After kicking the proverbial can down the road in April, Asheville City Council will again reckon with one of the city’s most intractable tracts of land. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, Council members will consider whether to authorize City Manager Debra Campbell to pursue funding for a final site plan at 68-76 Haywood St. and 33-39 Page Ave. — the property popularly known as the Pit of Despair.
In a staff report submitted before the meeting, Planning and Urban Design Director Todd Okolichany noted that Council’s Finance and Human Resources Committee had decided not to foot the approximately $324,000 bill for design services after Charlottesville, Va.-based Nelson Byrd Wolz Landscape Architects offered its proposal last year. Instead, Council asked staff for “recommendations on alternative funding strategies that would keep the project a priority.”
Staff’s recommendation is to find roughly $340,000 in as-yet unidentified funding (including $16,000 in survey fees), split over the current and following fiscal years. “This option would provide City Council with the most data in order to make an informed decision about the long-term, sustained use and programming” of the property, Okolichany wrote.
However, Council would have to reconsider existing priorities to free up money for the project. Less expensive options presented in the report include releasing a request for site development based on the Haywood Street Visioning Project Advisory Team Final Report, completed in March 2017, or reviewing proposals on a case-by-case basis.
While the location remains in limbo, Okolichany added, staff have heard concerns about “sleeping and camping, as well as general conditions” at the site. “Staff is also seeking direction on the short-term use of these properties,” he wrote.
In other business
With proposed changes to historical overlay district and landmark zoning tabled indefinitely, the only public hearing on the agenda concerns a conditional rezoning of property at the corner of Patton and Clingman avenues for a Duke Energy substation. Formerly a Volvo dealership, the site could host a 5,200 square foot, two-story building that staff says will provide “a critical service in an area targeted for significant growth.”
Council will also consider a number of revisions to Asheville’s noise ordinance, first proposed by Senior Assistant City Attorney John Maddux at a December Public Safety Committee meeting. As previously reported by Xpress, the changes would eliminate the Noise Ordinance Appeals Board, make animal noise the purview of animal control officers and regulate construction noise through the city’s Development Services Department.
Maddux noted in his staff report, however, that the changes do not address commercial noise. Several commenters at December’s Public Safety Committee meeting said the city had reneged on its obligations to ensure reasonable sound levels from businesses such as downtown bars and the Salvage Station concert venue.
“The city manager has expressed an interest in undertaking a more comprehensive review of the city’s noise regulations with the intention of making more substantive changes if necessary,” Maddux wrote. “These revisions, therefore, should be considered a first step in a longer-term effort aimed at identifying how noise will be regulated in Asheville.”
Only four items, including approval of last meeting’s minutes, are on the shorter-than-usual consent agenda for Tuesday evening. The three substantive items are as follow:
- A resolution approving a $1,113,000 agreement with Greenville, S.C.-based The Harper Corporation to replace the sodium bicarbonate silo at the city’s North Fork Water Treatment plant. Money for the project is already budgeted through the Capital Improvement Program Fund.
- A resolution approving an additional $300,000 for legal services from local firm McGuire, Wood & Bissette and other external firms. Assistant City Manager Cathy Ball said delays in hiring a new city attorney and unanticipated needs have forced Asheville to spend more on outside legal counsel.
- A resolution authorizing an additional $3,000 for McLean, Va.-based Fields Consulting Group, which has been reviewing the Asheville Police Department’s promotion processes. The new funds will bring total spending on the review to $92,000.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Jan. 25 to accurately reflect the amount of the legal services budget amendment.