Council greenlights Ferry Road mixed-income development

CHANGING HANDS: Buncombe County bought the property in 2015 for $6.8 million in an effort to lure Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery, but that effort failed. Rendering courtesy of the City of Asheville

Hundreds of units of mixed-income housing are coming to a Ferry Road property, resolving years of uncertainty over the use of the land.

During the March 26 meeting of Asheville City Council, members voted unanimously to approve conditional zoning that allows the property’s owner, Buncombe County, to implement its plans for a mixed-income community. 

The 137 acres, adjacent to the French Broad River and Interstate 26 and southwest of the Asheville Outlet mall, is in city limits. The county’s $210 million plan includes building roughly 645 housing units, though the number of units could be as high as 935. At least 20% of the units will be designated affordable to those earning between 30% and 80% of the area median income (between $17,500 and $47,600 for an individual) for 20 years. All of the affordable units will accept Housing Choice vouchers. Seventy acres of forest will be conserved, providing a buffer for French Broad tributaries and protecting an ecologically significant wetland.

The property has changed ownership and planned uses several times. It was once owned by the City of Asheville but was traded to Henderson County as part of a water deal. Henderson County planned to develop a sewage treatment plant at the site, but those plans fell through after the City of Asheville and Henderson County couldn’t agree on terms. 

Buncombe County bought the property in 2015 for $6.8 million in an effort to lure Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery. Deschutes later decided to build its brewery in Virginia, leaving the property in the hands of Buncombe County, which tried for years to sell it. That led the county to work with the UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative to develop new plans for the land.

“I’m just kind of glad that Deschutes fell apart, I guess,” said Council member Sage Turner. “We weren’t really glad when it happened, but I’m glad now.” 

Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman was one of several speakers representing the county and said the project was an opportunity to make significant progress on both housing and conservation.

“First, approval of the project will result in the preservation of a significant forested natural area along the banks of the French Broad River so that it can be accessed and enjoyed in perpetuity by the present and future generations,” Newman explained. “Second, approval will allow one of the most significant developments focused on affordable housing proposed in Asheville and Buncombe County in recent years to move forward.” 

In other news

Council unanimously approved increases in the fiscal year 2024-25 fees and charges for city services, including a $1 increase to on-street parking meter fees from $1.50 per hour to $2.50 per hour starting Monday, July 1. Metered parking will remain free after 6 p.m. and all day on Sunday. 

Parking for city parking garages will be capped at $15 per day, down from $20. Garage parking will remain free for those who park for less than one hour.  

Other approved fee increases include $12 more per year for solid waste services; $5.64 more for stormwater management; and $2.34 more for water services, for a total of about $20 more per year on average per property owner.


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