What’s in a name? For Asheville’s River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project — better known as RADTIP — it’s an association with still-ongoing eminent domain disputes, shifting deliverables and a construction contract awarded to a bidder that underestimated its costs by at least $20 million.
While the French Broad Riverway Tree & Riparian Enhancement Plan, up for consideration at City Council’s meeting of Tuesday, Feb. 26, largely focuses on improving the natural environment in the project area, it also seeks to spruce up public opinion. And one of the plan’s first proposals is to eliminate the RADTIP name altogether.
“Through signage, outreach, marketing and other tools, begin to change to the community perception of this as the RADTIP and rebrand it as a more compelling attraction,” the plan advises. As an alternative, it suggests the “RAD Riverway (or something similar).”
Funded by a $60,000 grant from Duke Energy’s Water Resources Fund and developed by city staff in conjunction with Asheville GreenWorks and RiverLink, the plan lays out environmental and aesthetic projects such as stormwater control, invasive species removal, wildlife habitat construction and an ecological mural. The work would restore roughly 10 acres of riparian buffer and enhance 1.5 acres of stream buffer through 2038.
A staff report by Steph Monson Dahl, the city’s interim assistant planning and urban design director, notes that accepting the plan does not commit Council to funding any specific project. The total cost for all work in the plan is estimated at $485,000 above existing budget allocations, she writes, of which the city might expect to pay $80,000 after considering grants and community partnerships.
In other business
After being continued from the last Council meeting, a proposed Down Payment Assistance Policy will again come up for discussion. No substantive changes were made to the terms of the policy, which Xpress examined earlier this month, but the eligibility requirements for prospective borrowers are outlined more explicitly in the revised document.
Council will also receive an update on short-term rental activity within city limits. The number of active homestay permits has increased by 118 since October 2017 for a current total of 666. These homestays make up approximately 56 percent of the city’s identified short-term rental stock, with the remainder consisting of unpermitted rentals and lawful short-term rentals such as bed-and-breakfasts.
City staff conducted considerably fewer short-term rental enforcement actions during 2018 than in the previous year. While illegal operators received an average of 42 citations per month during the first nine months of 2017, they received only 17 per month through 2018. Staff provided no explanation for this drop in the memorandum to Council.
The memorandum notes that the city will begin “strictly enforcing” its annual permit requirement for “all lawful but nonconforming” short-term vacation rentals — those grandfathered in after changes to city ordinances in January 2018 — later this year. Owners of those properties will receive mailed notification of the permit requirement within the next few weeks.
Council’s consent agenda for the meeting contains seven items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include:
- A resolution authorizing a three-year, roughly $830,000 agreement with Asheville-based Carolina Management Team for cleaning, preparing and recoating seven water pump station and storage sites. The city will have the option to renew the contract for two one-year extensions at $250,000 each.
- A resolution authorizing a more than $2.15 million contract with Marshall-based French Broad Paving for resurfacing roughly 3.8 miles of city streets. The longest stretch to be resurfaced is a .58-mile section of Blue Briar Road in North Asheville between Cherokee Road and Mayflower Drive.
- A resolution authorizing over $1.82 million in maintenance spending on the city’s public safety radio system through June 2022. Motorola Solutions will be tasked with security, repair and upkeep of the system, for which the initial warranty has expired.
- A resolution setting the time and location of City Council’s annual retreat as 8:30 a.m. on Friday, March 8, at the Buncombe County Administrative Building at 200 College St.
Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. Council will convene in the same space starting at 2:30 p.m. for a closed session meeting to consider personnel matters. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.