[Regarding “Welcome, Neighbors: Amendment Promotes Healthy Communities and the Environment,” March 16, Xpress:] Ms. Susan Bean wrote a full-throated defense of the Open Space Amendment. Her main idea is that we must cut the trees we love in our neighborhoods in order to protect the environment. Setting the obvious contradictions in that argument aside, let’s examine the specifics of the proposal in detail.
Open Space Amendment proponents argue that if we don’t densely develop the city of Asheville, then developers will simply build outside the city, leading to urban sprawl. The first problem with this argument is that the proposal would only regulate development within the city limits, and so by definition, its passage would make no changes to sprawl outside of the city.
Second, because Asheville is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, developers are swarming to build both inside and outside the city. So development will continue unabated in the county regardless of what the city does, but we have a say in how development will be regulated within the city limits. If this proposal is passed, developers will simply run amok both inside and outside the city.
Ms. Bean also suggests that the Open Space Amendment is focused on bringing small housing developments to our neighborhoods, like triplexes or developments of eight-10 units. But the amendment doesn’t apply to developments of fewer than eight units, and it includes developments of 50 or more housing units.
Bean implies that we must accept an unlimited amount of development to make space for anyone who wants to move here, no matter the cost to our community and quality of life. This is like the assumption that Asheville residents must continue to sacrifice tens of millions in tax revenue to the Tourism Development Authority each year to vacuum up as many wealthy tourists as possible, so they can “discover” Asheville and buy a fifth home here. The escalating costs of the TDA and the Open Space Amendment are simply too great for our community to bear.
— Perrin de Jong
Center for Biological Diversity