Proposed Enka warehouse up for Jan. 12 Council hearing

Asheville city seal

Asheville City Council is poised to ring in 2021 on a similar note as that which dominated 2020: controversy. At Council’s meeting of Tuesday, Jan. 12, members will hear public comment on a proposed 130,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility in Enka — a plan that previously drew criticism from thousands of community members worried the facility would mean the demise of the 139-foot Enka Clock Tower. 

Due to the size of the building proposed for the location, Greensboro-based Samet Co. seeks to rezone a 32.2-acre property located off Smokey Park Highway and Sand Hill Road and amend the city’s future land use map. A new road constructed and maintained by the N.C. Department of Transportation will link the two major thoroughfares. 

Over 60% of the site will be covered with an impervious surface, according to a staff report available ahead of the meeting. Roughly 10% of the site will be reforested and combined with a fee-in-lieu to meet the requirements outlined in the city’s recently adapted tree canopy ordinance; plans also call for permanent and construction easements for a section of the Enka Heritage Trail Greenway. 

In November, following the circulation of a petition that garnered more than 4,000 signatures, the developers announced that the Enka Clock Tower would be protected and incorporated in revised site plans. But the staff report notes that while the clock tower is historic, it “is not a designated landmark or identified as a contributing structure to a registered historic district.”

Once completed, the warehouse is expected to bring 115 full-time, 50 part-time and 190 delivery service jobs to the region. The city’s Technical Review Committee and Planning and Zoning Commission both recommend project approval.

In other news

Council members will hold a series of public hearings to permanently close portions of right-of-ways at three sites across the city. The first outlines plans to close what is known as Velvet Street, located along South Market and Beaumont Streets; the second is a closure at the intersection of Houston Street and Courtland Avenue. The third proposal seeks to permanently close Trade Street, an unopened right-of-way off of West Haywood Street. 

Community members will also have the chance to weigh in on proposed substantive rules for Asheville’s Civil Service Board. The updated guidelines will provide additional clarity about the types of actions that fall under CSB authority and the standards the board must follow when determining if an employment complaint is justified. 

The CSB has played a role in several investigations regarding the Asheville Police Department over the past several years. In 2019, its members ruled that former Chief Tammy Hooper was unjustified in her firing of Capt. Mark Byrd. And in the wake of the 2017 beating of Johnnie Rush by former officer Chris Hickman, a city consultant said the CSB was “inefficient and requires improvement.

Consent agenda and public comment

The consent agenda for the meeting contains eight items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions: 

  • A resolution and budget amendment allowing the city of Asheville to join Buncombe County in a cost-sharing agreement to fund Code Purple emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness. Asheville is expected to pay $40,000 of the $80,000 contract; the money will come from affordable housing pay-go funds under the city’s Capital Improvement Program. 
  • A budget amendment allowing City Manager Debra Campbell to accept $16,100 from the Natural Resource Defense Council to help fund the city Office of Sustainability. Grant money will be used to educate community members on ways to reduce food waste in residential and commercial settings. 
  • An amendment to the existing construction contract with Carolina Specialities of Hendersonville for the Jake Rusher Park project in South Asheville. Unexpected building debris, unusable soils and pervasive groundwater will cause the project to cost at least $110,000 more than originally anticipated.

The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link. Due to COVID-19, Council will meet remotely, and the meeting will be livestreamed through Asheville’s Public Engagement Hub.

Members of the public who wish to speak during the meeting must sign up in advance at this link or call 828-259-5900 no later than 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12. City staff will then use the list of registered speakers to manage the speaker queue during the meeting.

Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 9471; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilJan122021@PublicInput.com. Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.

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About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

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