Asheville City Council preview: beneath the water line

Putting a referendum on the fate of Asheville’s water system on the November ballot is front and center at tomorrow’s Asheville City Council meeting.

The referendum uses a clause in state law that allows a city to hold such a vote if considering the sale or lease of a water system. A staff report indcates the referendum will be binding, and “if the vote was ‘no,’ the system could not be sold or leased.” The proposal marks the latest development in a series of controversies over the future of the system: Earlier this year, a state legislative study committee declared that the city’s system should be transferred to the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County. However, the committee also stated it wouldn’t pass any legislation forcing the transfer if the city and MSD were engaged in “good faith” negotiations.

Council will also receive an update on the city’s water resources. As part of the negotiations process with MSDStaff are preparing a study of the financial impacts of a possible merger.

On the development front, staff will give Council an update on the possible development of city-owned property across from the Basilica of St. Lawrence. McKibbon Hotel Group is currently in discussions with the city about developing a hotel on the site, and presented plans to the public last week. However, neither Council or any city commission have endorsed the plans. How to develop the site became a controversial issue after the Diocese of Charlotte, which runs the Basilica, offered to buy it from the city late last year, and McKibbon resumed its plans.

Council will also vote on approving a $1 million economic development incentive grant for the Linamar auto parts manufacturing expansion. The company announced it will add 250 jobs and invest $75 million in increasing its Asheville operation. The incentives will be paid back from the tax revenue Linamar pays to the city, if it goes through with the expansion.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, on the second floor of City Hall.




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2 thoughts on “Asheville City Council preview: beneath the water line

  1. “if the vote was ‘no,’ the system could not be sold or leased.”

    That’s true. Iould not be sold or leased BY THE CITY!

    (Could it be seized? I thought this was a seizure.)

    The statute cited (N.C.G.S. 160A-321) addresses the “sale, lease or discontinuance” of a utility that is initiated by the city. The legislation under consideration is a “transfer” of a utility that is initiated by the General Assembly. There is no home rule in NC and the GA is not asking permission to do something that is already within their authority. So, good luck with that.

    Also, the City of Asheville does not own the water system ( City council is proposing a referendum for the citizens to vote on whether or not the city should sell or lease something that does not not belong to them. Brilliant.

    “…committee also stated it wouldn’t pass any legislation forcing the transfer if the city and MSD were engaged in ‘good faith’ negotiations.”

    I guess we’re passed all that now.

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