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