A 137-acre tract of county-owned property on Ferry Road near Bent Creek is a step closer to development following a Sept. 7 discussion by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Board members reacted favorably to a presentation by Kim Williams, a consultant with Asheville-based Equinox Environmental, regarding plans that would bring a mix of recreational, housing and commercial uses to the land.
Williams presented five scenarios for the site, ranging from a low-density, recreation-focused community to a “small commercial or business park.” While the commissioners did not make a formal commitment to any plan, several board members expressed a desire for denser development focused on housing.
“A big part of me is just like, ‘Leave this place alone. Just build trails and leave it alone,’” said board Chair Brownie Newman. “If we didn’t have an affordable housing crisis, that’s exactly what I would want to do there, but we do have an affordable housing crisis. … I want to get as much affordable housing value out of that land that’s going to be converted from natural to developed as possible.”
Commissioners Amanda Edwards and Parker Sloan were particularly supportive of “missing middle” housing on the property. They suggested that such a development pattern, which focuses on small-scale multifamily options like duplexes and fourplexes instead of large apartment buildings, could help residents build wealth through ownership while also increasing density.
That approach would significantly differ from previous proposals for the site, which has had a tangled history of abandoned plans over the past two decades. Options have included a 416-unit subdivision with 188 single-family homes, a production facility for Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery and a treatment plant for Henderson County’s sewage.
At their next meeting of Tuesday, Sept. 21, board members are expected to vote on authorizing an additional $90,000 for Equinox to conduct community engagement and refine the development plan based on that input. The consultancy’s work to date has cost the county about $60,000, according to a contract approved March 2.
COVID-19 vaccine incentives extended through October
Buncombe residents over the age of 18 who haven’t yet gotten a COVID-19 vaccination will have extra time to receive $100 along with the shot. Board members unanimously voted to approve $100,000 to extend a vaccine incentive program, currently funded by the state of North Carolina and slated to expire Monday, Sept. 13, for an additional month.
Stacie Saunders, the county’s public health director, said Sept. 7 that 860 people had received their first vaccination and a $100 incentive card since the program’s start Aug. 4. Another 120 people had received a $25 incentive card for providing transportation to someone getting their vaccine. She noted that vaccination rates had increased twofold since incentives were made available.
As of Sept. 8, 61% of the county’s population was fully vaccinated, exceeding the statewide average of 51%. But commissioners were eager to boost that number even higher, with proposals including vaccine incentives for children 12-18, a monthlong media campaign promoting vaccination and additional outreach at local schools.
And Sloan floated the idea of a resolution that would formally request Mission Health, Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools — three of the county’s largest employers — to implement vaccination requirements for their workers. (County government employees, with the exception of those under the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, are required to be vaccinated or submit weekly COVID-19 tests.) None of Sloan’s colleagues commented directly on his proposal.