The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners delayed decisions on three important items — a controversial rezoning, borrowing more than $37 million and appointing new members to the county planning board — at its Oct. 7 meeting. The board also cancelled its Oct. 21 meeting, meaning that the commissioners will take up all the items at their meeting on Nov. 4 — Election Day.
That’s an unusual day to hold a meeting, as Chair Nathan Ramsey, who’s vying with Vice Chair David Gantt to keep his spot, noted.
“I had requested that we not meet on Election Day, but that’s fine,” Ramsey said. Commissioners Carol Peterson and Bill Stanley are also running for re-election.
The Oct. 21 meeting was cancelled at the request of Commissioner David Young, who will be out of town.
The appointments to the powerful planning board were delayed, Ramsey said, because the board is still interviewing applicants for the nine-member board.
The process has attracted some controversy, as some members were kept on for several years without being formally reappointed. Critics have also maintained that both the current board and many of the applicants to replace them are too heavily tilted toward development interests. In addition, some have questioned the disqualification, based on an unwritten rule, of other applicants not linked to development interests.
Later in the meeting, Finance Director Donna Clark explained that a public hearing on the county borrowing $37 million, mostly to finance a new Human Services Building and parking deck on Coxe Avenue, would need to be delayed because the estimated cost of the project has risen.
“The $37 million may not be enough,” she said. “The bids are due Oct. 22, and we feel the public needs to have the real numbers out there.”
The rezoning of two small parcels on Mills Gap Road, roughly 2,000 feet from the former CTS of Asheville hazardous-waste site, caused some debate because county staff had recommended against it due to the area being primarily residential. Property owner James McGinnis is requesting that the property be rezoned to “employment” instead of residential. Employment zoning allows a wide range of uses including warehouses or industrial use. McGinnis told the board he was requesting the rezoning because he can’t rent the duplex on the site for residential use due to heavy traffic in the area.
Adjoining property is also zoned employment, but is currently used for residential purposes.
Young said he needed to drive out to the site to get a better idea of the situation, asking that the matter be continued to the board’s Nov. 4 meeting.
— David Forbes, staff writer