Council to consider denser zoning along South Tunnel Road

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A battle between Asheville planning staff and property owners could expand onto a new front Tuesday, Jan. 11. At their meeting that evening, members of Asheville City Council will consider rezoning roughly 128 acres of property along South Tunnel Road, including the sites of the Asheville Mall and a Whole Foods, to Urban Place zoning — an approach to increasing urban density that has faced business pushback in recent months.  

Urban Place zoning itself, which aims to encourage more mixed-use development and walkability in areas currently dominated by big-box stores and their associated parking lots, was approved by Council in a 4-2 vote Sept. 28, with members Sandra Kilgore and Antanette Mosley opposing the move. (Mayor Esther Manheimer recused herself from the vote.) During the same meeting, Council voted along the same lines to rezone 122 acres under the new zoning, including the current site of the Innsbruck Mall on Tunnel Road and the shopping center on Bleachery Boulevard in East Asheville. 

Before those votes, property rights advocates and lawyers representing business owners in the areas targeted for rezoning criticized the Urban Place rules. Opponents claimed that requirements for large developments to include housing did not consider existing infrastructure, such as water, sewer and stormwater, and argued that the zoning could restrict new structures on the properties. Council member Kilgore also suggested at the time that the rezoning would create multiple property rights lawsuits for the city.

According to a staff report, the Jan. 11 public hearing represents phase two of a planned rezoning process for areas identified as urban centers by the city’s Future Land Use Map. Properties located along Patton Avenue were originally also slated for rezoning in this phase, but that move was delayed after city staff met with the Legacy Neighborhoods Coalition to discuss neighborhood displacement and other concerns.

In other news

Council will also conduct a public hearing on whether to rezone more than 22 acres at 235 Sardis Rd. to allow the construction of 297 new multifamily residential units in six buildings. According to a staff report, roughly 30 units will be set aside as affordable to those earning at or below 80% area median income ($60,100 for a family of four) for a minimum period of 20 years.

City staff will also present an audit report during the meeting, and City Manager Debra Campbell will provide an update on several city initiatives, including distribution of American Rescue Plan Act funds, reparations and homelessness work. No materials on Campbell’s update were available before the meeting.

Consent agenda and public comment

The consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:

  • A resolution amending donation agreements with the Asheville City Schools Foundation to resolve a lawsuit brought by WNC Citizens for Equality, a group led by former Council member and Buncombe County Republican Party Chair Carl Mumpower. Mumpower charged that the scholarships, described in the ACSF 2021-22 scholarships catalog as being for Black or minority students, excluded otherwise eligible applicants on the basis of race. In exchange for resolving the lawsuit, the new donation agreements would instead target the scholarships toward “first-generation college students.”



  • A resolution authorizing City Manager Campbell to submit an application for a $350,000 grant from the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization for a corridor study along Patton Avenue. The study would cover the stretch of the road from the eastern end of the Bowen Bridge to Pritchard Park and examine the impact of the Interstate 26 Connector Project.

The meeting will be livestreamed through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can also listen live by calling 855-925-280, meeting code 3250.

Members of the public who wish to speak during the meeting must sign up in advance online or call 828-259-5900 no later than 9 a.m. Jan. 11. City staff will use the list of registered speakers to manage the speaker queue during the meeting. Speakers will need to listen to the meeting via phone by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 3250.

Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 3250; written comments can be sent to Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.

The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.


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