Asheville City Council will take a brief respite from conversations about policing and budgets to consider new standards for tree canopy preservation at its meeting of Tuesday, Aug. 25. But arboreal advocates argue that saving trees is also an urgent concern: According to an Urban Tree Canopy Study prepared for the city in October, Asheville lost 6.4% of its tree cover between 2008 and 2018, making the area less resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Three public hearings will address different parts of the proposed standards. First, Council will consider amendments to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance that would require tree preservation in certain commercial and residential developments, outline how much canopy cover different sites must include and detail how trees could be removed.
A second hearing will discuss a fee-in-lieu option for developers that cannot comply with the planting and preservation requirements. If adopted, this option would allow developers to pay into a fund for tree canopy preservation in other parts of the city instead of maintaining trees on their own land.
Lastly, Council will discuss establishing a new resource management overlay district to include all properties within the city’s corporate limits. That legal framework would give Asheville the authority to enact the stronger tree preservation rules.
On July 1, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-1 against the amendments due to concerns that they would undermine affordable housing, as previously reported by Xpress. In contrast, city staff recommended approval of the amendments, finding that the majority of Asheville’s recently approved affordable housing units would have been able to meet the tree canopy requirements without unreasonable difficulty. Council will not vote on any of the proposals until Tuesday, Sept. 8.
In other news
Applications for the City Council seat vacated by Vijay Kapoor earlier this month closed on Aug. 20. City staff will give an update on the process to appoint a replacement for the remainder of his term (through December 2022), which has drawn 30 applicants. Council members are expected to interview finalists on Tuesday, Sept. 8; the appointee is slated to be sworn in on Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Council will also determine which applicants to interview for positions on the city’s Boards and Commissions. Currently, there are 24 open positions on eight different boards, including the Board of Adjustment, Historic Resources Commission and Multimodal Transportation Commission: 14 positions were filled by individuals whose terms expired within the last three months, while 10 are prior vacancies.
According to staff reports available before the meeting, nine individuals are eligible and interested in reappointment. Across the eight boards, 23 community members have applied for the open positions.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 19 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:
- A resolution in support of N.C. House Bill 1200, which would provide $100 million in rental assistance and $100 million in mortgage assistance for North Carolina residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A resolution authorizing City Manager Debra Campbell to approve a $1 million grant with the Asheville-Buncombe Community Land Trust. That money, drawn from general obligation bonds the city approved in 2016, would be used for capital expenses; an additional $100,000 in donations from the Deerfield Retirement Center to the city’s Housing Trust Fund would also be redirected to the land trust.
- A motion to set a public hearing for Tuesday, Sept. 8, to consider extending a temporary moratorium on hotel development for two months. City officials said the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the development of new rules for hotels, for which the moratorium had been meant to provide time.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link. Due to COVID-19, Council will meet remotely, and the meeting will be livestreamed through Asheville’s Public Engagement Hub.
Members of the public who wish to speak during the meeting must now sign up in advance at this link or call 828-259-5900 no later than 12:00 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 24. City staff will then use the list of registered speakers to manage the speaker queue during the meeting.
Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 7725; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilAugust25@PublicInput.com. Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.