I’ve lived in Asheville over 40 years. I moved here in 1980 and fell in love with the lovely views, fresh air, friendly people and nonhurried way of life. It was a small town back then with a population of about 50,000. Even though I was advised not to open a business here due to the lack of people, I loved the area so much that I went for it. The town and lifestyle here made it worth it to me to make less money than where I came from. As an artist, I loved the camaraderie of so many other artists in Asheville.
Asheville was pretty run-down back then and from my perspective, it was artists who moved in and began to revitalize downtown. We were a town of lively entrepreneurs. Every shop was a unique business, except for Woolworths, which still has charm. Once we got Asheville rolling in a good direction and felt the support of the community for our businesses, the corporates seized upon the opportunity to ride on our unique coattails. For the past three decades, we’ve been robbed of the town we knew and loved and pushed out to make room for their greed.
The tourism officials of Asheville have spent way too much of our taxpayers’ money to entice more people to come. All the new hotels weren’t paying into the infrastructure that was needed, but instead their taxes were recirculated into advertisements to bring even more tourists here. The infrastructure has been directed to tourists; the noise pollution is over the top; crime has escalated; the traffic is horrible; rampant homelessness is embarrassing; and most of us don’t even venture to downtown anymore. Many have had to move on because of the ridiculous increases in rent, real estate, property taxes and dismissal of officials to really care about permanent residents.
I live in Woodfin now, near the big water park that is being built. If there were any sanity to that plan, there would have been hydropower features installed to benefit the community. I put forth a proposal for that a few years ago, which was never responded to. It’s all about more revenue for the city, with a lack of care for the environment. At this critical time in the history of climate changes, this is no time to escalate the damage being done. The population has risen from 50,000 to over [92,000] since I’ve been here, and I believe we need a population cap now. Asheville is failing. It has lost its charm. It has lost numerous species of plants and birds. It has lost water purity. It has lost numerous eccentric artists, which made Asheville what it was.
Asheville’s not weird anymore, and I’m sad about that.
— Valerie Naiman