Mayor Esther Manheimer will be phoning it in to the Tuesday, June 25, meeting of Asheville City Council — literally. The mayor, who will be more than 800 miles away in Michigan, plans to attend the meeting by phone but still fully participate in all public hearings and votes.
And there will be no shortage of discussion. Council will once again consider a proposal to rezone 20 Battery Park Ave, better known as the Flatiron Building, to allow its conversion into a hotel.The original proposal was pulled by the developer’s attorney, Wyatt Stevens, before Council members could take action on May 14 after a majority voiced their lack of support.
The updated version of the project reduces the number of hotel rooms from 80 to 71 and preserves commercial office space on the building’s second floor. Displacement of the Flatiron’s small business tenants was one of the central concerns opponents voiced during the last public hearing, which was attended by roughly 100 people. However, the new proposal maintains earlier plans to include a restaurant, ground-floor retail spaces and off-site parking that would be managed by a valet service.
Council also plans to schedule a work session at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2, to discuss the city’s options for challenging the state law that imposes districts for municipal elections. The move, included on the meeting’s consent agenda, follows a June 6 op-ed in the Citizen Times by Council members Sheneika Smith, Brian Haynes and Keith Young, who called for action to oppose the law. Vijay Kapoor also released a statement June 10 in support of districting.
The resolution announcing the meeting notes that “a motion is anticipated to suspend the rules and allow public comment.” The work session will also take place in the Banquet Hall of the U.S. Cellular Center, rather than Council chambers, in anticipation of a large turnout.
In other business
Council will conduct two public hearings on the renaming of two city streets. The first will consider changing the most southern portion of Park Avenue North to Artful Way to eliminate duplicate street names and avoid confusion during emergency response events; the second involves renaming Wilbar Avenue to Lee Garden Lane. In that case, the developer is requesting to name a proposed new access drive for Lee Walker Heights, which has been rezoned for complete redevelopment of the existing housing complex.
City Manager Debra Campbell is also expected to deliver a report to Council members. No documents regarding that report were available on the city’s website as of press time.
Council’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 14 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include:
- A resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a lease agreement with The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County for the historic, city-owned E.W. Grove Office, located at 324 Charlotte St. The Preservation Society has leased the property and made significant restorations to the building since 2007, which the city will value at $114,309 and apply toward the organization’s rent.
- A budget amendment accepting a $177,000 donation from the Friends of the Nature Center to support the WNC Nature Center’s new front entrance, which was completed in 2018. The donation brings the group’s total support of the project to $884,000; the remaining $313,000 was provided by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.
- A resolution ratifying an interlocal agreement with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office concerning the redistribution of money and property seized by the Buncombe County Anticrime Task Force during its investigations. In the past, seized funds have remained with the BCAT, but federal guidelines required the new agreement, which will give the county 68.44% of the money and the Asheville Police Department 31.56%. Funds transferred to the APD will be used to support illegal drug investigations and related anticrime work.
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.