles” at intersections, because it obstructs the view of drivers entering Merrimon Avenue from Orange Street.

City staff, she charged, have bent over backward in interpreting the rules. “They used the square footage of the letters on the Staples sign to calculate the size, instead of the entire red background,” she said, gesturing toward a copy of the sign permit. “The city says that the rest of the red background is an ‘architectural feature,’ but anyone can see that the larger red background is the same logo Staples uses on all of its advertising.”

Hodges, meanwhile, showed Xpress the Prudential permit, which notes that sign’s size as 64 square feet; the UDO caps such signs at 50 square feet. “As a business owner, I … have been required to abide by the sign ordinances,” she said. “It is not fair for the small businesses to have to adhere to the UDO while the chains are given more leeway.”

Assistant City Attorney Curt Euler urged the Board of Adjustment to dismiss all three cases without hearing the facts, asserting that Hodges, Lewis and Rayburn don’t qualify as “aggrieved parties” under the law. Citing Buncombe County’s recent revaluation, Euler argued that since property values have increased, the plaintiffs couldn’t possibly have suffered financial loss. He also maintained that the appeals had not been filed within the prescribed time limit and that the Walgreens matter was now moot, since the developers’ original zoning permit had been terminated after the developer violated the remodeling permit. (Walgreens has since been issued a new building permit containing the same alleged violations as the original.)

Attorney Greg Beckwith argued that his clients have every reason to believe they could suffer financial damage in the future due to the city’s failure to enforce the UDO. Case law, said Beckwith, supports consideration of the facts as evidence that parties are aggrieved and therefore eligible to file an appeal.

But the Board of Adjustment refused to consider Beckwith’s arguments, and in the end, all three appeals were rejected 5-0.

— Cecil Bothwell

Giving up the ghost

Seal their casket with duct tape and dashed dreams: The Carolina Ghostriders are dead. And for those who’ve been following the short-lived fiasco that was Asheville’s indoor-football franchise, news of the team’s demise will come as anything but a surprise.

The team lost its poorly attended inaugural home game on decaying, duct-taped turf in the Asheville Civic Center arena (see “Ghost of a Chance,” March 15 Xpress). The Ghostriders, who have never won a game in the franchise’s year-plus history (they played solely on the road the previous season), then continued on a downward spiral of firings, resignations, unpaid bills and even criminal allegations.

Last week, following a failed bid to sell the team back to the American Indoor Football League, owner Robert W. Boyd announced via e-mail that the team would close its doors. In the message, which the Asheville Citizen-Times posted on its Web site, Boyd also advised fans who’d bought advance tickets to file complaints with the Asheville Police Department.

Shortly thereafter, AIFL President Andrew G. Haines announced that a traveling replacement team, the “Ghostchasers,” will play out the remainder of the Ghostriders’ season. The Ghostriders are the fifth minor-league indoor-sports team to fold in Asheville since 1995.

In a show of hometown sporting spirit, however, the long-running Asheville Tourists baseball team has volunteered to exchange Ghostriders tickets for general-admission seats to Tourists games on April 25, May 9 and May 25 at McCormick Field.

— Steve Shanafelt

The art of healing

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and across the nation, advocacy groups are shining a spotlight on the nightmare of sexual assault and celebrating the healing process.

Local crisis-intervention agency Our VOICE is hosting an art show that invites rape survivors to creatively explore their experiences.

“It’s a time for them to express themselves,” explains Case Manager Kim Hunt. “To take something that is inherently negative and use the creative process to engage in healing.”

The art show, now in its sixth year, will be held at The Wedge gallery in Asheville’s River District. The weekendlong exhibit kicks off with a reception Friday, April 7, beginning at 6 p.m. The show runs 1-6 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Another event, the annual Take Back the Night march and rally, is part of a national movement to make the streets safe again. Local marchers will meet at the French Broad Food Co-op in downtown Asheville at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 21.

In addition, panel discussions are scheduled at A-B Tech, UNCA, and Warren Wilson and Montreat colleges.

For more information about these events, call 252-0562. The Our VOICE 24-hour crisis line is 255-7576.

— Brian Postelle

Public hearing on West Asheville Wal-Mart

Anticipating an onslaught of citizen input concerning a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in West Asheville, city staff is gearing up for an April 11 public hearing on the topic.

It’s the only hearing scheduled for the City Council meeting, which begins at 5 p.m., City Clerk Maggie Burleson reports. And staff is being very careful not to include any other potentially controversial items on the agenda. To prepare for the large expected turnout on Tuesday, both overflow rooms will be set up in City Hall.

The developer will be allotted 30 minutes to make a presentation, followed by a 30-minute period reserved for organized groups, which can make presentations of up to 10 minutes each. After that comes the public-comment period, which could last up to two hours. First priority will be given to people who own property adjoining the site. Individuals may speak for up to three minutes, though 10 minutes will be granted to anyone representing a group that has three or more members present who are willing to waive their opportunity to comment. Speakers must sign up in advance, notes Burleson, and it’s possible that not everyone who signs up will be heard, due to time constraints.

Many residents of the Monticello mobile-home community, who will be displaced if the Wal-Mart development is approved, speak Spanish. Some of them attended the March 1 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, when the issue was last discussed. Interpreters were provided, and they will be again on April 11.

To make your voice heard: Up to 25 people can register online for public comment slots; registration, at www.ashevillenc.gov, will be first come, first serve, and start at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 7. A sign-up table will be set up at City Hall at 3 p.m. on the day of the April 11 meeting, and written comments can be sent to City Council via e-mail at walmartcomments@asheville.gov.

— Rebecca Bowe

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