Council to consider updated climate emergency resolution

Asheville city seal

The battle over whether Asheville City Council will declare a climate emergency may soon reach a conclusion. Council members will consider an updated version of the long-debated resolution during their regular meeting of Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The move comes after months of pressure by the Asheville chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a national youth-led campaign to fight climate change, to persuade Council to make the declaration. Most recently, Sunrise members occupied City Hall on Dec. 6 in conjunction with the Asheville Climate Strike for a Green New Deal

Following that protest, the city’s Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and Environment called an emergency meeting to develop a new version of the resolution, which Council had planned to add to its Dec. 10 agenda but withdrew shortly before the meeting. In November,  Sunrise representatives called that version of the resolution a “declaration for the sake of optics” and asked that its language adhere to a proposal “as written” by the climate group. 

The latest iteration of the document was produced jointly by the Sunrise Movement and SACEE, according to Mayor Esther Manheimer and members of the Sunrise Movement in statements provided to Xpress before the meeting.

In a Jan. 26 email to Xpress, Sunrise representatives explained that both groups made concessions to produce the latest version of the resolution. However, the inclusion of public input sessions, a timeline for consolidating the city’s current and new environmental goals and the possibility of supporting a federal Green New Deal led the organization to offer its endorsement. 

“Obviously, we would rather City Council be voting on something closer to our original and more progressive resolution, but seeing City Council vote on a climate emergency declaration that has some teeth fills us with pride and hope,” the organization wrote.  “However, we prefer to transition the excitement of celebration into energy for planning and implementing the next steps of our transition towards a just, equitable and sustainable society.”

In other business 

In other climate-related news, Council will consider a resolution that would dissolve the city’s Energy Innovation Task Force. The collaboration between Asheville, Buncombe County and Duke Energy Progress was originally established to reduce energy consumption and prevent a $100 million gas-fired peaker plant from being built at Duke’s Lake Julian facility. A new initiative, called the Blue Horizons Community Council, would be created in its place to support progress toward the city and county’s 100% renewable energy goals. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed an identical resolution at its Jan. 21 meeting.

Consent agenda

Council’s consent agenda for the meeting contains nine items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights will include:

  • Two ordinances raising rental and service rates to as much as double the current prices for 8 River Arts Place and Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville. Booking and operations for the former city-owned event space would also be transferred to the Harrah’s Cherokee Center. 
  • A resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into an inspection agreement with the N.C. Dept. of Transportation to review new design plans for the construction of a new sidewalk and crosswalk at the intersection of Overlook Road and Pinchot Drive.  
  • A resolution authorizing the city manager to execute a two-year lease agreement with First Baptist Church for 20 city employee parking spaces at 5 Oak Street. The spaces will cost $50 per space for a total of $12,000 per year. 

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.

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