It’s nearly time for the first Asheville City Council meeting of 2016, which also will be the first meeting of Council in over a month.
Before breaking for the holidays, Council seated three new members: Brian Haynes, Julie Mayfield and Keith Young. At its December 8 meeting, Council set the stage for new policy developments on the fate of the city-owned lot across from the U.S. Cellular Center, rules governing the use of accessory dwelling units for short-term rentals and downtown development review standards.
But on Tues., January 12, Council won’t be addressing any of those issues directly, instead turning its attention to new matters including naming the second Monday in October “Indigenous People’s Day,” voting on the redevelopment of the former BB&T building as a luxury hotel and considering a designation to allow the redevelopment of the Lee Walker Heights public housing community to qualify for low income housing tax credits.
Tuesday’s proclamations will start off with city employee recognition. January 16 and 18, 2016 will be proclaimed “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Days.” And a proclamation will recognize efforts made by the NAACP and Land of Sky Regional Council to register senior citizens to vote.
As part of its consent agenda, Council will add its annual planning retreat to the official City Council meeting schedule. The retreat will be held January 29 and 30, 2016, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the first floor conference room of the County Administration Building at 200 College Street.
Included within the consent agenda is also a measure to rename the second Monday in October “Indigenous People’s Day” in honor of the history, sacrifices, contributions and culture of the indigenous people of this region.
Additional items of note in the consent agenda include:
- An agreement to sell a .18 acre city-owned property on State Street in West Asheville to Mountain Housing Opportunities for affordable housing development
- Acceptance of a $627,000 contribution from the Friends of the WNC Nature Center to support the construction of a new front entrance at the Nature Center
- Approval of previously-announced appointments of City Council members to various community boards and commissions
CPA Daniel Gougherty of the accounting firm Cherry Bekaert LLP will present the results of an external audit of the city’s finances. A PowerPoint document showing the slides Gougherty will present to Council is available online.
Council will hear a financial report on the first quarter of the fiscal year 2015-2015, which ran through September 30, 2015.
Council also will hear a strategic operating plan update.
Public hearings will be held on two development matters: phase three of the Givens Creekside development at 2360 Sweeten Creek Road and the proposed redevelopment of the former BB&T building at One West Pack Square.
The Givens Creekside development represents a replacement for existing multi-family structures within the main Givens Estates campus off Sweeten Creek Road. City Council review and approval is required since the project belongs to the Level III category under the city’s Unified Development Ordinance, which designates review for residential projects with more than 50 dwelling units.
While phase three of the multi-phase replacement project includes only 24 units, all three phases, when combined, result in a total of 72 units. Phases one and two have already been completed. Since the total dwelling count determines the review threshold, the project requires a conditional use permit and a quasi-judicial hearing at City Council as part of the final review.
The city’s Technical Review Committee reviewed the project on November 16 and determined that technical requirements had been or could be met. The city’s Planning & Zoning Commission reviewed the project on December 2 and unanimously voted to recommend the project. No members of the public spoke at the Planning & Zoning hearing.
Redevelopment of the former BB&T building at One West Pack Square
The proposed redevelopment of the 1960s-era BB&T building will finally have its day in Council as developer McKibbon Hotel Group brings forward plans to transform the 201,000 square foot office tower into a mixed-use hotel, condominium, restaurant and retail development. The project also includes a parcel at 11 Patton Avenue, where a surface parking lot is currently located.
Council approval is required because the renovation is classified as a Level III project based on its size.
The project went before the city’s Technical Review Committee on Nov. 2. The Downtown Commission considered the project on Nov. 13, and voted unanimously in favor of recommending that Council approve the project. The Planning & Zoning Commission reviewed the project on Nov. 19, voting 6-1 in favor of approval.
The single dissenting vote of the Planning & Zoning Commission was cast by architect Laura Berner Hudson. While acknowledging that many of the project’s motivations and anticipated effects are positive, Hudson expressed concern that recladding a 1960s International-style skyscraper in the skin of an art deco building will result in an architectural result that is neither one nor the other. Hudson said that the proposed redesign will dilute the effect of Asheville’s authentic architecture of the art deco period.
Beyond the project’s size, one feature of the proposed design triggers the need for a conditional approval. The amount of window glazing at the ground level on the side of the building facing Pack Square will be reduced from 70% to 60%. This reduction is in part a result of the designers’ efforts to comply with directives in downtown building standards, which encourage the delineation of a base, mid-section and cap area of tall buildings. The proposed design will be more solid at its base, transitioning to more glass toward the top of the structure.
The building’s program includes the development of 40 condominium units, 140 hotel rooms, an hotel restaurant and meeting rooms, a second restaurant and a new retail storefront on the College Street side of the building at street level. A new roof feature is proposed.
A new 60-space, three-level parking structure will be built on the site of the current surface parking lot. Each level will be accessed separately, so the levels will not be interconnected by ramps. The top level will provide temporary parking for hotel guests upon check-in, while the lower two levels will provide parking for the residential units. Additional valet hotel parking will be provided by the AC Hotel across the street at the corner of College and Broadway Streets, which is currently under construction.
Sidewalk upgrades are proposed on all four sides of the project, which is one of the few downtown properties to encompass an entire city block.
In response to a request from the Asheville Housing Authority and developer Mountain Housing Opportunities, Council will consider designating the Authority’s project at Lee Walker Heights as a redevelopment project. The designation is required to allow the project to qualify for low income housing tax credits.
A recent online petition launched by DeLores Venable and recent City Council candidate Dee Williams seeks guarantees that Lee Walker Heights residents displaced by the redevelopment project will be able to return after the construction is completed, among other concerns. On Facebook, the petition organizers have announced plans to present their requests at Council’s Jan. 12 meeting. The full text of the petition is available online.
Council will meet at 5 p.m. on Tues., January 12 in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall. The complete agenda and supporting documents is available online.