Letter: Dense development will ruin Asheville forever

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The more people we pack into the urban center will eventually ruin our town and lead to the worst traffic imaginable — forever — and for everyone. I hear the cry for affordable housing, but kill the golden goose? There is nothing wrong with affordable housing being farther out. Lovely towns nearby can handle the growth. Hotel industry workers can carpool or use organized buses.

Been through the Clingman-Hilliard intersection during rush hour? The lights are backed up past the RAD, and the problem continues to Patton Avenue and I-240. Impatient drivers rudely block the intersection. I doubt if the city is planning to widen the streets here. (The city is also habitually irresponsible about creating enough parking for their urban deluge.)

Every time someone living in the new dense developments goes out for a quart of milk, you have more cars packed on the old roads that already can’t handle the current population.

Asheville will be as sorry as Austin, Texas, now is. Our officials should take a visit. Fifteen years ago, my friends there said they couldn’t go downtown anymore — or go around downtown to go north, south, east or west. The developers threw up apartments along the busy inner corridors and guess what happened? Gridlock. Forever and for everyone.

(By the way, this is a practical solution to the flow of traffic, not “institutional racism.”)

— Annelise Mundy
Asheville

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16 thoughts on “Letter: Dense development will ruin Asheville forever

  1. Stick a Fork In It

    We can do everything we can do but the City of Asheville, along with the TDA, appears determined to create an overcrowded, trash and needle strewn, graffiti covered, panhandling dirty shithole. It is what it is. If real estate prices will rise a bit more I’ll be happy to sell out and move to somewhere that’s actually a nice place to live., sort of like Asheville was 10-15 years ago. May all the investors and developers invade even further and keep on driving the prices up up up!

    • robert

      Yeah, after hearing about a bunch of shenanigans going on with Woodfin, you’re probably right.

  2. James Cassara

    Asheville is growing, and no wishing it weren’t so will change that. We either grow inward (density) or outward (sprawl). Or we do some combination of both and a better job of managing it.

    • Robert McGee

      ***URGENT: PLEASE READ!!!***

      If growth does not consider the health and public safety of current residents, it MUST NOT be allowed.

      WOODFIN TOWN COMMISSIONERS plan to vote to REPEAL CHAPTER 2 of their ordinances TODAY, JUNE 15TH. (This is the section pertaining to the health and safety of people residing near proposed developments such as The Bluffs.)

      IF YOU WISH TO HAVE YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTECTED, please

      CONTACT WOODFIN TOWN HALL TODAY BY PHONE AND ATTEND THEIR MEETING TONIGHT AT 6:30PM. You may provide public comments in person at that time, but because they plan to vote prior to public comment, we ask that you phone and URGE THEM to DELAY THE VOTE.

      PLEASE ALSO CONTACT ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL AND ASK THEM TO SAFEGUARD THE HEALTH AND PUBLIC SAFETY OF RESIDENTS NEXT TO FUTURE WOODFIN DEVELOPMENTS.

      THIS IS A ‘HAIR ON FIRE’ SITUATION!

  3. NFB

    “There is nothing wrong with affordable housing being farther out. Lovely towns nearby can handle the growth. Hotel industry workers can carpool or use organized buses.”

    They can also, from what I hear, eat cake.

  4. kw

    CALLING ALL CONCERNED NEIGHBORS!

    THE NEXT WOODFIN HEARING COULD DETERMINE THE APPROVAL OF THE BLUFFS SET TO WIPE OUT 80 ACRES ADJOINING ASHEVILLE’S RICHMOND HILL PARK. THIS PROJECT WOULD IMPACT TRAFFIC ON RIVERSIDE, RICHMOND HILL, AND SURROUNDING AREAS FOREVER…

    **JUNE 24th @ 6:15 pm**

    Woodfin Community Center 20 Community Rd Woodfin 28804

    We need all concerned neighbors to BE THERE!!!!! We need to be a strong presence for our community
    SHOW UP!

    WOODFIN BOARD MEMBERS NEED TO
    SEE that you are aware and care

    This development has the greatest impact on our neighborhood, destroys forested land and threatens the French Broad.

    Wear GREEN in solidarity!

    The first 150 people will receive a green bandana!

  5. NIMBY

    “(By the way, this is a practical solution to the flow of traffic, not “institutional racism.”)”

    With the inclusion of this last line, is the author hinting this piece is satire? The irony here is priceless.

  6. luther blissett

    “There is nothing wrong with affordable housing being farther out.”

    Directing people to go live in Candler and Weaverville and Swannanoa and Fletcher is so explicitly NIMBY it’s hilarious. “Hotel workers can carpool” is both embarrassing and offensive. This letter drips with privilege like an old roof after a summer rainstorm: the author apparently thinks that the city belongs to her and her alone. After all, the rich and poor alike are prohibited from living under bridges. Bless her heart. Namaste. Her friends should consider their friendships.

    “The city is also habitually irresponsible about creating enough parking for their urban deluge.”

    Again, this is hilarious and incoherent: dense development is apparently fine as long as it’s rental spaces for automobiles.

    There is nothing wrong with parking being further out.

    (The easiest way to deal with traffic is to restrict parking and severely limit cars. There is nothing wrong with parking being further out. The fact that the downtown core hasn’t been pedestrianized — or at least removed most of its on-street parking — is ongoing stupidity. The city can’t even pedestrianize Wall Street. A harder way to deal with traffic is to demolish the downtown section of 240.)

  7. Mike R.

    I agree. All the major roads through the center of downtown should be closed off for at least several blocks and a wide pedestrian mall created. This would also allow our world famous restaurants to expand outward with outdoor dining. Why this hasn’t been seriously proposed is beyond me.
    The vehicular traffic through the city center is totally unnecessary.

    As far as high/higher density development within Asheville; ‘bought the only way left. The real question is how dense. 10 story high rises? 2-3 story apartments? Asheville needs more housing and an expanded tax base. But we need to be mindful of existing low density neighborhoods and not overwhelm them with giant projects right next door.

    • luther blissett

      This is where exclusionary zoning becomes a problem. In the same way that improving gas mileage (or going electric) is more meaningful for gas-guzzling trucks than for sedans, converting single-family lots into duplexes or twin-homes or just adding an ADU or long-term rental unit (but not an AirBnB build) adds density in a subtle way. But that gets NIMBYs screaming even louder than a single big project: adding a second story in a neighborhood with one-story homes is often really difficult because the people doing it don’t have the resources or clout of, say, the Killian family.

      Also, denser infill residential development on larger parcels is often done really badly, so you’ll see a couple acres in an area with slightly less restrictive zoning turned into a dozen single family homes on 0.1 acre lots to maximize profits, even though residents can watch their neighbors’ TV through the window.

      The lowest-hanging fruit in the downtown core and its penumbra are near-vacant lots and short-term automobile rental properties, aka surface-level parking lots. For those, you need a carrot-and-stick approach, where the carrot is probably some kind of development incentive structure and the stick is to assess them more aggressively based upon their parking income and not just as a lump of underdeveloped land. This is where a Georgist land-value tax would make a difference to prevent land squatting, but that’s not going to happen any time soon.

      Whenever the city has closed off vehicular traffic downtown for a weekend, it taunts locals with what is possible if the political will were there. Maybe allow access in the morning for deliveries with automated barriers. But having cars and especially on-street parking on Wall Street and Haywood Street and Biltmore/Broadway and N Lexington during the day is toxic.

  8. avlsouth

    I moved to Asheville in 2000 from Austin Texas due to the huge surge in growth and lack of foresight by the city planners for traffic flow and development. I know what is next for downtown Asheville, just look up the shooting on 6th street in Austin last week. 6th Street in the 1980s and 90s was a fun party area, just like downtown Asheville but then it shifts into an area like the French Quarter where you do not want to be after dark. We do need to start funneling the tourist money into public services, infrastructure and maintenance of what we have and want to preserve. Development will occur but it would be nice if we had an architectural review, non bias traffic studies, really dedicated bike/walking lanes. (was in San Jose Del Cabo in Mexico and they even have this!!) Also our city council is so focused on their pet projects that they do not get anything done for the good of the city.

    • luther blissett

      Dude, municipal Austin has a population of nearly 1 million. It’s a state capital, and UT Austin has 50,000 students. Municipal Asheville has a population under100,000. (Austin had a population under 100,000… in the 1940s.) You can kinda compare Asheville to Boulder, CO — though Boulder has a student population of 35,000 — but don’t throw away your credibility on misguided comparisons.

      Here’s the wrinkle: the easiest way to put money in the city’s coffers is to add a bunch of high-value real estate. That’s just how the tax revenues work. Every half-million-dollar condo within the city limits generates enough money per square foot that it makes sense to encourage a lot more expensive condos to make the numbers work for the city to do good things if the will and smarts are there.

      I only say this because the way that should be easiest — re-routing the occupancy tax within the city limits to the general fund — can only happen if the guy from Hendersonville with the goatee allows it.

  9. futile

    its really simply that kind of rich people enclave, like the barrier islands off the coasts of the south, they want golf courses, they want workers who they can bus in to work on their lawns and then bus out, without having a real good public transportation system. White americans are notably crazy. Everyone in the world knows they do whatever they want. They walk walk around downtown in their Titelist hats, skulls filled with bouncing golf balls and eat organic food. Its obvious and clear. The people here complaining lack experience and travel. They lived here too long and cant see the truth compared to other wealthy enclaves. There is no further to complaint to make. This area is wealth resort. They put money above being cool and being anything else. The cost of homes here is twice what it is in other similar sized towns.

  10. luther blissett

    On parking: I had to go downtown for a few hours last night, and the county / HHS lot on Sears Alley was mostly deserted above the first couple of levels, even as the city lots hit capacity and cars circled around looking for free on-street parking or paid the $5 or whatever for private surface lots. (One good thing about being on top of the county lot is that you don’t have to look at the county lot.) That’s about 400 empty spaces.

    If the city and county put their heads together, the city could remove a bunch of on-street parking downtown, both city and county could charge a consistent fixed rate from 6pm till the early hours and put up signage directing people to the lots. This is not rocket science. Charging a flat $3 undercuts the private lots and generates more revenue than an empty space. The tourists don’t seem to mind walking and aren’t short of cash.

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