Letter: Say ‘no’ to city’s plan to gut open space requirements

Graphic by Lori Deaton

“Pavement or Paradise? Asheville’s Future Is Yours to Decide” [Dec. 8, Xpress] revealed the attempt by Asheville’s Planning and Urban Design Department to eviscerate development rules to include open space, by proposing an “open space amendment” that waives up to 80% of green space incorporated in future builds (existing ordinance 7-11-4 at: avl.mx/b06; radical “OSP” changes at: avl.mx/b05).

Appointed, unaccountable PUDD members’ efforts to cede taxpayers’ right to chill spots in developments would provide the lobby myriad ways to eliminate green space at odds with both Council’s recent passage of a zero net loss tree canopy ordinance and inclusion of greenways and parks in Asheville’s Downtown Master Plan.

Locals suffer construction noise, toxic runoff, radiating concrete heat and increased traffic while watching agog as the Planning and Zoning Commission grants wealthy speculators building variances and lets them pay a fee not to comply with open space requirements — this fund accruing during litigation without being used to preserve what developers destroy: wildlife, views, neighborhood character and climate resilience.

PUDD’s effort to override rules designed to make developers responsive to residents seems driven by fallacies such as “density infill” is necessary; developments provide “affordable housing”; and “all cities must grow.” But naming their maneuver an open space proposal is downright cynical — its words crafted to mislead people to assume it a good thing.

Many activists, citizens, eco-groups, the Urban Forestry Commission and the Neighborhood Advisory Committee are justly appalled by and formally opposed to PUDD’s machination.

People don’t flock here for a pseudo-Charlotte experience; they come for the homey vibe at risk. Readers should appreciate their right to nature amid runaway sprawl by repudiating PUDD’s unilateral overreach; PZC’s pending consideration to approve PUDD’s egregious open space proposal and development variances; and City Council’s history of whole-cloth adopting staff’s and commissions’ recommendations.

I encourage everyone to express their outrage to PUDD at 828-259-5830; to PZC via contact info at avl.mx/8b6 and by emailing all Council members at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.

— Queen Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman)

Editor’s note: The writer notes that she is a member of the Tree Protection Task Force and Rhododendron Creek Community neighborhood association in West Asheville. She can be emailed via oldenwilde.org.


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5 thoughts on “Letter: Say ‘no’ to city’s plan to gut open space requirements

  1. Robert

    ‘Affordable housing’ and ‘more jobs’ and ‘growth’ are vague election-cycle terms that myopic small-time local officials often tout when they want to push through really destructive developments such as the Bluffs in Woodfin, which is set to wipe out 80 acres of urban forest next to Asheville’s Richmond Hill Park and pollute the French Broad river (which will likely absorb tax dollars to clean up in future years). Don’t be fooled, people! Stand up for our unique Quality Of Life and demand that others do too.

    • Dixie Deerman (Queen Lady Passion)

      Accurate input, Robert! Thank you from the author of the Letter that inspired your supportive comments, Queen Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman, West Asheville).

  2. Mike R.

    It looks to me like the City is trying to balance open space with other critical needs (affordable housing) and needed development in general. Asheville is generally a tougher place to build due to topography, so requiring less open space seems like a reasonable trade-off. To be sure, I am not for mega/massive density in any development; that to me is the more critical issue. So I’d rather see a smaller project with less/no open space than a big one that meets those requirements.

  3. @Mike R.: There is no such thing as “needed development”. We don’t owe rich transplants a second home in Asheville, or an escape from the climate devastation their conscienceless careerism helped wreak in whatever ruined place they are running from. And developer lobbyists have brainwashed us (or bought us off, if we’re politicians) to believe that “building our way out” (in other words, massive unrestrained development) is the only way to obtain a few crumbs of affordable housing from the housing boom’s gluttonous feast of gentrification.

    The reality is that effective tools such as rent control and inclusionary zoning (= requiring new developments to be affordable) have been outlawed by the NC General Assembly, which is dominated by the real estate industry — quite literally, since a huge chunk of members are landlords or developers or in related industries such as home construction*. Making deals with the devil — such as trading away open space forever as an “incentive” (read: bribe) to developers to please, pretty please include some units working people can afford — merely opens the door for even more environmental and social devastation.

    Let’s name and solve the real cause of unaffordability: unregulated greed.

    * The actual proportion was cited in an Asheville Citizen-Times investigative article a few months ago, but I’m having trouble recapturing it — anyone able to help?

    • Robert

      Tourism is truly at the root of all of our troubles. Now, this is not anything against visitors (many of whom are lovely people), but when you have too many guests (even good ones) and when their dollars do next to nothing for the people who live here (and in fact destroy roads and remove housing options: long-term rentals become Airbnbs), well, then…you’re only encouraging more and more stupid long-term decisions in myopic attempts to compensate. Meanwhile, who can blame locals who do own property from wanting to make a bit extra on short-term rentals as it is their right to do? We (not me, but many, so I say ‘We’) are truly one big confused slobbery dog chasing its tail…

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