Council approves rezoning near RAD against staff recommendation

REZONING APPROVED: Council member Kim Roney, second from right, casts the dissenting vote against rezoning near the River Arts District. Photo by Pat Moran

Asheville City Council voted 6-1 to approve rezoning an area in the West End/Clingman Avenue Neighborhood despite city staff’s opposition to the plan during a public hearing June 25 at Council Chambers at City Hall.

Roberts Green LLC and Ricky and Vivian Brown requested rezoning of eight plots totaling 1 acre at the northeast corner of Haywood and Roberts streets.

The plan, presented by Chris Collins, Asheville assistant director of planning and urban design, changes the neighborhood from a River Arts Form District — Neighborhood in Transition (RAD-NT), which allows for a broad range of structures, including housing and businesses, to a Residential Multi-Family Medium Density (RM-8) District, which accommodates residential buildings, including duplexes, single-family detached homes and townhouses.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended 6-0 to approve the rezoning on June 6, saying that the existing zoning could hinder residential development, and that the type of structures envisioned by the RAD-NT zoning would not be supported by the neighborhood’s existing infrastructure. The commission also said that the current sidewalk requirements were onerous and would not provide full connection to the River Arts District core.

But city staff opposed the rezoning, noting that the plan reduces opportunities for mixed-use development and removes form-based code elements that promote a more walkable neighborhood. Staff also noted that RM-8 zoning reduces the amount of housing that can be built by permitting single-family homes and duplexes; in contrast, RAD-NT zoning permits townhomes, multifamily and upper-floor residential housing, but not single-family homes.

“There is concern that the reduction in the diversity of land uses and opportunities for mixed-use development [under the proposed rezoning] would have a negative impact,” Collins said.

Staff also noted that the proposed zoning disregarded the engagement that the city undertook with residents to draft and implement the form-based zoning code, approved in 2017, which was designed to revitalize the riverfront and surrounding areas by creating a more walkable urban environment that supports attached housing.

“I’m very familiar with Roberts Street,” Council member Kim Roney said. “It has a lot of pedestrian traffic … Ideally, there would be a sidewalk here as an oasis.”

Council member Sage Turner asked if Council could require developers to meet certain conditions, such as a sidewalk.

“This is a straight rezoning, not a project,” Mayor Esther Manheimer said. “A sidewalk is not a requirement we can make.”

Stephanie Monson Dahl, Asheville planning and urban design director, addressed Council, reminding members that the rezoning proposal before them was a simple yes/no vote.

“We can’t talk about proposed development plans,” Monson Dahl said. “We just have to consider the zoning.”

Collins noted that the proposed RM-8 zoning is compatible with the property’s current residential character as well as with the larger surrounding neighborhood, which is also zoned RM-8, and less like the mixed-use character of the River Arts District. The rezoning also allows more types of residential development, Collins said.

Derek Allen, the applicant’s attorney, pointed out that the properties were originally zoned RM-8 before being rezoned as RAD-NT in 2017 as part of a comprehensive River Arts District form-based code.

“Do we wait for the perfect one day or do we say, ‘Let’s get housing here now?’” Council member Maggie Ullman asked. “Is perfection being the enemy of progress here?”

Roney made a motion to deny the rezoning request, which failed to get a second. Council voted 6-1 to approve the rezoning. Roney was opposed.

In an emailed response to Xpress after the meeting, Roney wrote, “I supported the River Arts Form District Neighborhood Transition zoning that had significant public input and leveraged infrastructure for the neighborhood corridor, which is why I made the motion to deny the downzoning that ultimately passed.”

In other news

Council also approved, 7-0, rezoning eight parcels totaling 42.65 acres at 172 Moody Avenue, north of Smokey Park Highway from Highway Business (HB) and Residential Multi-Family Low Density (RM-6) to Commercial Expansion — Conditional Zone (COM EXP-CZ).

The new zoning allows the proposed development of 349 housing units and 21,000 square feet of commercial space in Candler. The plan includes a grocery store, walking paths and a solar-powered clubhouse with 5% of the units designated affordable housing for people making 80% of the area median income ($52,350 for an individual; $74,800 for a family of four).

“I’m supportive of this level of infrastructure in this neighborhood,” Roney said.

“There’s a lot about this project that reminds me of what we’re trying to do with our urban centers,” Turner said. “A grocery store, the affordable housing, the connectivity, the walkability, the open space — all of it.”


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About Patrick Moran
As Mountain Xpress' City Reporter, I'm fascinated with how Asheville and its people work. Previously, I spent 25 years in Charlotte, working for local papers Creative Loafing Charlotte and Queen City Nerve. In that time I won three North Carolina Press Association Awards and an Emmy. Prior to that, I wrote and produced independent feature films in Orlando, Florida. Follow me @patmoran77

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One thought on “Council approves rezoning near RAD against staff recommendation

  1. Nostupid people

    People, why is this city council plate form allowed to be in power! They are so corrupt, allowing over spending, with some members supporting hate groups, excessive building that is demanding more water and sewage usage that our infrastructure cannot handle! Pure evil . Holt all activities till net election, vote in people with commonsense and business smarts, help reform our city !

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