Magnolia on notice; Parkside protesters plan response

A letter delivered by developer Stewart Coleman to a group of demonstrators holding a vigil beneath the magnolia tree that sits on the controversial Parkside property states his intention to cut down the tree “sometime after 35 days from today’s date.”

Coleman told Xpress that he drafted the letter as part of a promise he made to demonstrators when he met with them in July. Responding to charges that he may cut the tree under darkness of night, Coleman told the group he would not do so without notice. The blog Asheville on the Ground has this account of the conversation.

“I gave [demonstrator Steve Rasmussen] my word that I would give him no less than 35 days notice,” Coleman said. “I’m honoring my word.”

The letter says the Coleman plans to apply for the permits necessary to demolish the adjacent Hayes and Hopson building as well.

According to a press release from Rasmussen and fellow demonstrator Lady Passion, demonstrators plan to respond in a press conference tomorrow (Thursday) at noon at the tree in front of Asheville City Hall.

As for the hand delivery, Coleman said he had no address for the demonstrators, and “I couldn’t give it to the post office and address it to the people sitting under the tree.”

The text of the letter is transcribed below, followed by the press release from Rasmussen and Lady Passion.

Click here to see Xpress photos of a recent rally around the magnolia tree aimed at stopping the Parkside development.

Brian Postelle, staff writer


Hand Delivered

August 5, 2008

Steve Rasmussen

Re: Parkside Condominium

Dear Steve:

As we discussed last month, I am writing to let you know that we plan to apply for a demolition permit for the Hayes and Hobson building and, as part of the site preparation, the magnolia tree will be removed sometime after 35 days from today’s date.


Stewart B. Coleman


Urgent Press Conference: Magnolia Tree, Noon, Thursday, August 7th In Front Of Asheville City Hall

    Parkside Condominiums opponents will hold a press conference tomorrow at noon, Thursday August 7th in front of Asheville City Hall to release the contents of a letter threatening to kill the magnolia tree and demolish the nearby historic Hayes & Hobson building within a newly specified time period. The letter was hand-delivered to Coven Oldenwilde on Tuesday by Parkside developer Stewart Coleman.

    Magnolia tree watchers will respond to the letter by outlining their new plans to reject Coleman’s ultimatum and save the tree and the building.


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17 thoughts on “Magnolia on notice; Parkside protesters plan response

  1. Reality Check

    Coleman must have just read, “How to win friends and influence people”!

  2. priestess1960

    This beautiful tree has had a wonderful life. She is going to be missed. I do wish that people would just quit trying to be in the spotlight (publicity) all the time, it tends to give other people of the like-mind a bad name. No wonder we get bashed!!!

  3. tatuaje

    “I gave [demonstrator Steve Rasmussen] my word that I would give him no less than 35 days notice,” Coleman said. “I’m honoring my word.”

    This man’s hubris is stunning to behold…I can’t believe he has the nerve to try to pass himself off as an honorable man. Successful…yes. Powerful….apparently. Honorable? Please..Being a slave to the Almighty Dollar and thumbing your nose at your community while chasing it doesn’t seem to qualify as honorable….

    Wow, Asheville…. Can Coleman do anything else short of having us all assemble at McCormick Field and giving us all the finger?

    I mean, he’s making plans to take down the tree when the outcome of this debacle has yet to be decided….Last I heard he was still involved in a lawsuit with the family members…

    Is there any way to get a court ordered injunction to keep him from cutting down the tree until this is all sorted out? If the courts decide in his favor and the land does indeed stay with him then he will have every right to cut down the tree. But what if he goes ahead and takes it down and then a month later the land returns to its rightful owners, us, the people?

    I’ve heard all the counter arguments….yes, the deed is in his name…But why can’t he show a little restraint & compassion. If there is nothing wrong with this land deal, then he will be allowed to eventually build. Seems to me an honorable man would try to be patient. Seems to me an honorable man would be trying to do the right thing. And even though the deed is in his name, I think we can all agree that Pack never intended this to happen. It’s very clear from his words in his will.

    An honorable man would try to make things right. An honorable man would value that over money…

  4. LOKEL

    Speaking of Chad …. what ever happened in the case against him involving illegal gambling at that “nite spot” he used to run?

    Has it gone to court yet?

  5. priestess1960

    I wonder what will be next on the “get publicity” agenda after this (save the magnolia tree).

  6. Barry Summers

    Stewart Coleman is not even trying to pretend this is about putting up a building anymore. He knows the permits won’t be granted, and he knows the Pack lawsuit may go against him in two weeks. He’s clearly threatening the community with cutting this tree down in order to drive the County and City to pay him millions of dollars. In other places, they call that extortion, or blackmail.

    Won’t somebody who knows this guy do an intervention and convince him to quit this, and take the money that’s currently on the table?

  7. Tigerswede


    If you have Vice Chair Gantt on your program again, will you please ask him to bring you a copy or any proof (beyond his words) of an offer being “on the table”?


  8. Reality Check

    Chad wasn’t gambling .. it was a friendly game … that coincidentally had an equal amount of chips and cash in the room!! I wonder if there was a hole in the table for the rake?

  9. Barry Summers


    I have asked David Gantt if there is a paper trail of any discussions, and have been told that there is not. This is frustrating, obviously, when the developer says that this is a lie, and that no one has offered him anything. Who do you believe, the Commissioners who clearly want this off their plate before the election, or the developer who clearly wants to keep the pressure on & drive up the buyout amount?

    Given that the County has told us that there is no paper trail showing the lead-up to the actual sale back in 2006, I don’t find it hard to believe that the buyout talks are all done verbally, as well. Unfortunate and unprofessional, yes. Evidence that David Gantt is lying about the buyout offers? No.

  10. bobaloo

    Who do you believe, the Commissioners who clearly want this off their plate before the election, or the developer

    How about none of the above?
    Gantt’s doing a remarkable job of CYA.

  11. Chad Nesbitt

    Lokel said – <>Speaking of Chad …. what ever happened in the case against him involving illegal gambling at that “nite spot” he used to run? Has it gone to court yet?<>

    Nothing to go to court over. No one was arested.

    Chad Nesbitt

  12. Chad Nesbitt

    Stewart Coleman and his family have been developing shopping centers in Buncombe County for years. They have always done a great job and have employed hundreds of people over the years.
    I happen to have been one of his sub contractors in the past. They are wonderful people to work for.

    Chad Nesbitt

  13. Barry Summers

    “Sorry about the question, but, why is the tree so special??”

    Let’s not forget that the magnolia, as special as it is, is not the main point here. This is public park land that was mistakenly sold to a private developer. This was all a speculative attempt to pressure the City Council into giving up the valuable Marjorie Street lot. When they said no, only then did Stewart Coleman start talking about building in the park.

    I have no sympathy for his “property rights”, because he has abused the whole concept: he never intended to build on the land he acquired; it was all just a big scam, to get his hands on City-owned land no other developer had a shot at.

    All that being said, it’s a gorgeous 100+ year old double magnolia that generations of people have enjoyed as part of the park.

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