Bothwell will change vote, support sustainability bonuses

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

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10 thoughts on “Bothwell will change vote, support sustainability bonuses

  1. Piffy!

    What a flip-flopper. Real Men make a decision and stick to it, whether it is reasonable or not.

    Nuance is for commies.

  2. tatuaje

    Wow, a politician who takes time to educate himself on the issues instead of listening to the vocal minority, who is not afraid to change his mind as new and better information comes to the fore, and who is willingly to engage the voters in public forums.

    I can see why people hate this guy.

  3. tatuaje

    I’m sorry your reading comprehension is so lacking, JWTJr.

    Maybe try reading the article again, but this time say the words aloud as you go.

    I seem to remember this method helping several second grade classmates of mine.

  4. JonathanBarnard

    I’m glad he changed his mind.

    “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.”

    Absolutely.

  5. dpewen

    Way to go Cecil … you are man enough to rethink this issue and change your mind … you are doing the right thing!

  6. JWTJr

    There was no new information. He knew all the details in advance. He just folded under the pressure.

  7. Well, J Jr, there was definitely new information, and there was no pressure because changing my vote made no difference to the outcome. A second vote of 4-3 would have achieved the same thing. What I did by changing my vote was to be clear and honest about my position. (Actually, most of the pressure I received was from many of my supporters who urged me to repeat my initial vote.)

    The new information was that after extensive exploration of the options I was unable to find any way to achieve the desired sustainability goals while preserving meaningful public comment. (I will admit to some naiveté on the matter at the outset.) Absent the use-by-right there was no incentive. If Council essentially promised approval of any project that met the stipulated goals but still allowed public input in some fashion, then we would be lying to the public because the input would have been moot. (“Yes, testify, but we have already decided to ignore your testimony.”) That was unacceptable.

    From the beginning I was fully supportive of the goals of the legislation, it took more study and consideration to get me to override my reservations concerning use-by-right and exclusion of community input. Maybe those were details I should have known in advance, but I did not.

  8. JWTJr

    “Maybe those were details I should have known in advance, but I did not.”

    Are you saying that the Staff didn’t get you the full story before the first vote? Or that maybe they did and you didn’t read it all?

  9. No, JWTJr, Staff provided full information about THIS plan. What was new to me was information I was able to glean from reading about similar efforts around the country, and gaining a clearer understanding of how zoning and development rules work.

    At the time of the first vote I believed that there had to be some way to offer incentives for sustainable practices, but still allow for public comment. Or, that there were workable alternatives to achieve similar results. I spent many hours reading about such plans and communicating with both supporters and critics. What I came to understand is that there was no work-around that would give people meaningful input if the result was guaranteed, and no guaranteed benefit if each plan was subject to neighborhood review.

    Further, in reading the history of Asheville zoning, I came to understand that our current sprawl zoning was created a decade ago by a Council sold on single-family development. They exxed out most of our City for multi-family projects, and caused much of our present decrease in property taxes and density. Something had to be done to re-balance the equation, and this seemed like a tiny step in that direction.

    So, learning more as I go along.

    Actually, in the days since the second vote I have finally been offered an alternative idea by one respondent – the first alternative suggestion I’ve received after asking many dozens of people to make helpful suggestions beyond “NO!”

    Seems to me it would be most helpful if everyone concerned about issues like this would exert more energy toward effective alternatives and less beating the NIMBY drum. We are all downstream.

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