In a statement released this afternoon, Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell, who opposed a contentious sustainability bonus ordinance on Oct. 12, announced that he has changed his mind and will support a second reading of the ordinance at tonight’s meeting.
“I have decided that in all good conscience I will have to change my vote tonight and vote to approve the UDO amendment on the second reading,” the announcement reads, after Bothwell says that Asheville must become more dense to accommodate a growing population while pursuing low emissions and energy efficiency.
On Oct. 12, Bothwell joined Mayor Terry Bellamy and Council member Jan Davis in voting against the measure, which passed 4-3. Tonight, the ordinance comes before Council again for a second reading.
The measure would allow denser development for projects that meet sustainability and affordability requirements and that are located near a major transit corridor. The ordinance would also increase the size threshold such projects would have to exceed before going before Council. That provision has been criticized by groups such as the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods and others who see it as an infringement on the democratic process.
Initially, Bothwell notes, he agreed with them.
“That was the element which prompted my ‘no’ vote on Oct. 12,” Bothwell writes. “However opponents have also failed to mention that any variance from the rule would trigger public hearings, that the rules include design and appearance in accordance with the surrounding neighborhood, and green/affordability requirements that are quite stringent. Contrary to many e-mails I’ve received, there is no zoning district in the City where 70 unit developments would receive automatic approval under this rule.”
He adds that, for many affordable housing developments, avoiding what can be a lengthy and contentious Council approval process is a major incentive, and that he believes the rules are a necessary corrective from the previous path pursued by the city.
“Furthermore, opponents have seemed to overlook the pro-development changes in Asheville zoning enacted about a decade ago which have pushed single-family and high end development at the expense of density and affordability,” he asserts. “The issues that this proposal seeks to address are just the leading edge of a pitched battle over climate change that we will lose at our peril.”
He also notes, “I have challenged anti-proposition people to come up with an alternative way to encourage green, dense building, and no one has offered a single proposal.”
— David Forbes, senior news reporter