Plans for a LaQuinta Inn & Suites squeaked through the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission on April 5. Because the project’s developers handed in their forms before a Feb. 14 change in the approval process for hotels, the project was reviewed under the previous rules.
All but the smallest hotel projects filed after the Feb. 14 decision must make their case to City Council rather than to P&Z.
The 76-room hotel will be on Sweeten Creek Road, across the street from Fun Depot. No member of the public commented on the project, and the commission voted unanimously to approve it. Another Biltmore Village-area hotel, the 117-room Baymont Hotel at 2 Hendersonville Road, got the nod at the commission’s previous meeting on March 1.
Developers tweak plans for Lee Walker Heights
Plans to redevelop the city’s oldest public housing neighborhood hit a snag last year when the project failed to receive Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing from the state agency responsible for awarding those funds. Since submitting a new proposal to the same agency in January, developers from the Asheville Housing Authority and Mountain Housing Opportunities have asked Buncombe County to throw $4.2 million into the deal (which would match the city’s promised $4.2 million contribution) and tweaked the project plans to make the redevelopment more attractive to the state decision-makers.
The project team asked the zoning commission to approve an increase in the number of units from 199 to 212. Developers also added a new main entrance from Biltmore Avenue to the neighborhood, which would cut through the former Matthews Ford dealership property. The existing access road on Wilbar Avenue would become a secondary point of entry to the area.
Other additions include a future bus shelter at the corner of Walker Plaza and Biltmore Avenue, as well as additional sidewalks.
No member of the public spoke on the proposed changes, and the commission unanimously approved the plans. Vice Chair Kristy Carter commented, “I’m excited about this project, and I think this increased density is a better use of the property.”
Zoning ordinance changes
A package of zoning ordinance changes that aim to increase density in residential neighborhoods appeared on the commission’s April 5 agenda but wasn’t quite ready for prime time, according to staff at the city’s Planning and Urban Design Department. Those changes will be considered at a future meeting of the commission.
A wording amendment to the city’s standards for cottage developments did receive a hearing. According to a staff report, a cottage development is “a cluster of small, detached single-family residences constructed to specific design standards and arranged around common open space generally at higher density than the underlying zoning would allow for traditional detached single-family residential development.”
Principal Planner Shannon Tuch noted that the request to amend the ordinance was unique in that it had been initiated by a citizen rather than a company. But the person who brought the request, Barry Bialik, is hardly the typical citizen. Bialik is chair of Asheville’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, owner of Thirsty Monk Brewery & Pub, and founder of Compact Cottages, a compact-housing real estate company.
Tuch outlined the two standards Bialik had asked to eliminate: a prohibition against using the cottage development standards on any site with a 15 percent or greater finished grade and a 1,000-foot separation between cottage developments. While other cities have similar building standards, Tuch noted, not all cities have the same topographical challenges as Asheville, making the 15 percent grade limit and the 1,000-foot separation too restrictive for this location.
Cottage developments will still be prohibited on sites that meet steep slope standards.
Bialik said Asheville’s cottage ordinance, which was adopted in June 2007, has great potential as well as practical limitations. “As I’m now trying to apply that and put it on land in the city, I ran into things that may not work,” Bialik explained. “So, it’s a great tool, but if it doesn’t work on the land, then it’s not going to do anything.”
No other member of the public commented, and the commission approved the changes unanimously.
Hominy Creek waste transfer station
Upgrades to an existing waste transfer station owned by Buncombe County at 190 Hominy Creek Road will increase efficiency and provide better service for city residents, according to Sasha Vrtunski of the city Planning Department. The transfer station sits on 12.4 acres near the French Broad River and adjacent to the Hominy Creek Greenway. Existing buildings will be upgraded and a new building will be built on the site. “There’s a lot of positive benefits to this project,” Vrtunski said.
Commission member and landscape architect Guillermo Rodriguez serves on the board for the Hominy Creek Greenway. Rodriguez said sufficient space is available for a sidewalk along the site. Buncombe County Planner Nathan Pennington responded that the county is discussing sidewalk construction with the N.C. Department of Transportation, which owns the road.
According to comments from the city’s Technical Review Committee in a staff report, sidewalk construction, or fee-in-lieu-of sidewalk construction, is required along Hominy Creek Road unless a developer requests and receives approval for an alternate arrangement.
A Hominy Creek Road resident commented that there is definitely room for a sidewalk and that it would be beneficial. Once public comment closed at 5:49 p.m., commission members discussed the sidewalk issue. In the end, the commission voted 5-2 to approve the zoning request despite unresolved questions about the sidewalk. Rodriguez and Carter cast the opposing votes.