Hold onto your channel lineups, Asheville: Charter Communications (owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen) will be taking over InterMedia’s cable-television system in the city this fall. The change will put all of Buncombe County under Charter’s purview, according to local Charter representatives.
“Are they going to leave the channels in the same place?” asked Asheville City Council member Barbara Field on Aug. 3, after members learned the details of the transfer — which they must approve.
A Charter representative replied that the final lineup had not yet been decided, but that no immediate changes are planned.
The transfer of ownership, explained Assistant City Attorney Patsy Meldrum, involves more behind-the-scenes details than a channel lineup: Charter must agree to the terms of the current franchise, which was hammered out last year, and the company must pay the city about $25,000 in franchise fees — accrued since 1994, when the city annexed Buncombe County areas served by Charter.
“I don’t guess any of the items [in the franchise agreement] are up for renegotiation,” said Council member Earl Cobb, who had pushed for InterMedia to directly provide money for the new triad of public-access channels (instead, the public, educational and government channels are funded through a surcharge paid by cable customers).
Meldrum replied that PEG funding and other franchise terms were not part of the transfer negotiations. However, she did note that Charter has agreed to InterMedia’s informal concession that cable-television service be provided to nursing homes at a discounted, bulk rate.
City Manager Jim Westbrook suggested that staff could discuss such issues with Charter, but he recommended keeping them separate from the transfer agreement.
Council members indicated that they will approve the transfer during their Aug. 10 formal session.
Taking a look at Reynolds Mountain
At their Aug. 3 work session, Asheville City Council members directed staff to review a proposal that extraterritorial jurisdiction be extended into the Reynolds Mountain area.
Under state law, the city has the authority to extend its ETJ — used primarily for zoning and development issues — one mile beyond the city limits. A 174-lot subdivision planned for Reynolds Mountain, which is just north of Asheville, fits that criterion, as does adjacent property, City Planner Mike Matteson told Council members. With ETJ jurisdiction, “The city would be better able to anticipate and plan [for] development in the area,” he said.
Council member Field argued that it makes sense for Asheville to extend its jurisdiction, since one of the proposed subdivision’s two access points will pull traffic through the north Asheville neighborhood of Lake View Park.
After reviewing the ETJ extension, city staff will propose a zoning classification for the area — probably a residential one, Field noted.
Matteson also mentioned that a tentative agreement has been reached with the town of Woodfin, which would extend its ETJ into the northern half of the planned subdivision.
Council members made few comments on the issue, directing staff to put the ETJ recommendation through the months-long process of staff review, consideration by the Planning and Zoning Commission, and then a public hearing.
No duplication here
City Council members, apparently, need a break from their own … largesse, when it comes to meetings and more meetings: At their Aug. 3 work session, they elected to forgo a proposed Aug. 31 community meeting.
As City Manager Jim Westbrook pointed out, the meeting would have been for central Asheville residents; but Council has also committed to a mayor’s roundtable on downtown issues. To avoid duplicated efforts by both Council and staff, Westbrook suggested that Council not meet on Aug. 31, and instead concentrate on the roundtable, tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 7.
Council members agreed.