New busker regulations up for Council’s consideration at Oct. 25 meeting

Sparrow Pants and Keith Smith of The Resonant Rogues busking at the Flat Iron on Battery Park Ave. and Wall St. Photo by Erin Derham, Buskin' Blues.

Asheville’s busking scene is a defining feature of the city — and a challenge for those charged with ensuring the orderly use of Asheville’s red-hot downtown public spaces. For years, city staff have proposed new regulations to control the number and spacing of performers in popular areas. But those proposals haven’t gotten far. Buskers have successfully resisted previous attempts at regulation, complaining that the city solicits their input on possible solutions for alleviating crowding, and then incorporates none of that input in the proposed rules.

But at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 25, Council will finally hear a modest proposal that aims to limit performers in two of the city’s most popular busking locations: the sidewalk in front of Woolworth Walk on Haywood Street and the Flat Iron at Battery Park Avenue and Wall Street. If approved, the proposal will add a symbol designating a performance area in those two spots. No other audible performances will be permitted within a 120-foot radius of the marked areas; silent performances must maintain a 40-foot distance from the marked spots. According to a city memo, “Performances will be required to keep a minimum six feet of space between the curb and performance area clear for pedestrian passage.”

Other elements of the proposed downtown space management plan include relocating two sidewalk pushcarts, relocating benches near the intersection of Patton and Biltmore avenues and closing Wall Street to vehicular traffic on selected weekend days.

Proclamations

Council will proclaim Oct. 25 “Hispanic Restaurateur Day.”

Consent agenda

In its consent agenda, Council will vote on projects for the water system, service contracts for maintaining city vehicles and heavy equipment, accepting grants to support the purchase of Taser conducted electrical weapons and ballistic vests for police officers, transit agreements for services for people with disabilities and setting a public hearing on Nov. 8 for consideration of a land use incentive grant for affordable housing at Skyland Exchange on Miami Circle in South Asheville.

Council will also consider a proposal to make Election Day, Nov. 8, a fare-free day for the ART system to increase opportunities for voters to access polling locations.

Presentations and reports

Council will hear a report on the Haywood Street Planning Process for city-owned properties on Haywood Street and Page Avenue. The report will be presented by the process facilitator, Chris Joyell, executive director for the Asheville Design Center. Council will also hear about suggested short-term uses for the site.

A second presentation item is titled, “Effective communication for projects and programs, George Washington Carver Edible Park update.” A document attached to this item relates to the city’s Communication and Public Engagement department and explains the department’s role and mission. The document concludes with a slide titled, “Best practices in community communication.”

Public hearings

Council will hear public comment on a land use incentive grant for the Simpson Street/Beaucatcher Commons affordable housing project, which will create 70 units of housing at 43 Simpson St. The units will be affordable to those making 60 percent or less of area median income. If approved, the estimated total of the requested grant, which includes property tax abatement and rebates of city permitting fees, would be $373,710.

A second public hearing will concern removing the application process for signage plans from the city’s unified development ordinance to bring the UDO into alignment with recent state and federal court decisions related to signage regulation.

According to a city memo on the proposed change:

The amendment proposes to clarify that properties seeking relief from the sign code may apply for a Board of Adjustment Variance as outlined in UDO Sec. 7-13-9. Variances. This clarification comes as a result of removing UDO Sec. 7-13-10. Signage Plan. which had proposed a nonquasi-judicial, legislative process for projects meeting specified criteria, as an alternative to a Board of Adjustment variance.

Board and commission vacancies

The following city boards and commissions are currently accepting applications: ABC Board; CrimeStoppers; Historic Resources Commission; Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee; HUB Community Economic Development Alliance; Neighborhood Advisory Committee (must be in 28806 or 28728 zip code); Public Art and Cultural Commission; Recreation Board; and Soil Erosion/Stormwater Review Committee. Deadline is Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. Call 259-5839 for an application form.

City Council will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. in Council chambers on the second floor of Asheville City Hall. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents are available here.

 

 

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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12 thoughts on “New busker regulations up for Council’s consideration at Oct. 25 meeting

  1. The Real World

    Shout out to Sparrow and Keith! (in the pic) Terrific musicians.

  2. John Haldane

    It is not a good idea to limit “performers” in the area of the flat iron. Limit MUSICAL performers, yes, but often the “Leaning Man” (Dade Murphy) is on the corner opposite the flat iron. His entire act is predicated on that very spot (I son’t want to reveal secrets, just note that it is). Musical performers at the flat iron are not far away. PLEASE don’t pass things without knowing about the real situation!

    • Virginia Daffron

      Hi John, I think that concern is covered in the proposal. The exclusion zone is for audible performers, but not for those whose performances are silent (like Dade, for example). Thanks for emphasizing that.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      Probably pretty easy to figure out. It appears the guy is resting his calf against some kind of metal support that he runs up his baggy pants leg. There must be some kind of anchor point at the Flat Iron spot you mentioned. Let’s see him do his routine in yoga pants. Then I’ll be impressed.

    • Virginia Daffron

      John, my colleague Max Hunt just pointed out to me that the text of the ordinance does require non-audible performers to observe a 40′ distance from the high impact areas. Here’s the text: “Within High Impact Areas: only one (1) audible performance may take place on a sidewalk at any single time within 120 feet of a location marked on the sidewalk and identified in Appendix H of the City Code. Non-audible performances within such areas must not take place any closer than forty (40) feet from another performance.”

      I’m not sure whether Dade’s spot is 40′ or more from where the new marking will be in front of the iron. Time for a long tape measure.

      Virginia

  3. John Haldane

    Thank you for the update, Virginia! I have been taking street photos for several years (http://uniquelyasheville.com) and have never seen a problem with too many entertainers in one spot. Crowds do gather for the better groups but that is another matter. I love the idea of shutting down vehicular traffic sometimes – I have been proposing that for a few years now.

  4. boatrocker

    I’ll say it again:
    -you can’t herd cats
    -don’t regulate buskers unless by asking them to sign a document that makes them a city employee
    – fine pedestrians who clog up sidewalks, not the musicians. Pedestrians can easily move on
    – Asheville loves the arts, until it’s time to pay for them
    -both locales which are mentioned for regulation also have the crappiest acoustics for downtown

  5. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    How are spots allocated? First come first served, or by reservation?

  6. bsummers

    Turn it down!
    I have children sleeping here.
    Don’t you boys know any nice songs?
    I Am Calling The Police.
    I did it!
    They’ll be here … shortly.

    • boatrocker

      Laughing- I’ve actually heard someone ask a busker if they knew any nice songs downtown before. The busker answered her question with a look that suggested ‘ugh.’

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