Asheville City Council nixes Caledonia Apartments proposal in Kenilworth

At the Tuesday, Sept. 28, Asheville City Council meeting, members voted unanimously against approving the 100-unit Caledonia Apartments in Kenilworth.

They also took the following actions:

• Considered revised policy to encourage infill development, workforce housing, development near transit lines, voting 5-2 not to opt out of Development Permit Extension Act (Smith and Bothwell against)

• Proclaimed Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 3-9), Fire Prevention Month (Oct.), Breast Cancer Awareness Month (Oct.) and Kids Voting Day (Oct. 30)

• Voted unanimously to undo Richmond Hill Inn’s historical-landmark status (the old inn burned down in March 2009)

• Voted to close a portion of Davidson Drive in front of City Hall

Senior News Reporter David Forbes delivered the following news bits via Twitter during the meeting:

4:51 p.m. [Twitter picture] from City Council member Gordon Smith: fellow members Esther Manheimer and Cecil Bothwell hanging out in Room 209 at City Hall before the meeting.

4:56 p.m. Us plebes, meanwhile, gather in Council chambers

5:03 p.m. Council proclamation recognizing Mental Illness Awareness Week, Oct 3-9, Mayor Bellamy: “Mental illness is more common than cancer”

5:07 p.m. Bellamy touting better training of APD in dealing with mentally ill

5:08 p.m. Next proclamation (there are 4 total): Fire Prevention Month, Vice Mayor Newman encouraging fire plans

5:10 p.m. Fire Chief Scott Burnette: Fires take more lives annually than any other type of disaster

5:11 p.m. Next up: Breast Cancer Awareness Month proclamation

5:12 p.m. Council member Esther Manheimer encouraging screening

5:16 p.m. Davis: Kids learning about voting important to future of democracy

5:16 p.m. Last proclamation declaring Oct. 30 Kids Voting Day. Council member Jan Davis: “Important group of proclamations this evening”

5:18 p.m. Kids Voting will use digital ballots this year, “a green approach”

5:21 p.m. Council unanimously approves consent agenda

5:22 p.m. Council hearing report on closer connections with Buncombe, Henderson transit systems

5:23 p.m. Report recommends phased approach for closer connection, possibly ending in consolidating the three services

5:26 p.m. First phase 1-2 yrs: establish Regional Transit Council, connect marketing, common fare structure.

5:28 p.m. After that proceed to harmonizing contracts, sharing tech, better connections across county lines

5:30 p.m. Eventual possible goal: Regional, independent transit authority, but would need more funding

5:31 p.m. Other $ for transit could come through increased sales tax, new county vehicle registration fee

5:34 p.m. Davis: Sees reluctance from other systems, “I have some apprehensions when Asheville carries the ball on this and no one wants to play”

5:37 p.m. Council accepts report, moves on to public hearing on closing portion of Davidson Drive in front of City Hall

5:39 p.m. The road runs between jail, Courthouse, City Hall

5:41 p.m. No comments in public hearing, motion passes unanimously

5:43 p.m. Next, Council takes up undoing Richmond Hill Inn’s status a historical landmark, as it was destroyed by fire in March 2009

5:44 p.m. Motion passes unanimously, with no public comment

5:46 p.m. Room full of people with “Concerned about Kenilworth” stickers for next item on agenda, consideration of Caledonia Apartments

5:49 p.m. Project would mean 100 units on 6.5 acres in 2 buildings, energy star rated, parking under buildings

5:51 p.m. City staff: site doesn’t fall under steep-slope ordinance, but is considerable slope

5:54 p.m. Staff: only about 2.2 acres will be disturbed, tho developer asking for exemption to usual slope, open space rules

5:56 p.m. Staff said exemptions recommended because more open space require disturbing more land

5:57 p.m. Staff: We’ve listened to community concerns about traffic, open space, erosion, etc., but feels density appropriate for area

5:58 p.m. One woman in audience tells City Attorney Bob Oast to speak up

6:03 p.m. Architect Clay Mooney: Project exceeds city’s goals, site is steep, but a need for mixed-income housing in area

6:06 p.m. Mooney: project’s minimized land disturbance, impermeable surface, better than other developments in area

6:10 p.m. Mooney: Pipe system under buildings will be engineered to withstand 100-yr storm

6:13 p.m. Mooney: “Our project meets, exceeds all aspects of the UDO and in the process saved a considerable amount of land.”

6:14 p.m. Mooney: “This shows how something can be built on slopes,” but while being considerate of area

6:16 p.m. Debbie Gordon, president of Kenilworth Residents Association: “Kenilworth virtually an island” due to nearby commercial areas, tight streets

6:18 p.m. Gordon: “We’re not opposed to thoughtful development,” supported some projects, but neighborhood “at capacity”

6:19 p.m. Gordon: “Planning in this manner is like having another baby while already having 3 toddlers in diapers”

6:21 p.m. Gordon: Development process “only appears to desire public comment,” in our experience “doesn’t serve community”

6:23 p.m. Gordon: “I want this freight-train approval process slowed down … citizens can’t just be a third party”

6:24 p.m. Lots of applause after Gordon finishes, Mayor Bellamy cautions crowd not to repeat, breach decorum

6:27 p.m. Kenilworth resident Peter Lower: “You can see this monstrosity from Biltmore Village,” believes erosion is real danger

6:29 p.m. Resident Peter Seveny: “We’re here to protect one of our hillsides… Not compatible with natural features”

6:31 p.m. Caledonia resident Jennifer Donnell: “Roads are so steep and winding… that there’s no traffic study highly suspicious”

6:33 p.m. Donnell: “Do we want people to see ugly, monolithic apartment buildings as they drive in from the river?”

6:34 p.m. Resident Terry Meek: “Don’t have a problem with density or use, but traffic safety is a serious concern”

6:37 p.m. Meek concerned about building size, conflict with neighborhood character, roads in Kenilworth already “substandard”

6:41 p.m. Meek wants Council to send project back to staff, “deal with these problems realistically, let’s be a part of the process”

6:46 p.m. Res Miller Greggs: “Known an apartment building would be built on site, never dreamed it would be something so excessive, out of character”

6:52 p.m. Greggs: “This massive building will be the one thing you don’t want to see, but your eye keeps getting drawn to”

6:54 p.m. Greggs: Staff has cited presence of Kenilworth Inn in area, but “Inn is enough, detracts from charm of area” to have this project

6:56 p.m. Greggs: “Density is something that describes Atlanta or Charlotte… not Asheville”

6:57 p.m. Greggs: Development in Asheville should be “smart” “nestled-in,” “peaceful.” This apartment building isn’t

7:00 p.m. Resident Cliff Eudel: “When I see the plans, I feel physically sick,” violates “the aesthetics that speak to our souls”

7:06 p.m. [Xpress reporter Forbes] For more context on Asheville’s development fights, the Council preview has links to several opinions, including my analysis

7:08 p.m. Several residents have shown pictures of single-family homes in area, asserting the apartments will be “out of harmony”

7:11 p.m. Resident Bill McClibbit: concerned about narrow streets. “When neighborhood starts changing, that’s when I get concerned as a homeowner”

7:16 p.m. Apartment architect Clay Mooney: “Kenilworth is a gorgeous neighborhood” and project will meet city rules

7:17 p.m. Developer Frank Howlington: “We are in an incredible crisis of housing… If not here, then where?”

7:19 p.m. Newman makes motion to disapprove Caledonia apartments “due to incompatibility” with area, city rules

7:20 p.m. Council member Bill Russell: Neighborhoods change, but roads are narrow, has “great concerns” about effect

7:21 p.m. Council member Cecil Bothwell saying he opposes for similar reasons, Mooney requesting developer have opportunity to withdraw

7:22 p.m. Mooney: “We don’t want project to go down in flames” would like to change it to “make it more palatable”

7:24 p.m. City Atty Oast requests 10-min recess to look up legal ramifications of developer withdrawing project

7:28 p.m. While Council’s in recess, [Forbes tweetsI, since the topic came up: is Asheville suited for dense development?

7:42 p.m. Council’s back, Newman: “Project will need to be substantially different to get approval on Council”

7:43 p.m. Newman: “We’re aware of the shortage in affordable and mid-range housing” but in this case developer needs to bring something different

7:45 p.m. Manheimer: “Very much of a supporter of urban in-fill” but not all of it “a wonderful thing.” Slopes a concern.

7:47 p.m. Manheimer also has concerns about impact on “overall beauty” of area

7:48 p.m. Manheimer also defending staff, noting that if project was less dense, wouldn’t have had to come before Council at all

7:49 p.m. Motion against Caledonia Apartments passes unanimously

7:51 p.m. Council now considering revised policy to encourage infill development, workforce housing, development near transit lines

7:55 p.m. Projects that meet majority of conditions (affordability, in-fill, sustainability) would get half fees waived and possible grants

7:59 p.m. Bothwell says seems amorphous how developers can prove incentives are necessary for project.

8:02 p.m. Newman: “We want to make process simple, predictable” wants standards ratcheted up, but less subjective

8:02 p.m. City Manager Gary Jackson notes there are criteria that can be used, Bothwell says he’s skeptical about incentives

8:03 p.m. Newman: “Developers should know: if I do this, I will get this incentive”

8:10 p.m. Oast says incentives for this kind of housing are legal, Bellamy wants to check w/ HUD to avoid conflicts

8:11 p.m. Bellamy: “This is a progressive policy that will be emulated across the state,” but wants help from HUD, other partners

8:16 p.m. Russell says he won’t support incentives, but think limits to acreage, certain areas of city need to be rethought

8:27 p.m. Bellamy warns on titling incentive resolution “transformational” points to Caledonia project as “too transformational”

8:36 p.m. Council decides to tinker w/ specifics of incentives resolution, run it by green, dev communities, review it later

8:43 p.m. Council decides not to opt out of Development Permit Extension Act 5-2, Smith and Bothwell against

8:44 p.m. Council gives Davis standing ovation for his work on Asheville Speedway Memorial

8:46 p.m. Davis: Memorial ceremony “a good end to what had been a very terrible thing”

8:47 p.m. Meeting adjourned

8:47 p.m. Bothwell now praising Davis’ work on Civic Center, notes Elton John, Moogfest coming

Pictures of Kenwilworth residents at tonight’s city council meeting:

Photos by Michael Muller


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