Parkside protesters demand eminent domain, plan demonstration training ***UPDATED 2 p.m. TUESDAY***

Responding to a letter from Parkside developer Stewart Coleman, protesters beneath the magnolia tree adjacent to City/County Plaza are planning “direct action” workshops and demanding that either the city of Asheville or Buncombe County declare eminent domain to return the property to public hands

“There is nothing left but eminent domain,” said Elaine Lite, one of several who spoke before a crowd of about 50 people at a noon press conference held at the site.

The conference was called in response to a letter delivered Tuesday to protester and Coven Oldenwilde high priest Steve Rasmussen in which Coleman spelled out his intention to cut down the tree “sometime after 35 days from today’s date.”

The magnolia and the Hayes and Hopson building stand on property sold by Buncombe County to Coleman in 2006. Over the past few months, Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners have each repeatedly appealed to each other to correct the situation. Meanwhile, it appears that Coleman is ready to move forward with his condominium project, saying in his letter that he is applying for a demolition permit to tear down the Hayes and Hopson building.

Rasmussen’s wife, the coven’s high priestess Dixie Deerman, is one of several protesters who has been camping beneath the tree for the past month. Reading from a prepared statement, she said that “we reject Stewart Coleman’s ultimatum and vow to peacefully prevent the destruction of Pack Square’s beloved magnolia tree and the historic Hayes and Hopson Building.”

As part of that protest, the activists announced a “Direct Action Workshop” on Sunday, Aug. 16, to train potential demonstrators, and will conduct nightly “Tree Watch Orientation” sessions.

The spokespersons were vague on actions planned for future protests.

“Coleman’s not revealing all of his strategies, so the less we say about that, the better,” Deerman said. 

Tree Watch Orientations will take place at 7 p.m. nightly. The direct-action workshop will be held Sunday, Aug. 17, at 3 p.m. Click below to view a video clip from the rally.

Brian Postelle, staff writer



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108 thoughts on “Parkside protesters demand eminent domain, plan demonstration training ***UPDATED 2 p.m. TUESDAY***

  1. I heard it announced there that the training is at 3pm on the 16th.

    Also, just as a matter of record, yours truly introduced the speakers and read a list of groups opposing the Parkside deal:

    The Asheville Downtown Association
    The Asheville Tree Commission
    Asheville’s Democracy For America
    People Advocating Real Conservancy
    Mountain Voices Alliance
    Buncombe County Democratic Party
    The Editorial Board of the Asheville Citizen-Times
    Buncombe County Green Party
    Asheville City Council
    Buncombe County Commissioners in a recent resolution
    Western North Carolina Alliance
    The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County
    Pack Square Conservancy
    Coven Oldenwilde

    And there are over 7,000 signatures on the PARC/Mountain Voices Alliance calling for the use of eminent domain.

  2. LOKEL

    With the metro population currently around 400,000 those opposed seem to be a very limited minority.

  3. bobaloo

    “Coleman’s not revealing all of his strategies, so the less we say about that, the better,”

    Oh good Lord. This has become so absurd.

    Stewart Coleman’s ultimatum

    What ultimatum? He’s not giving an ultimatum – certainly not to the Coven – as they are completely powerless in this situation to actually respond with something meaningful.
    I appreciate the sentiment and I oppose the condos going there, but the overblown egos swirling around this situation are a source of high comedy.

  4. When Let Asheville Vote had just over 5,000 signatures, it was heralded as a very big deal, so let’s not pretend that over 7,000 isn’t.

  5. Tigerswede

    I would love to see those signatures verified, as the “Let Asheville Vote” sinatures were.

    Yours truely!


  6. a local


    Where exactly did you pull that number from? Chamber of Commerce stats say 220,000, and they always seem to run a little high compared to the census, which cite all of WNC as being about 240,000.

  7. Chad Nesbitt

    Eminate Domain on private property? Siding with witches and pegans?
    Just look at Gordons list above. These groups are siding with people that believe in fairy’s, trolls, and worship Satan.
    This is the mindset of liberals.

    Over 2 dozen trees were cut down in the adjacent park. Where was the outrage from these groups then?

    Stewart Coleman and his family have been developing shopping centers and residential areas in Buncombe County for years. All of their developments are beautiful and they have employed hundreds of people over the years.

    This reminds me of the Wilmington Race Riots. In 1897, the Democrats used the KKK to kill over 100 hundred black Republicans and over threw the Wilmington government.

    Now the Democrats use loud mouth witches, liberal elected politicians, and progressive organizations to try to intimidate and take people’s property rights away. Not to mention American family values.

  8. travelah

    Chad, that is a foolish comment. I am not at all in the basket case grouping you mention yet think emanate domain would be a reasonable means of correcting this mistake.

  9. lindsey simerly

    Just a couple points note on the “let asheville vote petition.”
    1) 5000 were not verified… less than 3000 were valid.
    2) People were paid to get signatures as opposed to the current signatures for invoking eminent domain to regain parkland, which have all been volunteer.

    Chad-so glad you are back… I’ve been missin’ your comments.

  10. bobaloo

    These groups are siding with people that believe in fairy’s, trolls, and worship Satan.
    This is the mindset of liberals.


  11. c’mon, guys, it’s EMINENT domain.

    But whatever you call it, this is NOT the solution. Private property is private property (and, by the way, the witches are all trespassing).

    I think it’s over now and the current county commissioners should face criminal charges IF they gave away Pack legacy land. IF it was not Pack land, than all this is much ado about nothing and the commissioners where in their rights to buy and sell public property, but should have done so openly and still need to justify this action.

    Regardless, we need to quit blaming Coleman and place the blame where it belongs, the current county commissioners.

    Under the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule, consider:

    1. These commissioners put in zoning despite the people’s vote against it.

    2. They sold park property that, at best should not have been sold and, at worse, went against the honor of this county by selling legacy proper that was to be held in the public trust forever.

    3. Are denying us, the people, district representation. Out here in the county we DO NOT want idiots in Asheville telling us what to do and most, if not all, of the current commissioners live in Asheville. There are more people out in the county then in Asheville, this is hardly fair representation.

    Next batter!

  12. Tigerswede

    MR. Simerly,

    Do you have any proof of these rather serious accusations or are they your opinions (a.k.a. Gordo-Facts)

    1) 5000 were not verified… less than 3000 were valid.
    2) People were paid to get signatures as opposed to the current signatures for invoking eminent domain to regain parkland, which have all been volunteer.

  13. The blame is at the feet of the Commissioners, Ralph. Mr. Coleman’s ducking and dodging and his contempt of the public has, however, demonstrated an utter disregard for the public space and a recognition that a mistake was made.

    Eminent Domain is in the U.S. Constitution. I’d rather not have it go that way, but unless another solution emerges, then this situation is exactly what eminent domain ought to be applied to.

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

    Just compensation. That’s what the court would decide. Alternately, Coleman and the County could sit down and work it out. I’d rather see the latter, but if Coleman wants to ask an exorbitant amount (250% more than what he paid), holding the park land hostage, then there’s no other recourse.

  14. Correction:

    Coleman paid $322,000 for the park property and about $1.2 million for the Hayes and Hopson. We’ll call it $1.5 million. So the $4.5 million he’s asking for (barring the $100,000 threatened monthly increase in his asking price) comes to a 200% profit in under two years. Show me any other property in Asheville that’s appreciated that much since November of 2006.

    If he wants to be compensated for his expenses over and above the purchase price of the properties, then he’s asking the taxpayers to bail him out on a failed piece of land speculation.

  15. Ralph –

    So it is okay for City Council to ED an entire black neighborhood of houses to put garage for the city’s fleet parking, displacing scores of established families and fracturing an already displaced community…

    But it is not okay for the City (or preferably the County) to ED a piece of public park land that was sold illegally to begin with?

    Just where is the logic in this entire debacle??

    (Just to set the record straight, I am not insinuating that Ralph thinks the eminent domain of South Charlotte/Valley St was appropriate, but rather this historical precedence of when our city decides eminent domain is ‘okay.’)

  16. Chad Nesbitt


    Good to hear from you too. Loved your video on youtube about the tree and park. LOL.


  17. Time for all of us to do some reading:

    Some relevant excerpts:


    “For the public use or benefit, the governing body of each municipality or county shall possess the power of eminent domain and may acquire by purchase, gift or condemnation any property, either inside or outside its boundaries, for the following purposes.”
    “(3) Establishing, enlarging, or improving parks, playgrounds, and other recreational facilities.”

    “When the proposed project requires condemnation of only a portion of a parcel of land leaving a remainder of such shape, size or condition that it is of little value, a condemnor may acquire the entire parcel by purchase or condemnation. If the remainder is to be condemned the petition filed under the provisions of G.S. 40A?20 or the complaint filed under the provisions of G.S. 40A?41 shall include:
    (1) A determination by the condemnor that a partial taking of the land would substantially destroy the economic value or utility of the remainder; or
    (2) A determination by the condemnor that an economy in the expenditure of public funds will be promoted by taking the entire parcel; or
    (3) A determination by the condemnor that the interest of the public will be best served by acquiring the entire parcel.”

    Obviously there’s plenty more. Everyone ought to peruse, because unless the County and Coleman come to an agreement, we’re all going to be talking quite a bit about the subject.

  18. Barry Summers

    Serious question for the “property rights” hard-believers out there: Doesn’t the sacredness of that concept get a little smudged by the fact that Mr. Coleman acquired this park property with no intention of actually building on it? Listen to the tape from the October 22, 2007 Conservancy meeting: in his own words, he acknowledged that he bought the land to “swap” it for the City-owned Marjorie Street lot.

    This isn’t a case of an honest, straightforward, development deal caught up in some bureaucratic hell; this man tried to pressure the City into giving up their most valuable parkfront property, when no other developer had a shot at it. And when they said “sorry, play by the rules & submit a proposal like anyone else”, only then did he talk about building on the park land. And now, months later, when it seems obvious both the City and County won’t issue the permits he needs to build, he’s threatening to cut down the magnolia tree anyway. He’s barely trying to hide the obvious: it’s an attempt to bring the City & County into a room with their checkbooks out, before the Aug. 25th Pack lawsuit ruling might simply take the land away from him.

    This is a speculative land deal gone bad, and now Stewart Coleman is demanding that the public pony up 4.5 million dollars to keep him from making their park smaller.

    This situation is screaming out for eminent domain.

  19. Barry –

    You summed it up perfectly.
    ‘The enemy isn’t liberalism, the enemy isn’t conservatism, the enemy is bullsh*t.’ – Lars-Erik Nelson

    This whole issue is about money – who’s got it, who can use it, and who can afford to pay out.
    Stewart Coleman just wants to settle this all before November when tides may turn, and thus is threatening to cut down the tree if he doesn’t get a check before then.

    I am still uncertain as to what exactly folks expect to come out of the Pack heir law-suit, which is supposed to come to some state of conclusion on Aug 25th. Anyone got any leads on that development?

  20. JBo, thanks for setting the record straight … and, of course, not many people thing what the city did in building the infamous ‘Taj Garage’ was appropriate and there was considerable discussion of it to that end when they did it.

    As to ‘logic in this debacle’ … there is none, I’m just saying that eminent domain is poison and not the answer. Otherwise, my position is the same as yours and most people on this board, selling the park land was a gross mistake and should be rectified. But, at this point, I’m not sure it can be.

  21. lokel

    “Asheville is a part of the four-county Asheville metropolitan statistical area, the population of which was estimated by the Census Bureau in 2006 to be 398,009.”

    from wikipedia by way of the US Census bureau

  22. contentpersephone

    I would like to know if the “summary judgment” coming down the pipeline, supposedly August 25th, for the Pack family lawsuit might have the ability to put an injunction on anything being done to the land in question. Does anyone here know?

    It seems to me, that if this were the case, we are all, including Mr. Coleman, getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

    If the court case does *not* have the power to do that, then I suppose that I’d support emminant domain in this particular case – though I would really consider it a last resort.

    The other solution – buying off Mr. Coleman – will cost the City (and us, the taxpayers) millions of dollars.

    It doesn’t seem very fair, seeing as how the county commissioners are the ones that “screwed up”.

    what a mess.

  23. Reality Check

    The best solution here is that the Pack family wins their court case. They should win on principal. They are the real victims. Hopefully there aren’t any ‘technicalities’ to taint the case.

    If I ‘willed’ you something with conditions on it and you violated em, I’d haunt you all day ever day forever.

  24. Nothing is worth the slippery slope of eminent domain, Gordon, NOTHING.

    Besides, it would be fought out in the courts for years to come, soaking us taxpayers for mucho legal fees and just compounding the damage the commissioners have caused by this ill-advised sale.

    Let’s find another way than going down that long, dark, rocky, totally unacceptable eminent domain highway to private property rights hell.

  25. shadmarsh

    Nothing is worth the slippery slope of eminent domain, Gordon, NOTHING.

    Nothing? I think a few hours inside Chad Nesbitt’s head would be considerable so.

  26. Ralph –

    The wise founding powers that were put Eminent Domain into our lawful means for a reason. Obviously they knew it to be a last resort when all other reason fails, but fully understanding that within the people’s will there are moments when we need a side door to fix the problem.

    Which is better Ralph?
    Buying out Coleman for his $4m+ request, bankrupting our city’s savings? We have a small surplus right now, and when heading into a recession common sense tells you to keep your pennies tight. Were we to give him our economic buoy, we risk heading into a potential storm without a paddle.
    Or without emptying our piggy bank the council could cut programs in areas like health and human services instead to pay Mr. Coleman. Would that be wise or prudent?

    Or, we can use the side-door, strategically placed to allow us a means of getting the job done at a fair market value. Sure it’ll cost us – but Coleman will get what the law says he deserves. It isn’t left up to wild demands set forth by impassioned parties, it is the will of an unbiased superior judge. All parties have lost their time in this process, so no one gets to win on that account – lest wise chalk it up as an all around learning experience. This end would provide a means that serves as a win-win situation as dictated by the law so that all parties are compensated *fairly* –

    And thus – the only reasonable measure that remains is for the City (or preferably the County) to initiate the process of declaring Eminent Domain.


  27. “Let’s find another way than going down that long, dark, rocky, totally unacceptable eminent domain highway to private property rights hell.”


    I imagine the parties involved are accepting suggestions. Got any? I think ED ought to be an absolute last resort. Got any next-to-last resorts?

  28. Lindsey Simerly

    yes- I personally know 3 people that were paid. They were paid per signature (which is not illegal I don’t think, it just raises eyebrows).
    And on the exact number verified, I think it was 2400, but I don’t know the exact figure. I am sure someone does.

  29. Tigerswede

    Mr. Simerly,

    I simply don’t beleive you, and I bet you won’t give their names because they don’t want to be dragged into this.

    2400 is still way more votes than you received.

    Have a good weekend!

  30. Gosh, Gordon and I agree on something! I may be slipping.

    Gordon, the only think I can think of is impeach the current commissioners. It won’t solve the problem but it should slow them down from doing something like this again.

  31. JBo… it was not the city’s property but rather the county’s. The City should not and probably can’t buy it.

    If Coleman does not want to sell (and he’s perfectly within his rights to say ‘no’, it’s his property now, dang the commissioners!), then the only recourse may be eminent domain (as distasteful to almost certainly the majority in Buncombe County as it may be).

    However, I do not think that it would work. Any forceful taking would stay in the courts for a long time, perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court (we published a book a few years ago about such a case in South Carolina and the property owner WON).

    Bottom line, if Coleman does not want to sell, all we can do is extract our pound of flesh (Shakespear, don’t ya know) and move on.

  32. Barry Summers

    Ralph – I beg to differ. The park belongs to the public, not the bureaucrats that sold part of it to one of their cronies. Sure, hit me with the legalese, but that land belongs to ALL of us; the County was entrusted to safeguard it – they violated that trust.

    I haven’t heard any response to my question: Coleman purchased this property solely to leverage OTHER land away from the City. Doesn’t that weaken his “sacred” property rights argument for you?

  33. the rub, Barry, is that your assertion would have to be proved in a court of law … and that’s going to cost us a lot.

    I agree… it WAS the public’s land but our elected STEWARDS of that land sold it out from under us and now it has a different kind of Stewart over it.

    to put it in plain English, we — the people, done got hosed.

  34. Ralph, Barry, the assertion is being proven as we speak. That’s what the whole Pack lawsuit is about, isn’t it?
    And Barry, the issue does come down to “sacred” property rights- It was Pack’s land, he told the County what they could and could not do with it, and the present County Commission, being made up of incompetent thieves, violated those legally binding wishes and sold the land to the bastard Colemen for a song. If the Pack estate property rights had been respected in the first place, all this could have been avoided.
    If the parkside condos get built…well, let me say this. I know a lot of DJs, punk rockers, noise musicians, and other people who get incredibly annoying when drunk. They have raised being annoying while drunk to an art form. Heck, I’m one of them, although I’m more broody and than annoying. If those condos go up, we have a new place to practice.

  35. Here’s something to consider (and I know Gordon asked for a way to resolve this and named three, well, here’s a fourth):

    In reading the original deed in which Pack conveys all this land to the county (see

    “… and that none of said land shall ever be sold or leased by said Board of County Commissioners or their successors and for reversion as aforesaid to said Geo. W. Pack and his heirs if ever a jail should be built thereon on any of said property, should be sold or leased as aforesaid. …”‘

    I interpret that as meaning (caveat: I am not an attorney, I follow honest toil) that if SOME of the land is sold ALL of the land reverts to the Pack heirs.

    Now, wouldn’t that be something?

  36. Yes it would, Ralph. Because that would mean everything from the Pack Monument to the back of the Courthouse would suddenly become private land again.

  37. Tsk, tsk, Tigerwede …

    but I much comment that her video was kinda weird even for Asheville. Might have something to do with the fact that she was not elected.

  38. Tigerswede

    I guess Simerly is not coming back to discuss how completely incorrect she was about the verification of the votes for “Let Asheville Vote”

    Ralph, The time to correct your posts is before you hit the Submit button j/k. I see you are about to lose your vowels over at Gordo’s.

  39. travelah

    Barry, the park actually belonged to the County and not the general public. Do you think you have public rights at the County Public Works Dept or your pick of picnic space on the roof of one of the public buildings?

  40. Barry Summers

    I have the rights that are spelled out when the property came under the control of the County, and when it’s use was specified. No one expects to be allowed to picnic on the roof of the County building, since that is not it’s specified use. But the park space has always been there for the use of the public. That is specifically how it came under the control of the County; it was turned over by George Pack to be protected as public park space, and yes, he used the word “forever”.

    So if Wanda Greene decided that since the tax revenue they collected from you and me now “belongs” to the County, they can blow it on pizza and beer and Ferraris? No. There are specific limits on how funds and property controlled by the County can be used. Same with the park land that they sold in the dead of night to one of their cronies. There should be a criminal investigation.

  41. Ralph –

    To respond to your post about Coleman wanting or not-wanting to sell –

    He has admitted to several people in open public that this 35 day notice is merely him forcing the city and the county to sit down with their checkbooks at the negotiating table. Whether or not he can be negotiated with is the question. $4m+ is not within the rational means of the tax-payers to pay. If Coleman is any sort of a reasonable man, grace willing, he could prevent the eminent domain process and be talked down to a fair market value for the land. He wants to sell the land; he knows that is what is best for everyone involved. There is little point in building high priced condos (that would probably be boycotted and/or vandalized in protest) in the on-set of a recession. Not to mention completing the project would be the death nail to his already suffering reputation amongst his friends in high places.

    It is really up to Coleman as to how sensible he wants to be. The negotiation table is the last means of reason before starting the official process of eminent domain.

  42. You call it the catbird seat, though it probably feels a lot like a hot seat sometimes.

    When nothing but eminent domain is left, eminent domain ought to be employed. If Coleman and the County don’t want to go through with eminent domain, then they ought to solve the problem without it.

    For an eminent domain primer, you can visit this handy link:

  43. What’s left, Gordon, I fear is nothing but years of expensive legal wrangling. A gift to the people of Buncombe County from their beloved county commissioners who also gave us zoning against our will and no district representation.

  44. Let me make this clearer, Gordon … The solutions of eminent domain and/or negotiating a purchase agree punishes US, the long suffering taxpayer. We have have fork out money to correct the commissioners’ mistake. This should not be.

    What should happen: the commissioners come up with a way to correct this mistake that does not punish taxpayers or we live with the sale and punish the commissioners.

    Let’s think more along those lines than eminent domain, which simply penalizes us more.

  45. Ralph,

    You’re right that it’s the taxpayers’ money. The only way to correct the mistake is to repurchase the land. Coleman isn’t playing nice.

    “Live with the sale”? That means a condominium high rise cutting cross half of City Hall, our city’s most iconic building. It means the loss of parkland, and it means a tragic culmination of County misfeasance and private profiteering at the public’s expense.

    Who’s parkland will disappear? Ours. Who’s iconic City bulding will be obscured by Parkside? Ours.

    We lose either way, Ralph. We just lose less through eminent domain.

  46. Ralph –
    What penalizes us more is loosing our parkland to massive condominiums directly in front of our historic city hall. The implications of Coleman’s development will only further gentrify & rift our community.

    Yes the commissioners failed us – but we gave them our power and we can as citizens take it back. It is our right to do so, and it is our duty to carry out the people’s will – not the will of one affluent individual.

  47. (FWIW, Ralph – I’m looking forward to some sort of edit function as well. It really chafes to see one’s good point marred by spelling errors…)

  48. Barry Summers

    I want to echo what Jen & Gordon just said – as bad as eminent domain is, it’s better than letting this development go forward. Besides the loss of parkland, it will be the eternal symbol of money overruling right and wrong, and it will loom over the park and the City Hall forever. The message to the current community and to later generations will be: “We didn’t have the will to stand up for what was right, and we gave in to arrogance, cynicism, and greed.” This will be a terrible blow to this city, to have to watch that tree get ripped out of the ground, and yet another luxury condo building go in it’s place, literally in FRONT of City Hall. This has to be fought with every tool at our disposal.

  49. Barry Summers

    I would also like to throw out there – what if the City & County considered waging eminent domain jointly? Share the cost, share the political heat, etc? Just a thought…

  50. Gordon and JBo … I agree it is onerous losing parkland … but, how’s this, if it is going to cost us $2 – $4.5 million to get this one little dab of land back, let’s instead go out into the county and spend a mil or so to get a REALLY nice park with lots of acreage and trees, and use the remainder we saved for schools, social services, busting meth labs, etc.

    I submit this as a solution (I believe that now makes five between us, Gordon).

  51. (FWIW, Ralph – I’m looking forward to some sort of edit function as well. It really chafes to see one’s good point marred by spelling errors…)

    YES! Gordon and I join forces on this one!


    Give us EDITING.

    Thank you.

  52. Jon Elliston

    Regarding the requests for enabling commenters to edit their posts — we feel your pain, but we’ve opted not to do so. The main reason is that this form of online communication is often confusing enough in its own right. Which is to say that it can be easy to lose track of who is saying what and in what context.

    If commenters were able to retroactively change their comments, there’s a real risk of the context shifting out from under a conversation. For example, Commenter B might respond to something Commenter A wrote, only to have Commenter A change their initial comment, thereby robbing Commenter B of a contextual response.

    As always, feel free to post follow-up clarifications if you make a mistake in a comment.

    Jon Elliston
    Managing Editor

  53. I would also like to throw out there – what if the City & County considered waging eminent domain jointly? Share the cost, share the political heat, etc? Just a thought.

    hmmm… but that would soak city taxpayers TWICE … once for the city and once for the county.

  54. Jon –

    I agree concerning the fear of having folks re-edit their text post-conversations. These forums are a great collection of folks voicing their concerns, thoughts, and potential solutions. Historically they would make for a great primary source. Who knows, perhaps someday some poor college kid might get stuck with a research paper on this ordeal.

    But what about a preview option so that folks can re-read the text clearly before posting it?
    Or, with a lot more coding involved, a spell-check option?
    {next thing you know this’ll be it’s own version of myspace}

  55. Regarding the requests for enabling commenters to edit their posts…

    Thanks for the quick response, Jon.

    But the Internet is big and all these problems long since solved.

    Your point is valid, here’s the solution (and I see used it more and more) — simply allow editing to fix typos for a short period, 15 or 30 minutes would more than cover it, THEN the post locks.



  56. Ralph –

    I believe you are correct in that as I understand it the city tax payers would get hosed twice. We pay to both the city and the county, so if they merged on an ED then the city folk would be paying double the taxes to solve the issue.

    However – we really can’t say what the cost of the ED would be without getting someone to appraise the land fairly. A lot of this has been based on near-wild speculation with numbers and dollar signs flying every which way. That being said – I live downtown. We want our park-land back. We shouldn’t have to drive 15 minutes out in the county to enjoy our park.

    Not to mention that still doesn’t solve the ugly factor of big blocky condos interfering with the view of the historically renowned architecture of our hallowed City Hall.

    Coleman wants to sell the land back –
    We the people want the park land back –
    The Commissioners will burn in November for their incompetence and arrogance –

    The real discussion that remains is:
    Do we pay Coleman whatever he asks?
    Or if Coleman does not negotiate within reason, do we start the process of eminent domain and pay him what he deserves as declared by US law?

  57. oxymoron:

    (from Merriam-Webster)

    “: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements”


    military intelligence

    city parkland

    JLo, parks BELONG in the country, buildings belong in the city. And saying we shouldn’t have to drive 15 minutes to enjoy our park … well… I’ll be nice.

    no, no I won’t…

    if ANYONE lives in Asheville and does not regularly visit the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forrest, Dupont State Park, and all the many other grand and glorious SCENIC wonders that ARE the REAL mountains or at least drive up Big Sandy Mush or 197 to Barnardsville and the Coleman Boundary (different Coleman) … if instead they think a few hundred square feet of scraggly grass and a single tree blanketed by dirty city air and slammed by traffic and crowd noise is PARK … well… it’s very, very sad.

    You can’t drive 15 minutes for stuff like this? Do it, it will do your soul well.

  58. and if for some reason you can’t visit the places above, then watch “Rapid Ralph Runs the Roads” every Monday at 7pm on cable channel 20 … I will give you the magic and the love that are these tall green mountains and make them sing through your blood as they do mine.

  59. Jon,

    A preview function would suffice. I say this even though over at ScruHoo we couldn’t be fussed with the same thing. I get to go in and fix my own typos over there. 8-)

  60. Dudes,
    If you’d be a tad bit more cautious–i.e., reread your posts carefully before hitting submit, you’d produce fewer typos as well.

    That said, everyone makes mistakes, and I don’t hold it against you, particularly in a comment thread.

    Although I admit that one of my fave Facebook groups is called “I hold it against you when you use bad grammar.”

  61. Ralph –

    I doubt you’ve done much research into current movements in urban & community development.

    On the contrary to your position, parks are absolutely vital for cities. This summer I visited some major cities to compare notes on urban planning and I’ll tell you this – the cities that worked within the preservation of a natural environment had a much healthier and thus overall happier populous than those who reside in urban concrete jungles. Using as much of the urban landscape as possible to keep environmental stewardship over flora and fauna helps with a majority of public concerns. Trees and plants help to clean the air & act as a natural filter for CO2 levels, their root systems provide natural drainage for storm water run-off (thus preventing flooding or potential land-slides), and since concrete and brick absorb heat making cities insufferably hot – trees and plants help to cool the cityscape making it a much nicer place to live.

    There are many specific reasons as to why planners should endorse urban parks. Public health is a major reason, as having walking distance parks is a motivator for encouraging outdoor activity. The U.S. obesity rate has doubled since the 1970’s with diabetes costing $1 of every $5 that Americans spend on health care. Prevention is always better than a cure – and thus if people walk more, breath better air, and have lower stress levels due to a beautiful natural environment they will overall have healthier happier lives and thus save the government and themselves thousands of dollars in long-term health care. Parks are one of the easiest ways to improve the overall quality of life for citizens.

    A more pragmatic incentive: Parks generate real estate development on their edges. Prime example: Central Park.

    Having large natural spaces for the community to gather enriches the fabric of society, as well as offers incentives for youth development, creative opportunities, and job prospects.

    If you’d like to read a well written report concerning the topic there is a pdf released by the Wallace Foundation here:

    And there is more great research on the value of urban parkland development at the non-partisan Urban Institute website:

    As far as the parkway goes – I adore our mountains. They are my home and resonate within my heart. Unfortunately my car is not sustainable enough for me to make trips often – it is a special event when I am able to take to the parkway.
    And as far as your show – unfortunately I don’t have television access in my home. But thanks for the work you put into such efforts. No one questions for a moment your love and devotion to our homeland.

    Oh, please don’t refer to be as JLo. I hold no affinity towards that musician or her pop-culture life-style.


  62. tatuaje

    JLo, parks BELONG in the country, buildings belong in the city. And saying we shouldn’t have to drive 15 minutes to enjoy our park … well… I’ll be nice.

    no, no I won’t…

    That is simply crazy talk… I think JBo’s response sums up why better than I ever could….

    Once again JBo, thanks for being such a eloquent poster…. And seriously, run for public office… we obviously need you…

  63. Barry Summers

    “hmmm… but that would soak city taxpayers TWICE … once for the city and once for the county.”

    I’m confused – how does the City and County SHARING the cost of ED mean the taxpayers get soaked twice? I propose they agree to file a single ED case, and pay the legal costs and possible buyout costs together, not to mention sharing the political heat. How does that end up costing us twice as much?

    This sounds like planting a poison disinformation pill so an idea doesn’t even get considered…

  64. it’s not disinformation, Barry. Just simple logic … you pay both city and county taxes… so, AT BEST, if the city shares the cost with the county you, as a tax payer, pays once on your county taxes and approximately the same thing on your city taxes.

    Now, that may sound like a wash BUT WOULD NOT be cheaper to us taxpayers if the city and county share costs since a whole ‘nother set of lawyers would be involved and I can guarantee the extra lawyers will be billing tons of hours on top of what the county lawyers bill. Other costs will go up, as well, and the time factor stretches, too, with more cooks stirring this already an nauseous broth.

    besides (and you may be surprised hearing this from me since I am usually an advocate for county as opposed to city, but it’s the truth), it is grossly UNFAIR for city taxpayers to bail out the huge mistake the county made.

    just something else for the county commissioners to answer to.

  65. Ralph –

    Watched your video –
    It is quite a privilege to live in the county.
    Were I able to – I surely would. But I can’t afford the luxury of living in the county, so I am glad there are folks like you who can keep stewardship over such natural grace and beauty. Goodness knows I’ve heard the horror stories of county folks having to sell their generations old farm-land to developers due to rising property taxes.

    Nevertheless, don’t we who are confined to blocks of man-made architecture deserve some natural beauty as well? I love Asheville – she is a beautiful city and I thankful to be here rather than in any other city in the world. What would make our marvelous city even more pleasurable for all citizens is to be able to have a little taste of the county beauty in our own front yard. In fact, wouldn’t a great big beautiful park in front of city hall would be just glorious? Can’t you just imagine the possibilities?

    Not everyone has the ability to get out of the city – but no one should have to live a life void of the beauty of nature.

  66. Thanks, JBo … and I do agree with you.

    It is, alas, becoming harder and harder for folks who live IN Asheville to see beauty. For many, many years, those toiling in the concrete jungles of the Land of the Sky, the Paris of South, could but raise their faces to the great greenness of the surrounding heights in relief. … now, there is naught but condos and the big houses of rich outsiders.

    still… to be realistic… there is plenty of good stuff left in Asheville … much more than that one tree which our beloved county commissioners have doomed to a visit to the sawmill.

    I certainly take no satisfaction in that end and IF a solution can be found to save it that does not soak us taxpayers, I am all for it.

  67. Rumor has it that the County and the Pack lawyer will ask for summary judgment on the 25th rather than asking to go further. No word on whether Mr. Coleman will do the same.

  68. Ralph –

    There is a means that does tie up all the loose ends:

    Stewart Coleman is fairly compensated in monetary means,
    The tax-payers don’t get abused by absurd price-tags,
    The people’s park-land stays open for the enjoyment of the present and generations to come,
    The County Commissioners all take responsibility for their mistake and have to bite the political bullet,

    The answer is:
    {turn the card over}

    Eminent Domain

    Lest Coleman can come to a reasonable stance of mind, this is the only means that solves all the issues of the day.

  69. Ralph –

    I’ve dutifully listed the reasons in the ‘pro’ column. Can you be so kind as to list the ones in the ‘con’ ?

  70. Let’s start with the big one first, getting these few hundred square feet back would cost the taxpayers of both Buncombe County and the City of Asheville (them twice) a lot more than it’s worth. Cheaper to buy new, bigger, and better parkland out in the county with money left over for other badly needed items such as social, law enforcement, education, and so forth.

    More later.

  71. Ralph –

    The City / County wouldn’t buy ANY land if Parkside were not bought back from Coleman. It’s not an either/or situation concerning do we buy back Parkside or do we purchase land out in the County (which the City wouldn’t contribute funds to anyway).

    With a vocal tenth of the metro population declaring this sale to be hoodwinked from the get-go, and with the people demanding their power back from the County Commissioners in order to make right that which the Commissioners made wrong – the parkland property in front of city hall must return to the hands of people, as it was given to them by the goodwill of George Pack.

    Coleman has made known that he wants to sell it back.

    The question I am specifically asking you is:

    Should the City/County pay out the nose whatever daft amount Coleman declares?


    Should the City/County pay Coleman a fair market value as deemed just by the law?

  72. At this point, I would say neither.

    Our elected representatives gave away the property and the cost to get it back … whether Coleman agrees to sell or eminent domain is used is too costly.

    Now, a solution I WOULD approve is that the county commissioners, out of their OWN pockets, be required to buy the property back. Together, they have the net worth and the credit to finance it if need be. This is the BEST solution — the county commissioners are at fault, let THEM rectify their mistake instead of we taxpayers having to.

  73. slowlocal

    I appreciate the civil discourse between Ralph and JBo, and opinions expressed on park space. JBo eloquently expresses reasons for city parks, and the Pack family clearly held those same sentiments when they deeded the land for just that purpose.

    As a community planner for many WNC counties, I can verify that in our community surveys, citizens invariably envision green space and park space in their cities and towns. Community members are increasingly concerned about the rising cost and environmental impact of “driving to greenspace” (you can add that to the oxymoron list, Ralph) and increasingly want to preserve and support the natural beauty of their hometown.

  74. driving to greenspace … duly added.

    This is where I disagree intensely … city is city and country is country. Since the Sumerians, some 40 centuries ago, made cities a fad that persists today, this has been true.

    The Hanging Gardens of Babylon and New York’s Central Park aside (and, yes, I am familiar with the work of Frederic Law Olmstead), generally one finds more buildings and less greenspace (to use this somewhat meaningless term) in cities.

    In short, cities are a place to cram a lot of people into a small area and give them a chance to practice rudeness and obsess over a single tree when many tens of millions of trees live just outside the city limits and pine (pun, as always, intended) for visitors.

    There is NO excuse to live in Asheville and NOT regularly visit our natural mountain wonders. PERIOD.

  75. “Now, a solution I WOULD approve is that the county commissioners, out of their OWN pockets, be required to buy the property back. Together, they have the net worth and the credit to finance it if need be. This is the BEST solution—the county commissioners are at fault, let THEM rectify their mistake instead of we taxpayers having to.”

    Ralph – you’re sooner likely to see hogs fly, frogs fall from the sky, and the French Broad river turn a shade of purple.

    “Our elected representatives gave away the property and the cost to get it back … whether Coleman agrees to sell or eminent domain is used is too costly.”

    And this is where our sense of value seems to part ways.
    While money is of value –

    I value a community unified in a common cause of rational discourse.
    I value the ability to prevent impassioned members of our community from lying down in front of bulldozers during the 11th hour.
    I value the magnificent specimen of a tree that has sat in our city’s front yard for generations.
    I value the need for urban park-space that can be enjoyed by all members of our community.
    I value the ability to prevent further gentrification and rifts amongst our community.
    I value the ability to correct mistakes and prove to current and future elected officials that we the people will not stand for corruption and incompetence in our leaders.
    I value the history and beauty of our downtown structures, and to the preservation of our city’s treasures.
    I value a stewardship over our natural environment.
    I value the will of an honorable man named George Willis Pack who dedicated his latter years to practicing philanthropy and goodwill to the city that gave him financial success and a community he could call home.

    I value all of these issues much more than the US dollar – which is something that is increasingly fluctuating in value as the world economy turns.

    So I guess on a realistic level of what our policy leaders need to do – I still pose the question – what is the appropriate cost of getting our land back in the hands of the people who hold rights to it.

  76. If people live down in front of bulldozers, they need to quickly reassess their values.

    There is all kind of parkland still in Asheville aside from those few hundred square feet and one tree. Look at all the space along the river. You took away our race track for a park, USE IT.

    But if you can’t make hogs fly, I guess we’ll lost the tree.

    Let’s move on now … primary just you and I are debating this and, as nice as you are, we are not coming to any sort of agreement other than, perhaps, we have idiots for commissioners.

  77. Barry Summers

    I strongly disagree with any suggestion that we simply shrug and say “it’s too expensive to get the land back, let him have his building and let’s go enjoy the countryside.”

    We won’t allow this travesty to end with a developer profiting from chopping out a piece of our commons, our heritage.

    Being reasonable and looking for a just compromise is a losing position when you are dealing with people who have no respect for right and wrong, and have shown their contempt for the community the way Stewart Coleman and the County has.

  78. Barry Summers

    If I sound a little too militant and harsh, it’s from long years watching how this kind of deal grinds on in this town. Rational, principled discussion like the kind going on here between Ralph and JBo is good, but somewhat irrelevant when the people running things behind the scenes behave so deceitfully.

    There is an idealogy at work here that leads some to quietly sneer at and undermine things that many of us take for granted, like the value of a downtown park available for all to enjoy. Folks who know the County staff and Commissioners involved know that this is true, but won’t confirm it in public for the same reason that business owners, local media, and non-profit entities don’t want to criticize Stewart Coleman.

  79. Mysterylogger

    Lets cut it down. Im all for it.

    Its his tree he can do with what ever he wants with it.

  80. jen

    If they are so sad about cutting down this tree…why do they not care about all of the trees being cut down for construction and development elsewhere in Asheville? The construction is going to happen. They are just wasting their time. Times change, and so do the landscapes of small cities when they grow. Maybe locals should be putting more effort into making people not want to move here. Slowing construction and the need for new condos in the area.

  81. Maybe locals should be putting more effort into making people not want to move here. Slowing construction and the need for new condos in the area. …


  82. travelah

    ralph, what a great idea! I think a couple red neck trucker bars on Patton and one of those all night breakfast Huddle shops might work

  83. better yet, let’s tear down some buildings downtown and put in a quarter-mile dirt NASCAR track!

    Drum Circle THAT ya danged heathens!

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