Letter: Landowners should be able to exercise their rights

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Laura Berner Hudson penned a thoughtful essay supporting the proposed 101 Charlotte St. development [“Future Vision: 101 Charlotte St. Deftly Balances Conflicting Priorities,” May 19, Xpress]. I think her arguments are entirely correct, and whatever official approval is needed for the project should be granted so that it can move forward.

I was struck, though, by the absence in her piece of what is for me the most important and compelling argument for the project: The landowners want it.

That you can (or should be able to) do as you please with your property is inherent in the very concept of ownership. Build a house or apartment building, tear down what’s there for something that better fits your needs or cover the whole thing in wildflowers. Just as owning a book means that you can read it, mark in it, tear out pages, lend it, resell it or just let it sit prettily on the shelf, so owning a piece of land means that you can use it to serve your own wants and needs.

Of course, we rightly impose some modest limitations, for purposes of public safety and preventing public nuisances. No reasonable person objects to ordinances prohibiting, say, an ear-splitting sawmill or a toxic-waste dump in a residential neighborhood. But nothing even remotely like that is in the offing here. What will be built are residences, retail and office space — the same types of things that already exist along the rest of Charlotte Street. When people’s objections primarily amount to aesthetic preferences, as appears to be the case here, they should be heard, then politely set aside as irrelevant.

If opponents want to see the current buildings preserved, they have a simple solution: Band together and buy them. Then they, as the new rightful owners, can choose what becomes of them.

The city’s role should be to facilitate, not impede, the landowners’ exercise of their rights and liberties, including property rights. Securing individual rights and liberties is, after all, the core reason that we establish governments, as the Declaration of Independence reminds us.

— Robert J. Woolley


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

5 thoughts on “Letter: Landowners should be able to exercise their rights

  1. Mike Rains

    I think the writer misses the mark on property “rights”.
    Yes, of course, property owners have basic rights inherent in that ownership. But where one person’s rights begin, a neighboring owner’s rights may well end.
    Charlotte St. 101’s biggest issue (although it has been shadowed by calls for preservation of the old houses) is scale. Not use or “aesthetics” as the writer resumes.
    This is the entire purpose of thoughtful zoning…..to ensure that use and scale are respectful to neighboring landowners, to the extent possible. After all, they have rights to.

    Taken to the extreme, it appears that the writer would find acceptable the building of a 100 story high rise at 101 Charlotte Street….a Trump Tower as it were. After all, that’s more or less “aesthetics”. No that is scale.

    101 Charlotte St has many beneficial and well thought out design features. Its major drawback is scale, for the adjoining property owners and the street itself (e.g., traffic).

    And the large scale proposed is really only about one thing. Greed. No one likes to call it that; such a nasty sounding assessment. This development could be less sizable and still make plenty of money for the property owners. But, a lot more money can be made by adding on another floor or two .

    Unfortunately, this project is likely to be approved by City Council. The developers have done a masterful job of lobbying their proposal and added many “desired” features such as affordable units, widened bike lane, building setback, etc. to gain support from Council’s diverse mix.

    What this will do is set up Charlotte Street in domino fashion. The properties that many current smaller businesses exist on will be sold and cobbled together as the profit from another 101 Charlotte Street will far exceed what the current property owners currently achieve. It seems likely that the entire nature of the street will be transformed into a multistory “canyon” over the coming years.

    • Debra J Karash

      Actually, the scale is not about greed. It is about enough density to allow the expenditure for better materials and beautiful public space and public art.

  2. NFB

    Sometimes what a property owner does with his/her own property has detrimental effect on their neighbors, neighborhood or even the community as a whole. When someone writes in a book they have bought, or tears the pages out, etc. it does not have a detrimental effect on neighbors, the neighborhood or the community at large so the letter writer’s analogy doesn’t even come close to holding.

    The letter writer does acknowledge that there are some limitations to absolute property rights in the name of the public good. Well, guess what? That’s what the whole conversation is about. That’s why there are public hearings on the issue and why the duly elected City Council will get the final say as to whether this proposal has enough of a detrimental effect on the neighbors, the neighborhood, or the community at large to deny, or whether the benefits outweigh them enough to approve it.

  3. luther blissett

    There are a few things to unpack here. The first is philosophical: property rights do not somehow precede the existence of a governmental and legal framework that is willing to acknowledge and protect them. It is comforting to believe and important to assert that individual rights and liberties are inherent — as the Declaration of Independence did, following John Locke’s example — but that ain’t true. The history of the Cherokee is a good illustration of this with respect to property rights, as is the period of “urban renewal” in Asheville. Your property rights in Buncombe County are mostly to be found at 205 College St.

    I do agree with the letter-writer that the most effective way to secure the future of any parcel of land — whether it’s a downtown block or undeveloped woodland in the county — is to buy it. (But see: “urban renewal.”) I also think that the definition of “community” or “neighborhood” can be pretty amorphous: certain people may decide they are part of the neighborhood when the issue is preserving buildings, but somehow forget to show up for other issues affecting the same geographic space. I also think that the legacy of Prop 13 in California shows how policies that placate and enrich current property-owning residents make life significantly harder for any potential future residents, and that municipalities that don’t think about future residents end up setting policies that made sense 20 years ago.

    The 101 Charlotte situation reminds me a little of World of Clothing just off 26. Mr Williams, the founder and owner, was never inclined to sell or close it, which is partly why it looked and felt like it belonged to an earlier decade. He passed away a year ago; his daughter took ownership of the property and had other plans for it, which is why the store closed and its staff were laid off. You can’t abolish death. It takes a lot for the dead to bind the hands of the living: the heirs of John Lantzius have mostly managed their properties on Lexington with a light touch, but that’s their choice; PIP and Pat Whalen dumped the Aloft on downtown (with the assistance of John McKibbon) and I’m not sure what Julian Price would have thought about that.

    This is fundamentally a dispute between affluent property owners and a somewhat more affluent family of property owners, and anyone who isn’t an affluent property owner ought to sit back and enjoy their popcorn. It also makes a compelling case for a healthy estate tax.

  4. Jason

    Oh come to the south they said; less government they said…
    😂 😂 😂

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.