Council approves South Asheville apartment complex, expresses regret

Council member Gordon Smith called the result of City Council’s vote on a 290-unit apartment complex off Long Shoals Road in South Asheville “instant gentrification.” Council members Keith Young and Julie Mayfield expressed their agreement with Smith’s emotional remarks, which decried the development’s displacement of 55 low-income, mostly Hispanic families.

Saying that the development will create six times as many housing units as presently exist on the site, Council member Cecil Bothwell countered, “This isn’t wholly bad. It’s a sad shame to break up a community, no doubt, but we have been doing that since we stole the land [from the native inhabitants] in the first place.”

Those regrets aside, Council voted unanimously to approve the zoning change that clears the way for Hathaway Development to distribute the planned 290 units across the two affected parcels of land, 55 Miami Circle and 70 Allen Avenue.

Had Council denied the rezoning proposal, the developer, represented by former Asheville Mayor W. Louis Bissette at the hearing, could have built the same number or more units on the property, albeit in a slightly different configuration, under current zoning.

While the Allen Avenue parcel is now vacant, the 7.66-acre parcel on Miami Circle is the location of the Lakeview Park mobile home park. Members of the community turned out to hear Council’s deliberations, with around 35 Lakeview Park residents of all ages present in Council chambers. The residents have been working with Jim Lowder of Homeward Bound and Deacon Rudy Triana of St. Barnabas Catholic Church to negotiate with the developer for relocation assistance.

Since Homeward Bound typically works with families and individuals who are literally homeless, explained Lowder, the mobile home park residents do not currently qualify for his organization’s programs. Calling the organization’s work on behalf of the residents “an unusual role for us,” Lowder expressed appreciation for the $290,000 in relocation assistance the developer had offered the residents. Homeward Bound will receive the funds from the developer and distribute individual checks to each affected family.

Triana spoke of the months-long negotiation process with the developer as “a long, hard journey.” The developer’s offer of total compensation of $5,273 for each of the 55 families (including the 15 families who have already relocated), he continued, is “sufficient” to the residents, though he would have “liked to have had more.” Triana thanked Council, especially Mayor Esther Manheimer and Smith, for “helping those without a voice and giving them the dignity that Jesus Christ says we should give to all human beings.”

In a back-and-forth discussion with community members, Smith established that Lakeview Park residents are currently paying $225 per month to rent their lots. Bissette said the market rate rents of the new units will be $850 to $1,350. City Planner Jessica Berstein said that the 10% of the units the developer had agreed to designate as affordable to those earning under 80 percent of the area median income would rent for $762 to $895 for a one-bedroom unit and $833 to $1,006 for a two-bedroom unit. 29 units will be designated affordable for a period of 15 years.

“How many school-aged children live in the neighborhood?” Smith asked. Maria Escobedo, president of the neighborhood association responded, “In total there are like maybe 60 or so kids. That’s from K to 12. Most of them go to T.C. Roberson High School or Koontz [Intermediate] because they are so close.”

“So they walk to school?” Smith continued.

“Exactly, and like, if parents aren’t home they will go to neighbors or stuff like that,” replied Escobedo.

Smith jumped in: “So this community is a neighborhood. It isn’t just about houses, it isn’t just about dollar symbols, it’s about neighbors helping neighbors, helping take care of one another’s children, the kids can currently walk to school. None of whom are paying as much as the minimum rents in this proposed development.”

“It’s one big family,” said Escobedo. “Even though we have different cultures and stuff like that, we all see each other like siblings.”

Smith asked Escobedo what will happen now.

“That’s what we don’t know, because some parents work ’til late, everybody’s going to be everywhere, so now we don’t know how it’s going to work. Because the way things are now, you don’t know who to trust. And right there it was one big family,” she replied.

Referring to a final agreement negotiated between the developer and the community’s representatives and signed during a recess in Council’s meeting, Smith said, “I really appreciate the collaboration around the agreement you just reached.”

But, Smith continued:

I’m really troubled by the precedent that it sets. Tonight, we are being asked to sanction the annihilation of a neighborhood, to sanction the destruction of a community. It’ll never come back. The history of this community will end on the day you are all evicted. The tone of our conversation tonight is as though all of this is inevitable, as if, when there’s a low-income community of largely marginalized people, that they can expect this to happen. These are not the values that I hold. What’s happening here is not a matter of inevitability, it’s a matter of choices. The choice to evict 55 households, the choice to move 60 school kids out of their schools and out of their communities, to break up a decades-long community of people, this is a matter of choice. These are choices that are being made.

So, while I appreciate the agreement that you have come to, I also understand that you didn’t have a lot of leverage in this. It’s my understanding that $8,000 to $11,000 per unit would have been more in line with what it actually costs, and that doesn’t even figure in the loss of this larger family.

Escobedo agreed. “And we thought about all of that perspective, but we, you know, the law says we’re not supposed to get anything,” she said. “So we asked for that because y’all were helping us. Otherwise, we would have been like…”

“You would have gotten nothing,” concluded Smith.

“Exactly,” said Escobedo. “We’d end up with nothing.”

Smith confirmed that the developer had initially offered the each family $1,000, and eventually raised the figure to the amount under discussion. “You had asked for $8,000 but that was refused?” Smith asked; Escobedo confirmed Smith’s summary.

Smith continued his remarks, his voice cracking:

It’s exceptional that we are in this position tonight, because normally I would reject this request out of hand. We’re forcibly displacing 55 families? I would just say no, that’s crazy. But the position we’re in tonight is that if we just say no, you guys aren’t guaranteed a thing and they can build anyway. And if we say yes, it looks like we are sanctioning the destruction of a neighborhood, but we are guaranteeing that you guys at least get something as you walk away from all of this.

So it’s a real bind that Council finds itself in, that I find myself in. I’m going to follow y’all’s lead and go with this tonight, because I want to be sure that you guys get what you can get, but I couldn’t let this happen without talking about the real impact on the lives of every one of your households and your families that have become this larger family. And I, for one member of Council, do not support the displacement of entire neighborhoods. This city has a long legacy of unjust displacement of people within its borders, and it’s not something that I’ll support, but here tonight, we’re gonna bear witness to it happening again. The latest chapter of a displaced population within the Asheville city limits; it’ll be on tape for everyone to see tonight. And not mentioning that, not talking about that, I think would be wrong. To the folks who are supportive of destroying this neighborhood, and arguing that somehow this recompense is adding to our affordable housing is patently absurd. It’s displacing people, and then paying them off. We appreciate your payoff. Don’t appreciate the displacement.

As far as 10% affordable: 29 units at $833 a month, three times what people are paying now, half the number of units, it’s instant gentrification.

After the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission reviewed the apartment proposal and recommended that Council approve it on April 18, city staff asked the developer to increase its affordable housing commitment to 20% of the units in the complex. Staff also asked the developer to add a sidewalk along a portion of Miami Circle outside of the project area to Long Shoals Road. At the June 14 Council meeting, Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler asked the developer to add one month of free rent to the assistance the families will receive.

Calling the developer’s $290,000 relocation assistance, “as generous as I have seen,” Bissette said that the relocation package was “as far as we can go,” and declined to incorporate any other city-requested changes into the project.

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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28 thoughts on “Council approves South Asheville apartment complex, expresses regret

  1. Yep

    Council is too ignorant to KNOW that neighborhood relocations for new development occur monthly all over America and MOST relocatees don’t get a penny to move on! Gordo’s melodrama is so lame***.

    Time for Asheville to integrate DISTRICT ELECTIONS, because West Asheville has NO representation on City Council !!! WAKE UP SHEEPLE !!!

    • bsummers

      West Asheville has NO representation on City Council !

      The aforementioned “Gordo”, and Council member Mayfield both live in West Asheville.

      What you really mean is West Asheville has no Republican representation on City Council. So let’s change the rules to try to make it easier for them: Affirmative Action for GOPers.

      BTW, you understand that changing to district elections like Moffitt & Apodaca want, is only really expected to help candidates from South Asheville, right?

      • luther blissett

        Hush, Barry: Texas Toast will show up soon and say we should all be thankful that the Pod’s map isn’t drawn to let residents in Fletcher and Leicester and Swannanoa and Candler pick the entire City Council.

        Anyone remember the retiring state senator lifting a finger for the residents of South Asheville at any point in his career, versus his (nursing) home base in Hendersonville?

      • Tim Peck

        “The aforementioned “Gordo”, and Council member Mayfield both live in West Asheville.”

        And there lies the rub.

        • bsummers

          There’s no rub. The supposed justification for Raleigh imposing district elections on Asheville is that one part of town historically has not anyone on Council. That part of town is not West Asheville. Pointing out that you simply don’t like the ones who do get elected from there exposes the lie.

          It’s all about trying to artificially give Republicans a leg-up to City Council. So sad that they can’t seem to field candidates that can win fair & square…

          Of course, 20 years ago, when he lived in West Asheville, Tim Moffitt himself ran for City Council. He lost – not because the dang system was rigged to protect liberals. He was beat by a bevy of fellow Republicans. See? It can be done – you just have to field better candidates.

          Sorry, Tim. Oh, and you too, Tim.

          • Tim Peck

            I wouldn’t cry in my Wheaties too much, Barry. They just get soggy that way.

            No. Of course, you don’t get it. District elections are all about increasing democracy. Lord knows how you progressives hate that.

    • Nick Hathaway

      Gordon, I’ll be the first acknowledge that the situation was and is tremendously sad. Unfortunately, I know for fact the developer before us wasn’t going to give anything to tenants.
      We offered to help offering $$$ in exchange for approval. …… actually, that seems very shaky grounds for the law in #nclaw .

  2. Yep

    PRECISELY my POINT! Gordon Smith has NEVER worked to better his own neighborhood in the least~! If it weren’t for the influx of people Westville would be an even BIGGER mess by now…Smith is a total LOSER and a NON leader… pathetic.

    • bsummers

      You might do better making your point if you didn’t use obvious falsehoods.

  3. NFB

    Yes, distrcic elections enforced upon us by Raleigh. The party of “home rule” and “small government strikes again!

  4. Yep

    AVL desparately NEEDS district elections, but see, the democrackkk lieberals don’t want that so THEY can keep perpetual CONTROL OF YOU and your wallet! AVL democrackkks have the current system sewn so no one with different opinions EVER
    has a chance! District elections will help overcome that and West Asheville DESERVES representation as the most improving
    neighborhoods…just look at the streets and infrastructure…pathetic…miserable NON leaders have RUINED AVL thru the years.

    • bsummers

      MAYBE run bEtter candidateS.

      “West Asheville DESERVES representation”

      Again, if you’re suggesting that West Asheville isn’t currently represented on City Council, you’re clearly lying. Proof? Your own words from a few hours ago:

      “Gordon Smith has NEVER worked to better his own neighborhood”
      http://mountainx.com/news/council-approves-south-asheville-apartment-complex-expresses-regret/#comment-2563734

      See? I even linked to your own statement where you acknowledge that Gordon Smith, who is a Council member, is indeed from West Asheville. The fact that you don’t like the party he belongs to does not change the fact that he and Julie Mayfield were elected out of West Asheville.

      Prediction: you, or other sockpuppets, will continue to lie to people over this issue.

  5. luther blissett

    “Bissette said that the relocation package was “as far as we can go,” and declined to incorporate any other city-requested changes into the project.”

    Well, that’s nice of him. Rumor has it that Mr Bissette wants to turn the parking lot he and his law partners own in the middle of downtown (between his law office and Lexington Ave) into a 20-story office building. Let’s see how generously City Council treats that re-zoning request.

  6. Yep

    ever since Lou Bissette and Jack Cecil pushed the $2Billion NC bondscam for their own benefits I have NO use for those two
    unsavory guys…Bissette also sits on the VILE UNC board too…they are are sketchy bunch too…both of these guys lost ALL credibility around here when they did this earlier this year.

  7. Yep

    democrackkks are CRIMINALs from the TOP down…even the merely registered, criminals by affiliation.

    • hauntedheadnc

      Whenever you really get going on about the Democrat infidels, you sound like a goddamn Islamic jihadist talking about jews.

  8. Not only are Julie and Gordon in West Asheville, Apodaca had his map wizard draw Brian Haynes into the same district with them, though he lives on the east side of the river. That would guarantee ousting two in the next election. And he helpfully put Gwen and I in one district, to ensure that only one of us might be elected if we ran. Meanwhile his map puts Sunset in the same basket with Haw Creek. For good measure he split the Downtown Business District – which you’d kind of think, if districts are such a great idea to get meaningful representation, would be all in one. Then two south and one far west, presumably hoping for GOP wins. He and his cronies must drool over this stuff.

    Meanwhile, as was clear at the Council meeting and I made explicit in my first question to our Planning Staff (and as Virginia Daffron makes clear in her story) – our action had no impact on the removal of the existing community. Council was not “asked to sanction the annihilation of a neighborhood.” That is simply not true. We were asked to rezone property where a neighborhood was being annihilated. Nothing we did, or could have done, would have changed that one whit. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sad. But pretending we could have stopped it benefits no one.

    • Gordon Smith

      Cecil, no one is pretending at anything. The developer put Council in the position of bearing witness to the destruction of the community. A ‘no’ vote would’ve allowed for that. A ‘yes’ vote would have allowed for that. We were put into a position to vote yes on a project that would destroy that neighborhood. That is what I was talking about. It’s worth talking about because it is a tragic outcome for the families who live there.

      • So it would have been okay if we didn’t hear about it?
        The current owner of the property initiated the evictions.
        I don’t understand your point.
        Council had an opportunity to choose a better plan with some benefit however small to the evictees, with sidewalks to benefit the community, with a street closure to reduce competing traffic to the school. We had no opportunity to stop the project.
        What I object to is the way this is cast as something we could have changed.

        • Gordon Smith

          Sometimes I think you just like arguing for its own sake!

          We agree: “Council had an opportunity to choose a better plan with some benefit however small to the evictees, with sidewalks to benefit the community, with a street closure to reduce competing traffic to the school. We had no opportunity to stop the project.”

          Voting yes on a project that destroys a neighborhood has an implicit suggestion of approval of the destruction. That’s what I was talking about. I talk about it because the whole topic deserves our community’s attention and disapproval.

      • Nick

        Hey Gordon, would you like to discuss the sack of lies your feeding out?!? You, personally, didn’t do anything to help the people of that mobile home park. I , Nick Hathaway offered what the bank would allow me, and to the furthest degree, and we almost lost everything over it because we paid the tenants in advance of closing and attached 10% affordable units. I’d also like everyone know that you were onof4 votes that uniamiously voted for approval of the grant money… even though you voted against it in the city council ruling.

        • Nick

          Laws , rules, practices and implications….they still matter.

          So did the tenants at that park. That’s why we met with them on multiple occasions to hear their circumstances. And then try our best to aid and support. What did you do, Gordon? What good did you do????????? Cried a little…. that’s not much help in the real world.

    • luther blissett

      We know the map that the Pod’s minions drew up is bullshit. District 4 is just what’s left over from the gerrymander elsewhere, which isn’t going to appeal to those who already feel like East Ashevile is treated as Least Asheville.

      (As an aside, it’s galling that those minions got to re-gerrymander the state with their pick-your-voters computer half way through a decade because they gerrymandered it so awfully in 2011.)

      I’d actually be okay with a 50-50 combination of sane, coherent districts and at-large positions. That would probably mean expanding city council, but perhaps that could be combined with greater direct oversight and accountability for the multitude of boards and commissions and task forces and working groups and so on. But Asheville is not large enough and dispersed enough to be governed through residential districts alone: we live and work and play across the entire damn city. Everybody has a stake in downtown, but not many people live there, because it’s… downtown. Duh.

      Of course, sane and coherent is not the HendoPod’s aim: it’s a final f-you to a city of the living, not the dead, before claiming his lobbyist / ALEC dollars in retirement.

  9. Yep

    Whether or NOT a developer EVER pays ONE PENNY to tenants to relocate is absolutely NONE of the nasty city councils BUSINESS !!!

  10. ApePeeD

    That’s what you morons get for not voting at all, or voting for that loser femnazi Mayfield.

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