Asheville City Council preview: Of master plans and development

Tomorrow is the last meeting of the current Asheville City Council, but among many other agenda items, they’ll begin discussion on one of the Downtown Master Plan‘s most controversial recommendations: reducing Council’s authority over large downtown development.

Council will begin discussion on development-ordinance changes recommended in the master plan, including requiring developers to hold more community meetings. Council will also discuss one of the more controversial changes recommended by the plan: a scaling back of Council’s ability to review large development projects. Currently any development over 100,000 square feet has to pass muster with Council. Under the master plan’s revisions, only downtown projects over 175,000 square feet would go to Council.

Just after the plan was released in January, local activist Steve Rasmussen asserted the changes will hand control over development to developers and unelected boards. The plan’s proponents replied that the changes are necessary to make a more transparent and predictable approval process.

Council is not expected to cast a final vote on the recommendations at tomorrow’s meeting but to direct city staff to take the discussion into account as it drafts new ordinances. Mayor Terry Bellamy and incoming Council member Esther Manheimer have both said that implementing the master plan is their top priority.

In other matters, Council will tackle the question of providing municipal water to residents of Chapel Hill Church Road, near the contaminated site of the former CTS of Asheville plant on Mills Gap Road. While the area lies outside Asheville limits, residents have requested that the city extend water to their homes after a highly contaminated well was recently discovered in the area. City staff report that such a step would cost up to $277,000 and recommend that the residents pay the cost of connecting their individual homes.

Discussion will also continue on an annexation agreement with Woodfin, a recommendation to require city-contracted companies to pay their employees a living wage and a resolution calling on the state Department of Transportation to move forward on the proposed Interstate 26 connector.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be the last for Council members Kelly Miller, Robin Cape and Carl Mumpower. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall.

—David Forbes, staff writer


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