Letter: Council should demand revisions to open space rules

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The open space amendment went before the Planning and Zoning Commission on May 4 and now goes to City Council for approval. I thoroughly reject this whole amendment and am disheartened that the city Planning and Economic Development Committee passed this amendment “as is” to Planning and Zoning.

I am sickened by this amendment and particularly the “throw money at the problem” provisions. The fee-in-lieu provisions will allow developers to completely pay their way out of following the needful regulations. What are our neighborhoods going to gain out of this amendment? Very little.

The justification for this amendment throws around current hot-button issues such as “affordable housing” and “stormwater.”

This open space amendment has no guidelines as to how fee-in-lieu monies are to be used for purchase of parkland in compensation for a neighborhood’s loss of open space. Currently, the fee-in-lieu money is tied up in uncertainty by litigation. Therefore, the purpose of using this money for enhancing or building city parks is on hold for a long time with hearings, appeals and other courtroom tangos that continually hold decisions from occurring. Meanwhile, the developers can buy up the prime property that could have been used as recreation for the benefit of the nearby residents and the greater community. Meanwhile, we go on losing green space, tree canopy and such urban salvations such as birdsong.

I would like to see the fee-in-lieu provision have real teeth in it. I feel the fee-in-lieu payout should be just high enough that it is a disincentive to developers.

The fee-in-lieu is a “giveaway,” along with other portions of this amendment. Other giveaways: allowing current zoning property-line buffers and setbacks to be included in the open space; including current greenway or any part of the land that is in the greenway master plan to be calculated as open space; also, developers become exempt from most of the open space requirements by following already mandated stormwater requirements. Giving away something for nothing is a raw deal for city residents, tourism, local wildlife and Asheville’s economy.

I hope that the City Council will send this amendment back for revisions to remove the “giveaways,” along with revisions to the fee-in-lieu amount to make it harder for developers to throw money as a solution to loss of a livable Asheville. Real and practical guidelines need to be developed for immediate purchase of new urban parklands. Tell City Council your thoughts on this amendment by emailing all members at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov!

— Victoria Williamson


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One thought on “Letter: Council should demand revisions to open space rules

  1. MV

    Very strange that Asheville is such an appealing place to live and that people continue to come here with pockets of gold, and yet we’re the land of ‘giveaways’, whether it’s to wealthy developers, management companies, corporations buying up breweries, tourists weighing on our infrastructure, or aerospace billionaires getting millions in handouts. Here’s your chance, councilwomen: hold suitors to higher standards and stop giving it away.

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