Planned Charlotte Street apartments draw neighborhood worries over zoning, traffic

Suzanne Escovitz, president of the Grove Park-Sunset Mountain Neighborhood Association, calls on a resident during a community meeting about the proposed development on Charlotte Street.
POINTED QUESTIONS: Suzanne Escovitz, president of the Grove Park-Sunset Mountain Neighborhood Association, calls on a resident during a community meeting about the proposed development on Charlotte Street. Photo by Daniel Walton

If the Charleston, S.C.-based Kassinger Development Group follows through on its plan to build a four-story, 180-unit mixed-use apartment complex at 130 Charlotte St., the location’s current Fuddruckers restaurant will be replaced by a much more exceptional building. For many in the standing-room-only crowd of over 120 people that gathered at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Grove Park to discuss the project on Aug. 7, that was exactly the issue: The development represents an unwanted exception from the character of their neighborhood.

Developer Payne Kassinger confirmed that city of Asheville staff has been working to remove several parcels, including the Fuddruckers location, from the Charlotte Street Transition Overlay District. This special zoning, established in 2010, sets limits of 12,000 square feet on new structures; the planned development would have 16,000 square feet of commercial space alone.

Instead, Kassinger hopes the property will be rezoned to Mixed Use Expansion, which allows buildings of up to six stories and 200,000 square feet. Although the exact footprint of the building is still under consideration, existing plans call for a first floor of businesses topped by 26 efficiency, 93 one-bedroom and 61 two-bedroom apartments. (Twenty percent of the units would be guaranteed as affordable housing for at least 15 years.) A total of 327 parking spaces, some underground, would service the complex.

Developers Chip (left) and Payne Kassinger hear community pushback about their planned apartment complex on Charlotte Street.
FACING CRITICISM: Developers Chip, left, and Payne Kassinger hear community pushback about their planned apartment complex on Charlotte Street. Photo by Daniel Walton

Chip Kassinger, Payne’s father and the company’s founder, said the city had approached his group with the desire for dense development. “Everybody seemed to have already, in their mind, felt that this is what the use should be for the property, so we’ve just moved forward like that,” he said. No representative from the city’s Planning & Urban Design Department was present at the meeting, although Suzanne Escovitz, president of the Grove Park-Sunset Mountain Neighborhood Association, said staff had attended previous discussions.

Resident Jane Mathews shared her issues with the city’s procedure for making this major change to plans for the area. “There was a community visioning process … that was done with community consensus and City Council approval. To have it just tossed out the window, I want to know when that happens,” she said, garnering murmurs of agreement from the crowd.

While the city may want to make the area denser, neighborhood residents argued that Charlotte Street’s existing traffic problems should preclude a development of such size. Doug McKee said he already takes detours to avoid the road’s intersection with Chestnut Street, off of which the new building would be situated, after getting hit twice while driving in congested traffic near Starbucks at 62 Charlotte St.

“You could make the most beautiful building in the world, and it might be aesthetically pleasing, but the traffic flow… Once it goes in here, we’re all going to be stuck,” McKee said. Referencing the city’s recently approved road-diet plan to reduce Charlotte Street from four lanes to three north of Chestnut Street, he added, “They’re all about traffic calming. I’m about moving it!”

The Kassingers responded that they’ve commissioned a traffic study by Mark Teague of Waynesville that goes above and beyond the city’s requirements, which Payne said were “pretty pitiful” in scope. They said the results of that study will be made publicly available upon its completion later in the month and that the project will change to accommodate any new findings.

A first round of conceptual plans for the project will be submitted to the city’s Technical Review Committee within the next 30 days. The Kassingers say they hope to present before the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission around the middle of October, with final Council approval to follow by the middle of November.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Green Scene editor and city government beat reporter for Mountain Xpress. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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3 thoughts on “Planned Charlotte Street apartments draw neighborhood worries over zoning, traffic

  1. bryan

    When will these NIMBY’s learn that feelings and the argument of traffic does not prevent development? This argument gets so old and it’s no wonder that people just roll their eyes when they hear it.

  2. Jay Reese

    McKee said. Referencing the city’s recently approved road-diet plan to reduce Charlotte Street from four lanes to three north of Chestnut Street, he added, “They’re all about traffic calming. I’m about moving it!” Well traffic calming is about moving traffic. Slowing traffic allows more cars to flow through an area and the traffic calming design deters non local traffic as those drivers find an alternative route. But the most important part is it allows people to leave their cars parked and walk or ride a bicycle further reducing the number of cars on the road making it better for those who must drive.

    The new residents of this building won’t necessarily need to use a car given the buildings location in the City and its proximity to the bus line. An easy 2 mile walk will get you to the Mall and most of the Downtown. This plan also fits in with the City’s goal of increasing density allowing more of us to enjoy living in the city while making it more affordable.

    These types of developments and road diets will continue so we are going to need to adjust our transportation habits to suite. In the meanwhile please slow down and pay attention

  3. Mike

    Chestnut St is already pretty much undrivable because of the on street parking (unless I’m on my motorcycle). Building a giant complex at this traffic pinch point is INSANE…. If they feel the need to build Cabrini Green II, it would make more sense from a traffic perspective to build it on top of Grove Park (the iittle park across from the Charlotte / Macon intersection. It would provide a good spot to house the Grove Park Inn workforce and keep them off Charlotte Street.

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