Asheville City Council preview: Of food and festivals

Next Tuesday, Sept. 24, Asheville City Council will consider an overhaul of the city’s agricultural ordinances to allow for growing more food in more places. Council will also contemplate making official inquiries into partnering with private organizations to find an event to replace Bele Chere.

The overhaul of the city’s agricultural rules is part of an ongoing process, pushed especially over the last few years by the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council, to try to create more opportunities for Ashevilleans in various neighborhoods to grow or buy their own fresh food. In 2009, city government relaxed rules on keeping some animals, including chickens and bees, within city limits. Last year, Council increased the number of places allowed to hold fresh food markets.

The new rules would allow urban agriculture across the city, while setting restrictions on the size of storage or other related structures as well as urban farmers opening market stalls or similar businesses.

Council will also consider inquiring about possible partners for a late July event to replace the recently-departed Bele Chere. As the festival held its last hurrah this year, there was rampant speculation that a private entity might take it over, but according to city staff at the time, there had been no serious inquiries. Since then, as the staff report reveals:

Multiple outside groups have expressed interest in securing funding through the City to seed a new signature event or to expand an existing event. The outdoor public space and the annual dates formerly held by Bele Chere are also of specific interest to event organizers.

Staff from the Office of Economic Development has met with representatives from the Asheville Downtown Association, Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the River Arts District Project Advisory Committee to discuss recommendations and gather feedback. There is a desire for the City of Asheville to continue to provide for its citizens a signature event or festival that stimulates local commerce and creates opportunities for business development, promotes improvement of properties and advances neighborhood identities, and enhances the Asheville brand in support of tourism initiatives.

As the City of Asheville does not intend to continue in the arena of direct event production nor can it become a significant funding partner, a primary consideration in selecting and supporting a signature event would be in the event’s ability to minimize municipal subsidies toward fiscal independence while achieving economic development policy goals.

Asheville City Council meets Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 5 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall.



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