Asheville City Council adopts transformational development incentives

In a 6-1 vote on Tuesday, March 8, Asheville City Council approved a new “transformation development” incentives policy which provides economic incentives designed to encourage high density, environmentally sustainable, affordable housing developments. Council member Bill Russell voted against the measure.

The policy implements a points system: 10 points represents an economic incentive equivalent to one year of property taxes as well as a 10 percent reduction in permit and fee charges, for example. LEED Bronze Certification would net a development 10 points, with an additional 10 points awarded for each level of LEED certification with a maximum of up to 40 points for LEED Platinum.

The percentage of affordable housing units in a development could also net a reduction, with 10 points being awarded for every 10 percent of a development’s units that have rents at 80 percent of medium income or below, with a possible maximum of 40 points for 40 percent affordable housing.

After a property owner expressed concerns about limited access to her property, Council also decided to delay action until its April 12 meeting on a rights-of-way closure related to the Mondford Commons development. The city cannot remove one access without providing a new one, but several members of Council worried that a new route might be inferior to the current approach; without more information, going forward with the closures would be unwise, Council members determined.

Also taken up by Council was an ordinance that would require pawnbrokers and other “second-hand” dealers to submit their daily transactions to law enforcement electronically. Currently, only pawnbrokers must submit such information, and paper records are kept; law enforcement picks up the records each workday. Under the new ordinance, businesses such as antique stores and used record shops would be expected to submit information on any purchases from customers. Garage sales, flea markets, and nonprofit thrift stores that accept donations would not affected.

Several local business owners expressed concerns over the proposal, and Council ultimately decided to postpone action on the measure until its April 26 meeting and allow time for changes to be made to the ordinance as well as to get more feedback from local business owners.

A motion made by Council member Bill Russell to reduce the number of early voting sites for this years upcoming city elections to only one was defeated 4-3; Mayor Terry Bellamy and Council Member Jan Davis joining Russell in supporting the measure. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman then made a motion to add four additional polling places, citing the increase in the number of early voters in 2009 compared with 2007. Newman ultimately withdrew his motion to allow time for clarification over the cost of the new polling places. Council will take the issue you up at its meeting on April 12.

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12 thoughts on “Asheville City Council adopts transformational development incentives

  1. J

    I can’t believe it! We’re just going around handing out tax breaks to developers and corporations during a time when government revenues are plummeting!

    If we continue to cut government revenue, we’re going to have to cut services like fire and police!

    …oh, but wait, these are Gordon and Cecil approved corporations.

  2. Gordon Smith

    Big thanks to Brownie Newman for leading this effort. Coupled with our Sustainability Bonus, this policy will contribute to greater affordability and green building on our major transportation corridors.

    The incentives will promote affordable and green building. The matrix means that their period of tax abatement will be aligned with the degree of affordability and energy efficiency of their projects.

    When a builder has exhausted his tax abatement, the completed project will be contributing to our city like all the rest. There will be a larger tax base in addition to better building on our corridors. This incentive policy is available for any builders who want to help us achieve our broad community values of affordability and sustainability. Doesn’t matter if they’re a small outfit or a big one – we just want to promote good economic development that meets our land use goals as well. Since we can’t afford to increase our Housing Trust Fund loans at this time, creating incentives like this is a great way to keep us moving in the right direction.

    Exciting times.

  3. J

    Tax abatement = tax break.

    Asheville will be giving up tax revenue for years, plain and simple; no matter how hard Gordon tap dances around that fact.

  4. sharpleycladd

    We could take the roughly $400K being generated annually to finance LEED platinum buildout in city buildings, run a low-interest loan program for developers to upfit existing building stock, and perhaps have money left over to put in some wind, solar and other cogeneration facilities. These initiatives could combine to drastically reduce the city’s carbon footprint as a whole, and – through energy savings, generation, and interest on loans – reduce the city’s operating deficit.

    This would be more forward-looking, than say, building a parking garage with that money, thereby increasing GHG generation downtown. And, of course, building such a garage for a multinational corporation is something our Council would never do.

    Oh.

  5. sharpleycladd

    The $400K/yr being the parking fund surplus, dontcha know – apologies.

  6. J

    Let it be forever shown that Gordon Smith thinks years of tax breaks (excuse me, abatements) awarded to for profit entities is a good idea – especially while city revenues are plummeting.

    Sharpley Cladd raises a good point – it would be more “green” to redo existing buildings than to build new ones. But then well connected developers wouldn’t profit, and council couldn’t brag about how they voted for affordable housing hundreds of times.

  7. dpewen

    Good job Gordon … I never considered you a tap dancer either!

  8. Gordon Smith

    Good thinking, Sharpely. We made efforts to begin just such a low interest loan program. It ran into roadblocks at both the state and federal level that have, for the moment, derailed it. However, our sustainability dept. is working to try to find a work-around.

    (That J guy really doesn’t like me!)

  9. Bjorn

    Lets adopt an alternative to Chlorine in the Municipal Water supply – Santa Clara, & Las Vegas are now treating their water supply with ozone.

  10. J

    Gordon,

    Allow me to clarify. I pick on you out of love, and to further the public policy debate. It’s harder to pick on Jan, Brownie, and others, because they don’t have blogs that document all of their political stances.

    The reason it’s easy (and humorous) to call you out, is because you leave so much to be called out. Like tax breaks for profitable corporations. You get mad at the GA when they dole out tax breaks (for some reason, you waited until it was a GOP led GA to call them out, but I digress); and calling a tax break an abatement doesn’t change what it is. See – I’m calling you out on your double standard, I guess that just makes you uncomfortable.

    Just because I’m repeatedly critical of your policy stances doesn’t mean I don’t like you. You’re political, you’re in the spotlight, someone’s going to be critical. Based on your standards of what criticism creating dislike, I guess that means you don’t like Charles Taylor, Patrick McHenry, Nathan Ramsey, Carl Mumpower, Bill Russell, John Carroll, Mike Fryar, Jeff Miller, Stuart Coleman, Jerry Sternberg, and half of Asheville. Weird.

    Please, let’s not make this personal.

  11. JWTJr

    The Developers will always find a way to stay rich off the tax payers by stroking the new waves of politicians who campaigned against them to get in office.

    How much of the tax break goes directly into the developers pocket? Its money right on top of the income statement. Pure profit.

    Real estate is profitable all on its own if the developer is worth their salt.

    “Do what I want, and you’ll get your money”

    Business as usual in local politics.

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