WHO YOU GONNA CALL: Leicester Fire Department medical and fire service, protecting people in parts of three counties around the clock. Chief Chris Brown, in white, commands the growing department and works with a board of directors to manage the finances and policies that govern the part paid, part volunteer department. Photo by Cindy Kunst

How local fire department­s keep residents safe in changing times

As population grows in WNC’s once-rural areas, the model of volunteer-based fire and rescue services is giving way to bigger budgets, more training and significant numbers of paid staff. How are the departments keeping up with the changes, and should they be required to conform to the same requirements for transparency and public oversight as other organizations funded by property taxes?

LIKE A ROCK: Skyland Fire & Rescue was one of the first Buncombe County volunteer departments to hire firefighters and medical personnel, but they still are governed by the same rules as small volunteer departments. Photo by Able Allen

Chief Presley retires from Skyland FD amid controvers­y over families in fire service

Chief Dennis Presley will retire from the Skyland Fire and Rescue Department as of Aug. 20. His announcement came on Aug. 2, the morning after Weston Hall of Black Mountain spoke during the public comment period at the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting. Hall said that nepotism was creating a hostile work environment at nonprofit fire service departments. He pointed out that Presley’s wife, son, daughter and son-in-law all hold paid positions with the Skyland department.

BUILDING ON SOMETHING: Before a house can be raised or a unit can be repurposed, land use has to be sorted out. A group of affordable housing activists are in the driver’s seat to spend $1 million of Asheville’s general obligation bond money on a community land trust. The fledgling group will grow into a membership organization that will own pieces of land on behalf of the community, to be used to help address the city’s affordable housing problem. Photo courtesy of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity

Community land trust project has bumpy launch

If trust is a function of time, an innovative approach to affordable housing may already be in trouble. On July 13, about 30 community stakeholders gathered in an echoey auditorium at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center and took the first meandering steps toward establishing a community land trust. But the two-hour meeting produced […]

The Buncombe County Courthouse, left, and Asheville City Hall. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Council to vote on RAD form-based code, election districts on July 25

On Tuesday, July 25, Asheville City Council will consider a new zoning ordinance for the River Arts District, a referendum on establishing election districts for City Council, a new Tunnel Road hotel, a self-storage facility and a plan to leverage $10 million in bond funding to promote the development of 485 units of affordable housing, among other items.

SUING THE CITY: On July 14, Sidney Bach and Chris Peterson filed an amendment to their lawsuit against the city of Asheville's $74 million bond program. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Bond lawsuit calls Asheville’s 3.5-cent tax increase ‘illegal’

Retired attorney Sidney Bach and former Asheville vice mayor have filed a motion to amend the lawsuit they brought against the city of Asheville over its general obligation bond program in January. According to the new filing, the city’s plan to charge property owners taxes to cover principal and interest on the $74 million bonds approved by city voters in 2016 is illegal, since the city hasn’t yet issued the bonds.

FAKE NEWS: Sen. Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville accused the Asheville Citizen-Times of being unwilling to publish positive state news at a meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners on July 14. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Edwards rails against Buncombe news coverage

At a meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners on July 14, Sen. Chuck Edwards, Rep. Brian Turner and Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer briefed the crowd on issues including the state economy, taxes, judicial matters, education, Asheville district elections and the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project. Edwards also used the forum to complain about bias in local media coverage.