Asheville City Council: the River District, African-American heritage and development

On Jan. 14, Asheville City Council approved an overhaul of development oversight along with a new infrastructure plan for the River Arts District, Council also created a City-County African-American Heritage Commission and rezoned a small development on steep slopes in North Asheville.

Here’s a look at some of the main items Council dealt with:

• Major changes on the way for the River Arts District, as Council approved $2.2 million for the first phase of the $25 million RADTIP plan, which involves new greenways, bike lanes, road improvements and sidewalks throughout the area. The initial funding is for “detailed surveying, soil testing, streetscape plans, bridge and culvert design, utility relocation plans, and additional public involvement,” according to a staff report.

Council also approved changes that increase the area where developers have to get advice from the Riverfront Redevelopment Commission, and merged the Riverfront Design Committee into that group. The change was made to streamline the development process in the area. Both measures passed unanimously.

• Council unanimously approved the creation of a City-County African-American Heritage Commission. The group will coordinate the efforts of nonprofits, neighborhood activists and individuals seeking to preserve and commemorate the history of the area’s African-American community.

Marvin Chambers, a civil rights activist, noted that growing up, he only heard of his community’s heritage by word of mouth. As interstate construction and “urban renewal” devastated local African-American communities over decades, he and other advocates of the commission added that such an institution is necessary to preserve an essential part of Asheville’s story.

“Young people, black and white, need to hear these stories,” said Deirdre Wiggins told Council, which praised the effort and gave their unanimous approval.

• Council also approved, 5-2, rezoning of a large lot on Robinhood Road, near the Asheville Country Club, to allow it to be divided in two and make way for the Sherwood Heights subdivision. Council members Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith objected because the site has a steep slope, even though such development is technically allowed under the city’s rules.


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