As Council member Ed Hay remarked, the summer of 2000 has been filled with short meetings and little contention for Asheville City Council. Subtract the public-comment portion of Council’s Aug. 8 regular meeting, and it lasted only 27 minutes.
The one issue on the agenda that could have been prickly never materialized: For the second time, a proposed amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance — which would establish a tougher design standard for duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes in single-family zoning districts — was postponed by Planning and Development Department staff. The proposed amendment has garnered significant comment from affordable-housing and neighborhood advocates, and from folks who oppose any changes to the UDO, according to Planning Director Scott Shuford.
Shuford told Council that his staff has held several intense meetings with citizens, in hope of finding what he called “compromise and consensus” on the issue. Ultimately, he said, the Planning Department will revisit the amendment. For now, however, he recommended that Council table the issue until Planning staff are ready, and Council members voted unanimously to do so.
As has happened several times at recent Council meetings, Asheville residents took some time during the public-comment portion of the meeting to voice displeasure with the many amendments to the UDO over the last year.
“We can’t keep tinkering with the UDO, or we are taking our chances,” commented C.D. Williams — who also joked that he got so skinny from attending those long UDO meetings in 1997. “We can’t keep this up too much longer, or we won’t have a UDO. We went through the process thoroughly, we stayed up long nights, and we made concessions. Some of us folks have got some feelings for it.”
Conditional-use-permit hearing set for Wal-Mart Supercenter
Council spent a couple of minutes setting a tentative date for a public hearing on the proposed Riverbend Marketplace (which would include a Wal-Mart Supercenter) to be built at the old Sayles-Biltmore Bleacheries property. The remainder of the meeting revolved around a couple of issues that probably could have been addressed on the consent agenda.
To determine whether the Riverbend developer — Atlanta-based JDN Development — can obtain a variance for altering the riverbank to construct the massive shopping center next to the Swannanoa River, the city must wait for the results of a specially scheduled Sept. 5 Board of Adjustment meeting. But Planning Director Shuford told Council members, “The developer is anxious to get a public hearing set.” After a brief discussion, Council members decided to set a public hearing on whether to grant the developer a conditional-use permit for building the shopping complex for Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m., in the gymnasium at the Stevens Lee Community Center.
Council member Brian Peterson was quick to note that if JDN does not obtain the necessary variance from the Board of Adjustment, the public hearing will, of course, be canceled.
In other business, Council members authorized City Manager Jim Westbrook to extend the city’s contract with the Enka Fire Department for another five years. Asheville Fire Chief Robert Griffin said Enka will continue to provide fire support to the west side of town until a new fire station is built.
Westbrook reported that the city is seeking funding sources for the station, noting that it could be three to five years before the new facility is functional. Eventually, the Haywood Road Fire Station will be decommissioned. Westbrook also pointed out that the station’s coverage area currently overlaps with that of the Louisiana Avenue Fire Station, and that it is wasting city funds — to the tune of $1 million per year — to keep it operating.
“I live between those two fire stations, and it’s always very comforting,” said Peterson, who wanted extra assurance that the level of fire service will remain just as high after the Haywood Road station closes. Griffin assured him that it will.
Council members also authorized Westbrook to apply for $125,411 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice, to be used toward reducing crime and improving public safety. The grant requires a 10-percent match. Asheville Police Chief Will Annarino said the funds would be used to buy additional computers and otherwise improve law-enforcement technology.
“I am for any opportunity for grants that don’t come out of the taxpayers’ pockets,” declared Mayor Leni Sitnick.