Local blog posts “The Parkside Files”

The local blog Scrutiny Hooligans posted scores of pages of government documents relating to the ParkSide condominium proposal today. The documents, obtained through a records request by Asheville-based activist Elaine Lite — who says she worked on the project with a number of like-minded ParkSide critics — include e-mails, meeting notes, reports and other materials relating to the controversial proposal, which is slated to be considered by Asheville City Council in June.

Nearly 200 pages were released, according to Scrutiny Hooligans’ Gordon Smith. More than 100 of those pages, he estimates, are posted at the site.

“While Scrutiny Hooligans are trying to sort through the FOIA documents related to the suspicious Parkside land deal, we’re well aware that more brains make for better work,” an intro to the documents states. “There’s a lot here for those of you interested in taking the time to peruse.”

Meanwhile, ParkSide LLC, a company involved in the proposed development, has launched its own Web site, Parksidetruth.com, to offer its side of the story. “The ParkSide project continues to be slandered with misinformation,” the site says. “The many wonderful aspects of this project and the benefits to the City, the County, and the community are becoming buried in propaganda and we must attempt to dispel these allegations.”

— Jon Elliston, managing editor

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About Jon Elliston
An Asheville-based mountain journalist: Former Mountain Xpress managing editor. Investigations and open government editor at Carolina Public Press. Senior contributing editor at WNC magazine.

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43 thoughts on “Local blog posts “The Parkside Files”

  1. Gordon Smith

    Thanks, Jon, for highlighting The Parkside Files. We hope lots of people will look over these documents to try to make sense of the multiple dramas playing out behind the scenes. Whether it’s the nature of the land sale, the feud declared by Coleman on the Pack Square Conservancy, design problems, or the weird miasma of personalities on display – we need all the perspective we can get.

  2. Don Yelton

    As you read the material the most important part is who made the motion and who seconded the motion for the County Commissioners.

    As I have said from the beginning the problem with the tree is not the tree but the tree is a symbol of the real problem that is connected to the way business is done here in Asheville and Buncombe County.

    Has anyone asked why a non-profit was formed to do a public park anyway. The answer may be found there.

  3. DonM

    Thanks for the link to Parksidetruth.com

    It’s refreshing to read the “rest of the story” instead of the incessant hyperbole from Scrutiny Hooligans, PARC and the Rasmussen/Deerman show.

  4. Gordon Smith

    Don M,

    I’m glad you’ll have a chance to see the raw documents.

    Don Yelton,

    Remember it was Chairman Nathan Ramsey who motioned the sale onto the agenda without any public notice. You can try to lay all this at Peterson and Stanley’s feet, but it doesn’t wash.

    The only Commissioner to handle this debacle with any grace has been David Gantt, who has acknowledged that they “screwed up”, has asked for a report as to how the mistakes were made, and has offered to initiate a buyback from Coleman.

    None of the others has made any move to rectify the situation.

  5. Don, Have you been around many cities in the US in the last 20 or so years?
    Having non-profits run parks and such as partners with governments is the way things get done.
    Central Park in NYC is a good example.
    Baltimore’s inner harbor is another.
    I am sure that I can think of more.

    It is about time Asheville moves ahead on these things.

  6. Don Yelton

    read the summary in the copy that was put on the web site..did you have wrong information on the site Gordon—I remember when the non-profit said they would do it without tax dollars too.

  7. The “Parksidetruth” blog is quite a load of lies! No wonder it’s not signed by anyone, and allows no comments. But as all of Buncombe knows by now, Parkside has been an exercise in deception from the start.

    Not a word in that Black Dog blog about the Planning and Zoning Commission’s rejection of Parkside — practically unprecedented for a board that ordinarily gives big developers its rubber-stamp approval. Nor a word, for another example, about how the Parkside architect’s own shadow studies show that the condo tower the developer wants to plop smack in front of City Hall would cast Asheville’s icon in shadow every afternoon of the year.

    Most of it is the same defensive, oddly schizophrenic argument put forth by Coleman and his cohorts — in increasingly shrill and vitriolic tones — at every public hearing on the project. They rant against the Pack Square Conservancy and claim to be exempt from its plans and guidelines for Pack Square on the one hand, and then on the other insist that the City has to approve the project because it fits the Conservancy’s plans and guidelines!

    Of course, the bits of plans they claim it fits are from obsolete early drafts, but such inconvenient facts are … well, cast in shadow.

    — Steve Rasmussen (co-star of the “Rasmussen/Deerman show”; always nice to meet a fan, DonM)

  8. Gordon Smith

    Tim,

    Coleman needed four votes. He only got three. The P&Z;rarely rejects anything. I can’t remember the last project they didn’t pass.

    It’s a big deal that Parkside couldn’t pass muster with this group of businesspeople.

  9. Tim Pack —

    The P & Z vote WAS tied, but by their own rules and City Attorney Oast’s own ruling on the matter, a tie meant Coleman’s propsed project did not pass their muster.

    It was a rare and rightful defeat of his plans, and no attempt at sour-grapes spin by Coleman supporters will ever change that.

    According to David Gantt, Coleman’s asking for 4.5 million to sell back the parkland he paid only $306,000 for, and that he paid $1.5 mil for the Hayes & Hobson building.

    Many want Coleman to sell back the parkland, as well as sell the H & H building so its historic facade can be protected.

    It’s outrageous that Coleman’s asking for so much money, and this news needs to reach the public asap.

  10. A tie is hardly a resounding defeat; although a technical one.

    Had the chairman been present and voted “yeah,” the project would have passed. A unanimous “no” vote would have been a more resounding rejection and one that city council would have to consider seriously during upcoming deliberations.

    Of course, city council does not have to abide by P&Z;’s vote at any rate, but is wise to take it into account. As it stands, a tie gives council maneuver room to approve the project without appearing to act contrary to P&Z;’s mood.

  11. travelah

    Coleman bought a park for $306K. I think the city council should zone the parcel specifically as a parkland just to protect Coleman’s interest in buying parkland. … and do nothing else at that point.

  12. You shoulda been there, Tim — it was quite a sight. Yes, Chairman Steve Sizemore was absent from the P&Z;hearing — but he would have voted against Parkside, too. I was there a couple months earlier when the Horizons proposal for the former Deal Motor Cars site on Merrimon came up — Sizemore was the only P&Z;member who backed neighbors’ concerns about the project’s height and the shadow it would cast on their homes, and he cast the lone vote against it.

    Excess size and shadowing are two of the many major concerns with Parkside, and Vice-Chair Cindy Weeks included them in citing the project’s violation of 3 of the 7 conditions that a Level III project such as Parkside is supposed to meet for approval. (These 7 conditions are the most important section of the UDO — City Council is supposed to base its decision on them — and I wish more citizens were aware of them.)

    But the real show was put on by Buzzy Cannady — a developer and CIBO-installed fixture on the planning board — who yawned openly as a steady stream of Asheville’s leading citizens gave expert testimony from their various backgrounds on why this project is so wrong in so many ways.

    Then, during the board’s discussion of the project, Cannady surprised his colleagues by bursting out with a motion to approve the project exactly as is. Weeks asked if he was sure he didn’t mean the compromise motion that staff had recommended — read, spoon-fed — to the board, which dropped one floor from the project. That motion, with its token nod to citizens’ concerns, might have passed … but no, Cannady claimed cutting out just one floor of 11 was a meaningless alteration (he was right about that), and insisted the developer should get exactly what he wants.

    That impolitic act of hubris — on top of the arrogance Coleman’s architect and attorney had exhibited repeatedly all night — seemed to me to be the final straw that cost Coleman what most everyone had assumed would be P&Z;’s usual rubber stamp.

  13. Tim Peck —

    I was at the P & Z meeting. At no time did anyone say your quote “Daughters of the Tree”.

    Yes, the Parkside LLC folks DID acknowledge citizens’ major concern for the Magnolias, as did P & Z staff.

    But again, no one talked of any group or even consensus as being about any “Daughters of the Tree”.

  14. To Travelah from Lady Passion:

    Coleman had no right to buy the Park, for 306K or any amount. It was not the County’s land to sell, as Pack, Jr. made clear in several Wills.

    Land wrongly sold in such fashion should be remedied, and quickly resold for money paid, back to the County, and ergo, the people, to whom it rightly belongs, in perpetuity.

  15. travelah

    Diuvei, I think you will find there is a time limit as to how long a covenant agreement can be enforced. I suspect he purchased the land legally. That does not mean it was the right thing for the County to do.

  16. Lady P

    From Lady Passion to Travelah yet again ;-)

    There’s no Churchish “covenant” as you write to be enforced — only legal ones, which G.W.Pack, Jr. duly went to great and repeated Will pains to do ;-)

    You can “suspect” all ye like that “he [Coleman] purchased the land legally”.

    It matters NOT.

    Most folks, and lawyer Ferikas differ in your assumption ;-)

  17. DonM

    Travelah,
    You are correct. The Laws of Perpetuities in property law, do not mean forever. Usually they run around 90 years. As well, the definition of an “heir” in property law doesn’t mean what one thinks it does. The covenent between Pack, his heirs and the County apparently ended with the death of pack’s grandson Arthur in 1975.

    It’s tiresome to keep having to illuminate this to the vocal minority but, alas, it must be done.

  18. “I was at the P & Z meeting. At no time did anyone say your quote ‘Daughters of the Tree’.”

    Yes, this was proposed by the developer at the P&Z;meeting. The “Daughters of the Tree” proposal was to take 200 cuttings from the magnolia tree for plantings prior to the tree being cut down to make way for the development.

    Sorry you missed the mention of it.

  19. Don M —

    Look up the meaning of “perpetitude”.
    It DOES mean “forever”.

    Wills of land are not the same as intellectual property rights (i.e., subject to becoming in the public domain after X amount of years).

    How can you, as a self-avowed uber-Republican, side this way?

    If YOU willed land thusly, would not your own ghost be duly pissed if your Will was thus thwarted in a heartbeat of time — a mere “90 years or so”???

    And as for the “covenant” being “ended” with the death of Pack’s granson in 1975, that’s simply B.S.

    Pack’s descendants continue on — as has been made clear by the 4 who are currently suing Coleman.

    Tim Peck —

    I did not “miss” Coleman’s stated plans to cut to smithereens the staid twin Magnolia trees by taking 200 cutting or more.

    My problem with this, as many also feel (including the Asheville Tree Commission), is Coleman’s needless cruel nature.

    Put bluntly, there’s simply no need to hack a tree that needs no pruning.

    I find it disgusting that Coleman, et. al. can be so callous — as many folk agree.

  20. DonM

    Lady P,
    I have no idea what “perpetitude” means. If you’ve found that word in any book, much less a dictionary, please let me know.

    Clearly your emotion has overtaken your thought process. I am certainly not a Republican much less an “uber” one. Perhaps a new crystal ball should be on your Christmas list or whatever list.

    NC DOES subscribe to the Laws of Perpetuity as related to property law. They’re not difficult to research and can be quite enlightening in a realistic, not emotional, way. Try it.

    The issue of Arthur Pack passing in 1975 being the apparent end of the maintenance of the Pack agreement with the County is not my opinion. It comes from researchers at UNCA:

    “…The trusteeship which Pack established passed through the family after the death of G.W. Pack, to his son, Charles Lathrop Pack and then to Charles’ son Randolph Pack (1890-1956) and after his death to the second son, Arthur Pack (1893-1975) Apparently the maintenance of the Pack trusteeship ended with George Willis Pack’s grandson, Arthur Pack…”

    http://toto.lib.unca.edu/WNC_pack/pack_default.htm

    There’s a great deal of interesting information on the whole saga of Pack, his life, friends and the Will there for anyone interested. Would I be safe to say that would include you?

    It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?

  21. DonM,

    Come clean with us. Are you a professional associate of Coleman’s or of Parkside LLC? You’re using his exact language — “vocal minority” is his phrase, from his post-P&Z;WLOS interview — and you’re quoting his legal arguments verbatim from the Pack lawsuit, including specific details that have never been published in the press. I know this because I read the lawsuit file in the Courthouse just a few days ago.

    Lack of transparency has been one of the public’s biggest objections to this deal from the start.

    Also, the bit about “trusteeship” was written by a historian, Helen Wykle, and not a lawyer. I know Helen, and she’d be horrified to see her words twisted to support a legalistic argument!

    — Steve R.

  22. Don M —

    You’ve shown your disdain of us (“Rasmussen/Deerman show”) before.

    I suggest a new tack, as this one’s boring and does not address the numerous issues we’ve raised about Parkside’s numerous problems.

    I’m as curious as *Diuvei is as to what your stake or motivation is here.

    You know ours — what’s YOURS?

    How do you justify the privatization of our Courthouse Square?

  23. travelah

    Don M, you can at least be assured that the Lady and her D are not the ones who make the decisions about anything in Asheville except for who is going to sign on and use the other’s nic next.

  24. Travelah —

    We don’t claim to “make decisions”. Indeed, if we did, we would never have sold pubic parkland ;-)

    We do claim, and rightly so, to educate others about local issues of import to the Craft community and locals. This we do exceedingly well ;-)

    Beyond trying gamely to bash US, why not get Don M to answer our questions as to his interest or involvement with this issue?

  25. Unit

    There certainly is no debate that the sale of pubic “parkland” is illegal. Unless you’re in Nevada or Amsterdam of course.

  26. DonM

    Steve & Ms Deerman,
    I have zero fiduciary interest. Once more, zero. In fact, if the project did NOT go forward I would probably be better off financially due to supply/demand issues.

    The vocal minority (the phrase has been quite popular for over 40 years) that I refer to is merely that–a vocal minority. No sinister, hidden or ulterior meaning. Whew! You OK?

    Steve,
    Helen must be quite sure of her writing.

  27. Gordon Smith

    I think it would be helpful to know whether government seeks first to serve the citizenry or seeks first to serve only a few wealthy speculators.

    It’s important to remember the fundamentals – The sellers were in the wrong. The buyer, now indebted to the public for land he came to own through the wrongful actions of others, argues that his private interest outweighs that of the people of Buncombe County.

    The whole thing stinks to high heaven. Will this dirty deal become the Coleman legacy? Will our Commissioners do nothing to correct their mistake?

    I’ve got way too much more info over at ScruHoo – facts and all.

    http://www.scrutinyhooligans.us

  28. Gordon Smith

    The “vocal Minority” currently includes:

    Planning and Zoning Committee
    Commissioner David Gantt
    Pack Square Conservancy

    Bunch of granola eating hippies!

  29. Don M —

    Goodly to know your interest isn’t “fiduciary”, but I note that, yet again, you’ve failed to reveal when asked, exactly what your interest in Parkside is ;-)

    I also note that you’d be harmed if Parkside passes.

    If so, why do you perpetuate the myth of a “vocal minority”, when Parkside opposition is anything but?

    1). Pack Square Conservancy’s against it.
    2). The Asheville Tree Commission’s against it.
    3). Planning & Zoning’s against it.
    4). County Commissioners regret it.
    5). Mumpower’s expressed disdain for it.
    6). Many citizens have written and spoken gainst it.

    Consensus is on our side re: Parkside.

    Are you but a contrarian or what?

    Better that you gave “mad props” to Gordon Smith, Elaine Lite, us, and all the other citizens who work hard to protect your future, dude.

  30. This is actual *Diuvei again.

    DonM, of course it’s possible for some developer’s well-paid lawyer to convince some myopic judge that words mean the opposite of what they say — that “perpetuity” really means “temporarily” and that “heirs” are unrelated to “descendants.” (We’ll leave “perpetitude” aside for now.)

    But who, then, will ever donate land for parks again? Legal hairsplitting aside, allowing Parkside to happen would set a terrible example in a city that’s in desperate need of *permanent” greenspace.

    And it’s our courthouse square! If any space is sacred to a secular democracy, it’s the commons in front of our government buildings where the public gathers to petition our leaders for redress, to honor our heroes and celebrate national holidays, even to hold prayer rallies. The courthouse square is so important to Americans that we fiercely debate whether or not religious symbols like Christmas creches should be allowed there.

    A private condo building grabbing a prominent chunk of our commons and jutting in front of our City Hall would be a blasphemy of our American values.

    You can tell Coleman for me that’s why his proposal is provoking such a visceral reaction from the public.

  31. Alan 7 —

    Yes, Ashevillians do need more housing — affordable housing, that is. But that’s not is being built all over downtown, and not what Parkside will be, either.

    There is no shortage of condos people could buy in and near Asheville. More are not needed. And we certainly should not have to sacrifice the minimal parkland we have in order to get more housing.

    Parkside will have only 48 or so units for wealthy buyers only. Coleman has refused to build even one unit to meet UDO “workforce housing” requirements.

    While “grow up, not out” may be a pithy concept, it does not take into account that highrises block sunlight. Plants need sunlight to thrive. Humans depend on plants to thrive. More highrises risks societal suicide.

  32. DonM

    Steve and Lady P,
    I’ve yet to see a cogent argument from either of you or Scrutiny Hooligans. Rather, it’s like “Let’s see how much we can fling on the wall and what sticks.”

    Did the county commissioners say it was a legal sale? I believe the answer was “Yes.” Whether they regret it or not is moot.

    A “…prominent chunk of our commons…” as you speak of is about 0.16 acre, just under 7000 square feet. Hardly prominent. And I’ve yet to see an accurate depiction of it “…jutting in front of our City Hall…” Just more hyperbole–you know, flinging stuff on the wall.

    Since you do not appear to acknowledge legal concepts such as Laws of Perpetuity I cannot discuss them with you any longer. Not my problem. You should aquaint yourselves with them, though.

    The so-called “…visceral reaction from the public…” is, as I said before, a vocal minority. You obviously disagree. Try this–add up the numbers of who have a “visceral reaction” to the project and compare that to the population. Yes, a vocal minority, indeed.

    Finally, I cannot tell Coleman anything any more than you can. I suppose you could call his office. Have you tried that?

  33. William P Miller

    All Ashevillians should vote AGAINST the Buncombe County supervisors who voted for this. That means all of them except for Ghannt. Vote in new blood. People who have not been corrupted by special interest (developer) money. In particular, vote against Peterson.

  34. Gordon Smith

    Hi Don,

    I thought I’d run this past you to see if you find it cogent.

    This property was offered to Stewart Coleman then put up as an upset bid. Legal? Probably.

    I think our county ought to try to get the best offer for property they’re selling rather than just hooking up a buddy. Rather than just running a little classified ad, if they wanted to get the best price, they’d make something of a big deal about it.

    In order for no one to know the property was parkland it means that in every step of every bureaucratic chain involved in this sale, not a single person ever knew this piece of land adjoining the park was also parkland. It means that no one ever asked and that no one ever checked. Legal? Sure! Incompetence is legal.

    George W. Pack, who gave the land to the people of Buncombe County, has a family that’s suing Coleman over the sale. This land may not belong to Coleman at all. Legal? We’ll see.

    Coleman met with City Planner Scott Shuford regarding trading this piece of land for City-owned land on Marjorie St. long before he bought either the parkland or the Hayes and Hopson. Legal? Not sure.

    Nathan Ramsey dropped the land sale onto a County Commission agenda with no public notice. 90-seconds later, Scott Shuford was telling City Council in a work session that people might be interested in the Marjorie St. property. Legal? Couldn’t say.

    Selling public land without following the County protocols. Legal? Don’t think so. But who’s going to sue over it?

    Opposition from PSC, David Gantt, PARC, the Planning and Zoning Committee, folks on The Block, Shindig on the Green, and the scores of Ashevilleans who’ve written LTEs. Vocal Minority? It’s awfully big if that’s true.

    How much of our commons would you consider significant? If they’d sold an acre? half-acre? What if the land is a part of the centerpiece park in the City/County? At what point does it gain significance?

    How about County folks claiming they’ve offered Coleman a buyback deal while Coleman claims they haven’t. Weird enough to make you go, “hm?”

    How about claiming that a 2001 agreement between the City, County and Pack Square Conservancy regarding building on the park doesn’t apply to them? Is that not craven enough?

    Coleman wanting $4.1 million for land that’s worth $1.6 million? Corporate welfare at Buncombe taxpayers’ expense. Ethical? You tell me.

    How about the County staff threatening PSC with budget cuts when they voiced opposition to the project based on the 2001 agreement? Is that a problem?

    Coleman, after the Packs filed their lawsuit, was still trying to “swap” the contested land for the Marjorie St. property, which is among the City’s most valuable. Trying to swap land that might not be his for some of our priciest property? Huh.

    These are some of the concerns. I understand if you feel that the public interest should take a back seat to a speculative land deal involving our marquis park. But there are a lot of us who feel differently.

  35. DonM —

    We and Scrutiny Hooligans have made dozens of “cogent” arguments, which you dismiss rather than address ;-)

    Most, if not all, of the County Commissioners and Commission candidates have expressed regret of the parkland sale in print, on TV, and in public forums.

    The members have admitted that they did not know much about what they were selling (a legal violation of any land deal). On this basis alone, the land deal is legally questionable, and clearly actionable.

    “Prominent” does not just refer to size, but importance. City/County Plaza is an important, iconic place for citizens in the heart of downtown that few would deny.

    Let’s do the “vocal minority” math, shall we?

    Coleman, Jr., Fishero (his architect), his lawyer, Alan Glines (P & Z staffer), and the Asheville Downtown Commission & you? = what? Less than 10 or so?

    Those opposed to Parkside to date:
    Planning & Zoning members
    60 + citizens who opposed it at the P & Z meeting
    Pack Square Conservancy
    Asheville Tree Commission
    Council and Commission candidates
    Chairman + 1 member Downtown Commission
    Many of the 350 who attended the Master Plan meeting
    Eagle Street black community
    Historic preservationists
    Numerous writers of Letters to the Editor
    Those who attended the ritual around the Magnolia
    Scrutiny Hooigans
    Pack descendants + their lawyer Ferikas
    Many who’ve posted concerns in blogs such as this since our rite last August = who knows how many?
    Me & Steve = How many? Hundreds?

    Not exactly the “vocal minority” you’re pitching, DonM.

    What is it you dislike so much — the fact that we’ve voiced our concerns in democratic fashion, or our broad-based numbers?

  36. Asheville needs the TOTAL HOUSING SUPPLY because if affluent buyers are unable to buy new condos, they will turn right around and bid up the price on formerly affordable housing like the Windsor Hotel. It is impossible to have affordable housing without PLENTY OF HOUSING IN TOTAL.

  37. Alan7 —

    You’re right that affordable housing is in short supply. So why do developers cater to those who want expensive ones? Profit, not fairness.

    Regulation restricting the arbitrary inflation of homes’ values is needed (and why its lack has created the current abysmal nationwide cascade of foreclosures).

    Citizens should not be at the mercy of the affluent anymore than corporations’ or corrupt politicians’ machinations.

    Citizens should be protected by law from baseless fluctuations in the housing market and rapacious developers like Coleman who make no token effort to house the workforce.

    Many developers erect stuff on spec that lays idle for months, even years, that could house people en masse — as is evident in the South Asheville business district.

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