Council to vote on Vance removal Dec. 8

Asheville city seal

A day after their counterparts on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, members of Asheville City Council will make a final decision about the removal of the Vance Monument on Tuesday, Dec. 8 — a change from plans for the meeting originally announced on Dec. 4. 

The original agenda had included a presentation to review the Vance Monument Task Force’s report, which was not available at press time. The 12-member group, jointly appointed by the city and Buncombe County to consider the obelisk’s fate, voted 11-1 on Nov. 19 in favor of removing the downtown memorial to Confederate Gov. Zebulon Vance.

But the presentation had been classified as a report, meaning that Council would not hold a vote on the item and that no public comment would be taken. In a statement provided to local media on Dec. 4, Mayor Esther Manheimer said that the city needed more time to evaluate the task force’s recommendation. “The staff will recommend that they be given a chance to explore the logistics and costs associated with removal and bring that information back to Council at a future meeting,” she explained.

However, Manheimer emailed Xpress the evening of Dec. 7 to say that Council was moving the Vance item to new business, allowing for both public comment and a vote. She said Council members hadn’t previously realized that the Board of Commissioners would be taking a vote and wanted to make sure the city’s process ran in parallel with the county’s.

Cost estimates for the monument’s removal have not yet been released. In July, the city spent $18,500 to construct scaffolding for a shroud to cloak the obelisk, citing “the risk of harm it presents in its current state;” although heavy winds dislodged the shroud less than two months later, the city has continued to rent the scaffolding. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, total costs for the scaffolding and shroud had run nearly $25,000 through October

In other news

Council members will also consider a resolution to approve a $1.2 million Housing Trust Fund loan to finance the building of 12 affordable single-family condominiums in West Asheville. The one- and two-bedroom units will be targeted to families at 80% of the area median income, selling for $199,000 and $239,000, respectively. 

To keep the project affordable, local developer Bryson Investment Group has asked for a $100,000 loan for each of the 12 homes, a request significantly higher than the city’s policy recommendation of $20,000 per unit. If the measure is approved, only $600,000 will remain in the trust fund for future loans.

Consent agenda and public comment

The consent agenda for the meeting contains 25 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions: 

  • An ordinance amending Asheville’s Fire Prevention Code to impose civil penalties and fees on buildings in violation of maximum building occupancy limits. The new policy follows an update to the city’s COVID-19 emergency declaration to strengthen enforcement of pandemic safety measures. 
  • Budget amendments allowing City Manager Debra Campbell to apply for and accept two annual grants from the U.S. Department of Justice. A $62,044 grant will allow the Asheville Police Department to purchase new Windham rifles; the second $35,280 grant to help purchase bulletproof vests for APD officers requires an equal match from the city, funding for which will come out of the APD’s 2020-21 budget. 
  • A $20,000 budget amendment to accept a private donation to fund additional tactical de-escalation training for APD officers. 
  • Resolutions appointing incoming Council members to the following city commissions: Sage Turner to the Downtown Commission and the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission; Sandra Kilgore to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority; and Kim Roney to the Citizens-Police Advisory Committee.

Members will also vote on a new vice mayor. The position is currently held by Gwen Wisler

The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link. Due to COVID-19, Council will meet remotely, and the meeting will be livestreamed through Asheville’s Public Engagement Hub.

Members of the public who wish to speak during the meeting must sign up in advance at this link or call 828-259-5900 no later than 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8. City staff will then use the list of registered speakers to manage the speaker queue during the meeting.

Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 9119; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilNov102020@PublicInput.com. Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.

Headline updated at 10:46 a.m. on Dec. 7 to reflect additional context from Mayor Esther Manheimer.
Article and headline updated at 6:40 p.m. on Dec. 7 to reflect agenda changes announced by Manheimer.
Article updated at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 8 with additional comment from Manheimer.

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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17 thoughts on “Council to vote on Vance removal Dec. 8

  1. Mike

    How is the proposed removal action legal without the express approval of the state legislature???

    “North Carolina’s law doesn’t allow cities and counties to remove Confederate monuments, according to Rick Su, a professor at the UNC School of Law.”

    “In fact, the law … was specifically targeted at cities and counties, and followed a wave of other states passing similar laws in response to local efforts to remove statues,” Su told The News & Observer. “It applies to all statues owned by the state, and this includes those owned by subdivisions of the state like cities, counties, and other public institutions.”

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    • bsummers

      Is the Vance monument a “Confederate” monument? I keep hearing about how it’s a monument to a great guy who was Governor and did great things, etc., and only happened to also be a Confederate officer.

      • C-Law

        It’s as much a Masonic memorial than anything else.

        Many civic groups donated to the refurbishment, including The Society for the Preservation of the 26th Regiment North Carolina Troops, the Zeb Vance Camp 15–Sons of Confederate Veterans. etc., but anyone attending the 2015 rededication will recall that the proceedings were led by members of Asheville’s Mount Hermon Lodge, Grand Lodge of North Carolina, and notable members of the Prince Hall Lodge. The members of the Prince Hall Lodge were seemingly untroubled by the monument to Gov. Vance, though that undoubtedly doesn’t fit the propaganda and smears spread by the white-guilt laden leftists in Asheville. I’ll trust my brothers from the Prince Hall Lodge any day over some white privileged cultural marxist who claims to speak for black people.

        Demonstrating the high regard in which he was held in his own lifetime upon his death, Vance’s funeral in Washington was attended by a majority of the House and Senate, justices of the Supreme Court, the commanders of the Army and Navy, President Grover Cleveland, and Vice President Stevenson. A delegation of six senators and seven representatives was selected to escort his body back home to the Old North State.

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        • bsummers

          Excellent. So its not a Confederate monument. So we can yank that puppy down
          Thx.

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          • *Diuvei

            Barry, read my op-ed in the Sunday Cit-Times (12/6/2020) and see if you don’t recall a certain free-speech event it mentions that started at the Vance Monument like so many others have in Asheville: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/opinion/2020/12/05/cancel-vance-monument-but-save-ashevilles-obelisk-opinion-nc/3816560001/. The obelisk was commissioned by that notorious Confederate — not! — George W. Pack. See the 1897 article about its dedication at https://tinyurl.com/vance-monument-dedication, and note there’s nary a word about white supremacy or the “Lost Cause” in its dedicatory speech. Why so many of my fellow progressives (not you of course) are so intent on acting like ISIS reactionaries and demolishing all monuments they decree to be ideologically impure — especially when it’s an outright propaganda smear, as my op-ed shows — is truly beyond my ken.

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          • Shultz!

            @*Diuvei – I get it, you like it because such shapes hold spiritual meaning for your religion. It’s city property though, so just stop that, k?

          • bsummers

            I don’t know. I think renaming it The Horned God would be so Asheville, don’t you?

          • bsummers

            And then we could name the fountain “The Goddess”. In the words of George Carlin, “You don’t have to be Fellini to figure that one out.”

    • Shultz!

      It’s not a confederate monument. It’s an eyesore.

      Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that phallus!

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  2. Nan K. Chase

    Interesting that the city would underwrite construction of “affordable” condos starting at $200,000 when new manufactured homes are available for less than half that figure.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      Nan, the city does not allow manufactured homes….even Woodfin won’t allow single wides anymore…democrackkk CONTROL runs deep.

  3. blueridgeguvnor

    Just rename it you imbeciles, honestly this Mayor and Council are the most inept politicians I’ve ever seen good grief it’s so simple.

  4. Jason Williams

    Vance was also a two time U.S. Senator ( actually elected three times, but was not seated once) and post Civil War Governor as well.

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    • bsummers

      And he took up arms against the US government in order to protect slavery. Hooray! Every traitor gets a monument!

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      • Jason Williams

        After spending time in jail, he applied for a amnesty from the U.S. government, and was paroled, and eventually pardoned.

        • bsummers

          So Roger Stone will get a monument now too? Is this a great country, or what?

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