The Z-word is always giving someone a nervous twitch, but this time, City Council members were caught in their own knot.
The case before them: How to zone 139 acres of recently annexed, city-owned property? City staff considered the surrounding residential area and called for RS-2, the most restrictive residential category under the city’s Unified Development Ordinance. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously agreed. But Council members waved the white flag: In that complex document called the Water Agreement, the city has already committed to handing the land over to Henderson County (as part of the deal that got the city the site for the Mills River Water Treatment Plant). Henderson officials will have 10 years to develop a sewage-treatment plant on the site; otherwise, they’ll have to give the property back to Asheville.
And nowhere in the UDO are sewage-treatment plants allowed in residentially zoned areas, Council member Chuck Cloninger pointed out during Council’s June 22 review of the proposed RS-2 zoning. “We have a good-faith obligation to transfer this property to Henderson,” said Cloninger. “We’ve got to give it a zoning designation that will allow Henderson County to make use of it as a sewage-treatment plant.”
Other Council members agreed; but City Attorney Bob Oast noted that they’d have to re-advertise any new zoning designation they came up with (such as Industrial or as River District, either of which would permit sewage-treatment facilities).
Council member Barbara Field said she could understand the concern of residents whose properties abut the city-owned plot, located off Ferry Road in the Bent Creek area: An industrial designation isn’t exactly neighborhood-friendly, since it allows a wide range of commercial, industrial and otherwise nonresidential uses.
But Vice Mayor Ed Hay pointed out that, under the deed restrictions the city will place on the land when it’s transferred to Henderson County, only one use of the property will be allowed: sewage treatment. He asked staff to include that information when they re-advertise the zoning proposal.
The issue will probably be rescheduled for Council’s July 13 formal session, city staff indicated.
Love thy neighbor
Asheville City Council members took mercy on David Buckner: Under city regulations, he wouldn’t be allowed to subdivide his 2-acre property, because it doesn’t abut a public street. The rule exists to ensure that emergency vehicles — police and fire, primarily — have access to residential properties. The only access to Buckner’s Sand Hill Road lot is down a 15-foot-wide private driveway.
What swayed Council to waive the rule? Buckner’s neighbor — as part of an apparently long-standing dispute between the two — built an addition to his home that juts out over the private drive’s right of way (barely leaving room for cars to get by). The neighbor’s addition (built before the area was annexed and made subject to city regulations that would have prevented what he did) left Buckner without enough room to build a public street (to city standards) that would access his property — even if he could afford to.
So Council gave him a break: Buckner will be allowed to subdivide his lot (he plans to sell the back acre to another homeowner). O.T. Tomes made the motion to allow the subdivision; Barbara Field seconded it, and Council approved it unanimously.
When City Council directed staff to amend the Unified Development Ordinance by making accessory structures “subject to special requirements” (namely, size restrictions), one little detail was overlooked: In the vast and weighty tome that is the UDO, “accessory structures” are still listed as a permitted use in residential areas, thus creating a little loophole. With no discussion — other than to note that the initial change had been made to prevent the construction or placement of very large storage sheds in residential neighborhoods (after one very large green one had been installed by a North Asheville homeowner, much to his neighbors’ dismay) — Council members voted unanimously to strike the term from the list.