Council approves Close the GAP plan

Close the GAP map
THE WEB WE WEAVE: Asheville's Close the GAP plan envisions a network of greenways and pedestrian infrastructure connecting the whole city. Graphic courtesy of the city of Asheville

Asheville’s future will be a lot more walkable, bikeable and accessible, at least if the goals of the city’s new Close the GAP transportation plan come to fruition. The document, unanimously approved by Asheville City Council Oct. 25, aims to increase the connectivity of greenways, improve sidewalks and bike lanes and make public walkways friendlier for disabled residents.

As presented by Transportation Manager Lucy Crown, Close the GAP combines three separate city plans into a single umbrella policy. It updates the City of Asheville Pedestrian Plan, which was last modified in 2005, and serves as the city’s ADA Transition Plan, which evaluates existing public facilities and determines how to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act

Funding for the work came from a $135,000 block grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation as well as a $100,000 city allocation for updating the existing Greenway Master Plan. Crown said Close the Gap will ensure consistency and coordination of priorities and recommendations throughout the city’s transportation work.

“Going into these plans, we knew we had immense needs. We know that we need more greenways in order to make a strong greenway network. We know that we have to make our rights of ways more accessible to people with disabilities,” said Crown. “And we know we want more sidewalks in downtown but also in our neighborhoods and that sidewalks also include the ability to cross the streets and curb ramps and access to bus stops.” 

Crown said that the public outreach and engagement for Close the Gap was conducted over a two-year period, beginning in 2020, through online meetings, surveys and focus groups. City staffers then created a ranking system using census data and other demographic information and prioritized Asheville’s streets by equity, connectivity, safety and public input.

While Crown did not outline the funding required to implement the greenway and pedestrian portions of the plan, she estimated that the city would need more than $100 million to make its recommended ADA improvements alone. 

“This is a lot of money. If we were to look at spending, let’s say, $3.3 million a year, it would take us 30 years to finish all the improvements that we need,” Crown explained. 

“For people who rely on this every day, that this has become acceptable or part of the furniture or the story of Asheville is unacceptable,” Council member Kim Roney remarked. “And it’s also a sign of great need.” 

Crown said that among the next steps for the plan is the creation of an online dashboard that will show progress on prioritized items. The city plans to identify short-term actions that could be completed over the next three years but did not include a timeline for when work will start or be finished.

Council updates manufactured home rules

Council members also voted unanimously in favor of updating the city’s mobile home ordinance to allow for the replacement of manufactured homes in certain locations. The change will allow new manufactured homes to go in places where a previous home has been removed and the space has been vacant for more than 180 days. 

City staffers said the move would increase the availability of affordable housing without expanding or changing current zoning regulations that designate where manufactured homes may be located. Asheville’s Planning and Zoning Commission had also recommended the change in a 6-1 vote Oct. 5.

Alan Ramirez, a resident owner of Sourwood Mobile Home Co-op and coordinator at Poder Emma, a community-based nonprofit, praised Council’s decision.

“We are a neighborhood where the majority of the members of our organization live in mobile home parks in our community. I came with my neighbors to appreciate your consideration to amend the rules that put families living in mobile homes at risk and that erased mobile home parks in Asheville,” said Ramirez. “The amendments to the development ordinance [are] a good step to continue to protect mobile homes and mobile home parks as affordable housing.”


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One thought on “Council approves Close the GAP plan

  1. indy499

    Roney is a buffoon. She’s been on council as promises were made over the years and nothing done. Many downtown sidewalks have power poles in the middle making wheelchair use impossible. The city committed to putting the lines underground many years ago.

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