Quick facts

For 45 years, William Wolcott served the city of Asheville: At various points in his career, he was the city engineer, the city clerk and the assistant city manager. If you had a question — any question — about city business or trivia, Wolcott could answer it. Says former Mayor Ken Michalove, “Billy knew everything about the city.”

But that encyclopedic knowledge was lost when Wolcott recently passed away. On Oct. 27, Council members adopted a resolution honoring Wolcott’s service to the city, and gave a standing ovation in his memory. He was such an integral part of city government, his widow confessed to Council members during the ceremony, “It’s hard for me not to see him in this room.”

Sulphur Springs house OK

Last year, the home at 22 Sulphur Springs Road was slated for demolition: Its owner had plastered the yard with a variety of religious signs, neighbors complained about the stink of accumulated garbage, and city inspectors discovered serious violations of city housing codes.

But, within months of a heated public hearing that ended in the demolition order, the owner cleaned up the place: He got rid of the garbage and the signs, rewired the house, fixed the faulty water heater and brought the structure up to code, Building Safety Director Terry Summey told Council members on Oct. 27. “[The owner] has complied,” he reported, asking that the demolition order be remanded, and noting that the owner plans to sell the house.

On a motion by Chuck Cloninger, seconded by O.T. Tomes, Council members agreed. The motion to remand the demolition order passed unanimously.

Royal Pines zoning

For now, the 5.5-acre Royal Pines Pool and Park property sits in zoning limbo: All newly annexed property gets zoned, but Council members agreed to hold off on this one.

City staff had recommended classifying the property as RS-4 (residential, single-family, four units per acre). That’s one of the strictest zoning classifications that allows parks (the use for which the city bought the property), city staff reported.

But some neighboring residents have objected to the classification, expressing concern that it would open up the possibility of development and increased traffic.

John Ward, who owns residential property next to Royal Pines, urged Council members to reconsider staff’s proposal. “I would like to see this [zoned] as a park, as it was intended,” he told Council members on Oct. 27. He asked Council to postpone the zoning question, arguing that it didn’t make much sense to zone it residential, when — in a few months — Council members will create a new park or open-space zoning classification, and promptly apply that to Royal Pines.

“That’s a good point,” said Council member Cloninger. He formally asked staff to draft a new park classification, and asked when such an amendment to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance could be ready for Council’s review.

The new classification is already in the works, according to Asheville Planning and Development Director Scott Schuford. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission will be considering it in December, and Council will get to review the proposal in early January, he reported.

But City Attorney Bob Oast pointed out that leaving the property unzoned means “it’s potentially available for any [use].”

City Council members, however, seemed unconcerned. First of all, they own it, Vice Mayor Ed Hay mentioned. And second, the contract with the former owner stipulates that the property be used as a park.

Cloninger moved that Council postpone zoning the newly annexed property until Feb. 22. Seconded by Tomes, the motion passed unanimously.

Love the concept

“It’s appropriate for us to have an opinion,” Asheville Council member Barbara Field remarked during a discussion of countywide zoning on Oct. 27.

Council member Cloninger had just proposed that Council pass a resolution “endorsing the concept” of zoning all currently unzoned parts of Buncombe County. He made sure to clarify that Council wasn’t endorsing any specific land-use plan — just the concept [The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce recently made an identical endorsement].

“We don’t need to look at the [county’s proposed land-use plan], but we favor the concept,” added Vice Mayor Hay.

On Cloninger’s motion, seconded by Field, Council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the concept of countywide zoning.

Speedway memories

Are folks still discombobulated about Council’s handling of the Asheville Motor Speedway controversy? You bet.

Racing fan Fred English told Council members, at the end of their Oct. 27 session: “The racetrack closed tonight. And it probably cost two Council members their seats [outgoing incumbents Earl Cobb and Tommy Sellers]. And next week, it’s going to cost you, O.T. … This racetrack is going to have more fallout.” English also mentioned “the Civic Center fiasco” — the thawed ice that resulted in a canceled season opener for the Asheville Smoke — just for good measure.

Council members made no reply.

It’s a PUD

Asheville’s about to get its first PUD — not to be confused with UFOs or SCUD missiles. No, it’s a UDO thing: Planned Unit Development, which gives developers a “density bonus” for creating more open space than city ordinances require, or better design, or improved “pedestrian circulation,” City Planner Gerald Green explained to Council members on Oct. 27.

It’s a concept — and a provision in the city’s 1997 Unified Development Ordinance — that has never been tried in Asheville, until now. And it’s one that’s meant to encourage affordable housing in the city.

For example, the developers of Willow Arbor are planning to build four duplexes on a 0.85-acre site at 121 Merchant St., in Oakley, Green reported. By making Willow Arbor a PUD, the developers get to build 10 percent more units than the property’s zoning classification (RS-8; residential, single-family, eight units per acre) allows. Normally, developers would be limited to building seven single-family homes, Green noted.

Council members liked the idea. Said Mayor Sitnick, “This is the kind of traditional neighborhood development we’ve been looking for.” And Vice Mayor Hay remarked that the PUD overlay was added to the UDO expressly to encourage affordable-housing development, by rewarding developers who meet certain guidelines.

“I hope this serves as an incentive to other developers,” Sitnick added.

On a motion by Tomes, seconded by Field, Council voted unanimously to approve granting a PUD overlay to the property.

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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