County reviews preliminary plans for former Asheville Primary School

SITE PLANS: Buncombe County Commissioner Parker Sloan, right, said he doesn't think building a maintenance facility on the former Asheville Primary School site is the best use of the centrally located, Asheville City Schools-owned property. Chair Brownie Newman, left, noted there's a long way to go before plans for the site are finalized. Photo by Greg Parlier

It’s been nearly two years since students roamed the halls of Asheville Primary School at 441 Haywood Road in West Asheville. If preliminary plans come to fruition, the land could be split among a county EMS facility, library and maintenance facility for Asheville City Schools.

For the last year, officials with both Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County have debated what to do with the centrally located, ACS-owned facility at the corner of Haywood Road and Interstate 240. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners got a plan update at its May 7 briefing meeting.

Architectural plans show a two-story, 25,000-square-foot library on the corner of Haywood and the eastbound interstate on-ramp, with an entrance facing away from the roads. The library would connect to a 17,000-square-foot EMS station at the corner of Haywood and Argyle Lane. On the backside of the 4.77-acre parcel, a nearly 20,000-square-foot maintenance and operations building would be constructed for Asheville City Schools.

Robert Brown, a project manager in Buncombe County’s General Services Department, said an operations center including maintenance, transportation and food services was ACS’ top priority for the site. ACS also prioritized a pre-K day care facility and space for its alternative school, which is now projected to go elsewhere.

However, the plan didn’t include plans for a pre-K facility, a priority for both the county and city school district, Brown said.

Instead, ADW Architects designed two potential pre-K concepts on the campus of Hall Fletcher Elementary, neither of which would disturb the elementary school’s existing footprint.

Brown also presented preliminary plans to convert the current site of Montford North Star Academy into ACS’ alternative school. MNSA is merging with Asheville Middle School next year.

REDESIGN: One proposal from ADW Architects shows a new West Asheville Library anchoring the redesign at 441 Haywood Road along with an EMS base and maintenance facility for Asheville City Schools. Screenshot courtesy of Buncombe County

The plans for the campus at 90 Montford Ave., which previously housed Randolph Learning Center, an ACS alternative school until 2013, includes additional space for administration, Brown said.

Commissioners requested more information about how many students ACS projects to serve in the Montford space and how that compares to previous programs, suggesting the space might be larger than currently projected needs.

As for plans for a maintenance facility, some commissioners balked.

“Building a new facility on Haywood Road in one of the most urban areas of Buncombe County to just store things for the school in a maintenance facility doesn’t seem like the highest and best use,” said Commissioner Parker Sloan.

Commissioner Al Whitesides agreed with Sloan, pointing out that Buncombe County Schools already has a large maintenance facility and that agreeing to new construction while the districts are in the midst of a consolidation study seems counterintuitive. A study showing the feasibility of the two districts’ consolidation is projected to be completed in February.

“Why wouldn’t, for efficiency, we merge the [maintenance facilities]? To me, it makes no sense. It’s not fair to the taxpayers. I mean, that’s a waste of money,” Whitesides said.

During discussions, ACS officials noted the site would be useful as a maintenance and vehicle storage facility because of its central location within the school district, said County Manager Avril Pinder.

Sloan clarified that he thought an EMS base would still be appropriate on the site, given its location next to major roads.

All the plans are in early stages, and decisions regarding who will pay for construction and operation of the pre-K program, for example, are yet to be determined.

Brown said a final proposal will be brought to commissioners before proceeding.

County one step from finalizing trash contract

Commissioners unanimously approved a first reading of a new contract with FCC Environmental Services for trash and recycling pickup services, meaning one hurdle remains before the new provider becomes official.

The seven-year contract with the global waste management company means FCC could be the county’s first new hauler since WastePro was hired in 2009.

If ultimately approved, county residents will pay $28.65 a month for weekly trash pickup and biweekly recycling pickup starting Wednesday, Jan. 1. County residents now pay $25.16 a month to WastePro.

The new contract includes beefed-up accountability measures for FCC, including penalties of $200-$500 for each missed residence, payable to the county. There are stiffer penalties for not cleaning up spillages in a required time frame.

Commissioners will review the contract for a final time at their Tuesday, May 21, meeting. If approved, FCC will submit its transition plan Monday, July 1.

County allocates open space bond funding

Commissioners considered setting aside an additional $10.7 million in open space bond funding for construction projects at its Ferry Road development and Deaverview Mountain park, per a staff request. They will vote on final allocations at their May 21 meeting.

Voters approved a $30 million general obligation bond to fund projects that conserve space, build greenways and expand passive recreation opportunities in 2022. Along with approved projects like the Woodfin Greenway and commitments for the Enka Heritage Trail and various conservation easements, the added projects mean the county has committed $19.6 million of its available funds, according to a presentation by Jill Carter, open space bond manager for Buncombe County.

If approved, the $3 million allocation for the Ferry Road project will supplement a $4 million grant from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority awarded in April. This part of the project is for 2 miles of asphalt greenway, 2 miles of natural surface trails, recreational public parking access, and wetland access and signage on the 137-acre site off Brevard Road. These funds will not go toward development of housing on the site.

Deaverview Mountain, a 345-acre park with vistas overlooking the French Broad River Valley, could receive $7.7 million for a two-lane road with a multiuse path, paved parking lot, entry gate, stormwater and erosion controls, and vaulted toilets. The park, which the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is in line to purchase using various grants and the help of an anonymous conservationist, will be accessible by Deaverview Road, less than a mile from the nearest bus stop. The park is projected to open to the public in 2029.

Editor’s note: This story was updated May 9 to reflect that commissioners have yet to vote on final amounts for open space bond funding.


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