Letter: Incident drives home Richmond Hill’s concerns

NO WAY OUT: A fallen tree blocks the street in the Richmond Hill neighborhood May 8. Photo by Robert McGee

For three years, residents of Richmond Hill and Woodfin have been raising concerns about the Bluffs megadevelopment that proposes hundreds of luxury condos be jammed between Asheville’s largest wooded park and the French Broad River. If you have never visited this neighborhood and are about to utter the word NIMBY, I encourage you to take a trip up Richmond Hill Drive to view a poorly maintained, narrow road with on-street parking, no sidewalks and only one ingress/egress point to the proposed mountain village.

Traffic studies have verified our safety concerns and, in 2022, the Buncombe County fire marshal indicated that a secondary fire access road that wouldn’t dump all traffic onto Richmond Hill Drive should be required. (For comparison, the contentious Haw Creek proposal is a fraction of the size with better access.)

And yet, The Bluffs of Woodfin development team continues to push for an oversized project, while Asheville City Council has chosen not to protect taxpayers who have contributed mightily to this city for decades. Citizens have very reasonably asked, “What will happen in the case of a fire or emergency requiring the National Guard when the road is blocked by jackknifed trucks or other large obstacles surely to come with years of heavy construction equipment moving in and out of the one and only road to our homes? Who will take responsibility if a child is killed?”

We have raised these issues not only to safeguard current residents but also with concern for potential future neighbors. For three years, locals have shared pictures and stories of jackknifed trucks with local media outlets, and we continue to reach out to elected officials of Asheville, Woodfin and Buncombe County.

In all this time, I have not heard one decent human publicly advocate for the Bluffs, but the silent complicity of many indecent humans is deafening. Many longtime residents continue to suggest that the best use for an intact, ecologically sensitive forest next to such a valuable community asset as Richmond Hill Park would be that it remain a forest. Local conservationists even stepped up to offer millions of dollars to purchase the proposed Bluffs site to hold in trust for the benefit of all current and future residents.

I write again today because on May 8, a tree fell across Richmond Hill Drive, blocking the only access point to more than 100 homes, caregiving facilities and Richmond Hill Park for roughly eight hours. Parents and essential workers were unable to get to and from work, school or medical appointments. National Guard vehicles were stuck for six hours. We are fortunate that, on this occasion, there was no house fire, water line break or need for police. We might not be so lucky next time.

— Robert McGee


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6 thoughts on “Letter: Incident drives home Richmond Hill’s concerns

  1. Hiram

    Ultimately, the city of Asheville and NCDOT are responsible for ensuring the safety of Richmond Hill Drive. Keep taking photos. It will help you when you need to file a negligence lawsuit against the city.

  2. Mike Rains

    Just because you happen to live in the city limits of Asheville and pay additional city taxes, what makes you think city leaders would care about your concerns? Your area is a narrow and small jut out of an incredibly convoluted city boundary and as such, a small amount of poperty tax revenue for the city.

    Besides, it seems as though city leaders are more interested in spending inordinate resources (time and money) for the ~ 500 homeless that live in and around Asheville (0.5% of the population), bike lanes downtown, tearing down the Vance Monument, a nationally acclaimed “Reparations” effort that one could predict would go nowhere, among many others, all at the expense of the “greater good”. You know, those people that actually work hard for a living and pay taxes.

    But even more importantly, because of the totally messed up city boundaries, Woodfin would get the property tax money, not Asheville.

    I haven’t taken the time to research who “owns” Richmond Hill Drive, but it is likely as asserted that Asheville and NCDOT are both responsible and that is nothing more than a recipe for delay and obsfucation. Asheville has pitifully funded Public Works and Transportation Departments and NCDOT is pretty much tasked (by Raleigh) with prioritizing road work throughout western NC in prepartion for the “next great coming” of wealthy “climate immigrants”, primarily from south Florida. As such, Asheville roads maintained by NCDOT seem to be treated “second class”. A perfect example is the new exit that is soon to be installed off I-26 to serve the Biltmore Farms LLC’s new industrial park that started with the Pratt and Whitney plant. The much needed Sweeten Creek widening project was delayed for this I-26 project even though totally adequate access to the industrial park (for the near term) exists off Brevard Road.

    This problem that is uniquely Asheville (e.g., a very limited and very irregular city boundary) was the result of water system wars between the county and city starting at the Great Depression and which resulted in Asheville being severely restricted with the necessary annexation of logical neighbors (such as Woodfin and nearby county areas) to develop the larger and sufficient tax base needed to run the city properly.

    Throw in situations (like your’s) where, because of this convoluted boundary, there are three different zoning juridstictions (Buncombe County, Woodfin, Asheville) all interwoven literally from street to street, resulting in real difficulty properly planning a large project such as this.

    I’m sorry for your plight and those of your neighbors. It stinks. But I am not overly hopeful this will end well for the residents of Richmond Hill Drive based on the factors I’ve outlined above.

    • KW

      It was a former Asheville city councilman who got the land annexed by Woodfin and there have been all sorts of secret meetings between the former Woodfin dummies and the original developer about the bridge that former mayor Vehaun wanted to put on top of Silverline Park.

      I’ve been on that street when lots of cars are parked on both sides of the road. It’s pretty laughable that developers think they’ll be able to get trucks back and forth. No one can make anyone move their cars.

  3. Helen Rae Charbonneau

    Haw Creek, Project Aspire, Aycock School, and Richmond Hill, for starters.…no, no, no and NO!
    Enough is enough. When will citizens finally get tired of getting pushed around, disrespected, exploited, and disregarded in the name of
    “progress” and growth (the goal of a cancer cell…Edward Abbey). Enough trees have been chopped down, enough meadows turned into condos.
    Yes, enough is enough.

  4. Nostupid people

    The more stories I read about development the more I feel like Einstein! am I the only person concerned about the infrastructure falling apart due to all this building and who’s gonna pay for the reconstruction expansions for these idiots making such stupid decisions that’s gonna end up, destroying our land and adding to the global warming theories. We need to be looking into a cure for stupidity! wait there is no cure for stupidity obviously!

    • KW

      You’re not the only one, but this project is especially concerning due to the weird no contiguous annexation, lack of necessary road or bridge, and the likelihood that Asheville taxpayers may wind up paying for sidewalks and street improvements for a project that brings no tax dollars to Asheville. And I haven’t even gotten to the environmental concerns.

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