“Breathe a bit of fresh life into [this] part of the community,” West Asheville resident Richard Nantelle urged Asheville City Council members during their May 25 formal session. He asked them to support and adopt a proposed Haywood Road Corridor Plan — a planning guide that addresses land use, vehicle/pedestrian traffic, land- and street-scaping, building facades and economic/community development for the West Asheville artery.
“They used to refer to West Asheville as ‘worst’ Asheville,” recalled Council member Earl Cobb — a resident of the area since 1954. But a lot of good things are happening in West Asheville, these days, he continued, citing the plan’s recommendations for improved parking, traffic flow, building appearance and — most importantly — civic pride along Haywood Road.
Council member Barbara Field noted that similar plans had helped revive Asheville’s downtown; the Haywood Road plan, she said, could spur revitalization of the heart of West Asheville.
Council member Tommy Sellers, a West Asheville native, urged adoption of the plan, mentioning a curiosity that had come up in his research: The first hot dog was made and served in West Asheville in 1830.
“Are we going to make a monument to that?” joked Nantelle.
“We better leave that one alone,” observed Sellers.
On a motion by Cobb, seconded by Sellers, Council voted 6-0 to adopt the plan (Council member O.T. Tomes was absent).
Council adopts pedestrian plan
“It’s not just about sidewalks,” said Elizabeth Teague on May 25, referring to the city’s proposed Pedestrian Thoroughfare Plan. “It’s about public equity,” she declared.
The plan, said Teague, a planner with the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, gives people options for getting to work and walking in their neighborhoods — while improving safety for pedestrians and other nonvehicular traffic. Urging Council to adopt the plan, she remarked, “We need to start thinking about sidewalks like we do water and sewer — as a necessity.”
Council members were unanimous in wanting to adopt the plan, but Vice Mayor Ed Hay — noting the $38.5 million price tag for fully implementing it — asked, “By adopting [it], are we committing ourselves to the action steps?”
City Attorney Bob Oast replied, “You’re bound to consider them.” Due to budget constraints and other concerns, not every recommendation in the plan need be carried out.
Assistant Public Works Director Suzanne Malloy pointed out that a key strategy in implementing the plan will be aggressively seeking federal, state and private grants.
Pedestrian Task Force member Jerry Hardesty urged adoption, remarking, “I pledge my time and energy to make [these recommendations] happen.”
“Can you pledge $38.5 million?” joked Mayor Leni Sitnick.
Hardesty laughed and responded, “I said, ‘time and energy.'”
Council member Chuck Cloninger emphasized one disputed item in the plan: making property owners and developers upgrade existing sidewalks. A homeowners’ association had asked that this recommendation be deleted, according to Malloy. Said Cloninger, “We don’t have too many resources available for [sidewalks]. … It seems fair to have developers pay. … We ought to do this … if we’re going to be committed [to the plan].”
Council member Barbara Field urged sending this particular issue back to the drawing board.
But Cloninger moved that Council adopt the plan, including language requiring — under certain circumstances — that developers replace dilapidated sidewalks. Seconded by Sellers, his motion passed 4-2 (Cobb and Field opposed it).
City to buy Royal Pines pool
In a creative financing deal, Asheville City Council members unanimously agreed on May 25 to purchase Jake Rusher’s 5.5-acre Royal Pines pool property in south Asheville.
The deal hinges on the Trust for Public Land buying the property from a charitable trust in which Rusher will place the property assets, so that he can draw income for the remainder of his life (Rusher is 79). TPL will, in turn, sell the property to the city, which will make installment payments (estimated at $200,000 per year) for four years and 11 months, city staff reported.
Said Parks and Recreation Department Director Irby Brinson, “We have a tremendous opportunity to enhance our … facilities.”
Depending on how much interest accrues in the charitable trust for the remainder of Rusher’s life, the city could end up paying almost nothing for the property (TPL, which will be the beneficiary of the trust, has agreed to share any money remaining with the city).
“This is an example of the creative things we’re going to have to do in the future to acquire [park land],” said Council member Chuck Cloninger. On his motion, seconded by Sellers, Council voted 6-0 to enter into an installment-payment agreement with TPL, once they have negotiated the purchase.