New hotel policies recommended by land use experts
After enacting a one-year moratorium on new hotel construction on Sept. 24, Asheville City Council hired a Charlotte-based consulting team with the Urban Land Institute to create a set of recommendations to guide the city’s development of new hotel policies. On Jan. 30, ULI representatives presented findings from a three-month study of the issues.
The consultants suggested the creation of a Community Benefits Agreement, a set of criteria hotel developers would be required to meet as part of the city approval process. Those community benefits could include living wage requirements, mandatory event spaces and new aesthetic standards, among others.
ULI also recommended changes to the zoning code and suggested the city explore a local historic district designation for downtown. To generate additional revenue, they said, the city could require hotel developers to pay for the use of city rights of way during hotel construction. More effective enforcement of the city’s current short-term rental rules would ease the housing shortage that is often attributed to increased tourism and hotel growth, the consultants noted.
City officials should advocate for alterations to the state law that determines how proceeds from Buncombe County’s hotel occupancy tax can be spent, ULI suggested. The team also encouraged city officials to continue to explore implementing a food and beverage tax.
Finally, the city could add a Livability and Tourism department to manage tourism-related issues and policies while providing a single source for information. ULI will provide recommendations to city officials in a final report by March.
Earth Fare plans to close all stores
In a Feb. 3 press release, Asheville-based grocery chain Earth Fare announced “the impending closure of the company’s stores and corporate office.” The retailer currently operates two locations in the city and over 50 stores nationwide.
Earth Fare’s statement blamed the closings on unspecified challenges in the retail industry, which it said “impeded the company’s progress, as well as its ability to refinance its debt.” The firm gave no timeline for when its stores would close for good but noted that inventory liquidation would begin immediately.
The chain is currently controlled by Connecticut-based private equity firm Oak Hill Capital, which purchased an 80% share of the company in 2012. At the time, Earth Fare was valued at approximately $300 million and operated 25 stores.
Asheville celebrates Go Local Week
Love Asheville, Go Local Week takes place Saturday, Feb. 8-Saturday, Feb. 15, with downtown businesses offering special promotions and events.
The passion project of Asheville Grown Business Alliance, the Love Asheville, Go Local movement is entering its second decade with 540 participating businesses. Half the proceeds from sales of the $18 Go Local card go to support programming in Asheville City Schools, while cardholders receive discounts on a range of products and services.
Go Local Week kicks off with an 80’s prom dance at the LaZoom Room at 76 Biltmore Ave. on Saturday, Feb. 8, and the celebrations wrap up with a local social on Saturday, Feb. 15, 4-7 p.m. at the LEAF Global Arts Center, 70 S. Market St. — featuring global music and art — and at THE BLOCK off Biltmore, 39 S. Market. The complete events calendar for the week is at loveasheville.org.
As part of the festivities, participating retailer Hip Replacements, 72 N. Lexington Ave., will feature a pop-up event with the WNC-produced textile brand COLLECTION on Thursday, Feb. 13, 4-7 p.m.
Commissioner Mike Fryar dies at 72
Mike Fryar, Buncombe County commissioner for District 2, died at 72 at Mission Hospital in Asheville on Feb. 2. The Republican official and longtime conservative activist had served on the board since 2012 and was seeking reelection for a third term.
A press release from Buncombe County announcing Fryar’s death noted that the former commissioner had lived in the county for over 55 years, serving in the U.S. Navy and working for NASCAR driver Banjo Matthews before starting the engine company Fryar Performance. “He leaves a legacy of having an unwavering dedication of making life better for everyone in Buncombe County,” read the county’s statement.
Dr. John Parnham Jr., chair of the A-B Tech Board of Trustees, on which Fryar was serving his second term, also issued a statement extending sincere condolences. “Even as his health was failing, he rarely missed a meeting and was with us for a special board meeting only last Monday,” Parnham wrote. “We appreciate his dedication and service.”
Fryar’s now-vacant seat on the Board of Commissioners will be filled by appointment by the Buncombe County Republican Party. Jerry Green, party chair, said residents of District 2 would have the chance to weigh in on the selection, the process for which he estimated would begin in roughly a week.
Humane Society opens thrift store
The Asheville Humane Society opened a thrift store at 1425 Patton Ave. on Feb. 1. Store hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Donated furniture, housewares, clothing, books and more are among the shop’s offerings. More information is available at avl.mx/6w2.
Health agency: 2019 Legionnaires’ outbreak likely related to hot tubs
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported on Jan. 30 that a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease across Western North Carolina last fall was most likely the result of exposure to bacteria in aerosolized water from hot tubs on display at the N.C. Mountain State Fair at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. More than 130 people were impacted by the disease, including four who died.