Letter: There’s no magic bullet for growth issues

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In her letter to the Mountain Xpress, Anne Craig expresses dissatisfaction with our current local officeholders and calls for new leaders who will “think and act creatively” to solve the problems caused by Asheville’s growth [“Business as Usual Won’t Help Our Community,” Aug. 3]. That sounds great, but I am reminded that when people tell you to “be creative,” they usually mean they want you to do something but have no idea how it can be done. “Get creative” is what your boss says when she knows you don’t have the resources or time to do a job but wants it done anyway.

Like Ms. Craig and most Ashevilleans, I’m frustrated that the city has become a more expensive and less pleasant place to live, with more traffic and parking problems, more buildings and pavement and less nature. But there is only so much that city and county officials can do. They can’t stop people from moving here if they want to. They can’t, with some exceptions, keep people who own land from building on it. And what if they could stop or severely slow down construction? That would just reduce the amount of available housing and send prices higher, turning us even more quickly into a city only the affluent can afford to live in.

Yes, I’m frustrated by the changes, but I am also tired of hearing people say something like this: “There just has to be a way to keep the city from growing, or to hold down rents without building apartments anyplace where the neighbors don’t want them. I have no idea how that might be done, but the politicians could do it if they really wanted to; they’re just all beholden to developers.”

In fact, there is no master solution to the problems of growth, only various actions that may yield some partial successes and will likely create new problems. What can our officeholders actually do? They can’t call a halt to growth and development, but they can stop or modify some particularly harmful projects. And they can encourage building in areas near downtown and major thoroughfares, so that some of the ideas Ms. Craig suggests (more people walking, biking and taking public transportation) will be viable, and so that less building is done in outlying areas, ruining forests and fields. But of course that will require some people to accept new houses and apartments, with more traffic and competition for parking, in their neighborhoods.

In closing, I appeal to fellow Xpress readers: If you have an idea that you believe could have some positive impact, something doable, affordable and permissible under North Carolina law, please share. If you think there is a magic bullet out there that will make the problem go away and you’re waiting for a “visionary leader” to come up with it … keep thinking!

— Michael Bell


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.

4 thoughts on “Letter: There’s no magic bullet for growth issues

  1. Robert

    I agree that there is no magic bullet. That’s why it’s imperative for current residents to safeguard our community, forests, and river. It’s more important than ever to heavily scrutinize traffic impact reports, among other things, to keep this place from becoming just another gridlocked overdeveloped city devoid of soul–very much like some of the places from which many of you/us may have escaped.

  2. Enrique Baloyra

    Public transit is an integral part of smart growth. A light rail line running down Broadway, under downtown, and onto Hendersonville Rd could be a great start.

  3. billclontz

    Spot on, Michael Bell. While we all should insist on transparency and a sense of urgency in dealing with and balancing sometimes conflicting valid issues, if we ever hope to break some of the problematic cycles in our area, we need to accept some tradeoffs for everyone. The approach of “We need lots more housing, just not in my neighborhood,” and “Why can’t we make builders do 50% of each complex as affordable?” help put us in the hole we are in currently. The options and authorities for local officials are far more limited than many of us seem to recognize.

    • rwd

      Well the City accepts what the developer allows and/or admits too as “Affordable Housing”. It seems like the numbers presented at the end of the project change. The City cannot prohibit a developer from purchasing then building on land, however the City can ENFORCE the number of “Affordable Housing Units” if the developer does not agree…no building. To those that say stopping building / construction will lead to an economic downturn or a reduction of “Affordable Units” …I say poppycock !! What seems to be building here in the downtown area are hotels and other multi-unit developments that include “Affordable Units”. The Formulation used to arrive at the number for an “Affordable Unit” is pretty straightforward. Tabulating that data from all of the surrounding neighborhoods in the Asheville area will identify the base for an Affordable Unit, but I’ll suggest the population that provides the backbone for the hotels, restaurants, beverage, and service industries here in Asheville would produce a different base number and is not within that Affordable Unit figure. No matter how you slice it rapid growth causes challenges . This is a tourist town and this will not change, our problem is the majority of tourist hotel revenue does not remain here to address local needs. Our small and narrow roads in the city are an inadequate answer to the exponential growth we are experiencing. To close, I’d say just smile and hope you can keep up with the changes…You cannot alter the wave that is coming.

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.