On April 12, your paper ran an [letter to the editor] titled “Park Is Not a Four-letter Word,” written by Julie Nelson, one member of the Haywood/Page Visioning Advisory Team. I, too, was a member of the advisory team and would like to offer another view of the process and its results.
Ms. Nelson stated that public input was overwhelmingly in favor of open, public green space. It is true that many comments expressed a desire for green space. It is also true, however, that questions posed to the public didn’t assume that an answer favoring one use necessarily excluded all others.
For example, people were not asked, “What is the only thing you would like to do on the property.” In the results of the Open City Hall survey, Public Civic Space did have the highest single total at 351. However, 484 responses asked for a variety of active, locally based mixed uses, retail, commerce or residential space.
The advisory team did not just consider the data collected from the public. Team members also studied the site itself; the views into and out of the site, the vehicular and pedestrian traffic around the site, and the topography of the site were all examined. Suggested uses were filtered to find those possible uses that were compatible with the property’s neighbors.
Ms. Nelson correctly notes that Section 3 of the current Downtown Master Plan recommends a park at the tip of the property closest to the basilica. The plan also identifies the southwest section of the property as an enhancement/redevelopment priority.
The April 12 [letter] states that the task force was made up of “mostly downtown developers/business people currently serving on other city boards and commissions,” not “average citizens.” I believe that businesspeople willing to give their time to serve on boards and commissions are citizens, too, and indeed this willingness to serve is one of the things that make Asheville a great place to live.
In addition to those, Ms. Nelson mentioned there were members representing downtown residents, the busker community, the two senior apartment buildings that surround the property being studied, three at-large members, and Ms. Nelson herself, who represented the Friends of St. Lawrence Green.
That’s why I voted for the 17-page document produced by the advisory team.
— Susan Robbins
Haywood Street Advisory Team Task Force member