At the July 26 City Council meeting, the Open Space Amendment (a proposal to accelerate Asheville’s urban deforestation and pave over everything in sight) comes up for a hearing and vote. Your voice is needed to speak out against this harebrained proposal that Council is poised to pass.
This proposal to deregulate developers within city limits is dressed up with idealistic-sounding justifications like providing affordable housing, improving flooding and fighting sprawl. This gift basket of developer wish-list items would accomplish none of these goals, but it would make developers richer at our expense.
The proposal is not an affordable housing initiative. It deregulates housing developments of eight units or more and it includes an optional incentive for “affordable housing” developments. Developers are under no obligation to build “affordable” units; they just get to cut more trees and pave more space if they meet the proposal’s “affordable” criteria. The problem is that, at 80% area median income, the proposal’s definition of “affordability” would provide housing that isn’t affordable at all to those who need housing the most. And gentrification will continue to get worse as developers build the most expensive housing they can. That’s where the money is to be made.
Similarly, there is an incentive for enhanced stormwater controls in the proposal. This is also optional for developers who choose to take the incentive. But by deregulating development across the board and lifting open-space requirements, this proposal would ensure that flooding gets much worse in Asheville as more and more of our urban forest falls to pavement and rain has nowhere to go.
The third justification used for this proposal is the claim that by building up in the city, developers will stop building out into the county. The obvious con behind this argument is that the city can’t regulate development in the county, and developers are crawling all over Asheville and the county with an appetite to doze and pave everything in sight. It’s too lucrative for them to resist building anywhere they can get away with it around here.
The final argument used to defend this proposal is that we need to make space for newcomers, even if it degrades the quality of life for existing residents and relegates the Asheville we fell in love with to a distant memory. This is an election year with the mayor and several Council members running for reelection. What better election year issue could we ask for than one that pits the interests of developers and people who don’t vote, pay taxes or live here against the quality of life of existing voters, taxpayers and residents? Let’s show up on July 26, speak out and pay attention to whose interests our mayor and Council members are looking out for. If you can’t show up in person, you can write all Council members at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.
— Perrin de Jong