In a brief session, city council appointed landscape architect Guillermo Rodriguez and landscape architect and civil engineer Tony Hauser to vacant seats on the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission. Councilman and Vice Mayor Marc Hunt thanked outgoing commissioners Holly Shriner and Joe Minicozzi, calling P & Z “a pretty rigorous endeavor” and “maybe the most time-consuming of all our board commitments.”
Council held public interviews with three candidates, Rodriguez, Hauser and Thomas Muncy, immediately prior to the council session. Councilman Jan Davis cast his two votes for Rodriguez and Muncy, while all other council members in attendance voted for Rodriguez and Hauser.
Councilman Chris Pelly was absent due to a family emergency.
Mayor Esther Manheimer proclaimed November “Adoption Awareness Month,” noting that 291 children are in foster care in Buncombe County. Of those children, 91 are waiting to find adoptive families. Angela Garner, foster care program manager at Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services, addressed council, saying that her agency finalized over 40 adoptions last year. On Saturday, Nov. 14 Garner’s office will present an adoption expo at Jones Elementary School. The public is invited to attend the event, at which eight children in need of permanent families will be introduced.
Manheimer announced that Item E of council’s consent agenda, a resolution authorizing the city manager to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville Buncombe County, would be moved to council’s Nov. 11 meeting. At that time, the Coalition will present a report on its recent 2020 5×5 economic development plan.
Prior to council’s vote on the consent agenda, Councilman Cecil Bothwell stated his support of Item C of the agenda, a resolution approving the community clean energy policy framework. Additionally, said Bothwell, “we need to urge Duke Energy to get away from the use of fossil fuels,” noting that the utility’s announcement that it will change from coal-powered electricity generation to natural gas at Asheville’s Lake Julian power plant does not represent progress toward that goal.
Kelly Martin of the Sierra Club also commented on the clean energy framework, thanking those who supported its development. She urged council to continue its support for clean energy by pursuing opportunities for placing renewable energy facilities on city-owned property, supporting clean energy initiatives in city Innovation Districts and promoting the city’s Better Buildings challenge.
Bothwell expressed “extreme disappointment” that council did not rule on proposed changes to the ordinance regulating Homestays (a kind of short-term rental) prior to the city council election. Council will hear public comment on additional proposed changes to the ordinance at its Nov. 17 meeting.
Council passed the consent agenda unanimously.
Presentation by Sister Cities
Karen Korp of Asheville Sister Cities presented a report on the activities of the volunteer organization. Andrew Craig, the organization’s president, also was in attendance.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, property owner Jerry Sternberg spoke on behalf of the “River Rats,” a group of French Broad and Swannanoa river district property and business owners. His group is “extremely alarmed,” said Sternberg, about proposed zoning changes for the River Arts District.
Sternberg asked council to remove the area west of the Norfolk and Southern railroad tracks from the district affected by the zoning changes, arguing that the new zoning rules are characterized by “subjective interpretation and enforcement” which would restrict manufacturing and other industrial uses in the area.
“I know there is a big push to put housing and tourist-oriented businesses on the river and we river folks have no problem with that. We do object to a legislative effort to expel us or restrict our operations. We also have no issue with higher density for housing or increased height limitations. Simply amend the current river zone ordinance but don’t throw the baby out in the river,” said Sternberg.
Council adjourned to go into closed session to discuss the city’s lawsuit fighting state efforts to transfer ownership of the Asheville water system to a regional authority and other issues.
Council’s next meeting will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. in the council chamber at Asheville City Hall.