Some Buncombe County residents may soon be Asheville citizens: At its July 27 meeting, Asheville City Council approved beginning the process of two annexations — Coopers Hawk and Royal Pines. Council member Bill Russell voted against both annexations; Mayor Terry Bellamy joined him in voting against an annexation in the Royal Pines area, citing concerns about the size of the annexed area and about providing service.
Mountain Xpress Senior News Reporter David Forbes reported on the meeting via the social-media outlet Twitter (see below for his text messages). Other discussions included a proposed economic-incentive grant for the Montford Commons project, enforcing handicapped parking downtown, an historic-landmark designation and appointing a health-care task force that would — while assessing the city’s overall plan and system — report on “the domestic-partnership issue.”
The economic-incentives grant was tabled until August 24, and the health-care task force — once appointed — will be asked to report to Council in about three months. For more details, follow reporter Forbes’ text messages from meeting start to end. (For a summary of Council actions, click here.)
— Managing Editor, News, Margaret Williams
Annexations, development, healthcare and more on agenda for July 27 City Council meeting
Mayor Bellamy hands “golden spoke” award to Jonathan Felson, who commutes 10-plus miles a day by bike
Korean War vet Bill Lack receives proclamation for Armistice Day, praises Asheville for recognizing vets: “This is a day to pay tribute.”
Council memberber Cecil Bothwell pulled for discussion the contract with Wackenhut Corp for parking security.
Bothwell cites concerns about city using private security and company’s track record.
Parks and Recreation Director Roderick Simmons: with Pack Square Park coming online, the needs increased security; there are currently “gaps in coverage.”
Matter delayed till Aug. 10 so staff can get more information.
Council votes unanimously to hold Aug. 31 meeting at Asbury Hall in Haw Creek, 6:30 p.m.
Report from Asheville Buncombe Historic Resources Commission: Spinning Wheel added as historic landmark, Richmond Hill Inn lost.
Commission surveying buildings more than 50 years old, plans to publish results next year.
Council discusses who to appoint to Blue Ribbon healthcare task force to assess city’s plan/system.
Council member Bill Russell asks for update from task force “about 3 months in.”
Mayor Bellamy: “I want to make sure we’re not hiding the domestic-partnership issue.”
Assistant City Manager Jeff Richardson: It’s part of the plan.
Council unanimously approves task force motion and will get further update in October. Domestic-partner benefits comes back next June.
Council approves $40,400 in grants for YWCA, Housing Authority, Children First, and other organizations for school/youth programs.
Grants represent a 20-percent decline from last year’s funding.
Council considers about $180,000 in economic-incentive grant for Montford Commons project.
Attorney (and former Asheville Mayor) Lou Bissette: Project will provide affordable housing, walkable development, but needs city’s help.
Staff concerned about precedent, as economic grants are usually used for commercial projects. Bissette points to city aid for Biltmore Town Center.
Council member Jan Davis had concerns about the number of affordable units, but project has changed since initial proposal.
Vice Mayor Brownie Newman praises project, but voices concern about level of city support requested.
Frontier Syndicate (developer) representative Vince Margesti: “Not an up or down decision tonight” but opportunity is “coming to an end.”
Asked by Bellamy, Margesti admits project doesn’t meet city’s affordable-housing guidelines: “Some [units] do, some don’t.”
Margesti: multifamily housing costs $300 square feet downtown area. Unless [you’re building] luxury apartmens, “numbers don’t work unless you have subsidy.”
Bellamy: “I don’t know if I can go [with] 10 years [of incentives] but this is a win-win” and some arrangement should be worked out.
Montford Commons apartments would range from $600 to 1,200/month.
Council member Esther Manheimer wonders if there’s an opportunity to retool this project, “or is this the end?”
Bissette: “We can go back one more time” to revise but hoping to work out arrangement soon.
Newman says city should consider full permit-fee waivers for affordable housing.
Council votes unanimously to continue Montford Commons grant proposal to Aug. 24 meeting.
Council next considers handicapped parking downtown.
City Attorney Bob Oast: Handicapped vehicles parking for hours or days in regular metered spots.
Bellamy wants to know how many handicapped spaces in downtown, wonders if they’re lacking.
Newman thinks that “the market itself” would limit people repeatedly feeding meters throughout the day.
Manheimer: Asheville’s “become quite the booming tourist town, we hope” since the parking ordinance was crafted.
Downtown Commission requests the city enforce fees on metered spaces, handicapped or not.
Joe Minicozzi, director of Downtown Association, shows pictures of handicapped cars stored for days in downtown.
Minicozzi: “This is a matter of economics,” loss of city revenue, if people had to feed meter, would go to decks.
Ruth Summers, Grove Arcade director: Long-term parking limited in downtown, lose 25 to 30 spaces a day to people storing cars.
Council next considers beginning annexation process on Coopers Hawk Drive and Royal Pines areas.
Anti-forced-annexation advocate Betty Jackson speaks against measure, describes out-of-city suburbs as “win-win situation.”
Bellamy highlights water, power, sales tax funds that don’t go to city. “A lot of misinformation out there.”
Bellamy: “not trying to be the bad guys, but there’s some realities here” about where funds go.
Bellamy: “People would be amazed that the hub of Western North Carolina doesn’t get the taxes they think we do.”
Manheimer: “This is an appropriate annexation.” City can bring benefits.
Russell votes against move, saying he doesn’t want to raise subdivision residents’ taxes. “Can we even afford it?”
Coopers Hawk annexation moves forward 6-1, Russel against. Royal Pines moves forward 5-2, Bellamy, Russell against.
Bellamy notes concern about the size of Royal Pines annexation (about 670 residents) and the cost of providing services.
Chris Chiaromonte, street preacher, denounces city not allowing homeless to sleep in parks, claiming heat wave is god’s judgment.
Also claimes will bring civil, federal lawsuit if policy isn’t changed.
Council goes into closed session to discuss acquisition of property. Public meeting over.