While Asheville City Council unanimously denied a zoning request that would have expanded where tiny houses are permitted in the city during its Nov. 26 meeting, its members maintained that they already allow the structures in many areas of Asheville through other zoning laws and regulations.
“The bottom line is, tiny homes are allowed as accessory dwelling units throughout residential zones,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer. “This is a little bit confusing because people are saying, ‘Please allow tiny homes in your city.’ We allow them as accessory dwelling units right now.”
The request, brought before Council by owner Drew Crawford of the Asheville-based DIY Tiny tiny home community, would have added campgrounds and accessory dwelling units as accepted uses in Highway Business district zoning. Crawford claimed that the zoning change would increase the availability of tiny homes for residential use and ease the area’s shortage of affordable housing.
According to Shannon Tuch, the city’s principal planner, tiny homes differ from other residential housing because they are not required to be built using U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or North Carolina Building Code safety regulations. Tiny homes on wheels — the type of dwellings at Crawford’s community — are managed and inspected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles and not considered permanent housing.
Even if the city approved the zoning change that allowed for campground use in the Highway Business district, Tuch said, state law would still not permit the structures to be occupied for more than 180 days.
“Much of what’s being talked about today as it relates to tiny homes has to do with the building code. It is not a zoning question,” she said.
Council member Julie Mayfield said that she, along with Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler and Council member Brian Haynes, recently toured Simple Life, a tiny home on wheels community located in Flat Rock that has worked to circumvent state regulations. While she agreed that the homes could contribute to Asheville’s housing options, she asked for city staff to develop more comprehensive regulations surrounding affordability and safety requirements.
Activists demand “as written” climate resolution
Eleven members of the Sunrise Movement read passages from “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal” by Canadian author Naomi Klein for more than 30 minutes during public comment while urging Council members to pass a climate emergency resolution “as written” by the group, without omissions or revisions from city officials. Activist Sally Thames said that, after the group was asked to work with the city’s Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment, committee members stripped the resolution of its most substantive measures.
“The resolution drafted by SACEE would allow Council to appear as though they’re taking action when, in fact, it is nowhere near sufficient to take on the scale of the climate crisis,” Thames said.
Manheimer said that the Sunrise version of the resolution was constructed from a national template and was not tailored to Asheville’s specific local and state governments, which limit what actions the city can take. Council had previously agreed to put the resolution on its Nov. 27 agenda but reversed course after Sunrise representatives called the move “presumptuous” because the terms of the resolution had not yet been agreed.
Group seeks Council support for injured black bears
Jody Williams and Teresa Newman, speaking on behalf of Help Asheville Bears, asked Council members to work with the state attorney general’s office and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to find and convict people who they say are killing and maiming bears in the Asheville area using illegal snare traps. The Facebook group — now over 73,000 members strong — first alerted local media and wildlife officials of the problem in August and now claim that at least 12 bears in a 25-mile radius of Asheville have been observed with absent or severely injured limbs.
“The 12 confirmed maimed bears are the ones that have escaped these traps. There’s no way to know how many did not escape and were illegally killed after prolonged and agonized suffering,” Williams told Council members.
Wiliams also said that the state Wildlife Resources Commission, which has previously attributed the missing limbs to car strikes, has opened an investigation into the injuries. Asheville residents Carol and Scotty Morgan have also pledged a $50,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for harming the bears.