Asheville City Council preview: Ice ice baby

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, members of Asheville City Council will stop, collaborate and listen to decide the destiny of a dilapidated building in the River Arts District (pictured), the fate of food trucks in Biltmore village, the word on amending the outdoor speakers ban at restaurants downtown and in the River Arts District and much more. (photo by Bill Rhodes)

After the City purchased the property in early November, Asheville City Council members will decide what happens next at 91 Riverside Drive, known more commonly as the Ice House (For more information about the purchase of the Ice House read Kyle Sherard’s article, State of the arts: City Council closes in on problematic R.A.D. property). The building, described in City documents as “significantly dilapidated, unsafe, and the site of a substantial level of criminal activity,” used to produce ice until it closed in the 1980s.

This is not the first time that groups have wrestled with what to do with the vacant building that houses more graffiti art and tags than ice these days. On Dec. 5, 2012, the River District Design Review Committee met but declined to vote on an advisory position to Council because no consensus could be made. On Dec. 13, the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission met and made a unanimous affirmative vote to advise Council to authorize the demolition of the building. At a recent Dec. 22 demonstration, locals called for Council members to turn the building into affordable housing for the homeless.

On the food-truck front, Council members will listen to a public hearing about an amendment to the current food truck ordinance that was adopted in 2011. Under the amendment, it would allow a maximum of two food trucks in Biltmore Village and require that they be located in an off-street lot (similar to “The Lot” in downtown Asheville). Currently, the ordinance allows a maximum of 10 trucks to operate downtown, and in early November the tenth and final food truck received final inspection and approval for the downtown site, so there are no more permits available unless a current operator lets their permit expire.

But the proposed amendments to the ordinance would not just change where food trucks can operate, but how they are defined. Under the new definition, mobile food vendors would include trucks that just serve drinks and don’t contain a kitchen, like coffee trucks.

In other decisions related to eats and drinks, Council will hear about the removal of the ban on outdoors speakers in the central business district and river district under the Unified Development Ordinance.

According to the city staff report on the matter:

If the outdoor speaker ban is removed noise complaints would be enforced through the noise ordinance. That ordinance was recently reviewed and strengthened by City Council, and the Asheville Police Department will continue to enforce noise complaints using the ‘reasonable person’ standard. Staff feels that in many cases, noise complaints are best handled by the noise ordinance and not by the UDO.

In November 2012, Council passed tougher noise violation rules. As a result, yelling, shouting, parties or “a loud and raucous sound” were added to the list of potential violations. The tougher rules also made it easier for a police officer to issue a citation for noise in a residential area or after 11 p.m. (For more information on the noise ordinance, read David Forbes’ article, “Keep it down: Council passes tougher noise rules”)

In other business, Council will:
• Host a public hearing to consider an amendment to the approved conditional use permit to allow changes to common area amenities, secondary fire department access and a variety of architectural designs for single family residences for Thoms Estate subdivision.
• Hear updates on the Greenway Commission
• Hear a presentation from Asheville-Buncombe Historic Resources
• Hear an update on Water Resources

(A full agenda for the Jan. 8 meeting can be found here).

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m., Jan. 8 on the second floor of City Hall.



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