Lee-Walker Heights isn’t for sale, but Asheville officials have a plan to redevelop it.
At their July 26 meeting, Asheville City Council members unanimously agreed to join the Housing Authority in applying for a $300,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant (formerly called HOPE VI), which provides funding for a variety of community revitalization projects — many aimed at creating mixed-income housing and stimulating homeownership among low-income residents.
Redeveloping Lee-Walker Heights is one key part of the grant proposal.
The poverty rate exceeds 40 percent in the complex, and it has a violent crime rate higher than any other public housing development in the city, according to Housing Authority data, said Community Development Director Jeff Staudinger. Any redevelopment of the Heights would include a mixed-income component, “not just public housing, but some affordable workforce housing, and if the market will support it, some market-rate rental housing,” he said.
Staudinger added that despite rumors within the community, the Housing Authority doesn’t plan to put the complex on the market. “We are not selling Lee-Walker Heights to anyone. We are proposing to redevelop [it] as a more modern, amenity rich, universally designed, mixed-income community that will be healthier for the public housing residents and the other residents that live there.”
He also emphasized that any public-housing residents displaced by the project would have a chance to relocate.
The city previously approved $40,038 in Community Development Block Grant funding for the planning and application process.
Mayor Terry Bellamy, a longtime advocate of affordable housing, was absent from the meeting.
Linamar and other news
In a meeting that lasted little more than an hour, Council members also unanimously passed a 19-item consent agenda that included setting an Aug. 9 public hearing to consider an economic development incentive package for the new Linamar auto-parts plant.
In late June, WLOS TV got the scoop on Buncombe County’s plan to buy the former Volvo plant off Hendersonville Road and sell it to Linamar, a Canadian manufacturer. County officials went through with the $7 million purchase, announcing that the deal would bring about 400 jobs — with an average pay of more than $39,000 per year — to the area.
The city’s part includes $2.2 million in tax rebates to Linamar. To get the rebates, the company has to meet investment and payroll benchmarks. Council Member Jan Davis said, “All of us here are excited about the possibility of that many new good-paying jobs for the community. … In a time of economic downturn, this is really, really good news.”
Council members unanimously approved:
• a budget amendment allowing the $120,000 purchase of a street-milling machine — heavy equipment that grinds up asphalt that’s being recycled or repaved. In the past, the city has contracted out milling services, but staff estimates saving around $900,000 over the next five years by purchasing the machine.
• authorization to lease 47 parking spaces of the surface lot at O. Henry Avenue and Haywood Street from AT&T. The lease will cost the city $55 per space per month, totaling $31,020 for the year. The spaces are close to the Asheville Civic Center and the Grove Arcade.
• a request to rezone a portion of the lot containing Trinity United Methodist Church at 587 Haywood Road in West Asheville from Community Business II and Residential Multi-Family Medium Density to Conditional Zoning. Rezoning will allow the church to move forward with plans to use its existing education building for a K-8 school. As part of the request, Trinity will add to an existing privacy fence and plant additional buffer trees on the eastern boarder of the property, which sits adjacent to three homes.
• a list of five questions for all of the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission candidates. Among the questions: asking applicants to talk about their vision for growth and development in Asheville and quizzing them on how strictly they believe the Unified Development Ordinance should be applied.
• a resolution allowing the sale of obsolete water meters to Biltmore Iron and Metal Company for $32,000. The meters will be recycled, and the funds will go to the city’s Water Resources Fund.