Council puts water referendum on ballot

Asheville City Council put a referendum on the sale of the city’s water system on the Nov. 6 ballot at its meeting tonight. Council also discussed a proposed hotel on Haywood Street and approved incentives for the Linamar plant expansion. (photos by Max Cooper)

• Council unanimously approved the referendum, reading “Shall the City of Asheville undertake the sale or lease of its water treatment system and water distribution system.” A state legislative research committee directed the city to pursue merging its system with the Metropolitan Sewerage District, but promised to hold off on forcing a merger as long as the city and MSD are engaged in “good faith” negotiations.

While Council has made its opposition to the committee’s stance clear in the past, the city claims it’s pursuing those talks: City staff met with MSD officials earlier this month, and are studying the practical financial details of a merger. However, as those negotiations might entail the city offering to sell or lease the water system, Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer asserted it was appropriate to call for a referendum, as allowed by state law, to “understand the sentiment of the citizenry.” If the referendum produced a “no” result, the city couldn’t sell the system, though the state could still act on the matter, City Attorney Bob Oast noted. Under state statute, only city voters can participate in the referendum.

“It’s a confusing situation,” Manheimer observed.

• Staff presented Council with an update on a proposed project from the McKibbon Hotel Group for city-owned property on Haywood Street. On Sept. 11, Council could decide on the sale of the property. The issue became controversial when the Basilica of St. Lawrence, which is across the street, offered to buy the property, sparking a debate about what should go on the site.

Council member Cecil Bothwell pointed to a poll conducted by PARC PAC indicating majority opposition to building a hotel, and noted that a park would be preferable.

But Council member Marc Hunt said that in the city’s own surveys, people hadn’t indicated that the spot was a priority for a park, but instead suitable for mixed-use development and a plaza. Council member Jan Davis criticized PARC’s poll, calling it biased and misleading.

• On a 6-1 vote, Council approved $1 million in incentives for the Linamar auto-parts plant expansion. The expansion will bring 250 jobs, and the city will pay Linamar the incentive funds through reimbursing it a share of the property tax it pays on the improved facility. Bothwell voted against, citing his general opposition to incentives for large corporations.

• Council heard complaints from a number of citizens, including veterans, about alleged discrimination against female veterans at shelters run by Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, the target of a complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The citizens asked the city to look into ABCCM itself and see what actions might be appropriate.

City manager Gary Jackson said he will research what the city’s authority is in the matter, and investigate ABCCM accordingly.


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14 thoughts on “Council puts water referendum on ballot

  1. bsummers

    And right on cue, in the most recent post on his blog, Rep. Tim Moffitt threatens the City of Asheville:

    “Thus, if the General Assembly wants to create a city, county, or other local governmental unit, it is free to do so. If it wishes to abolish a local government, or to merge it with another, or to impose particular obligations on it, it has almost unlimited power to do as it chooses. In sum, North Carolina is not a

  2. Meiling Dai

    Rep. Tim Moffitt on his most recent posting on his blog (see NOT threatening the city of Asheville. He is “paraphrasing” an excerpt
    on his blog from the North Carolina Constitution
    (N.C. Const., art.VII.,(paragraph) 1). Apparently,
    cities, counties and other governmental entities
    exist or do not exist according to the directives
    of the General Assembly according to the North Carolina State Constitution. To imply that Rep. Moffitt is threatening the city of Asheville
    is an outright lie!

    • bsummers

      Okay, you tell us: why would this particular educational moment appear on his list of legislative accomplishments, on this particular day? Aside from one announcement about a ‘Tax Summit’ he attended, all the posts on his blog are about the bills he sponsored. And then this non-sequitur: “Oh, did I mention the General Assembly can abolish any local government it sees fit?”

      Why else is it there if not as a threat?

  3. Jeff

    Does it appear that Little King Moffitt is now threatening to break up the City of Asheville?

    Over a non-binding referendum, Tim? Really? A non-binding referendum is just a POLL. Your validity as a representative of the people expired some time ago. Blogging threats such as breaking up the City of Asheville over holding a poll is just a sad virtual tantrum.

  4. j

    This is the equivalent of the City of Asheville locking itself in its own room because it doesn’t want to go to grandma’s house. It won’t change the eventual result, and looks amazingly petulant.

    Yet somehow, everyone is puzzled when Raleigh seems impatient with Asheville.

  5. Meiling Dai

    In regard to the referendum on the sale of
    water treatment plants and water distribution plants by Asheville, if city voters vote
    to sell these items, then the referendum is
    non-binding. If city voters deny the sale of
    these items, then the referendum is binding.
    This was confirmed by a TV news video of Asheville
    City Council members discussing this very

  6. Charlie88

    Methodology of the PARC PAC poll

    A poll is only as accurate as the methods used.

    Who do you ask?

    • indy499

      So zealots who waste time taking polls now have their views amplified via PARC and Cecil and get more weight? I don’t think so.

  7. Ascend (of Asheville)

    Dear city council,
    Please do not sell the land opposite the Basilica for another ugly hotel.
    There are a number of ways to make that parcel both generate at least some of the revenue you seek and contribute in a positive way to the development of the city.
    I would gladly produce a study for you. I only need $50,000.00.
    Stop wasting your opportunities for short-term, short-sighted returns.
    Remember that your decisions will echo for decades.

  8. J


    That’s now what I said at all.

    It doesn’t matter if Raleigh knows best or not – the people in Raleigh are in charge.

    We don’t have to agree with Raleigh, but it doesn’t help our case when we use a referendum to conduct a poll that we already know the results of.

  9. glolady

    It was interesting when Mark Hunt tried to all all the water sources this would include. It sounds like they want to control every last drop!

    Control being the operative word. An essential life source to living on planet Earth. Does this mean they want to clean up the planet or who lives on it?

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