After months of development, a new plan for the future of West Asheville’s major corridor comes to Asheville City Council at its next meeting Feb. 25. The plan calls for a new form of zoning, improved pedestrian infrastructure and keeping the area’s historic feel to make “a neighborhood leader for sustainability in the city.”
Over several days in September, city staff met with neighborhood residents, considered previous analyses of the area and hired a design firm — Code Studio — to help that process alongside staff and community members.
The plan recommends shifting the area to form-based code, a type of zoning that regulates allowed development in an area based on its design and scale rather than use. This type of zoning is typically friendlier to mixed-use development and can make for a more predictable development process. Planning staff and some on Council have, over the past few years, suggested that it could be an antidote to the rezoning and development battles that local government often has to grapple with. If successful on Haywood Road, local officials have noted that they could apply a similar approach to other areas, probably first to downtown and other denser neighborhoods.
The plan asserts that due to its proliferation of small, locally owned businesses interconnected with residential neighborhoods, the Haywood Road corridor is ideally suited to becoming a modern, sustainable community that could prove a model for other areas in the city. West Asheville was once its own town, annexed into the city in 1917.
The area faces several issues: sidewalks broken up by driveways and power poles, a lack of new construction and outdated zoning rules.
The plan recommendations include working with the N.C. Department of Transportation to improve pedestrian infrastructure in the area, using the new zoning rules to encourage denser development friendlier to a walkable neighborhood, incentivizing historic preservation, directing “big-box” development elsewhere, creating more plazas and parks, improving signs for local landmarks and efforts to protect surrounding residential neighborhoods from the noise increased activity will bring.
Similar to the 2009 Downtown Master Plan, if Council adopts this proposal, it won’t lead to sweeping changes immediately. But it will give staff the green light to craft specific rules changes and bring them back up in the coming months. In the case of the downtown plan, some of those changes proved controversial when voted on individually and some (like the Business Improvement District) ended up faltering due to political opposition or other concerns.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, on the second floor of City Hall.