Buncombe commissioners deny motor sports expansion, delay budget vote

After hearing from dozens of residents who spoke out on the matter June 25, Buncombe County commissioners denied a request to expand where motor sports facilities can be built.

Requested by Stacy Ogle, the change would’ve allowed motor sport facilities to operate in all areas of the county that are zoned as a Commercial Service or Employment districts, subject to certain conditions. They’re already allowed in Open Use districts, which cover roughly 80 percent of the county.

The zoning ordinance defines “motor sports facility” as “any facility, track, or course upon which racing or motor sporting events are conducted including, but not limited to vehicles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, motor scooters, go-carts, etc.”

Ogle told the commissioners he wants to build one along U.S. 70 in Swannanoa near Berry’s Farm Supplies on land that’s currently zoned for commercial development. About half of the roughly 30 residents who spoke out on the matter during a public hearing said they supported Ogle’s request. Several argued that the racetrack would provide a needed place for children to learn how to safely ride motorcycles.

However, the other 15 or so attendees, many of whom lived in the Swannanoa area, told commissioners they worried about the noise and its harm to surrounding businesses, residences and property values.

In the end, Commissioners Mike Fryar and Joe Belcher cast the lone votes in favor of the change.

Fryar represents District 2, which includes Swannanoa. He noted that he’s always been against zoning, adding that he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing a motocross facility in the area. Fryar is a retired race car engine builder, and has often lamented the closing of the Asheville Motor Speedway in 1999.

However, Commissioner Ellen Frost, who also represents District 2, said that altering the county’s entire zoning ordinance as requested would’ve “opened the door” to development beyond Ogle’s property.

Planning Director Jon Ceighton reported that a previous motocross track at a different site in Swannanoa generated an unprecedented amount of complaints from neighbors. Planning staff recommended that commissioners deny the request. The volunteer Planning Board was split on the issue, with four members recommending approval and four members urging denial.

Budget in waiting

With the fate of a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly that would allow the the county to create an independent Cultural and Recreation Authority still in question, commissioners delayed a vote on their $337 million budget until June 28.

Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene recommended the pause in order to give state legislators more time to approve the measure. Her plan calls for using the new law to levy a special tax and dedicate the revenue to a long list of projects.

The next fiscal year begins July 1, and commissioners are required by state law to pass a budget before that date.

All of the commissioners except for Mike Fryar indicated June 25 that they’re likely to vote in favor of a budget that calls for raising the property tax rate by 15 percent to to cover a drop in property values, increased funding requests and unfunded federal mandates.

The proposal also calls for spending $20.2 million to build a new Isaac Dickson Elementary school building, although it delays a request to replace Asheville Middle School until 2018.

Nonprofit spending has also been a hotly contested subject in budget negotiations. The latest plan calls for giving local groups slightly more money overall than last year, but much less than they asked for.

Commissioners will reconvene in the commissioner’s chambers, located at 200 College Street, suite 326, on Friday, June 28, at 9 a.m.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.