After months of debate, the city of Asheville formally pulled its proposal for a low-barrier emergency homeless shelter located at an east Asheville Ramada Inn on Dec. 3. But at their meeting of Tuesday, Dec. 14, members of Asheville City Council will consider several resolutions and budget amendments to convert the hotel into permanent supportive housing.
The city has been under contract to purchase the 148 River Ford Parkway property since August. A press release announcing the low-barrier project’s cancellation cited concerns from nearby residents and a lack of consensus from funding partners, which had been slated to include Buncombe County and the Dogwood Health Trust.
Because the city is still under contract, Council members will consider reassigning its contractual purchase rights to a Los Angeles-based private entity, Shangri-La Industries. The company would convert the hotel into 100 housing units for people experiencing homelessness and secure project-based housing vouchers to cover the carrying costs and long-term capital maintenance. A staff report notes that, should Council approve the contract amendment, Shangri-La would execute a deed restriction to ensure the property would remain as permanent supportive housing for 50 years.
Council will also consider a $1.5 million agreement with California-based nonprofit Step Up on Second Street for three years of on-site case management services for residents at the shelter. Those offerings would include mental health services, counseling, substance use recovery support and linking to community resources. The contract would be paid from the city’s $26.2 million allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 recovery funding.
It is unclear when the permanent supportive housing would be available to community members. Council will vote on budget amendments totaling $556,000 to extend shelter services at the Ramada through Thursday, March 31, for the 80 people currently residing there.
In other news
Council will also conduct a public hearing to consider updates to the definitions and standards for homestays. According to a staff report released before the meeting, among those changes is a zoning amendment that would allow homestays to include a kitchen.
Kitchens are currently defined as any spaces that include a stove, full-size refrigerator or sink and are not currently permitted. Council passed the ban in 2018 in an effort to prevent long-term housing from being converted into short-term rentals. The staff report now claims that allowing kitchens provides greater flexibility for property owners and “supports the tourism economy.”
Council members will also consider whether to prohibit the use of detached accessory structures for homestays and require that non-resident property owners be listed as co-hosts on homestay applications. The latter move is designed to prevent outside investors from operating multiple homestays simultaneously.
The city’s Planning and Economic Development committee, consisting of Council members Sandra Kilgore, Gwen Wisler and Sage Turner, discussed the potential updates at its March and April meetings. At that time, committee members did not provide a clear recommendation on the kitchen rule but agreed to support the other two homestay changes.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 16 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- An authorization for City Manager Debra Campbell to enter into a two-year contract with EPIC Recruiting to strategize and market the city of Asheville for applicants to the Asheville Police Department. APD plans to pay the $225,000 cost of the contract through one-time savings in an equipment contract; no additional funding will be allocated to the department.
- A resolution authorizing Campbell to apply for and accept a nearly $77,000 U.S Department of Justice grant. If awarded, about $60,000 would cover overtime pay for APD officers, with the remainder going to the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.
- A resolution authorizing Campbell to purchase three new diesel buses for the Asheville Rides Transit system for roughly $1.65 million. Although the city adopted a 2018 resolution calling for all governmental operations to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2030, debuted five all-electric city buses in February 2019 and declared a climate emergency in 2020, a staff report on the diesel purchase deems it necessary “due to the lack of alternative options at this time.”
- A resolution authorizing a $40,000 budget allocation to the nonprofit Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry in support of Code Purple emergency shelter. Buncombe County will also contribute $40,000 to the effort, which provides additional shelter space for people experiencing homelessness on freezing nights.
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. Dec.14. 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 5657.
Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 5657; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilDec142021@publicinput.com. Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.