When Asheville City Council meets in formal session on Tuesday, April 10, at 5 p.m., nearly a month will have passed since its last regular meeting on March 13. But the elected officials have been busy in the interim, with two special closed sessions on March 16 and 29 and a budget work session on March 20. In those meetings, the Council took several notable actions, including releasing detailed information about the timeline of events following the Aug. 25 police beating of Asheville resident Johnnie Rush by ex-Asheville Police Officer Chris Hickman; firing former City Manager Gary Jackson; and rolling out a multifaceted proposal in response to concerns about disparate treatment of people of color by Asheville Police.
One of the strategies Council proposed to address racial inequity in policing and other areas, the formation of a Human Relations Commission, has actually been in process since 2017. On April 11, the officials will vote on an ordinance to establish the commission, which would:
- Make policy recommendations to Council on steps to advance equity.
- Support the city Office of Equity and Inclusion.
- Provide a forum for discussion of resident concerns and complaints regarding human relations.
- Engage the community in city programs and policies regarding human relations.
- Promote and improve human relations and advance equity in the areas of public safety; educational, art and cultural opportunities; economic development; health and human services; and housing.
If adopted, the commission will be made up of 15 members appointed by City Council.
Another agenda item related to city equity efforts is a presentation which will focus on “Prioritizing equity in planning and investing in recreational facilities and programs.”
Council will also hear the annual report of the Office of Sustainability and a presentation on the French Broad River bridge replacement project associated with the N.C. Department of Transportation’s planned widening of Interstate 26 from Airport Road to Interstate 40.
Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed 70-unit apartment development at 1 Brookside Circle in Candler, adjacent to the Westridge Shopping Center off Smokey Park Highway. All units in the Amaranth Apartments complex, which is being developed by Workforce Homestead, Inc., will be affordable for people earning 60 percent or less of the area median income. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the zoning request on March 7.
Another item related to Workforce Homestead on Council’s agenda concerns the developer’s request for a $600,000 loan from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund to support the development of the Amaranth Apartments. Council will also consider Mountain Housing Opportunity’s request for a $1.8 million loan to support an 80-unit apartment development at 357 Hilliard Ave., across the street from the site of the city’s former parks maintenance facility. Sixty of the units will be affordable to residents earning 60 percent of area median income or less, while 20 units will be available at market rates. Both the total amount of the Mountain Housing Opportunity loan request ($1.8 million) and the per-unit commitment ($30,000 per unit) exceed city policy maximums (which are $1 million and $20,000, respectively).
Council will vote on the city’s schedule of fees and charges for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Some of the largest proposed fee increases come in the area of fees related to permits for development projects. For example, the fee for a plan review prior to obtaining a permit for a freestanding sign would go from $100 to $250. For adding a deck or accessory structure to a single-family residence, the plan review fee would increase from $25 to $100. A staff memo notes that the proposed development fee changes stem from a recent study by the Matrix Consulting Group, and the increases should “move the city closer to full cost recovery in the areas of planning and zoning and site development.”
Water and stormwater fees are also slated for a slight increase.
Council will declare April Parkinson’s Disease Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention month.
Some of the items on Council’s consent agenda include:
- Schedule changes for upcoming Council meetings including setting a public hearing on the proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year for Tuesday, May 22 and shifting the date for budget adoption from Tuesday, June 12 to Tuesday, June 19. The previously scheduled meetings of June 12 and 26 will be canceled.
- Approval of a $1,046,691 contract with Patton Construction Group for stormwater improvements on Morris Street to alleviate flooding.
- A resolution supporting a revision to the Asheville in Motion (AIM) cross-section recommendation for Sweeten Creek Road from Rock Hill Road to
Hendersonville Road. The NCDOT plans a $50 million widening of Sweeten Creek Road, and the city hopes the agency will consider its preferred design for the roadway, which would include a bike lane separated from motor vehicle lanes.
Prior to Council’s regular meeting on April 10, it will hold a budget work session at 3 p.m. in the first floor North Conference Room at City Hall. An agenda for the work session is available here.
Council will hear comment from members of the public on items not previously discussed on Council’s agenda.
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.