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.