David Gantt releases timeline, documents on Buncombe-Deschutes negotiations

Buncombe County paid $6.8 million for 137 acres on Ferry Rd. in hopes of landing Deschutes Brewery. The Oregon-based beer maker eventually tapped Roanoke, VA for its East Coast expansion. Photo courtesy of Henderson County

In the aftermath of Buncombe County’s two-year effort to convince Orgegon-based Deschutes Brewery to build its East Coast expansion here, some critics have questioned the strategies employed. Buncombe County Commission Chair David Gantt released today (March 30) a timeline of events and supplemental documents correlated to Deschutes’ decision.

The behind-closed-doors courtship began in February 2014, after Deschutes confidentially expressed its interest in locating in the Asheville area. That interest prompted a joint effort by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Coalition and the Buncombe County government that led to the purchase of 137-acre property on Ferry Road, a Buncombe County parcel that was owned by Henderson County, as a potential expansion site for the brewery. Without publicly disclosing the reason for its purchase, Buncombe acquired the property in April 2015 for $6.8 million.

In the following months, Deschutes continued to express interest in Asheville while also investigating alternate expansion sites in other cities.

In September 2015, commissioners Miranda DeBruhl, Mike Fryar and Joe Belcher requested an agenda item to direct County Manager Wanda Greene to solicit bids for the Ferry Road parcel, which was at that point being confidentially held as part of the Deschutes negotiations. Documents indicate there were pleas from the EDC negotiating team not to move forward with the agenda item, “while negotiations with Deschutes are continuing and going well.”

On October 5, 2015, DeBruhl said on Twitter, “I’m glad to know that @DeschutesBeer [Deschutes Brewery] is officially interested in @buncombeGov [Buncombe County] via @asheville [Asheville Citizen-Times]. Can Michael Lalonde talk tomorrow?”

The next day, brewery President Michael LaLonde emailed Greene to say that DeBruhl had called him to express her concern that Deschutes had not yet made a decision. Gantt’s timeline states that DeBruhl’s action was taken “without knowledge/coordination/discussion with negotiation team or other Commissioners.”

Also on Oct. 6, DeBruhl used Twitter to say: “Got more done in 7 minutes this AM than was done in the last 7 months on not so ‘secret’ Ferry Rd. project.” She then tweeted, “I confirmed this morning there was no company interested in closing a deal on Ferry Rd property when @buncombeGov bought it #fairytale,” and followed that with “Confirmed this AM, there was never a deal for any company to build at Ferry Rd when @buncombeGov bought the land. #fairytale.”

A deal between the county and the brewery to build would seem unlikely at the time of the parcel’s purchase  because at that point Deschutes was stating publicly it had not settled on a site for its expansion.

LaLonde’s Oct. 6 email to Greene also notes, “I told her [Commissioner DeBruhl] that our company continues to be very interested in that site but we are in the process of performing the final due diligence, including site specific engineering. Thank you and the Commissioners for purchasing the site and holding it so we can perform the necessary due diligence.”

At the commissioners’ meeting that day, DeBruhl made a motion to withdraw the resolution to solicit new bids for the 137 Ferry Road parcel. It passed unanimously. The minutes of the commissioners’ Oct. 6, 2015, meeting indicate DeBruhl requested the agenda item be removed “based on new information.”

Gantt defended the land purchase at the commissioners’ April 7, 2015, meeting, saying if the company goes somewhere else, the county could still sell the property to another industry.

How Deschutes Brewery’s leadership team interpreted the acts of September and October are unclear, but on Nov. 20, 2015, EDC Executive Director Ben Teague emailed Greene that the brewery had “decided to pursue an alternate site over the Asheville location at this time. I fear the unexpected public discussion to sell Bent Creek Site in October, and subsequent social media comments by officials denigrating the company stood in contrast to the universal and orchestrated outpouring of support of our competition.”

Deschutes made its decision public on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will hold its regular meeting this coming Tuesday, April 5, and Gantt says these events will likely be discussed during the meeting.

You can view a complete timeline and supplemental documents here.


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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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43 thoughts on “David Gantt releases timeline, documents on Buncombe-Deschutes negotiations

  1. Scott B

    And Debruhl wants to be the County Commission chair? She’s just a loose cannon looking out for herself, not the people of the county.

    • Yep

      Are you kidding? Miranda DeBruhl is the only hope that TAXPAYERS have on the county commission to combat the evil democrackkks and ONE percenters like Brownie Newman, who we DO NOT NEED as Chairman! Do you want a guy who has
      fleeced MILLIONS of $$$ from NC taxpayers thru ‘solar subsidies’? NO YOU DON”T! He is among the most evil democrackkks in NC !!!
      Buncombe County TAXPAYERS NEED Miranda DeBruhl ! ! !

    • Lulz

      LOL, and the current crop of left wing loons are? How? By bringing in more fluff like hotels and breweries that add to the infrastructure headache along with costs and passing it onto residents? Or buying up land and then wondering what to do with it when the carrot they were dangling in order to BRIBE a business to move here isn’t enough? Here’s a thought, get out of the crony capitalism business and don’t be so quick to judge a lone commissioner for the problems it has created because a bunch of dimwits in government can’t grasp the fact that free stuff won’t always work. What’s next, offers of free trash disposal and residents pick up the tab with superimposed fees lulz? Or trying to silence many that live here about just how much a scam it is and then wondering why the only companies coming are only to participate in said scam WITH the help of the local government. With residents of course paying the REAL bill.

  2. bsummers

    So how many jobs and how much tax revenue did Ms. Debruhl’s interference cost the people of Buncombe County? Just so she could go on twitter and say ‘neener-neener-neener’?

    • Lulz

      LOL faux outrage but how much tax money went to pay for the land? Oh I forgot, you think it grows on trees and everyone is rich like you. And on top of it, that tax collections likes to threaten those that are late. Must be because the hogs need their generous pay, benefits, and pensions while the peons work just to get by. How much do those overfed and overweight workers in government cost the taxpayer should really be asked.

      • bsummers

        how much tax money went to pay for the land?

        The land can be sold. Duh.

  3. The Real World

    Yawn……good cop/bad cop. Seems pretty ridiculous for the county to have bought over 6 million dollars worth of land “just in case we get it”. Poor negotiating on their part. AVL was a bargaining chip for Deschutes to use elsewhere and it seems to have worked out well for them.

    But, DeBruhl’s actions do seem out-of-line. Not as bad as Bothwell’s DUI arrest 2 years ago though. And I saw him drunk as a skunk downtown on a Sun afternoon last summer. So, he clearly has some debilitating issues. Just sayin.

    • mynameis

      Non sequitur much?

      “So, he clearly has some debilitating issues,” The Real World sez without a trace of irony.

      • Lulz

        LOL, but he’s not in a position of power over the taxpayer purse lulz. Yet ideologues like yourself seem to forget that very crucial bit of info. Or simply refuse to actually hold your pals responsible.

      • The Real World

        Barry – both are elected officials who are supposed to represent us and are visible in the community so, no, not a non-sequitur.

        (mynameis = bsummers = busted)

  4. luther blissett

    It was pretty clear when Miranda DeBruhl unseated David King that there was no very little there: she’s an empty vessel filled up from time to time by the crazies of the Asheville Tea Party. I doubt that her intervention was decisive, given that Deschutes wanted to be a big fish in a small pond, but it shows she’s unfit to chair the county commission. There will be other negotiations and they need not to be blabbered over Twitter.

    The company always had more flexibility than the county: that’s the nature of things. Counties can’t move.

    • Lulz

      LOL, uh maybe but the same can be said of Gantt who gave himself along with the commissioners a pay raise for being an elected official. But of course we all believe in one BIG state that of course doesn’t follow it’s own rules and laws, bends over backwards for those who will benefit IT alone, and will gladly and forcefully take away from those that can’t afford to keep up with ITS spending habits.

  5. Nice CYA job from the MX on the heels of the minutes from the closed session being released by another news outlet.

    The minutes of a controversial closed session government meeting last year involving land meant for Deschutes Brewery are in dispute. News 13 obtained the minutes on Wednesday under a North Carolina Open Records Law request. They had been previously shared with the seven members of the Board of Commissioners to make them aware of what would be released. The board will vote on whether to approve the minutes at its next meeting.

          • mynameis

            Are you a transplant from Atlanta, Tim? Tell us about it!

          • Peter Robbins

            How were the tweets altered? Why do the alterations, if any, matter? What evidence do you have that these alterations, if any, were the result of intentional doctoring, as opposed to, say, mere transcription error?

          • Peter Robbins

            What change? You asked why tweets were doctored. But you can’t defend the factual premise of your question. Put up or shut up, son.

          • Maybe he’s just getting old and feeble. That might account for the errors in his timeline documentation.

  6. Keith Thomson

    David Gantt has done more for Buncombe County than just about anyone in the last thirty years. The folks like Fisher Caudle who hate everything about Buncombe since they moved here from Atlanta can’t tear down David’s legacy. Yep!

      • Edison Carter

        Another transplant that moves here only to complain?? Wow… You can’t make this stuff up.

      • bsummers

        On the back of a taxpayer-funded settlement, or some such deal, as I recall.

        • luther blissett

          That’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it? “I post whatever interests me regardless of the topic, you change the subject, he lulz lol LoL lulz.”

          But apparently only Timpeck is allowed to derail a thread, change the subject, and make it all about Timpeck timpeck timpeck.

          • Peter Robbins

            Notice how Mr. Peck avoids identifying the great “differences” in the tweets above? So amusing.

          • Odd, isn’t it? Timeline inaccurate. Doctored tweets. Withholding emails from a public records request. I wish someone could sort all of this out.

  7. DeBruhl on the closed session:

    Did commissioner Newman not clearly indicate that the real reason for purchasing this property was, “to control what goes there?” And, was this not clearly indicated as the real “emergency” for the meeting? Did commissioner Newman not specifically name Jack Cecil as a potential purchaser of this land who Newman desired to stop? Did commissioner Newman not specifically state that left alone, “We don’t want Jack Cecil to build houses here?”

  8. Some public records requests are being withheld from the public. Why is that, do you suppose?

    “Emails by commission Chairman David Gantt and Commissioner Brownie Newman, both Democrats, were not among those the county provided on Wednesday under a North Carolina Open Records Law request.”

    • Carp

      Hey Tim, any additional insight into this matter in light of recent events? Has your blog post been updated for posterity?

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