Asheville City Council

With little commotion, the Asheville City Council rezoned Montford Commons on Sept. 25. The roughly 10-acre, 220-unit residential and commercial development on the edge of the historic district will now fall under the “urban village” designation, which allows for higher-density residential areas.

Signing up: As its stores grow larger, Ingles argues it warrants more signage. The company’s store on Hendersonville Road in south Asheville. Photo By Jonathan Welch

According to the staff presentation, the master plan submitted by the developer, Frontier Syndicate LLC, envisions both single- and multi-family residential units, as well as two senior-living buildings and commercial space. Buildings in the complex will range from one to four stories tall. The developer must also submit more detailed information, including a traffic analysis and storm-water-control plan, to the Technical Review Committee. But any significant changes to the master plan will land the project back in the Council chamber, Urban Planner Jessica Bernstein explained.

The original plans called for a hotel on the site, said Frontier Syndicate representative George Gabler, but that idea was nixed in response to objections by neighboring residents during a charrette held back in May.

A company drawing of the store showing the additional signage. Council granted most — but not all — of Ingles’ request.

And though some neighbors still voiced concerns about the development’s impact, others who spoke at the Sept. 25 Council meeting praised the project—particularly its senior facilities. “I find I am seeking a community when I [retire],” one speaker said. “This program seems to offer many, many amenities.”

The rezoning was unanimously approved, with Council member Jan Davis participating via conference call.

Sign on

Two planned Ingles complexes had store representatives asking Council to reconsider the city’s sign ordinance. The grocery chain wanted separate signs for the gas stations that will be part of both the Hendersonville Road and Tunnel Road stores, as well as signage along the storefronts highlighting different parts of the stores, such as “pharmacy” (and, in one case, a Starbucks coffee station). But the total square footage of the requested signage exceeds the maximum allowed for single-owner properties, acting Planning Director Shannon Tuch reported.

Store representative John Caputo, however, argued that the sign rules have not kept pace with the stores’ expansion over the years. While the size of the average Ingles store has quadrupled, from 20,000 square feet to roughly 80,000 square feet, the rules have remained the same, he said. Caputo also pointed out that a comparably sized multi-owner complex could have even more signs. “If that were a strip mall, there could be 15 signs,” he said, adding that without the extra signage, the building frontage would be stark, resembling “a factory.”

The gas-station signs are necessary, Caputo maintained, because the only thing that brings in customers is the price per gallon, clearly displayed in large numbers. “There is no brand loyalty,” he asserted.

The Board of Adjustment had previously turned down the Ingles request, and Tuch’s staff report recommended denying it as well.

This Cookie doesn’t crumble

by Hal L. Millard

When the drug trade threatens a community, a person can either ignore it or fight it. Arden resident William R. “Cookie” Mills is a fighter.

Taking a stand: Cookie Williams stopped complaining about his community’s drug problem and took action. Photo By Jonathan Welch

For his efforts to battle drugs in his community and to help those who deal or use drugs find a more productive path in life, Mayor Terry Bellamy and the Asheville City Council proclaimed Sept. 25 William “Cookie” Mills Day.

“We need a Cookie Mills in every neighborhood in Asheville,” declared Council member Carl Mumpower, who read the proclamation and also chairs the Asheville-Buncombe Drug Commission.

Mills, 59, was completely unaware of the honor until he arrived at the Council chamber. All he knew was that he’d been invited to the meeting and told to dress casually.

“Wow! … That flat-out blew my mind,” he told Xpress two days later. “Being recognized by the mayor and everyone else was overwhelming.”

In many ways, however, what Mills has achieved in his community (located near Lake Julian between Long Shoals and Airport roads) is also overwhelming. To tackle the drug trade, Mills formed the Ducker Road Improvement Council. But that was only the beginning. The retired Progress Energy employee also created ICan Cove Properties, which is building affordable housing in the area, providing meaningful jobs, and teaching former users and dealers construction skills to help them turn their lives around. Furthermore, with the assistance of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Mills has forced the closure of several crack houses in his community and generally made the area inhospitable to dealers. Remarkably, he’s done all this largely without financial help and while also running his own landscaping business.

“One of the big reasons I was determined to do this is because my grandkids live in the area,” says Mills, whose grandchildren range in age from 4 to 13. “Our kids deserve to be able to go out and play and be safe, and it got to the point where it wasn’t safe to go outside. And I have a real problem with that. That’s where I grew up.

“The very worst thing you can do about this drug crisis is nothing,” he emphasizes. “We have to stay on top of it.”

Mills didn’t launch his crusade lightly. About three years ago, he explains, he awoke in the middle of the night feeling that God was telling him to take action, rather than simply complaining about the problem.

Sheriff Van Duncan, notes Mills, has been a tremendous help in supporting his community’s drug-busting efforts. “The key to it, I’m totally convinced, is making [users and dealers] uncomfortable that’s out there doing that.”

But shutting down dealers is only the first step, Mills maintains. After they serve their time, they need to be able to find meaningful work, which is hard for former prison inmates.

“I have some of the felons that used to be out there selling dope working for me,” Mills reports. “Nobody would hire them. They got to the point where they thought the only other choice they had was to get back out there [dealing drugs]. They’re learning how to build, and the thing about building is, there is so many different things they can learn to do that they can specialize in. Since I’ve been spending time with them, they are appreciative of it. They want to be on the job every day learning more and more and more.”


But despite initial reservations by Council member Bryan Freeborn about bending the rules, City Council seemed generally amenable to the plan.

“I initially was going to go against this, because it seemed like it called for more signs,” said Robin Cape, who seconded a motion by Carl Mumpower. “But I don’t think it is fair to punish someone who is successful in business and [can] fill this space.”

At Tuch’s suggestion, Council flirted briefly with the idea of combining the gas-station and main Ingles signs, but when Caputo offered simply to reduce the height of the gas-station signs from 23 feet to 15, the measure passed on a 6-0 vote (Davis was absent).

Policing the police

Despite hearing pleas from two women whose husbands were shot during confrontations with city police, City Council remained divided on the idea of establishing a Police Department oversight committee.

Rita Logan and Adrienne Peterson both spoke during the public-comment period, lambasting Asheville police officers for what they said were unjustified shootings that left their husbands dead. Taking turns at the microphone, both women recounted versions of the respective incidents that contradicted the police reports.

“What can you do to bring me justice?” demanded Peterson. Along with two other members of the newly formed Citizens Awareness Coalition, the women decried the policy of keeping internal police investigations confidential (see “Group to Push for Citizens’ Police Review Board,” Aug. 29 Xpress).

Mumpower, however, took issue with Logan’s and Peterson’s accounts, saying that procedures for investigating police behavior are already in place and that accusing police officers of such crimes causes harm.

“If what you said were true, it would be reprehensible and dishonorable at the highest level,” said Mumpower, adding, “It is hard to believe a police officer could get away with committing murder.” He also emphasized that City Council doesn’t have the power to change the way internal police investigations are handled, because state law governs the release of such information.

Cape, however, took a different tack. “Let’s take a look at what they are asking us to consider,” she urged. “It also serves the police, because it removes the perception that they are hiding something or are afraid to open up.” (For more on these concerns, see “Local Panel Tackles Freedom to Dissent and Police Oversight,” elsewhere in this issue.)

Mayor Terry Bellamy requested further information on how such complaints, investigations and records are handled now. She also asked city staff to research other cities that have established police-oversight boards.

The Citizens Awareness Coalition meets Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at Eatie’s Cereal Bar (48 Commerce St. in downtown Asheville).


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4 thoughts on “Asheville City Council

  1. lokel

    Ingles rep John Caputo says with signage the store front will look stark, like a factory.

    Imagine that.

    I’m sure no one will miss it whether it has one sign or 15…

  2. loco

    “Despite hearing pleas from two women whose husbands were shot during confrontations with city police, City Council remained divided on the idea of establishing a Police Department oversight committee.”

    Wow, what a ‘progressive’ city council.

  3. JWilson

    It really amazes me that awards are given to people for their drug fighting efforts. I lived down in what is known as Millsville and it was’nt plesant. Upon having conversations with other residents in Millsville It has been stated that the “drug dealers are related to Mr. Mills”. My wife was terrified to go up or down the road many times due to being harrassed by members of his family. I really dont mean to point fingers but I am disturbed that so much has been put into what Mr. Mills is supposed to be doing. I did’nt see any drug fighting down in that area, because if there was, all residents would have been invited to their meetings. No one ever knocked on my door. We complained to our landlord about the problem, he then in turn spoke with Mr. Mills and was told by Mr. Mills that there was no drug problem down in that area. Shortly after having that conversation with landlord we witnessed several drug transactions in the area. I am extremely displeased with the drug activity in all of the surrounding areas (Asheville,Skyland,Arden,Fletcher). My stand on drugs and drug dealers is one of no tolerance, due to the fact my sister was killed by a drug dealer, leaving three small children without a mother and no dad due to the fact he is hooked on drugs. I think all people need to take a stance against drugs and fight back within their communities, even if they are related. I am also sure that I will be harrassed after this and probably will become a victim of some sort of retaliation, but I felt compelled to voice my thoughts. I hope I have’nt offended anyone and my intentions were not to do that. I hope some consideration is given to where I am coming from.

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