The Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission meeting of May 3, was a brief affair. Two items on the commission’s agenda — a change to a city ordinance to allow gravel parking lots in the Central Business District and zoning amendments to promote small-scale residential infill development — were pushed back to June’s meeting.
What P&Z did consider was a hotel, its last filed under the previous Level II zoning approval thresholds, which were changed by a vote of City Council on Feb. 14.
“For the public’s benefit, this is the final Level II project coming before us under the old rules,” Chair Jeremy Goldstein said. “So this is a ministerial review — meaning, if this project meets the technical requirements, then we are obligated to approve it. With the new rules going forward, any hotels over 20 rooms and anything over 100,000 square feet will be a conditional zoning with different rules. … So, this will stop here tonight and if it meets technical requirements, will be approved.”
Planner Jessica Bernstein introduced the 112-room, five-story hotel. The 26 Meadow Road site lies directly across the street from the Habitat for Humanity Home Store and Biltmore Iron & Metal Co. The hotel will sit close to the street, with parking to the sides and rear of the building. Other features of the development include a 10-foot sidewalk along Meadow Road and a 34-foot retaining wall along the embankment at the back of the property.
Bernstein said a traffic impact study was not required due to the number of rooms in the hotel and the expected number of car trips it would generate.
Nowell Henry, who lives on St. Dunstans Circle, said he only learned about the project last week. “There’s a lot of concern of this project. It just kind of slipped in under the radar for us,” Henry said. “No one in my community was aware of this happening.”
Henry said the developer’s failure to perform a traffic study demonstrated disregard for the project’s neighbors. He said people use some roads not shown on the hotel plans as shortcuts.
Goldstein asked Bernstein to outline notice requirements for the neighborhood. The previous Level II rules (under which this project fell), Bernstein said, require the developer to send letters to every resident and property owner within 200 feet of the site 10 days before the public hearing. The rules also require the developer to post a sign announcing the P&Z meeting date and time on the site. Under the new regulations, she noted, developers will have to meet with neighbors before submitting an application for a project, and they will also be required to advertise the project in advance of the city’s technical review of the project (which precedes P&Z’s review).
“The city has heard these exact types of concerns about not having more notification, and that’s why the standards are different now,” Bernstein said. “This project came in before that change.”
Denise Henry, a St. Dunstans Circle resident, also testified about her concerns about the impact of the hotel on area traffic. Denise Henry said neighborhood residents had tried talking with the Police Department about speeding in the area, but had made no progress.
Vice Chair Kristy Carter responded, “The issues that you have are there currently and the hotel itself isn’t going to bring in. It’s going to bring in some, but those issues are there.”
After some deliberation among the member of the commission, Goldstein told residents, “We hear your frustration and understand, it’s just what we’re able to do at this point in time is limited.” The commission approved the hotel unanimously.
The Meadow Road Courtyard by Marriott hotel will join several others under construction or approved in the Biltmore Village area. A Holiday Inn & Suites under construction at 190 Hendersonville Road will add 118 rooms, while a Hampton Inn directly across the street at 117 Hendersonville Road will add another 118. The Biltmore Station Hotel at 61 Thompson St. will contain 120 rooms, and the La Quinta Inn & Suites on Sweeten Creek Road approved at P&Z’s April meeting will boost the count by 76 rooms.
Altogether, with the Meadow Road hotel, the current hotel boom in the area will add 544 hotel rooms to the city’s total.
In addition to the hotel application, P&Z considered a rezoning application for a Broadway Street lot. The applicant, Hutch Kerns, asked to rezone a small portion of the property, which is now RS-8, to the same designation as the rest of the property, which is now Neighborhood Corridor District. The change will allow mixed-use development on the entire 0.18-acre parcel. The split zoning resulted from a larger 2002 city rezoning initiative, Planner Shannon Tuch explained.
“Typically when we sign zoning designations, we try to follow property lines to the extent that we can and of course for undeveloped property,” Tuch said. “Things change and sometimes these lines get adjusted.”
No member of the public commented, and the commission approved the request unanimously.