Letter: Apartment complex approval highlights need for land-use planning

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I wanted to follow up regarding the proposed 296-unit Buncombe County apartment complex off of Aiken Road between Woodfin and Weaverville.

Although there was much opposition from neighbors at the Nov. 8 meeting related to safety and traffic, the Board of Adjustment moved ahead Dec. 13 and approved a conditional use permit for Hathaway Developers out of Atlanta to clear-cut the 29-acre forest (which is a bear and deer habitat) to build 296-plus apartments with a pool and clubhouse. [See Xpress Dec. 14 online post: http://avl.mx/4h7.] The county’s Board of Adjustment voted 5-0 in approval. This is a residential neighborhood with no commercial or industrial areas nearby, and the impact to Aiken Road and the surrounding intersections will be felt for years to come.

Hathaway did come to the meeting with a traffic study at the request of the BOA at the Nov. 8 meeting. However, after that meeting, our neighborhood raised over $5,000 in less than a week to hire an attorney who formally requested a continuance so we would have an opportunity to review their study. Unfortunately, after many requests, the study was not available to us until the morning of the Dec. 13 meeting, leaving us no time to review or conduct our own traffic study. And the BOA denied our continuance.

Drive down Aiken Road sometime and get a flavor of the road conditions as they are today. Then think what an additional 296-plus apartments squeezed in really would look like. Hathaway wins.

According to the Board of Adjustment, these developments by Hathaway Development, or really any developer, whether from WNC or Atlanta, will be approved over and over and over and over again until our elected officials change the zoning and density ordinances. The ordinances, as they stand today, are written in such a way that any developer can easily take advantage and get approved with guidelines that are shortsighted for today’s standards and sustainability plan.

This apparently is “just the reality of where we are,” according to one BOA member. In their closing remarks, a few BOA members determined the ordinances must be reviewed by the county [Board of Commissioners] and changed to reflect the times and the sustainability plan. Land-use requirements need to be changed. Bottom line. Developers like Hathaway know the current formula like a cake recipe etched to memory and come prepared to check off each item regardless of consequences to the environment or the safety of our citizens. They play a good game, and the BOA eats it up. And why not? There are millions of dollars on the table, and no one seems to have been paying attention. Drive around Buncombe County. We’re at a tipping point.

A few BOA members said out loud they were sorry, their hands are tied and it’s now time for us to go to our elected officials. So, it’s a sad day for those of us who live anywhere along Aiken Road, but maybe our county’s growth and density can be better planned down the road with community input and a [Board of Commissioners] that takes action sooner than later.

— Marilyn Ball


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10 thoughts on “Letter: Apartment complex approval highlights need for land-use planning

  1. NFB

    This has been pointed out here before, but is worth doing so again. From the letter writer’s web site:

    “With 20+ years of marketing and communication experience in the tourism, economic development and hospitality industries, Marilyn helped formulate collaborative initiatives that stimulated economic development and created a sense of community throughout Western North Carolina.” (http://12twelve.me/)

    In other words, the letter writer has played a major role in promoting Asheville as *THE* place to be. Now so many of those people she worked to get here want to live here, they need places to live and she’s upset that it is near her.

    Seriously. Am I missing something?

  2. luther blissett

    “There are millions of dollars on the table, and no one seems to have been paying attention.”

    Was Ms Ball paying attention to what was going on in Arden or Candler or Reynolds or Riceville?

    No need to repeat at length: the only way to prevent development in the county on parcels like these is to buy them when they come up for sale, and attach conservation easements to the title. If the local community could raise $5,000 in less than a week for an attorney, could they have found financing for the $342,500 assessed value of the property and made an offer to the owners?

  3. dyfed

    The NIMBYs didn’t win this time, but Asheville is still thousands of units behind in housing stock and prices will continue to rise. The last thing we need is more ‘planning’ (translation: lower density, fewer units). Greater density or more sprawl—pick one.

    • luther blissett

      “The last thing we need is more ‘planning’ (translation: lower density, fewer units)”

      Libertarian is as libertarian does, but you need to fire your translator. Planning is what created streetcar suburbs, which have plenty of density and allow for additional useful and profitable development. And, y’know, walking.

      Dropping 298-unit McPartments in random bits of the county just because cheap parcels become available (e.g, when the property owner passes away) doesn’t create density any more than digging a hole in your lawn and throwing in a hundred bulbs creates a garden. This is just the commercial equivalent of house-flipping.

      • luther blissett

        Again: this is about externalities. The county and NCDOT will probably have to bump Aiken Road up their priorities list, by which time Hathaway will have sold this complex and moved on to clearcutting the next cheap undeveloped parcel that shows up on their “fast buck” radar. Rinse and repeat.

        It turns infrastructure development — where surely you’d accept there needs to be some degree of “planning” — into an inefficient reactive process. It privatizes the profit and socializes the cost.

  4. Enlightened Enigma

    omgosh Marilyn, calm down and take some deep breaths… it’s a sign of progress, and you know how progressive we are around here…development is eminent all over. maga.

    • bsummers


      You heard it sports fans. Fred Caudle wants to Make Asheville Great Again!!!

  5. Jason

    I love how people complain there’s a housing problem, but when somebody proposes to build apartments they get upset. You just don’t want “apartment dwellers” in your neighborhood.

    Can we please quit using the “traffic concerns” as a reason for not allowing a proposed development to move forward? This excuse does not work and nobody cares.

    • luther blissett

      It is possible to believe that NIMBYism is bad and that dumping complexes off two-lane roads in random bits of the county is also bad.

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