Asheville City Council update: New West Asheville Ingles supermarket moves forward

At their March 22 meeting, Asheville City Council members:

Voted 5-2 against Ingles Markets’ request for brighter lights at its proposed grocery for Smokey Park Highway (Mayor Terry Bellamy and Council member Jan Davis opposed the motion calling for the company to adhere to current standards)

But voted 5-2 to allow signs that vary from current city standards (Council members Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith against)

Adopted a policy change requiring that companies contracting with city pay their employees a living wage (Council member Bill Russell opposed)

And passed a motion objecting to a pending state bill that would reverse annexing the Biltmore Lake area (Council member Esther Manheimer was recused).

Here are the compiled Twitter dispatches from the meeting:

2:50 p.m. City Council budget briefing begins shortly, follow @DavidForbes and #avlgov for coverage

3:04 p.m. Budget briefing beginning. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman, Council member Esther Manheimer absent

3:06 p.m. Admin Direct Lauren Bradley “manageable year” but “tough decisions will have to be made”

3:07 p.m. Bradley: Revenue down slightly from last year, though some positive signs on sales, prop tax revenue

3:09 p.m. Bradley: Staff won’t recommend raises for city staff

3:09 p.m. Due to state cuts, city will have to transfer additional $350,000 to keep transit running

3:12 p.m. Bradley: Health plan changes “will cost employees more” but more focus on preventive care

3:14 p.m. City will offer same-sex domestic partner benefits in the coming fiscal year

3:16 p.m. East Avl Community Ctr will turn into “turnkey” facility only available by reservation, staff will be transferred to Oakley Comm Ctr

3:17 p.m. Bradley: Feedback from community, staff on once-a-month brush collection was negative, budget plans to restore twice-a-month

3:19 p.m. City considering making recycling free, with “pay as you throw” garbage fee to encourage conservation

3:20 p.m. People who choose smaller trash bin will pay less

3:21 p.m. Single-stream recycling and variable garbage fee would cost city $1 million, but result in net fee increase

3:22 p.m. Bradley: However, increased recycling means city will save on tipping fees, pilot program resulted in 7% recycling increase

3:24 p.m. Bradley: Staff projects “no huge change on fees and charges”

3:24 p.m. Bradley: Would be helpful to hear from Council on this, because “we don’t have to do it” but part of strategic goals

3:26 p.m. However, small increases in Civic Ctr parking fees, 20% increase in ETJ fire inspection fees

3:27 p.m. Bradley: However, Council’s Finance Committee was unanimously against idea. But could encourage density, workforce housing

3:27 p.m. Staff also broached idea of 40% discount on monthly parking spaces for downtown residents

3:29 p.m. City’s domestic partner registry opens May 1. Fee $75 for city residents, $100 for others

3:31 p.m. Council mem Jan Davis wondering if 3 addl APD officers needed for newly opened Hillcrest bridge

3:32 p.m. APD Chief Bill Hogan: No major problems w bridge yet, but weather is warming, can take awhile for area to become popular

3:33 p.m. Davis: 3 officers “is a fairly costly maneuver,” big APD presence there already

3:34 p.m. Mayor Terry Bellamy: Will be awhile before true assessment of situation can be made, should move forward

3:36 p.m. Bellamy: Supportive of no property tax increase, not supportive of no raises for city employees

3:37 p.m. Bellamy: Concerned about employees at lower end of city pay scale not getting raise for 3rd straight year

3:38 p.m. Bellamy: Not comfortable with finding funds for increasing leaf service, but not raises for employees who collect them

3:40 p.m. Bothwell: Under our health plan, single employees subsidize married employees, “not clear at all that that’s fair”

3:41 p.m. Council mem Bill Russell: Agree with Bothwell, long-term goal to look at levelling playing field

3:42 p.m. Russell asking about turnover rates. Bradley: Don’t even have an educated guess, will get that info

3:44 p.m. Russell: “looking back, if there was a crystal ball, that wouldn’t have happened”

3:44 p.m. Russell: City raised salaries in early 2000s to get on par with industry

3:47 p.m. Bellamy: Think a modest pay increase for city staff is well-deserved

3:47 p.m. We’ll also have a live video stream of the meeting starting at 5 p.m.

3:48 p.m. Bellamy: Getting good feedback about city staff. If they’re giving good service, need to make good pay a priority

3:52 p.m. Bothwell: Could save $ on every other week trash collection. Staff: Survey recommended against, problems in summer

3:53 p.m. Bothwell: I take trash out monthly, and it’s not full. “Not much you can’t recycle or compost”

3:55 p.m. Bellamy, Davis support looking at increasing staff compensation

3:59 p.m. Bradley: We’ve focused on avoiding layoffs, service decrease. Increasing compensation might mean personnel losses

4:00 p.m. Bradley: “There’s no rabbit to pull out of the hat” in this budget cycle

4:01 p.m. Bellamy: If you start looking for ways to do minor increase, creative solutions may surprise you

4:06 p.m. Bellamy doesn’t support changing E. Avl community ctr to “turnkey” facility, “would send a shockwave we really don’t want”

4:07 p.m. Parks and Rec Director: Trying to maximize economies of scale, moving programming to Oakley Ctr

4:08 p.m. Parks and Rec Director Roderick Simmons: Trying to maximize economies of scale, moving programming to Oakley Ctr

4:09 p.m. Most of Council supportive of Simmons’ recommendation

4:12 p.m. Council debating putting ending loose-leaf collection in budget. Russell against, Bothwell, Smith, Davis in favor

4:14 p.m. Davis: Wrong time to shift to single-stream recycling, “that’s an expensive 7%” increase

4:16 p.m. Smith: Improving recycling “long overdue,” wants better deal for small garbage bins

4:18 p.m. Bothwell: “I really can’t believe people would resist two-week garbage pickup that much” Russell: “I would”

4:20 p.m. Bellamy on proposed trash, recycling changes: “Seem like a waste of money”

4:21 p.m. Bellamy: Trash pickup a basic service, people don’t expect to pay extra if they pay their property taxes

4:25 p.m. Bothwell wonders about keeping smaller bins at no extra charge, to help ppl associate more trash w more fee

4:27 p.m. Bellamy: Opportunity to collaborate with county here to increase savings

4:29 p.m. Staff: 7% increase in recycling would mean 25,000 less tons of trash per year

4:41 p.m. Council adjourns budget briefing, didn’t get to water rate discussion, will reschedule

5:01 p.m. Council meeting about to begin

5:06 p.m. Bellamy recognizing Mission Hospitals CEO Ronald Paulus

5:08 p.m. Paulus: “Awesome responsibility” to run biggest health system west of Charlotte. Aim to be good citizen, good neighbor

5:09 p.m. Bellamy reading proclamation declaring March 22 Civitan International Day

5:13 p.m. Next proclamation recognizing March 25 as Greek Independence Day

5:17 p.m. Over 20 people beside podium, some with Greek flags, praising contributions of Greek community, partnership with sister city Karpenisi

5:18 p.m. Events celebrating Greek Independence Day this Sat. at 6 p.m. at 3 Page Ave

5:20 p.m. Next proclamation recognizing April 10-16 as Victim Rights Week

5:23 p.m. Bellamy asking to add resolution in memory of Katherine Davis to consent agenda

5:24 p.m. Consent agenda passes unanimously

5:25 p.m. Katherine Davis was Council member Jan Davis’ mother

5:26 p.m. Report on Visioning Project for East End/Valley St. neighborhood

5:27 p.m. Neighborhood Association rep Carmen Ross-Kennedy: East End was original African-American neighborhood, once slave housing

5:28 p.m. Ross-Kennedy: then became center of commerce, education, “East End is rising” in face of changing circumstances

5:29 p.m. Plan would involve input from local task forces, neighborhood in effort to improve, better connect area

5:30 p.m. Bellamy, Bothwell indicate that renaming S. Charlotte Street Valley Street will come to Council’s agenda

5:32 p.m. Council now moving to continuation of public hearing on Ingles development seeking exemption from city rules

5:34 p.m. Staff: Ingles has changed plans to meet city requirements on parking, traffic, still seeking exemption for lights

5:35 p.m. Proposed lighting is more, and brighter, than city rules allow

5:36 p.m. Ingles representative Preston Kendall: Tested our lights, below what city is saying, but need to be higher than rules due to safety concerns

5:37 p.m. Kendall: Our canopies don’t have light trespass, glare that many others do

5:38 p.m. Kendall: We tested 40 convenience stores/gas stations in city, “can’t find one that meets the ordinance”

5:42 p.m. Kendall: We’d like you to allow us to build in way that allows our customers to feel safe

5:44 p.m. Ellison: “Rule, as written by the city, just isn’t practical”

5:44 p.m. Attorney (and former Council member) Gene Ellison: Ingles took Council’s advice, modified plan, but can’t risk safety

5:45 p.m. Asheville resident Brian Dennison: I’m an astronomer, deal with light pollution. This light will scatter upwards.

5:47 p.m. Dennison: If this is approved, other companies will want same exemption as Ingles.

5:50 p.m. East Asheville resident Bernard Greer: Want this store there, but Ingles needs to obey the rules. This isn’t for safety, to attract customers

5:51 p.m. Greer: “We have laws for a reason.” Some gas stations have slipped through, but can’t let this continue

5:54 p.m. Asheville resident Bill Raskin: “It’s like daylight.” Eyes don’t have time to adjust from bright light, “a real safety issue”

5:55 p.m. Asheville res Steve Rasmussen: Difficult to judge from photos how bright something is, Ingles has a self-interest here

5:56 p.m. Rasmussen: If Ingles doesn’t like ordinance, should seek to change it, not seek special favor

5:57 p.m. Rasmussen: Granting Ingles request will lead to a “light pollution arms race”

5:59 p.m. Rasmussen: Ingles also shouldn’t get exemption from sign ordinance, when small businesses don’t

6:01 p.m. Ben Pace: We need a grocery out there, it’s a good canopy. Price, not light, makes difference in competition

6:03 p.m. Haw Creek resident Fred English: “You shouldn’t do anything for Ingles except get them out of town, if you can”

6:04 p.m. East Asheville resident Lisa Porter: Supports Ingles, wants them to consider there’s a large community that opposes their lighting proposal

6:05 p.m. Asheville resident Laura Preya: Haven’t heard evidence to suggest standards set by staff compromise safety

6:07 p.m. Asheville resident Mike Lewis: First obligation of individual or corporate citizens to comply with law, this sets a dangerous precedent

6:08 p.m. Lewis: “This runs contradictory to everything Council’s been doing” for last few years

6:09 p.m. Bothwell: “No hardship shown” for Ingles, need that to grant exemption

6:09 p.m. Public hearing over

6:10 p.m. Bothwell: Also find it hard to believe signs won’t be visible. Will be voting against both requests

6:11 p.m. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman asking staff to clarify how it arrived at rules.

6:13 p.m. Planner Shannon Tuch: City’s standard comes from Illuminating Engineering Society

6:14 p.m. Tuch: This lighting standard is common across the country

6:14 p.m. Tuch: that group includes architects, government, energy workers, manufacturers, wide range of expertise

6:19 p.m. Seated behind press row, Ellison’s repeatedly saying “You can’t do that” about Newman’s motion

6:19 p.m. Newman makes proposal to approve staff’s recommendations for project, instead of Ingles’ lighting proposal.

6:22 p.m. Davis: Regrettable, want store there. Hope we can find a way to get to a better place, but Ingles proposed lighting is “too much”

6:23 p.m. Newman: “We’d be throwing our standards out the window” to approve Ingles request

6:24 p.m. Newman: No evidence presented that Ingles project is extraordinary enough to merit an exception

6:28 p.m. Tuch showing pictures of gas stations around city, saying, contrary to Ingles, that, on average, they all meet standard

6:38 p.m. Bellamy: We do have to think about safety. Smokey Park Highway is a dark corridor

6:41 p.m. Smith: Open to revisiting ordinance, but feel current standard is perfectly safe. Hope Ingles will come into compliance

6:43 p.m. Motion to require Ingles project to meet staff recommendations passes 5-2, Bellamy, Davis against

6:44 p.m. On to signage approval for Ingles, Newman says some flexibility in this area useful

6:46 p.m. Bothwell: Places like Vermont, Hilton Head have strict sign requirements, make place beautiful but still get info

6:46 p.m. Bothwell: Intent of curbing signage to make city more attractive

6:49 p.m. Bellamy: Need to look at corridors, how they grow, so people know what to expect

6:51 p.m. Smith: Need to have variances, but don’t feel comfortable having one set of rules for Ingles, another for everyone else

6:52 p.m. Signage package passes 5-2, Smith, Bothwell against

6:56 p.m. Council passes closing of Cooper Blvd related to Ingles project unanimously

6:58 p.m. Gene Ellison: Ingles will accept Council’s agreement, including standard city lighting rules

7:00 p.m. Ellison, after he sat back down, to an Ingles official: “Bob [Ingle] would kick my butt if he was alive”

7:01 p.m. On to new parking rules for the River Arts District

7:04 p.m. Staff: Boosted parking requirements byproduct of area’s commercial success

7:05 p.m. Leicester resident Alan Ditmore: City shouldn’t have parking requirements, this is an area where property rights, environment coincide

7:08 p.m. Newman: This is a good step, but parking requirements in general “inefficient use of land”

7:09 p.m. CORRECTION: Change reduces parking requirements for River District

7:11 p.m. Council approves parking requirement reductions unanimously

7:12 p.m. Council goes into closed session to discuss fraud case against former HR personnel, Mayor is excused

7:13 p.m. Council in closed session for 20 minutes

7:38 p.m. Council’s back, considering revised purchasing, contracting policy, including living-wage requirements

7:41 p.m. City employees already make over living wage, but proposal would extend to city contracts

7:43 p.m. Council approves revised purchasing guidelines 6-0, living wage rules get separate vote

7:45 p.m. Just Economics Director Vicki Meath: Have advocated for this for several years, worked with staff

7:46 p.m. Meath: Not a mandate for business, but says when a business works for city, must pay living wage on that contract

7:47 p.m. Meath: “This will level the playing field for contracts” and help stop undercutting

7:50 p.m. Meath: Under this approach, will phase-in living wage requirements

7:51 p.m. Meath: Living wage means “meet most basic needs without public, private assistance” this sends important statement about city values

7:53 p.m. Craig White, of Center for Progressive Change: Encourage Council to adopt plan, “even though times are tough” will treat people well

7:54 p.m. Just Econ volunteer Bella Jackson: “This is the bare minimum” to treat people well

7:55 p.m. Just Econ employee Mark Hebbard: “When we don’t level playing field,” encourage “race to bottom”

7:58 p.m. Asheville resident James Sheeler: Want city government to show positive leadership, “get on board” with living wage

7:59 p.m. Sheeler: “Asheville could be a real bright spot if we really got behind living wage”

8:01 p.m. Asheville Tribune writer Leslee Kulba: If government can pay more, then more people will want to be employed by government. Don’t like people working for government

8:05 p.m. Bradley: Under these rules, contractors will build living wage into contract bid for contracts between $30-90,000

8:06 p.m. Russell: If we pass this, the bids we’ll get will be higher

8:08 p.m. Russell: Fan of living wage, think Just Economis does good work, but this goes in the face of supply and demand

8:11 p.m. Bothwell: If we contract below living wage, “we’re playing a shell game”

8:17 p.m. Council approves living wage city contract requirements 4-2 Davis, Russell against

8:17 p.m. Newman adds friendly amendments to look at policy again in year, analyze tacking living wage to inflation

8:21 p.m. City Manager Gary Jackson says Bellamy, Hendersonville mayor will meet soon to discuss Mills River watershed protection

8:22 p.m. Legislative update from City Attorney Bob Oast: bills moved forward to stop Biltmore Lake annexation, put state moratorium

8:24 p.m. Council approves 6-0 resolution opposing “unnecessary cuts” to higher education by state

8:25 p.m. Smith broaches adding Asheville to a request by Carrboro to add sexual orientation to its anti-housing discrimination rules

8:26 p.m. Council decides to get more information on Carrboro bill

8:28 p.m. Oast: “These are bills that have been introduced. I don’t know what level of support they have.”

8:29 p.m. Newman makes motion to oppose reversing Biltmore Lake annexation

8:30 p.m. Newman: Wrong to undo move where local government followed the rules. If we didn’t, courts can decide

8:31 p.m. Opposition to reversing Biltmore Lake annexation passes 4-1 Russell against, Manheimer recused

8:38 p.m. City considering replacing HVAC system at Pack Place

8:42 p.m. Bradley: We’re not hamstringing budget, “have a solid capital plan for next year”

8:42 p.m. Smith: Concerned that we’re using a large part of funds I’d hoped to go towards sidewalks, etc.

8:46 p.m. Bothwell: Not just a matter of comfort, Art Museum needs temperature control

8:48 p.m. Council passes $284,000 from capital funds to replace Pack Place HVAC system 6-0

8:57 p.m. Public comment. Asheville resident Linda Padulo wants to talk about the deficit

8:58 p.m. Padulo: Angry people are enduring hardship while people who ruined economy are comfortable

8:59 p.m. Padulo: Should pass tax on stock transactions. Wouldn’t need to talk about cuts then. Wants Council to back that

9:03 p.m. Ditmore is advocating for municipally provided contraception. Says Council members tell him it’s impossible.

9:04 p.m. He submits a “political impossibility” condom from NYC, to the City Clerk as evidence

9:05 p.m. Meeting adjourned


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4 thoughts on “Asheville City Council update: New West Asheville Ingles supermarket moves forward

  1. “Adopted a policy change requiring that companies contracting with city pay their employees a living wage (Council member Bill Russell opposed)”

    “The City will be responsible for paying the living wage associated with a contract, not the vendor.” #asheville #avlgov

    Bill Russell asks if the city will be subsidizing worker’s pay if the contractor does not pay a so-called living wage. Bothwell says “no”: the difference between normal wages and a living wage for the duration of a contract will be added in the billing process when submitted to the city for payment against the contract.

    So, how is that NOT a taxpayer subsidy of labor wages for private contractors?

  2. Tim, you didn’t accurately report what I said. I specifically noted that the City will not be “added in the billing process.” When we include paying a living wage as a part of a contract with the city, then the bids will include that wage. We will pay the contractor per the contract.

    There is no added “subsidy,” there is a contract requirement.

    As I noted during the session, there is no reason for taxpayer money to bid down wages in Asheville. For my tax money, I want Asheville to pay workers enough to live on.

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