Chamber CEO: Alternative 3 is “best for the community”

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Richard Lutovsky told Xpress today that despite concerns raised about the Alternative 3 proposal for the I-26 connector, he still feels it is “best for the community in general” and superior to the Asheville Design Center’s Alternative 4b.

Alternative 3 would demolish 25 homes in the predominantly African-American Burton Street neighborhood, as well as homes in an Emma trailer park. A total of 61 residences and 17 businesses would be demolished if the plan is selected (construction is currently slated to begin in 2013). Alternative 4b, devised by the ADC to take as little land as possible, would displace 23 homes and 15 businesses. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners considers which alternative to endorse tomorrow, Jan. 6.

“We had to weigh the impacts on the community in general,” Lutovsky said. “Obviously, to an individual that’s going to lose their home the impact is very great. But this is just a recommendation. The state’s asked us for our input, and we’ve given it.”

He added that the chamber is encouraging the state’s engineers to look for possible ways to reduce the size of the construction around Burton Street and reduce the impact.

The advantages over 4b, Lutovsky said, included the fact that “cars go under Patton instead of on flyover bridges like in [4b].” The ADC has noted that the flyover bridges were a feature added by North Carolina Department of Transportation engineers, and that that could change.

“There are features in 4 and 4b designed to separate local and interstate traffic, but they end up [adding] almost another half mile, by our estimates, to someone looking to get from Chunn’s Cove to Sam’s Club,” Lutovsky said. “That’s not something citizens should have to go through.”

He asserts that some of the advantages touted by 4b’s proponents, such as additional land on the tax rolls through a connection to downtown, are a mirage.

“A lot of that land is tied up in state-owned right-of-ways,” Lutovsky said. “For it to be developable, they’d have to sell it. Generally they’re reluctant to do that even if there are no current plans to develop it because they might need it in the future.”

Cost is another factor, though Lutovsky noted the chamber made its assessment “regardless of the cost.” The DOT’s estimates put the cost of 4b at nearly $160 million more than 3, something the ADC has challenged, saying that better design and less land acquisition costs would reduce the final price tag for 4b. At the commissioners’ last meeting, in December, ADC planners argued for a delay so their proposal could be better assessed and new traffic data from state engineers could emerge.

Lutovsky, however, thinks the cost estimates are accurate and doesn’t see a need for delay.

“What statistics and numbers are we waiting on here?” he said with a laugh. “I haven’t seen any engineer tell me they’re out there. This isn’t rocket science: Once you figure the cost of steel, concrete and construction you can estimate the cost.”

However, he said, “We’ve invited the design center to meet with our executive committee, we’d cleared out our schedules, and they couldn’t make it. We’d welcome them to come talk to us about this issue.”

ADC Chair Joe Minicozzi has told Xpress that invitations to meet with the chamber have come with insufficient notice and that he felt the ADS hasn’t had the opportunity to fully make their case before the chamber endorsed Alternative 3.

In its resolution supporting Alternative 3, the chamber also noted that it minimized impact on the Montford Historical District, the Westgate shopping center and developable land on the east side of the French Broad River.

— David Forbes, staff writer


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15 thoughts on “Chamber CEO: Alternative 3 is “best for the community”

  1. shadmarsh

    If by community he means rich white a-holes like himself, then yes, it really is best for the community.

  2. Austin

    No one asked the chamber to assess the proposals, and the fact that they did, and in doing so have pit the county against the city, makes me really resentful towards their actions. That’s poor grammar, but I’m hurried. Burton Street is a Weed and Seed neighborhood, which makes you wonder what kind of soulless people would place a highway into an area that has already been hit really hard by socio-economic hardships. Especially when the demolition is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY! Read their justifications yourself and you will see that they are blowing smoke.

    For me, this is really big news, I’m infuriated and I hope you all will join me in showing the Chamber what a bunch of soulless money grabbing pricks they are.

  3. Joe Minicozzi

    For the record. We got 2 business hours notice of the meeting. We were notified of the meeting at 3pm on Thursday 12/18 for a 9am meeting on Friday 12/19. I had a meeting that I would have canceled but when I asked Peter Alberice if this subcommittee could overturn the resolution of the Board, he said “no”. That didn’t convince me to cancel my business meeting that I had already scheduled, considering that Peter had promised that we could be before the whole chamber Board in the end of Jan. So we’re waiting on that and hopefully, we’re still invited.

  4. curious

    perhaps by community he referred to poor white a-holes like yourself.

    “…money grabbing pricks…” shouldn’t pass by the moderator.

    are you here, moderator?

  5. Piffy!

    I’m with Shadmarsh on this one.

    “Community” indeed. The “community” of those wealthy and powerful enough to resist the obviously superior plan (4b).

    As for “Curious”, big deal. If your posts got put up, then it was moderated.

  6. curious

    because i’ve seen you. if that’s your only rebuttal then the rest of it is good, eh?

  7. Wallace Paterson

    The Chamber of Commeerce’s position is sickening. Ashevelle is not about Commerce but livability and quality of life.

  8. Jon Elliston


    Curious makes a good point above. Please lay off the name-calling if you are going to post here. Thank you.

  9. Cecil Bothwell

    Every time I drive through the I-240 cut in Beaucatcher/Town Mountain I wish there had been some visionary group in town to lobby the NCDOT for tunnels.

    Lacking any vision or concern for effect on this community, state highwaymen blasted some of the most valuable land in the county into solid fill for the highway and the mall. Poor planning also filled the whole valley below Chunn’s Cove with pavement in a mish-mash of disappearing lanes and twisted interchanges. They permanently wrecked the mountainscape visible from downtown as well. Maybe it was cheaper and maybe it was quicker. So what? Imagine the view we could have had and the view that wealthy owners would have paid to own and paid taxes on as well.

    So, comes the Chamber with “Cheaper!” and “Faster!” while not even bothering to examine a design offered by a visionary group of dedicated volunteer architects who love this city. Not caring a whit that the ADC design would not only preserve but create more development land. Not noting for a moment that the ADC design draws Asheville and West Asheville together at the river, embracing the river in the way that so many forward-thinking communities across the country have done with similar terrain.

    The ADC design will help create a more mass-transit friendly, more bike-friendly city with shorter commutes for new residents of projected mixed-use developments. Exactly what we need in a world that absolutely MUST reduce carbon emissions radically if human society is to survive in some semblance of its current state. Last summer’s gas spikes were a pale harbinger of what’s in store. By many accounts we need to tax gas up past $10 per gallon to force emissions cuts. What then for auto tourism?

    The Chamber doesn’t care about Asheville, it is about money and privilege and a short-sighted imagination that sees tourism tomorrow as just like yesterday, only more so.

    As planners at the NCDOT have told me, they are not even PERMITTED to consider the ramifications of peak oil or climate change in their highway plans. Just measure the traffic and punch it into the growth equation. It is the halt leading the blind and the blind in league with the greedy.

  10. shadmarsh


    I calls ’em as I sees ’em…and I see you didn’t have a problem with the dubiously named curious referring to me in similar terms.


    It’s all subjective. Where have you seen me by the way?

  11. Jon Elliston

    Good point, shadmarsh, and I actually do have a problem with what Curious wrote to you. Let’s all knock off the name-calling. Thanks.

  12. Chamber Pot

    I’m curious whether the Chamber surveyed their 2000 member businesses on this issue. They purport to represent these businesses, but several Chamber members I’ve spoken to don’t agree with the Chamber’s position.

  13. Austin

    This is Parkside (commissioners in collusion with development) 101 for us who care. Chamber should have known better. Engines revving, let’s go!

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