Asheville City Council preview: Of camps, contracts and apartment complexes

At its meeting tonight, Asheville City Council will consider new ordinances — aimed at Occupy Asheville — banning camping on city property; renewing a contract with First Transit to manage the city’s transit system and approval of the Aventine apartment complex just outside the city.

The proposed ordinances, which the protesters oppose, would ban camping, storage and enclosed structures on city property. City Attorney Bob Oast‘s memo preceding the new rules talks about the role Occupy Asheville played in spurring their inception, and claim the rules are intended to protect free speech while preventing permanent encampments. Protesters, currently encamped on a narrow strip of land in front of City Hall, claim the rules are aimed at quashing dissent and the homeless. The topic of whether or not to move from camping in that location has remained a topic of debate recently within Occupy Asheville, but the demonstrators haven’t reached a consensus.

Council will also consider renewing a contract with First Transit, who manage the city’s transit system. A conflict between federal and state law means that the city has to hire an outside company to deal with the unionized employees. First Transit has been criticized following a series of accidents, and a labor dispute before the renewal of its most recent contract with the city’s bus drivers.

The Aventine, a proposed 312-unit apartment complex just outside the city limits in South Asheville, also must pass a second reading before Council. The Aventine narrowly passed a first reading 4-3 on Nov. 22, with opponents of the project saying it needed more affordable units. However, the make-up of Council has since changed, as Brownie Newman and Bill Russell have been replaced by Chris Pelly and Marc Hunt.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13 in Council’s chambers on the second floor of City Hall.

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