Former planning director submits I-26 report to Buncombe County ***UPDATED***

A report by former Asheville planning director Scott Shuford comparing the impact of I-26 connector alternatives says the plan drafted by the Asheville Design Center will have the most overall impact on several surrounding areas.

Shuford, who now operates Shuford Planning Services, a private consulting firm, says he submitted the report to Buncombe County commissioners about two weeks ago, but has not been asked to present it when commissioners consider the I-26 connector on Tuesday.

“I put together a report I thought was providing a fairly good summary of the impacts of the project that nobody seems to be talking about,” Shuford told Xpress.

The report focuses on the alternatives’ impacts on six elements: Westgate, Patton Avenue, Hillcrest, Montford/Riverside Cemetery, the I-240 bridge and overall cost. Though Shuford does not make a recommendation in the report, it is clear he considers 4B, the alternative championed by the Asheville Design Center, to have the most overall impact.

Shuford told Xpress that he was neither asked nor paid to produce the report, but did so of his own accord.

In January 2008, Asheville City Council voted to endorse the 4B alternative. Recently, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed alternative 3.

To see Shuford’s I-26 connector report in The Xpress Files, click here.

***UPDATE: Shuford included the following e-mail in his report to Buncombe County commissioners, in which he explains the criteria he did and did not consider in his impact analysis. In his report, he says, he did not evaluate the usability of the land beneath the connector, transportation advantages and disadvantages (including the separation of interstate and local travel), traffic-safety issues or right-of-way issues along the French Broad River.

The text of the e-mail is below.


Chairman Gantt and Commissioners:

This email is intended to provide information about alternative alignments for the I-26 Connector.  For several years, as Asheville’s Planning and Development Director, I served as the staff liaison to the Community Coordinating Committee (co-chaired by Lou Bissette and Brownie Newman) and the I-26 Aesthetic Advisory Committee, so I have fairly significant background on the project.  My interest in the project has recently prompted me to examine the four alternative Connector alignments using NCDOT visualization tools.

Certainly, you have heard a lot about the advantages of one alternative over another.  Unquestionably, the alternative developed by the Asheville Design Center has a smaller footprint as measured by right-of-way required to accommodate the Connector.  How developable the land “saved” under this concept is open to some debate due to topography, access and railroad impacts, but that is an issue I have not evaluated.  I anticipate additional information will be provided to you with regard to the transportation advantages and disadvantages of each alternative, including such information as distance traveled, separation of local and interstate traffic, and other factors, so I haven’t covered those issues.  I have not examined the potential to convert right-of-way east of the French Broad River to private use; to my knowledge, there is no definitive answer from NCDOT about release of this right-of-way and there is no particular difference between either of the two alternatives that separate I-240 and Patton Avenue traffic on the east side of the River (Alternatives 4 and 4B).  Finally, I have not considered safety concerns such as roadway icing or traffic movements as these are outside my area of expertise.

In the attached pdf file, what I have done is to evaluate the four alternatives under consideration by NCDOT based on their impact on several key areas that apparently have not been extensively considered in prior presentations on this project.  These areas include:
• Impact on Westgate Shopping Center
• Impact on Patton Avenue west of the French Broad River
• Impact on the Hillcrest neighborhood
• Impact on Montford/Riverside Cemetery
• Cost impact
• Bridge impact
To prepare this assessment, I used the visualizations and other data available on the NCDOT website to examine impacts on these areas of concern.  My (largely visual) impact evaluation is provided in the attached pdf file, converted from a PowerPoint presentation.  To view the pdf file, you may have to rotate the perspective by selecting “View” and “Rotate View,” then clicking on “Clockwise” to get to a landscape mode.  I apologize for any inconvenience that this causes.

I hope you find this information useful as you consider which alternative Connector alignment best serves our community.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Scott Shuford


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11 thoughts on “Former planning director submits I-26 report to Buncombe County ***UPDATED***

  1. Gordon Smith

    “Shuford told Xpress that he was neither asked nor paid to produce the report, but did so of his own accord.”

    This is called lobbying.

    What interests is Mr. Shuford lobbying on behalf of?

  2. Bryan Freeborn

    Shuford has nothing but distain for the ADC and the Asheville Community in gerneral. I am surprised that the county has employed his services. Shuford’s advice as Planning Director for the city of Asheville often resulted in legal entanglements and unnecessary conflict. It is no surprise he would come out with an analysis that is contrary to highly credible planning professionals.

  3. orz

    I note that Shuford’s report came to the same conclusion that I did; namely, the alternative 4B, AS IS, with the Patton overpass, is inferior to alternative 4. Not to say 4B couldn’t be improved, or a 4C devised that’s superior to all of the above. But the present Alt 4B, with its huge mile-long viaduct, is not in my opinion desirable at all.

    I also agree that he’s right – Alt 3 has fewer impacts overall. He does gloss over Burton Street, but the most important thing he misses is that he only considers NEGATIVE impacts – and fails to mention that Alt 4 turns Patton Avenue back into a surface street.

  4. Mr. Oblivious

    I think it’s pretty obvious that alternative 3 makes the most sense when looking at all the options, drawings, animations, etc. The 4B option looks like something devised by a looney tunes character using acme rocket parts. This is typical of the “highly credible planning professionals” Mr. Freeborn references. I think somebody like Bryan should do a little more reading on the subject before outright slandering Mr. Shuford who knows more about planning that he can ever hope to or pretend he knows.

    Beside being ill-informed, the assertion that Mr. Shuford “has nothing but distain for the Asheville Community in general” is just plain “Ludicrous!”

    If Mr. Shuford has issues with the ADC, I would agree with him after reviewing these options, just like I have issues with non-elected officials trying to rig local elections through a partisan power grab. That and the apparent distain and mistrust of city staff illustrated in his post must have factored into Mr. Freeborn not even ranking an interview for a council seat. It’s high time this city had people working together to solve a problem rather than running their mouths on conflicting viewpoints just for the sake of disagreeing. When the County goes with the Chamber on their recommendation, I think we’ll all see how much weight the city’s opinion carries nowadays as a result of this constant bickering and tireless self promoting.

  5. girlmakesart

    Thanks Mr. Shuford for your presentation. It is so much clearer than the other presentations.

    This should help those of us who are not on the inside understand the various options a lot better.

  6. Cecil Bothwell

    Mr. Shuford wore out his believability long ago. He found endless loopholes in a very tightly written Unified Development Ordinance and allowed developers to drive their trucks through it.

    Recall when he ruled that the illegal Wal-Mart clearcut was “agricultural” rather than unpermitted development. Recall his promises that Wal-Mart wouldn’t turn a shovel without permits, and the failure to enforce when they did. Recall the Staples signs that were in explicit violation but concerning which Shuford somehow couldn’t get his head around. Consider Greenlife’s permitted despoliation of a residential street. And these are just the big items.

    It is no wonder that back room deals within the council arrived at his expulsion from the Planning Director job.

  7. Mr. Oblivious

    “Vice Chair Billy Stanley, with commissioners Carol Peterson and K. Ray Bailey voted for Alternative 3, while board Chairman David Gantt and Commissioner Holly Jones voted against it.”

    Is that what I was supposed to wait for? Or am I still supposed to wait for more continual whining from self appointed, arm chair, “highly credible planning professionals?”

    Is this the point where the city’s vocal minority takes it lumps or do we have to waste more taxpayer money to appease self important activists whose only goal is to find fault with anything and promote ill-conceived fantasy alternatives to every high profile problem that legitimate professionals seek to solve? (obviously a rhetorical question) I for one am sick of seeing my city tax dollars wasted on such pointless exercises, and I support the county for resisting the mockery that Holly Jones seeks to bring over from City Council.

  8. Lysander

    @Mr. Oblivious, that’s a fitting handle and one you quite proficiently exemplify

  9. Reid Thompson

    Scott Shuford allowed Charles Worley as sitting Mayor and his client Greenlife grocery to completely disregard the unified development ordinance… Shuford’s not fit to hold an AICP license. The City effectively fired Mr. Shuford…

    Shuford would not know a 20 ft. buffer if you showed him a picture of one…

    Shuford has already abused his power and our government numerous times.

    The Asheville Design Center is made up of scores of ethical and talented professional. I find it rather suspect that the chamber of commerce never invited/allowed the ADC to make a presentation to it’ members.

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