Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the history of the Parkside condo project. Critics have decried Parkside’s proximity to City Hall and the new Pack Square Park, as well as Buncombe County’s low-profile sale of public parkland to Parkside’s developer.
The documents are culled from hundreds of pages of documents obtained under North Carolina’s open-records law by Mountain Xpress and People Advocating Real Conservancy, a local watchdog group.
Nov. 21, 2006: The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners sells an alley and a slice of land adjacent to the Hayes & Hopson Building to developer Stewart Coleman‘s Black Dog Realty for $322,000. The action is taken as part of the consent agenda. No public comment is taken at the time of the sale. The usual public notice is given of the sale, and there are no upset bids. Coleman had already bought the Hayes & Hopson Building from Wallace Hyde, who notified the commissioners of the sale in March of 2006. (The county had previously held discussions with Hyde about buying the building.) Coleman plans to build a mixed-use, 11-story structure with retail space downstairs and residential condos above.
Click here to download a PDF of the minutes of the county board’s meeting.
Click here to download a PDF of the county’s resolution to sell the property, as well as the signed deed.
May 30, 2007: Assistant City Manager Jeff Richardson sends an e-mail to city staff members alerting them that Pack Square Conservancy Chairwoman Carol King had called him because she was upset at the county’s sale of property to Coleman.
Click here to download a PDF of Richardson’s e-mail.
June 2007: Buncombe County appraises the land bought by Coleman at $600,000. Black Dog Realty appeals the valuation, and the tax office resets it at $306,000 as of Jan. 1, 2006 (the effective date of the last revaluation). The change saves Black Dog Realty about $3,200 a year in taxes, according to the tax office.
July 2007: As public concern about the sale of the land sale to Coleman grows, Mountain Xpress quotes an e-mail from Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair David Gantt to a concerned resident. “I had no idea that the land mentioned was in the park when the [Board of Commissioners] voted to sell it. It was billed as the old jail site when presented to us,” wrote Gantt, adding, “We screwed up when that land was sold.”
July 31, 2007: Handwritten notes from Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene detail a March 6, 2007, meeting she had with Coleman and his attorney, former Asheville Mayor Lou Bissette. Also present were members of the Downtown Commission and the Pack Square Conservancy, a local nonprofit charged with overseeing the creation of Pack Square Park. The meeting notes show that the group discussed a road requested by fire officials that would run in front of the proposed Parkside building, as well as other details about the building. The group also included conservancy board members Carol King and Karen Tessier and Executive Director Marilyn Geiselman. The meeting notes also include this statement: “In May, the conservation [sic] seemed publicly surprised SC was planning this building.”
Aug. 3, 2007: A large magnolia tree on the parcel sold to Coleman is the focus of a ceremony by a group of about 30 chanting Wiccans, who encircle the tree. Coven Oldenwilde’s members say the event is aimed at strengthening the tree against removal.
In a Sept. 20, 2007, e-mail, Assistant County Attorney Michael Frue advised County Manager Wanda Greene on how to present the Buncombe County commissioners’ stance on the Parkside proposal to the Pack Square Conservancy.
Sept. 28, 2007: Heirs of George W. Pack file a lawsuit against Coleman and Buncombe County for having violated the terms of Pack’s 1901 gift. Pack conveyed land to the county in two deeds executed in 1901. One of them stipulates that if the land were ever sold for private use, it would revert to Pack family ownership. The county maintains that its right to sell the land was based on the second deed, which may have removed the covenants included in the first one.
Click here to download a PDF of the lawsuit.
Oct. 15, 2007: Coleman sends and e-mail to Asheville city planner Alan Glines that outlines delays in his project review by the Pack Square Conservancy.
Click here to download a PDF of Coleman’s e-mail.
Sept. 20, 2007: In an e-mail to the county manager, Assistant County Attorney Michael C. Frue confirms Greene’s memory of the county board’s position on the Parkside proposal. Frue writes, “I think it is common knowledge that the County would like to see Coleman’s project in principal [sic] move forward (we sold him the land and had the PSC concept plan in mind when doing so), and, yes, the final decision rests with the City as to exact location/orientation, height, access, etc.” Frue goes on to tell Greene that in talking with Pack Square Conservancy attorney Rick Daniels, “Maybe the way to approach it is to tell Daniels that the County supports Coleman’s project (nice new building, replacing H&H, and tax revenue, etc.) but given the current public sentiment and media focus, the ball is in PSC’s court. And, their decision might have a bearing on future funding.”
Oct. 18, 2007: Downtown Commission Chair Pat Whalen sends an e-mail to commission members proposing that the city swap land with Coleman to relocate his building. “It is the Commission’s recommendation that given the potential unfortunate long-term effect on the aesthetics and usability of the Pack Square Park, it would be advisable to either close and convey a portion of Marjorie Street or air rights over Marjorie Street, if necessary, to avoid inappropriate construction on the Parkside site.”
Oct. 22, 2007: In a presentation to the Pack Square Conservancy, Coleman says he proposed a land exchange in July and that the Asheville City Council, meeting in closed session, turned down the idea.
Nov. 7, 2007: The conservancy’s Design Review Committee finds that the Parkside project fails to meet Pack Square design guidelines because of its proposed height (11 stories) and the fact that it would obstruct the view corridor running from the Vance Monument to City Hall.
Nov. 9, 2007: The Downtown Commission approves a resolution asking City Council “to act expeditiously” to pursue a land swap with Coleman.
Click here to download a PDF of a letter sent to the Downtown Commission by attorney Patsy Brison on behalf of Coleman’s Black Dog Realty and Swag Holdings companies regarding the Parkside proposal. The letter states that her client understands the mandatory review process by the Downtown Commission, but explains that “It is our opinion that the project is not subject to the Pack Square Agreement and not subject to review by the Pack Square Conservancy Board or any other board under the “Pack Square Design Guidelines.”
Feb. 8, 2008: The Downtown Commission endorses plans for the Parkside project.
Click here to download a PDF of the minutes of the Downtown Commission’s Feb. 8 meeting.
Click here to download a PDF of the Parkside architect’s formal submission to the Downtown Commission.
March 17, 2008: Asheville’s Technical Review Committee, which considers a proposed project’s compliance with the city’s rules, approves Parkside plans.
March 18, 2008: In a letter to City Council, the Asheville Tree Commission “recommends that City Council take another look at means to protect the magnolia tree in Pack Square due to the importance of the tree as an historical symbol to Asheville and because it is intended to be removed for private purposes versus public use.”
March 29, 2008: Coleman sends an e-mail to the members of the Pack Square Conservancy board regarding construction staging for his Parkside building. In the e-mail, Coleman notifies the board members that the county “has issued an affidavit for issuance of a “Temporary Construction Easement” for the development of the proposed Parkside Condominium.” The affidavit was signed by the county March 11. Coleman goes on to write: “Fred Bonci has reviewed the proposed staging plan and has said that it will not interfere with Valley Crest construction schedule and the ability to complete work on the south edge of McGuire Green.”
In a responding e-mail, conservancy Chairwoman Carol King expresses her displeasure with the announcement, adding that she told Commissioner David Gantt “that I feel like an abused dog. I feel like we’re walking up TO THE owner of this property with a $20M gift in our hand and the owner of the property just walks out the front door, lifts up his leg, and gives that dog a great big ole kick in the belly … repeatedly.”
April 1, 2008: Nathan Ramsey, chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, sends an e-mail to County Manager Wanda Greene and fellow commissioners asking about discussions the board had held regarding purchase of the Hayes & Hopson building. Greene responds with a summary, and notes that the Pack Square Conservancy hasn’t had a budget approved by commissioners for several years. “I’ll make some arrangements to get them to come in with the quarterly update in the near future,” Greene writes.
Click here to download a PDF of the e-mail exchange.
April 2, 2008: The Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission fails to endorse the 11-story building on a 3-3 vote following a four-hour meeting.
Click here to download a PDF of the Parkside project summary submitted to the planning and zoning commission, as well as the Parkside architect’s response to some of the issues city staff raised about it.
May 27, 2008: Coleman informs city planning staff that he plans to change his building’s design. The new structure will be nine stories tall, dropping the total square footage to 99,380—below the threshold that would trigger City Council review.
June 11, 2008: Asheville City Council votes 7-0 in support of a resolution objecting to the 2006 sale of parkland to developer Stewart Coleman by Buncombe County. Though the resolution is not legally binding, Council members hope it will send a message that county commissioners were remiss in selling the property.
Click here to download a PDF of the resolution.
June 24, 2008: In this resolution, passed unanimously by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, the board urges the city of Asheville to pursue a land swap with developer Stewart Coleman to get back parkland that the county sold to Coleman in 2006. The resolution calls for paying the city for the appraised value of any parkland gained if they go through with the land swap. If the city doesn’t go through with the swap, the resolution states the county’s commitment to trying to get the land back through other methods.
Click here to download a PDF of the resolution.
Aug. 7, 2008: In this letter, Coleman notifies demonstrators who have been keeping an eye on the magnolia tree on the parcel of land in question that he plans to remove the tree sometime after 35 days from the date of the letter.
Click here to download a PDF of the letter.
Sept. 12: Superior Court Judge Marlene Hyatt enters her order of summary judgment in the case of the Pack heirs lawsuit against Black Dog Realty and Buncombe County, finding in favor of the Pack heirs.
Click here to download a PDF of the judge’s order.
Oct. 8, 2009: In this letter, a representative for Coleman notifies the city that he is withdrawing his permit for the condo project, effectively ending construction plans for Parkside.
Click here to download a PDF of the letter.