If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Those who have been working toward a vision plan for Asheville’s South Slope area apparently took that advice to heart after a draft plan released last summer was met with pushback from some residents. A revised version of that plan will be presented to members of Asheville City Council to consider for adoption during their meeting of Tuesday, March 28.
“South Slope: A Southside Neighborhood Vision Plan” is a 92-page document that grew out of the 2009 Downtown Master Plan and has been six years in the making. The plan aims to channel the growth and development of the area, located south of the downtown core, and its surrounding neighborhoods, including South French Broad, East End Valley Street and Oakhurst.
The document is organized around five promoting core themes: a quality built environment; unique and inclusive sense of place; strong local economy; multimodal transportation; and strategic infrastructure and natural environment.
While the plan’s executive summary states that it “does not suggest any sweeping changes for the area,” it does advocate for building upon existing infrastructure and regulations to create a unified design and improved connectivity between neighborhoods and commercial areas. Some projects outlined in the plan include a gateway to reconnect McCormick Field and Memorial Stadium with downtown, public art installations and commemoration of the neighborhood’s African American history. The plan does not include specific funding commitments for capital projects or investments.
A staff report accompanying the document notes that residents had concerns over its first draft, particularly about potential rezonings in the area. The report adds that the city conducted several more rounds of public input and that representatives of South French Broad, East End Valley Street and Oakhurst have “expressed satisfaction” with the resulting revisions.
In other news
Council will also hear an update on crime data and recruitment for the Asheville Police Department. No further details were linked to the agenda as of press time.
Another report on recommended changes to Asheville’s fees and charges will also be presented. According to the presentation, city staffers have recommended increases that will cost a typical household about $43 more for water services, $10.50 more for stormwater and $12 more for solid waste services next fiscal year.
A budget work session will take place at 3 p.m., before the regular Council meeting. The work session is open to the public, but public comment is not permitted.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 15 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:
- A resolution authorizing City Manager Debra Campbell to execute a $223,120 contract with Marshall-based French Broad Paving, Inc. to build a walking trail and basketball court at Walton Street Park. The two projects were ranked as the highest priorities for the park by residents of the surrounding Southside neighborhood.
- A resolution authorizing the APD to purchase a rapid DNA analyzer machine, as well as three years’ worth of supplies and service contracts, for $213,000. The system will be able to create DNA profiles to aid police investigations within 90 minutes; turnaround times for similar work at North Carolina’s state lab are 6-8 months for property crimes. The costs will be paid for from APD forfeitures and an already approved 2022 Justice Assistance Grant from the federal Department of Justice.
- A pair of resolutions authorizing funds for capital improvements and architectural services for the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center. The first allows for up to $674,000 in work by Bartholomew Construction, LLC to renovate the facility’s locker rooms, roof and ceiling; the second increases an existing agreement with Legerton Architecture, P.A. by $4,500 for additional design services, bringing the total contract cost to $94,400.
- A resolution authorizing Campbell to participate in a grant application through the Land of Sky Regional Council to fund public Wi-Fi on city buses for five years. If awarded, the grant would cover nearly $185,000 in expenses related to internet equipment and installation for the city’s 33 current buses, as well as system support. The city would cover future maintenance and support at approximately $16,500 annually; new vehicles could be outfitted with the equipment for $5,000 each.
Council members will gather in their chambers on the second floor of City Hall, located at 70 Court Plaza, starting at 5 p.m. The meeting will also be carried live on Charter/Spectrum Channel 193 and livestreamed through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 3180.
Those who wish to speak during the meeting must attend in person and sign up at the door. No live remote comment will be permitted. Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 3180; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilMar282023@publicinput.com until 9 a.m. March 28. General comments for City Council can be sent at any time to AshevilleNCCouncil@AshevilleNC.gov.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.
2 thoughts on “Council to consider South Slope Vision Plan”
I guess we’ll be needing a lot more public toilets and needle boxes on the streets downtown too.
Once again, the City Council’s “vision” seems squarely focused on the rearview mirror. In 2009 the city’s master plan recognized what was already obvious by designating South Slope as a distinct section of downtown, ripe for redevelopment and repurposing. That was when a more specific vision plan needed to be developed for the area – if not before.
Now, 14 years later, South Slope has already been largely made over, repurposed, and rebuilt, with little or no planning behind it. Once abandoned buildings have been put back in to use. New construction has gone up on previously unused, or underutilized parcels of land. A huge apartment development was approved, begun, but has now stalled until hopefully a new developer can buy it and continue the work in some form. Micro-housing projects have been approved. And the area has been informally designated as, “The Brewery District.”
Yet only now is the City Council “considering” a revised vision plan for this critically important area. This is an exercise tantamount to coming up with an initial architectural rendering for a house that is already mostly built.
Also revealing is that when a plan was put forth a year ago, it was withdrawn and revised after “pushback from some residents.” By waiting so long to come up with a plan, numerous groups and interests have already become well established and of course are going to resist anything which they perceive as being contrary to their welfare. The Council, already well known for its, “strong stand, never to take a strong stand,” when faced with pushback, then ultimately comes up with a plan which seeks to appease everyone, please no one, and which at best provides a very blurred vision shaped by 20/20 hindsight.