Asheville City Council: Occupy Asheville camping rules postponed for review

Dec. 13 marked the first regular Asheville City Council meeting for newly elected Marc Hunt and Chris Pelly, as Council tackled an array of hot-button issues, including how to handle Occupy Asheville camping on public space.

Council voted 5-2 to postpone action on a proposed ordinance that would ban camping, storage and closed structures on city-owned property. The changes aim to address the Occupy Asheville encampment next to City Hall. Mayor Terry Bellamy and Council member Jan Davis voted against postponement. Other Council members asserted that waiting will give its public-safety committee time to review the changes. That committee’s meeting is set for Tuesday, Jan. 3. Council members Cecil Bothwell, Gordon Smith and Davis serve on that committee.

In other action, Council unanimously approved the 312-unit Avantine Apartment complex in south Asheville. An earlier vote last month was split 4-3. This time around, project developers assured Council members that rents will be lower than originally proposed. Council members had previously raised concerns about the lack of affordable units in the project.

Council also approved a new contract with First Transit, the company that manages the city’s bus system. The contract contains provisions that address safety and training concerns.

For more details, stay tuned for next week’s print story about the meeting. Below, here are Twitter dispatches from the meeting, posted by Senior Reporter David Forbes.

• 5:01 p.m.: Asheville City Council meeting about to begin

• Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer reading invocation. Written by her father, as all her invocations are

• On to employee recognitions.

• Fire Marshal Wayne Hamilton, APD Sgt. Joe Silverman recognized for advanced certifications.

• Michelle Massey-Smith recognized for achievement as water distribution operator of the year

• Recognizing APD officers who helped bust counterfeit smuggling ring

• Consent agenda passes unanimosuly, incl $118,543 to fund addl police officers

• Presentation on Asheville Sister Cities delegation’s visit to Valladolid

• Visit to Valladolid included arrangements for A-B Tech initiatives, other student exchanges

• One-year review of Hillcrest Pedestrian Bridge re-opening. APD interim Chief Wade Wood: “a successful endeavor”

• Smith: Ability for people to cross the bridge and get to West Asheville a boon.

• Grant of $28,000 now going to Homeward Bound

• Public hearing on amendment’s to city’s action plans, required when major change to block grants

• Other grant funds going to 56 affordable, low-income units

• Rev. Chris Chiaromonte: “For some of us a house is a coffin” need to put $ to services, not “boxes”

• Other grant funds going for 56 low-income housing units

• John Spitzberg: Services for homeless at shelters have declined, need $ for 15-20% that don’t get housed.

• Speaker just going by Tim: Don’t agree about giving money to anyone “because they’re all poverty pimps”

• Bellamy: City doesn’t fund Carolina Rescue, Salvation Army, so can’t dictate their behavior

• Mayor Terry Bellamy: Homeward Bound doesn’t put people in boxes, have case managers, successful programs

• Council mem Cecil Bothwell: These funds just intended to provide a certain type of housing

• Bothwell: Religious charities do help, city doesn’t have enough resources, my church helping to get ppl in housing

• Smith: Glad people care about homelessness. Under recent programs, over 300 ppl now in housing

• Smith: Initiatives had increasing success despite declining funding. Understand unmet needs, but “this is working”

• Council mem Marc Hunt: Story of this success not told well enough, makes motion to approve grants

• Council mem Jan Davis: Found ways to use housing that wasn’t being used.

• Change to city’s action plan grants passes unanimously

• Second reading on Aventine, 312-unit apartment complex just outside city limits.

• City Atty Bob Oast: Voluntary annexation can’t be considered as part of approval for this permit

• Hunt: Oast said we couldn’t gather new information, but I had questions. Previous vote under old Council

• Rep from Aventine: Retaining wall similar to another already nearby.

• Council mem Chris Pelly: Read report, witnessed last Council mtg. This provides no affordable housing units.

• Pelly: A time when borrowing, labor, building costs are low, don’t buy that can’t make some affordable units

• Pelly: “Have to ensure affordable is part of the package,” will vote against project

• Bothwell: Not clear a landlocked development, w no pedestrian component can really be green

• Louis Bissette, atty for Aventine developer: Rents now start at $800.

• Hunt: Feel strongly about points Pelly made, interested in pattern of city. Disappointed this is separate from Biltmore Park.

• Hunt: Rental in this range in high demand, concerned if we don’t approve, will move outside city’s zoning, single units farther out

• Hunt: Asheville’s special because of smart design, concerned this is more suburban, missing an opportunity here

• Hunt: Due to current standards, feel on balance have to support

• Hunt: But in this process, can only assess whether it meets standards, which it does. Need to strengthen standards

• Bissette: Been up where you’re sitting (as mayor). No one from public opposing this.

• Bellamy asks for Aventine’s rent ranges, is $825-1295. City’s range for affordable is ~$750-1100 for 2-bedroom.

• Aventine rep: Reason this is smart growth is it’s close to biz, jobs. Not our fault city doesn’t run transit there

• Davis: DOT put a bridge in area that prevents pedestrian traffic, not fault of developer

• Smith: I respect what you’re trying to do here, think city needs to clarify definitions of affordable

• Smith: But think we get into trouble if we look at this as sustainable or exceptional project

• Smith: Prepared to change opposition if can require some lower-priced units.

• Bissette: No rent controls in North Carolina.

• Bellamy: previously when we’ve required affordable units for certain period of time, we’ve been providing incentives

• Pelly: “Rookie mistake,” misread proposal, thought rents were higher than they are. Will support Aventine.

• Davis calls question. Aventine complex passes unanimously.

• Bellamy: Next 3 items delayed from past agenda. Council’s had weeks to look over, so will have abbreviated presentations

• Council unanimously waives fee for street closing for building of court house’s life safety tower

• Next up: suspending retiree health insurance for employees hired after June 30, 2012

• Bellamy: This doesn’t affect any current or retired city employees

• Smith: this sets into stone that we’ll be able to meet current obligations. Suspending another symptom of city’s “budget crossroads”

• Smith: City has many unique restrictions on raising income, hope to shake those loose.

• Pelly: Want us to revisit this. Longer it’s suspended, harder it is to put back into place.

• Rev. Lisa Landis: Do new hires incl Council? Bellamy: Council doesn’t participate in retirement program

• Matthew Burd: City has surpassed the state on many levels, to trust the state something I have hesitancy over.

• Council unanimously supports funds for state benefits program, suspends retiree health benefits for new hires

• Next up: management agreement with First Transit to run city transit system

• Transportation Director Ken Putnam: New contract instead of renewal, complete rewrite, new provisions for safety, accountability

• Bellamy wants to make sure safety provisions are enforced, Bothwell wondering about speed. Putnam: “Safety is #1”

• Spitzberg: We desperately need buses on Sundays. People have to hitchhike. Bellamy: It’s a top priority

• Faith Ryan: How much does contract cost? | It’s $243,000. City has to hire mgmt company due to conflict between state/fed law

• City Mgr Gary Jackson: This is about contract. We can make staff available to talk w ppl about other transit issues

• Council passes new contract w First Transit unanimously

• Proposal to shift ordinances on camping, #occupyasheville to Public Safety Committee for further review

• Ryan Alex: Thank you for delaying this

• Smith: Homelessness service providers, public need more time to consider these ordinances

• Faith Ryan: Thank you for delaying, wonders if public will know about it so can weigh in on use of public space

• Smith: We’ll be appointing Council mems to public safety committee tonight. Meeting considering camping ordinances will be public

• Burd speaking on own behalf, not #occupyasheville, asking not to send to committee “it needs to get rejected today”

• Bellamy cuts Burd off, “just talking about process” Burd: didn’t go into body of ordinance. Bellamy: “You were about to”

• Burd: Should’ve never come to Council without Public Safety requesting, considering first

• Burd: This is an attempt to suppress #occupyasheville. Propose you strike these proposals today, adopt new policy

• Burd: New policy should declare Asheville “sanctuary city” for democratic action, should be adopted today

• Landis: Want to thank you, because this is public safety issue. In meantime: can #occupyasheville camp have porta-potty?

• Landis: No other option but to pee in bushes, want porta-potty at #occupyasheville until we can be heard again

• Next speaker comparing #ows and #occupyasheville to Howard Beale in Network. “Need to deal with this tonight” not send to committee

• Note: Public Safety Committee is composed of three Council members. Meetings are open to public

• Spitzberg: Fear suggesting criminal action involved by putting in Pub Safety. Wants to put #occupyasheville members on committee

• Naomi Archer: Shouldn’t be sent to committee, should be simple “no.” Similar ordinance in Charlotte already facing legal challenge

• Scott Owen: We have opportunity to move into much better paradigm, recommend reject today instead of postponing

• Marion Patton: Congress almost passed ability to be held without trial. “This is the danger” Occupy bringing attention to this.

• Victor Ochoa: Perceive ordinance directly against #occupyasheville, not here to be a nuisance. Police not received raise in 3 yrs.

• Dr. Milton Byrd: You have opportunity to create better policing protocols, reframe democratic interactions

• Cathy Coble: Scary things going on in world today, people should search “Ron Paul”

• Chiaromonte: Left Asheville, but god wanted me to come back, says unofficial leader of Asheville’s homeless

• Chiaromonte: Postpone this, “in Jesus’ name”

• Kendall Hale: Never been offended by the tents, but unable to camp. Don’t want to send to committee because you’re afraid.

• Hale: Fear if postponed anti-camping ordinances will just come back again

• Steve Narris: Public Safety committee needs to look into criminal activity of banks: Wells Fargo, RBC, BoA. Appl

• Bellamy bangs gavel, “we’ve been respectful” even though #occupyasheville speakers wandered off topic, keep decorum

• Kember Owens: “the entire worldis watching us” Some communities have been supportive, those who haven’t ridiculed

• Bothwell: Applaud #occupyasheville’s civic involvement, normal way changes come is through committees

• End of public comment.

• Bothwell: If you push a vote, might not like results. Myself, other Council raised questions, incl on legal, civil liberties issues

• Hunt: Misperceptions about Public Safety Committee. 3 Council members, public meetings, open to comment

• Hunt: Perhaps should set date for this public safety committee meeting on camping ordinances #occupyasheville

• Pelly: If this is delayed until Jan, can we assure #occupyasheville situation won’t change, allow porta-potty

• Bellamy: Rules for porta-potty not in place. Without Council direction, staff must enforce existing rules.

• Davis: We’re getting a lot of people against these ordinances, and people wondering why we’re not dispersing camp

• Davis: We’re selectively enforcing ordinances now. Good to send this to public safety, not sure change where we are

• Davis: We’re dispersing homeless camps, but letting #occupyasheville camp on front lawn

• Jackson: If we’re uncertain a place is in a park, not enforcing closure time.

• Manheimer: Want fuller understanding before a vote. Current rules don’t allow camps in parks, blocking right o way, “otherwise grey”

• Council votes 5-2 to send camping ordinances to Public Safety Committee

• Pelly: We’re essentially criminalizing #occupyasheville camp by not allowing porta-john. Wonders if can allow until decide this

• Council votes 5-2 to send camping ordinances to Public Safety Committee #avlgov #avlnew

• Bellamy: No clear expectations for staff or #occupyasheville. Need to clarify.

• Smith: Kudos to #occupyasheville, APD for keeping things non-violent, staff for “trying to read tea leaves” while we reach clarity

• Manheimer: Problematic to say this group gets a porta-john without application for permit, event, others don’t.

• Manheimer: Problematic to provide porta-john for one type of group, pay for. Audience say not asking city to pay for.

• Bothwell: Since camping is presently legal, does bringing a porta-jon count as camping? Oast silent for awhile.

• Audience breaks out laughing. Oast: “I’ll have to think about that.” Bellamy calls for 20-min recess.

• Bellamy: recess so Oast can “get clear” on porta-jon rules. Oast: “Not sure I can get clear” Council takes recess.

• Note: Bellamy, Davis voted against sending camping rules aimed at #occupyasheville to Public Safety Comm. Unclear from voice vote

• #occupyasheville has press release ready, calls decision to refer camping ordinances to committee “crisis in leadership”

• In release, #occupyasheville asserts decision should have been direct “no” on ordinances banning camping on city property

• Council’s back, moving to boards + commissions to give staff time to consider porta-potty at #occupyasheville issue

• Council appointing liaisons to committees, Smith for Aff Housing, Davis continues for ABC Board

• Davis jokes “all the perks went away” about deciding to remain as liaison to ABC Board

• Davis remains on Downtown Commission, Pelly to Police Advisory Committee

• Davis remains on Downtown Commission, Pelly to Police Advisory Commission

• Finance Committee – Manheimer, Chair. Pelly, Bothwell

• Housing Committee – Davis, chair. Pelly, Smith.

• Public Safety Committee – Bothwell, chair. Smith, Davis

• Planning, Econ Dev Committee – Manheimer, chair. Hunt, Bothwell

• Bothwell gives up Finance Committee seat to Hunt

• Back to the #occupyasheville porta-jon issue. Oast: not poss under our rules to have one on city prop unless for event.

• Bothwell: To my understanding, no abuse there. Bellamy: we can go to Sheriff.

• Bothwell: understand restroom in vestibule of jail open 24/7, now shut down. Will we ask county why

• Bellamy: Not permitted event, no porta-pottys. Pelly: Another month before have chance to look again, good to get resolution

• Bellamy: If we want to change rules mid-stream, that comes back to us. Pelly: direct staff to reach out to Sheriff

• Pelly: Not a perfect answer, but that’s our best bet at the time. Bellamy asking for liaison from #occupyasheville to talk to staff

• Bothwell, as Public Safety Comm chair: Mtg considering camping ordinances 3: 30pm Jan 3, 3rd floor municipal bldg #occupyasheville

• Oast: This discussion tonight about area in front of City Hall. “Can’t go up on Beaucatcher Mountain and pitch a tent.”

• Bellamy: Until we clarify this, sure.

• Davis: Whether #occupyasheville succesful or decides to leave camp, does it mean homeless can use area to call attn to their plight?

• Council unanimously appoints ex-Council mem Bill Russell as ABC Board member

• Jim Ellis appointed as ABC Board Chair

• Public comment. Scott Owen: Still have prob w camp outside. APD not always responsive when we call about people.

• Owen: Want equal protection from APD. Jackson: We make no exceptions.

• Kayvon Kazemini: Told areas in front of Vance monument and Merrill-Lynch bldg park, but not listed w zoning. Want clarification

• Kazemini: Believe due to Pack deed land for use of public, unrestricted

• Landis talking about cannabis and hemp as economic development

• Barry Summers: Committee headed by Rep. Tim Moffitt talking about privatization of drinking water.

• Summers: Time has come to create a more aggressive approach to fighting privatization of Asheville’s water system

• Next speaker wanting to talk about “grey areas” relating to #occupyasheville. Bellamy: already talked about that

• Asks about who put ordinances on printed agenda. Oast: Issues had come up, on agenda for discussion.

• Martin Ramsey: Participant in #occupyasheville, thank you for patience. We’re not a lobbying org.

• Ramsey: We’re a direct action group. Hope you take privatization of water seriously, we’ll do something about that.

• Thompson wants rescinsion of ban from public property

• Reid Thompson wants Council to revisit public comment guidelines, “we have a trust problem”

• Jessica Handy wants more clarification on who proposed camping ordinances on agenda

• Jackson: “the city manager suggested the item be placed on the agenda” Handy: “That’s legal?” Bellamy: “Very legal”

• Bothwell talking about working on playground, says large crew from #occupyasheville showed up. Appreciates civic involvement.

• 9:59 p.m.: Meeting adjourned.


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5 thoughts on “Asheville City Council: Occupy Asheville camping rules postponed for review

  1. Matthew Burd

    Response to Proposed Ordinances

    City Council Regular Meeting

    December 13, 2011

  2. LOKEL

    Maybe the “tent city” should be tabled indefinitely since the Asheville has been voted by Forbes magazine as the 13th word place in all the land for finding employment ….

    with a 0% chance for growth, no less!

    • Matthew Burd

      Your link did not cite any violence… Your logic is often very confuing to me.

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