The Green Scene

The Mountain Voices Alliance is gearing up for a May 3 rally in downtown Asheville calling for a temporary moratorium on large-scale construction projects in Western North Carolina.

“It’s simply a pause to plan—a temporary legal tool to get a grip on unbridled growth,” explains Elaine Lite, the group’s chairperson. “Buncombe County’s not alone in the need for one, and it’s not the final solution. We need to create a regional long-term growth plan immediately.”

Fiddleheads: Ferns, like these, and other native plants are often lost to development. But Quality Forward is partnering with Biltmore Farms and N.C. Seed Savers to rescue plants from a construction site for a gated community. Photo by Jason Sandford

The moratorium would apply to projects in downtown Asheville as well as large subdivisions built on steep slopes throughout the county. “We’re talking like The Ellington, or this [Tony] Fraga project that will change the face of downtown,” says Lite, who made an unsuccessful bid for an Asheville City Council seat last year. “It’s ludicrous to spend all this money for a [downtown] master plan when we’re continuing to develop every inch.”

The group is also urging Buncombe County to hold off on approving any new mountain subdivisions until they have the North Carolina Geological Survey’s new landslide-hazard maps in hand. Another concern is the lack of a comprehensive geotechnical analysis of water availability throughout the region, which they say would protect against the possibility that newly built communities would have no way to access water.

The alliance has collected 5,000 petition signatures calling for a moratorium, Lite reports.

The rally is slated for Saturday, May 3, from 2 to 4 p.m. Participants will meet at Pritchard Park and march to City/County Plaza to hear speakers and music.

One more for the earth

Earth Day was officially April 22, but here’s another chance to celebrate. The Environmental & Conservation Organization of Henderson County will host an Energy Expo on Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock. The keynote speaker will be energy-conservation expert Jeff Barrie, who made the film Kilowatt Ours.

In addition, Southern Energy & Environment Expo founder Ned Doyle will talk about the region’s energy future, environmental-policy expert Marjorie Meares will discuss small-scale wind power, and Brian Winslett of Blue Ridge Biofuels will weigh in on the controversy surrounding biofuels. The event will also feature presentations on green building, energy efficiency, solar power/photovoltaic cells, green real estate and green home renovation.

Alternative-fuel vehicles running on electricity, compressed natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol and propane will be on display.

For more information, call the ECO office at (828) 692-0385 or visit www.eco-wnc.org.

Out with the old …

The Ramble is an upscale, 1,000-acre gated community now under development adjacent to Biltmore Forest, with new homes priced at up to $2 million. The promotional brochures feature illustrations of native mountain plants—a cruel irony if those same plants were destined to be crushed beneath a bulldozer’s treads. But in a rare move, the company is actually attempting to save the native vegetation from its own earth-moving vehicles.

“The idea is to cover all of it—so that no native plants will go unrescued,” says an optimistic Amy Fahmy, Biltmore Farms’ staff horticulturalist. The first plant rescue, scheduled for April 22 (Earth Day), covered a 25-acre area that’s slated to be cleared soon for homebuilding. Volunteers will be brought in to rescue the native plants before each section is cleared for construction.

“There are a lot of things worth keeping in the environment,” even if they aren’t in their natural setting, says Fahmy. Ferns, box huckleberry, partridgeberry, wild ginger, galax, pipsissewa, rattlesnake plantain and bellwort all thrive there. The rescued plants will be transplanted to the gardens of participating rescuers from NC Plant Savers and Quality Forward, local groups that are partnering with Biltmore Farms.

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