Letter: Council must listen to community on Haw Creek project

Graphic by Lori Deaton

On Tuesday, April 23, Asheville City Council decides the fate of a 27-acre Haw Creek lot, a unique ecosystem in the valley behind the Blue Ridge Parkway, for a conditional zoning request for 95 homes, The Meadows at Haw Creek. Each Council member has a yes or no vote based on their interpretation of whether this is land use that’s reasonable and in the public interest. Meanwhile, over 2,000 residents and community members have expressed extreme concern for its lack of consideration for connectivity, the natural environment, affordability and infrastructure impact.

To be very clear: We’re not antidevelopment and recognize growth is inevitable. But what’s being asked for approval (a conditional zoning request is special permission) would be devastating. Together in community, we’ve knocked hundreds of doors talking to neighbors, gathered petition signatures and solicited a survey. Through many hours of community meetings, we’ve compromised on four very reasonable requests in exchange for approval. Yet the development counsel is cherry-picking.

As an Asheville resident for 15 years and Haw Creek for nine, I’ve felt the growing pains in this city evolve. My home also borders this lot, and for months I’ve feared the deep harm that this development would cause. I hear a great horned owl nightly; red hawks fly overhead; black bear families frequent my yard passing through to the forest. This special area offers so much to our nonhuman friends and, in turn, for us.

Asheville has one of the worst housing crises nationwide, and the impacts are alarming. Asheville City Schools teachers are leaving at a higher rate than any North Carolina school system. Asheville City firefighters still aren’t being paid a living wage. Per the Thrive Asheville study, those disproportionately affected by the housing crisis are Black or brown households led by single mothers. We really, desperately need affordable housing.

Given a proposal with zero commitment to affordability and far out of reach from the median income here, we have to ask: Whom do these houses benefit? The “all housing is good housing” narrative we’ve heard from developers, from select Planning and Zoning Commission members at the March 26 meeting, from greenwashed “environmentalists” who are influencing these decisions behind closed doors, is out of context and disruptive.

The development would demolish an area that’s 52% tree canopy to 12%. Mature trees cannot simply be replaced. Heavy rain causes instant flooding, and we have frequent stormwater issues. With only two ways in and out of the valley, what happens with wildfires or extreme flooding? Haw Creek is high risk for both, per the climate resiliency report (adopted into the Living Asheville comprehensive plan). One of our four requests is to modestly reduce the number of houses to preserve the back 6 acres of forest (leading to the parkway). But the development counsel ran the numbers, and it wouldn’t be profitable.

The Asheville Missing Middle Housing Study & Displacement Risk Assessment suggests specific areas for development; this isn’t one. It recommends housing be built in “Walkable Centers”; this area is not. In an area already dangerous for walkability and bikeability, plus lack of public transit access, this would force greater reliance on cars.

We believe a better future is possible, and we’re at a crossroads. It’s vital that Council members listen to the community, center equity and neighborhood resiliency first and vote no — so we can explore better options. This is precedent-setting for all Ashevilleans.

Show up on April 23 for the City Council meeting at 4 p.m. at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville and let your voice be heard (more info: avl.mx/dl7).

And remember, local leaders are in office based on your vote.

— Ashley McDermott

Editor’s note: The public hearing on the project has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. June 11 at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville after the developer requested more time to make changes to the site plan, according to an April 19 Citizen Times article.


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7 thoughts on “Letter: Council must listen to community on Haw Creek project

  1. MV

    YIMBY and Asheville For All must accept some blame if this gets approved as is…

  2. T100

    The MOST affordable and high density housing is in mobile home and RV parks which Asheville City residents and govt seem to actively DESPISE.

  3. Nostupid people

    Best remove these fools from office immediately. Time and time again they have screwed us over like this. They are coldhearted evil pocket stuffing fools. They do not care about we the people. Fight back I’m sure there’s enough legal authority homeowners in Hall Creek and law enforcement. Sue them sabotage the development before it starts if need be. As did Chunns Cove and we regained power! For a better future in Buncombe County, we must remove the board in city Council starting with removing a mayor from office.

    • Prop Joe

      Not only will the citizens of Asheville not remove these people – they’ll elect them over and over again. It’s insane to me.

  4. Nostupid people

    There is no fixing stupidity that’s for sure. However I think what’s allowed to happen now has started to hit too close to home! People are too comfortable in there recliners to vote and speak up ! Now that it’s in their back yard they may act on panic!🙏🏼😉

  5. Jonathan Wainscott

    The City Council Meeting Agenda is posted online on the Friday before the Tuesday meeting. On April 19, the day before this piece was published, the Agenda showed that this issue was bumped to the June 11 meeting.

  6. JA

    The good news is that the developer temporarily withdrew his proposal and the vote has been postponed until June. The bad news is that the developer is trying to purchase a home or homes on Alpine Court to have the entrance to his project come right through the Happy Valley community. Most of Happy Valley is slightly more than 2 lanes wide and if someone parks on the street (like a vendor or a mail truck) it is reduced to 1.5 lanes wide with a few hundred trips per day coming through this residential area. This also doesn’t take into account that construction equipment and delivery of materials for the project would come through these street. Ridiculous.

    I am not a fan of the project for many reasons. The loss of mature trees, the amount of new traffic, lack of amenities for existing residents, make it undesirable for existing residents.

    The original map of the project had a street built from New Haw Creek Road on both sides of it to accommodate both the home construction and the town house construction on the other side of New Haw Creek Road.

    If this project is built (and I hope it isn’t) stick with original plan and keep traffic out of the Happy Valley subdivision.

    As for voting the Councilmembers out, having attended a local candidate meeting, what makes you think anyone else would be different. At the meeting I attended, they all punted when asked about the project using political vacillation.

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