The Green Scene

Getting the lay of the land

Tracking development in Asheville just got a whole lot easier.

A new online tool unveiled recently by Asheville’s Information Technology Services Department enables anyone to quickly find out about new local construction projects. The Web-based program, called the mapAsheville Development Mapper, uses geographic-information-systems technology to retrieve detailed data about large-scale developments approved since January. In each neighborhood, projects are numbered and displayed on multilayered, interactive maps. The tool syncs aerial data with relevant city documents, meeting dates and site plans, and users can search for information about a particular address. MapAsheville covers the city proper and immediate environs.

GIS Coordinator Jason Mann says the idea originated about a year ago, when planning staffers found themselves overwhelmed with public requests for information. “It decreases the amount of staff time that has to be devoted to delivering this information manually,” he notes.

But the mapper also has any number of other applications, he emphasizes. “We really feel like we’ve been able to produce a tool that’s useful not only to neighborhood groups … but developers and realtors as well.” Other potential users include architects and investment bankers, according to a city announcement about the new technology.

A crime-statistics feature developed in collaboration with the Asheville Police Department will be added in the next few months. “You will be able to select a particular neighborhood and get an account of crimes that have been committed there,” says Mann, adding that the generalized statistics will not enable users to pinpoint a crime’s exact location.

The Internet community has evidently wasted no time checking out the new technology: The city’s GIS Web site has seen a roughly 35 percent increase in Web traffic since the new technology was announced, Mann reports.

To try mapping your own neighborhood, visit http://gis.ashevillenc.gov/mapAsheville.

The Greens are back on the scene

“A lot of people think of the Green Party as just a bunch of hippies,” says Kai Schwandes, co-founder of the regional Mountain Greens and co-chair of the statewide North Carolina Green Party. “But we have serious, well-educated people joining, like lawyers, doctors, students and business owners.”

Recent efforts to organize a Green Party chapter in Buncombe County have been met with great interest, says Schwandes. A similar attempt about five years ago never quite got off the ground, though an earlier incarnation of the group was active here in the 1980s and early ‘90s. ***The nascent Buncombe chapter is forming under the wing of the Mountain Greens, an affiliate of the statewide party, which has 40 dues-paying members and 200 organizational affiliates across Western North Carolina.***

“We’re really building it as a party,” says Schwandes. “We want to run candidates and get them elected, not just hold protests on street corners.”

The Green Party platform is based on 10 key principles, beginning with “grassroots democracy,” “social justice and equal opportunity” and “ecological wisdom.” Schwandes rejects the term “third party,” preferring to think of it as an “opposition party.”

“We really believe that the political system as it exists is broken,” she says. “We do not see a real difference between the so-called major parties. I believe it is absolutely essential that we have an opposition party.”

The Buncombe County Green Party CHAPTER is electing interim officers, and they recently elected Helen Holifield as temporary chair.

The next meeting of the Mountain Greens will happen Saturday, March 17, from 10 a.m. to noon in the Community Room at the south Asheville Earth Fare (1856 Hendersonville Road). Those interested in becoming active with either the regional or local groups are welcome to attend.

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