Asheville’s Downtown Master Plan: Time to comment

With tonight’s forum, the city of Asheville kicks off a three-week public-comment period on the Downtown Master Plan draft. Share your thoughts on this controversial blueprint for the future of downtown in the comments below.

The 88-page draft of the plan, produced by Massachusetts-based consulting firm Goody Clancy for $170,000, details several initiatives aimed at increasing downtown’s economic prosperity and preserving its character. This plan calls for eventually turning the day-to-day running of downtown over to a powerful independent board known as the Asheville Development District, encouraging different types of development for each neighborhood “core,” better support for the arts, more green building, a shuttle system and police cameras on street corners as well as drastically reducing City Council’s authority over development.

The city’s forum will begin a three-week period in which city staff and the consultants will take comment and input on the plan before creating the final draft, which City Council will vote on in March.

The development of the plan was pushed back four months last September after rifts in the advisory committee compelled the city to bring in a mediator. Last July, a series of public forums revealed held by Goody Clancy revealed deep divisions in the community about what the plan should (or could) accomplish.

Some of the proposals have drawn controversy. Development activist Steve Rasmussen released a lengthy report criticizing what he sees as insufficiently powerful building guidelines and the moving of authority to unelected boards, a step he asserts will reward development interests over those of the citizenry.

The ADD in particular has met with criticism from Rasmussen, who dubbed it “Soviet-style central planning,” as well as from Scrutiny Hooligans blogger Gordon Smith, who wrote that “as it stands, the structure is a petri dish for corruption and mismanagement.”  However, both Rasmussen and Smith have said that the plan also contains some good ideas.

For more information about the plan from the city, or to send comments regarding the plan, contact project manager Sasha Vrtunski at or at 232-4599. And please share your thoughts on the plan below.

— David Forbes, staff writer


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2 thoughts on “Asheville’s Downtown Master Plan: Time to comment

  1. Gordon Smith

    Agreed, Jenny.

    There are no details about how this entity is to be chosen or overseen. The Plan calls for the entity to “transcend election cycles”, and I worry that means it will transcend accountability.

    There are fixes to this problem, but they are not in this plan. I’d like to see this most important point resolved before the Plan is moved any further.

    A second important problem I see is that compliance with the guidelines is voluntary. Without mandatory guidelines, there will be no accountability for groups that work against the Master Plan or that get one set of plans approved then build something else.

    Those thing being said, there’s a lot in this plan to like. Codifying green, sustainable, and mixed-income housing requirements into the Master Plan and UDO is a necessary next step to ensure that our City grows in the healthiest way. Clarifying those requirements will also remove the unpredictability that developers have rightly complained about in the past. Clear mandatory guidelines administered by an accountable, representative entity can clear the way for good growth, development, and maintenance of our city center. This has the added bonus of freeing up our City Council to work on further reaching and more deeply entrenched problems.

    I hope to see everyone there tonight.

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