Asheville City Council is gearing up for a long night. Six public hearings are scheduled for the body’s regular meeting of Tuesday, Sept, 24 — including discussions of overturning Asheville’s state-imposed district election system, enacting a temporary hotel ban and approving a mixed-use hotel before that ban would go into effect.
And if the change in venue from Council chambers to the U.S. Cellular Center Banquet Hall is any indication, city officials expect a large turnout. The city has asked people wishing to speak during the hearings to sign up as early as 4 p.m. ahead of the meeting.
The first hearing on the agenda will again provide Council with an opportunity to consider allowing a nine-story mixed-use hotel on the north end of downtown. The Create 72 Broadway project, first presented before Council on Sept. 10, drew more than 15 speakers who voiced worries about hotel density and the potential displacement of the Asheville City Market.
After a last-ditch effort to alleviate concerns over parking and the farmers market appeared to fall flat, project attorney Derek Allen asked that the hearing be continued so the developers could consider new solutions. As of press time, the documents and plans for Create 72 Broadway listed on Council’s agenda are the same as those presented on Sept. 10 and do not include additional proposals for parking.
Council members Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield announced that they would not support the project during the Sept. 10 meeting, citing the oversaturation of hotels in the downtown corridor. Mayor Esther Manhiemer, Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler and Council members Keith Young and Brian Haynes did not share their positions.
Listed as hearing A on the agenda, the hotel project may be the last that Council will evaluate before implementing a hotel moratorium, which will be considered as hearing D. If approved, the action would halt all new hotel construction in the city for up to a year as officials researched new land use policies, tools and strategies.
City Attorney Brad Branham has said hotels that have already been approved by Council or received a valid building permit have legally vested rights to continue development. However, the future of Create 72 Broadway would be uncertain unless the project was approved by Council prior to the moratorium.
In other business
Two public hearings are also scheduled in which Council will consider amending Asheville’s charter to specify at-large elections and return to a nonpartisan primary system for Council members. The moves come in the wake of Senate Bill 813, the state law that replaced the previous at-large method for electing representatives with a district-based system.
Branham told Council members during a July 2 special session on the issue that amending the city’s charter would be the quickest route to circumvent the state law. The amendments would not affect the year in which elections are held, which was changed by the General Assembly to even years starting in 2020, skipping this year’s previously scheduled elections.
Kapoor was the sole opposition to the Sept. 10 vote that set the public hearing to consider at-large elections. In a Sept. 17 newsletter, Kapoor recommended that the city keep its current district maps for the 2020 election but call upon an independent redistricting commission to redraw the maps for the 2022 elections. He also suggested that Council add two additional at-large seats — bringing the total to nine, including an at-large mayor — and implement a two-term limit for all city representatives.
Council’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 17 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include:
- A resolution authorizing the city to purchase property from the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, then sell to Reed Creek Greenway Plaza for over $70,000 to promote the development of mixed-income housing. The proposed building, located at 427 Broadway St., will include 38 residential units, eight of which will be designated affordable at 60% area median income.
- A resolution authorizing the city to enter into a three-year, $150,000 contract with Homeward Bound of Western North Carolina to assist the Asheville Police Department with issues related to people experiencing homelessness. The organization will work in collaboration with APD to “de-escalate crises and divert arrest when appropriate.”
- Adoption of an ordinance lowering the posted speed limit along Amboy Road from Interstate 240 to Meadow Road from 45 mph to 35 mph for the area’s residents and bicyclists.
- A resolution authorizing the city to enter an agreement with Kassinger Development Group for 63 public parking spaces and other improvements related to the development of affordable housing on property located at 360 Hilliard Ave. The city approved the sale of the city-owned land to the development group in a June 11 meeting.
Asheville City Council will meet at 5 p.m. at the Banquet Hall of the U.S. Cellular Center, located at 87 Haywood St. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.