An expert is a person from more than 50 miles away with a briefcase.
Recently the city of Asheville hired a group of experts called Goody Clancy all the way from Boston, Mass., to tell us what we should do with our downtown in order to appease our no-growth activists.
It seems like we go through this exercise every few years. Not so long ago we had an expert come here from Durham to demonize Planning Director Scott Shuford and tell us that Staples was bad and Greenlife was bad. After telling us how badly we were doing (which was the sponsors’ goal), he admitted that Durham was 20 years behind Asheville in planned development.
Well, Staples is still here giving many sensitive people the vapors, Greenlife is still harassing the neighborhood, and Shuford is gone (well, sort of).
Now we have gone all the way to Boston to get experts who know nothing about Asheville to give us their opinion—for a mere $170,000.
For those who know Boston, this town is the poster child for gridlock. It is also the home of the scandalous Big Dig, a tunnel under the city that had years of delays and billions of dollars of cost overruns—much of it federal dollars that came out of our pockets. Now the tunnel is falling down due to faulty construction.
Well, Goody Clancy and company, we already have our own very-well-qualified boondoggle downtown called the Pack Square Conservancy, which has discomfited hundreds of thousands of people, dragged on interminably and has its own obscene cost overruns. Thank you very much.
These consultants have already sent out an Internet survey that will be overwhelmingly subscribed to by the no-growth folks. The greedy developers and the business community input will be eschewed, and there will be no input from the poor and working folks, because as always they do not have computers and basically don’t understand the impact this will have on their lives.
The very first meeting starred the folks protesting the construction around the Basilica of St. Lawrence. What a great way to start an all-inclusive project allowing everyone to have his or her input without any political pressure.
Already they have published pages of wish lists from the first meeting, but no one ever says where the money will come from for implementation. We sure as hell don’t want it from those greedy developers, and we don’t want our taxes raised.
Far be it from me to discourage the downtown-development study, but allow me to save the taxpayers $170,000 (minus the airfare back to Boston for these good folks).
Instead, Gospel Jerry will give you the results of this study right now, for free:
• The ruling of the Downtown Commission will be mandatory, adding another layer of bureaucracy to the building process and giving the anti-everything folks another forum.
• We must preserve more public parks and green spaces downtown.
• We must provide bicycle lanes and bicycle parking facilities.
• We must improve mass transportation.
• We must provide more public parking.
• All buildings must be green buildings. (If they can’t comply with the LEED specifications, you can paint them green.)
• Walkability must improve, and all buildings must be pedestrian-friendly.
• Public bathrooms must be provided to serve the hippies, homeless and cowboys.
• Public art, no matter how offensive and expensive, should be placed on every corner.
• The Civic Center and the Performing Arts Center—don’t even go there. (See above about where the money isn’t going to be coming from.)
And now, the most important item (DRUM ROLL, PLEASE):
• No new building shall be more than 80 feet in height, and they all must contain 50 percent affordable housing. This will accomplish the desired outcome of this study, which will discourage any further building in the city because the land and construction costs will make development prohibitive.
It will be further mandated that all of this will be sustainable, whatever that means.
There you have it, folks; this is all great stuff. So send those experts back to Bean Town and get on with your program.
As Rhett said to Scarlett when she was mayor of Tara: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
I do give a damn when we keep spending a fortune bringing in all these high-priced, so-called experts when Asheville possesses such a huge brain pool, and we are perfectly capable of making our own decisions.
Hiring experts is no substitute for having elected officials just make the hard decisions and “git ‘er done.”
Oh, and just in case the city doesn’t take my advice and get rid of these people now, please clip this article and file it away till you get the final results of the study—and see how much money the city wasted not listening to Gospel Jerry.
[Local developer Jerry Sternberg is a longtime observer of the community scene. He can be reached at email@example.com.]