Following federal investigations into former County Manager Wanda Greene and others, Buncombe County has recouped more than $3 million through legal settlements with former county officials.
That total could increase during a Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting this month. Commissioners are scheduled to discuss an unspecified legal settlement presented by attorney Ron Payne, who has been handling the county’s civil lawsuits.
The presentation was supposed to occur during the board’s meeting on April 2, but Board Chair Brownie Newman says Payne will be out of town on family business so the board won’t be able to take action until their next meeting on April 16.
Newman says he can’t yet comment on the specifics of the settlement.
So far, the board has received a $750,000 settlement from Greene; $40,000 from her son, Michael Greene; $189,000 from former Assistant County Manager Jon Creighton; and nearly $2.1 million from Guardian Life Insurance Co., a company Greene used to purchase insurance policies for herself, her son and eight other county employees using about $2.3 million of county funds.
A civil lawsuit is still pending against former County Manager Mandy Stone, former county contractor Joseph Wiseman Jr. and Wiseman’s company, Environmental Infrastructure Consulting.
During the board’s April 2 meeting, commissioners will consider changes to the zoning ordinance that would allow manufactured homes in more residential districts.
The changes would apply to 36,251 acres of property, or 10 percent of the unincorporated area of the county. Manufactured housing is currently allowed in residential low-density, R-3 residential, employment and open-use districts, which according to a staff report cover about 86 percent of the unincorporated parts of Buncombe County.
This amendment would expand the allowable zoning designations to R-1, R-2 and the Beaverdam Low-Density Residential District but would not apply to manufactured home parks.
The changes would require that houses in the newly allowed districts have skirting made from stone, brick or architectural or rusticated block. The rules prohibit skirting made from vinyl, metal or foam and require that homes in the revised zoning districts contain multiple sections, meaning that they must be larger than a single-wide structure.
Commissioners asked staff in April 2018 to look into ways the county could expand access to manufacturing housing. As commissioners continue to search for ways to increase access to affordable housing, the county sees the changes as a possible means to expand housing options for residents of Buncombe County.
East Haven Apartments
Commissioners will review a disbursement schedule for a $2.2 million, zero-interest loan to Mountain Housing Opportunities approved by the board on Feb. 5.
The loan would make up part of the funding for a $16.8 million, 95-unit affordable housing complex in Swannanoa called East Haven Apartments.
$500,000 would be transferred to MHO at the start of construction, $425,000 at the 50% completion mark, $425,000 when construction is finished, and $850,000 when MHO permanently closes the loan.
MHO will make a balloon payment of $2,037,500 at the end of the loan’s 20-year term. The organization will pay the remaining $162,500 balance in annual installments starting on June 30, 2020.
Commissioners approved the loan during a meeting on Feb. 5 in a 4-3 vote. Former Interim County Manager George Wood had initially suggested that commissioners loan the $2.2 million to MHO at a 2.25 percent interest rate with the expectation that, instead of a balloon payment, the organization pay 5 percent of the principal ($110,000) every year over a 20-year period.
Cindy Weeks, the director of community investment at Mountain Housing Opportunities, told members of the board that the loan suggested by Wood would result in a minimum of $100,000 in negative cash flow per year. “We would not be able to construct East Haven under these terms,” Weeks said.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, in the third-floor conference room at 200 College St. in downtown Asheville. Commissioners will hold a pre-meeting conference with staff at noon in the first-floor meeting room in the same building. See the agenda and supporting documents here.