“The path we’re on right now is a collision that puts us backwards and actually takes classrooms offline,” said Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, regarding the Asheville City Schools plan to relocate preschool classrooms from Asheville Primary School to other elementary schools and Asheville Housing Authority developments.
The funds, equal to roughly a quarter of budgeted property tax revenue for the current fiscal year and more than its budgeted spending on general government administration, represent by far the largest pot of federal support yet provided to the county during the pandemic.
“Families of color have unfairly limited elementary school options for their children because the district is mandated to maintain antiquated racial quotas that were put into place 30 years ago,” writes Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman.
In town known for a foul smell and a river that used to run black, the Canton paper mill has made strides in cleaning up, and jobs depend on the facility. But environmentalists say concerns persist.
Buncombe County would become the first local government in Western North Carolina to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance. Orange County and several municipalities have approved similar language after a statewide ban on such ordinances expired Dec. 1.
Asheville has contracted with consultants Shemekka Ebony and Christine Edwards to host six “equity-focused budget engagement” sessions for community members. The pair previously facilitated the city’s “Reimagining Public Safety” engagement efforts in the fall.
The charging station program, funded by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality from part of the state’s allocation in the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal, partially defrays the cost of installing Level 2 infrastructure, which can recharge electric vehicles up to seven times as quickly as a standard 120-volt outlet.
Following a pair of votes for different methods of picking the school board at Council’s meeting of March 9, the final say on its composition now rests with the N.C. General Assembly, which must pass legislation to enact any change.
The new outdoor classroom and garden area, the result of a three-year, $2 million project, features three distinct ponds, a boardwalk, a 20-person teaching shelter and interpretive signage, complete with a frog kiosk that plays different amphibian vocalizations.
Two proposals are up for consideration. One outlines a request for a fully elected school board; the other sets up a hybrid model in which Council would appoint two members and allow ACS district residents to elect the other three.
“We would end up basically having to raise taxes on everyone else to fund these rebates to businesses that we understand have had a tough year, but many of which have had a great decade ahead of this year,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman.
Richmond Hill residents, eager to preserve their quiet neighborhood from traffic and construction, will do just about anything to block plans to build nearly 1,400 residential units overlooking the French Broad River. And Florida-based developer John Holdsworth and his team appear equally committed to seeing their project approved and constructed.
At its meeting of Tuesday, March 2, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will consider a contract with Asheville-based Equinox Environmental Consultation and Design to develop possibilities for the county-owned property, which has previously been considered for an outpost of Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery and a 416-unit subdivision.
“This is not the time to talk about redistribution in any manner,” Republican Sen. Edwards told the Council of Independent Business owners regarding changes to the allocation of Buncombe County’s occupancy tax revenue. “The tourism industry has just been destroyed.”
For months, residents have pressured elected leaders to fulfill their commitment to reparations for Asheville’s Black community. Plans are now in the works to form a joint city and county Reparations Commission by July, says Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell.
“I’m really struggling with this process as a parent, as a councilor,” said Asheville City Council member Sage Turner, as her colleagues considered how they would appoint three members of the Asheville City Board of Education. “I’m really struggling with us not listening to teachers.”
Outside of COVID-19, the top three business issues reported in the latest Asheville Downtown Association survey remain virtually identical to those of previous years: downtown cleanliness, safety and parking for both visitors and employees.
Interest in cycling has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but funding for bike-friendly roads faces an uphill battle, both in Asheville and across the state.
The new regulations allow hotels with 115 rooms or fewer to avoid a Council vote if they meet a series of design requirements, are located in a newly approved overlay district and contribute to equity-related public benefits.
As plans to redevelop 6.84 acres along Charlotte Street into a mixed-use development move forward, residents are rallying to protect a dozen buildings from demolition.
Hoteliers and hotel opponents alike have waited since September 2019 for Asheville City Council to reach a decision about future lodging development within city limits. On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the countdown clock finally hits zero.