The Haywood Street Advisory Task Force “vision” presented to [Asheville City] Council is a personal vision of its members, not the majority of Asheville citizens. That is why I voted against it.
The task force was charged by Council to gather input from Asheville citizens to create a representative vision.
Public-input results overwhelmingly favored open, public green space. When this data was presented, members balked, as the makeup of this group is not average citizens, but mostly downtown developers/ businesspeople currently serving on other city boards and commissions, heavily weighted toward private development. In fact, the actual use of the word park was banned by vote from the vision.
Members asked facilitator Chris Joyell, “Do we have to use the public input, or can we create our own vision?” Astonishingly, Chris replied that the task force could create its own vision.
The task force felt that they knew better than Asheville citizens, and their vision included private development.
Some residents wanted private development; some residents also wanted a carousel on that site, but not the majority.
While I continually pointed to the data and our responsibility to Asheville citizens, members argued that the public input was “only meant to inform.” “We make the decision.” “It is not up to the majority.” “If it were just a matter of numbers, City Council would not need us.”
The “citizen” task force process was a farce. Council did not need this task force. There are 12 years of documented public support for green space, not more commercial development. The city’s downtown master plan even designates this spot for a park.
I refused to allow bullying and peer pressure to force me to vote for something that the majority of the citizens of Asheville clearly don’t want.
Park is not a four-letter word!
— Julie Nelson
Haywood Street Advisory Team Task Force member