As winter gives way to spring, as the days lengthen and a haze of fresh green spreads over fields and trees, so too do recurring topics return to city government for deliberation: the city’s budget, new building projects requesting zoning relief … and the persistently vacant city-owned property on Haywood Street and Page Avenue facing the U.S. Cellular Center and the Basilica of St. Lawrence.
First, the budget: Prior to its formal meeting on Tuesday, March 28, Asheville City Council will hold a budget briefing at 3 p.m. After a March 14 work session devoted to the 2017-18 fiscal year budget drew an overflow crowd to a conference room, this session (the second of three planned) is slated to take place in Council’s Chambers on the second floor of City Hall. Attached to the agenda for Council’s meeting are three documents related to increased spending needs for the transit system, funding requests related to the Energy Innovation Task Force and a proposed master urban forest plan. The session will focus on the operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
At 5 p.m., Council will hold its regular semi-weekly meeting, also in Council Chambers.
Council will recognize the donation of an audio frequency induction loop system in the Chamber by the Asheville Breakfast Rotary Club. The system will help those with hearing loss to hear and participate in Council meetings.
Council will proclaim April 4, “National Service Recognition Day” and April 6, “National Tartan Day.”
Council will vote on items on the consent agenda, including:
- Accepting for information and planning purposes a comprehensive study of parking in the city.
- A measure authorizing the City Manager to apply for $4 million in federal transportation funds to support the construction of the Beaucatcher Greenway. The requested amount is equal to 80 percent of the projected cost of the project.
- Applying for $187,500 in funding to support transportation services for people with disabilities in the city.
- Approving a $319,948 contract with BBC Research & Consulting for a disparity study. The study will replace a previous study performed in 1993, and will be used to create “recommendations for future activities that will support small, minority and women owned businesses,” according to a staff memo.
Presentations and reports
Next up, an issue that has bedeviled City Council since at least 1998: what to do with a 1.23 acre parcel of land in a prime downtown location at 68-86 Haywood St. and 33-37 Page Ave.? Last March, Council appointed the Haywood Street Visioning Team to create a community vision for the use of the property, which has variously been considered as a site for a parking deck, public park and corporate office headquarters.
According to a report from Chris Joyell, executive director of the Asheville Design Center and facilitator for the visioning process, the team met a total of 14 times over the past year. The report outlines a variety of uses the team recommends for the site.
Active uses include:
- Civic space: gardening, farmers market, performance, play area and public art
- Mixed use: local food, local retail, business incubator, education and housing
- Other uses: services and utilities, offsite public gathering, safety and security, and traffic calming
Passive uses include:
- Civic space: shade, native landscaping, seating, water feature, Urban Trail station and information kiosk
- Mixed use: public restrooms
- Other uses: trash/recycling, lighting, views and neighborhood identity
Council has two items on its public hearings agenda.
Expansion of the Jewish Community Center and day care facility
Asheville’s Jewish Community Center will move its swimming pool from 236 Charlotte St. to 40 Clyde St. about 600 feet away. The new swimming pool facility is already under construction and isn’t part of the current zoning request. In the former swimming pool location, the JCC proposes to add a one-story building that will expand the community center by about 7,500 square feet.
The project area also includes Hilde’s House, a day care facility at 336 Hillside St., which will continue to be used for its current purpose.
The conditional zoning request encompasses considerations of parking, sidewalks, landscaping, setbacks and architectural design requirements (such as building orientation, windows and the design of the building facade). The city’s Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of the zoning request by a 6-0 vote at its March 1 meeting.
Request to allow lodging and special events use at 95 Charlotte St.
In 2015, Asheville attorney Jim Siemens purchased the 1869 Patton Parker House at 95 Charlotte St. Siemens originally planned to use the property as a law office and to construct a new two-unit residential structure behind the main house. In his original zoning request, Siemens said that the residential units would be rented on a long-term basis.
Siemens now hopes to use the new structure for short-term lodging, as well as occasional special events. In a report, city planning staff note that allowing short-term lodging would be reasonably consistent with the mixed-use commercial and residential character of the North Charlotte Street corridor and Chestnut Street (which the property also abuts). However, staff also note that converting the new units to short-term use would remove those units from the long-term rental housing stock.
Staff recommended that the Planning & Zoning Commission deny the conditional zoning request, but the commission voted 5-1 to recommend approval at its March 1 meeting.
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The full agenda for the March 28 meeting of Asheville City Council can be found here.