One of my neighbors on Richmond Hill told me how, 25 years ago, concerned citizens joined forces to fight off an asphalt plant that was proposed for Riverside Drive. Can you imagine? Not far from where so many good things are happening now. Others tell how downtown Asheville was nearly leveled in 1980 and replaced with a massive shopping mall that would now be an obsolete eyesore and not at all who we are.
These stories remind me how mitigation and careful planning are so much less costly than retrofitting. What if those who came before us had allowed such atrocities?
These stories remind me that we do not simply live here; we are caretakers of this special place. Where (and for what) do you stand?
In all the discussions surrounding The Bluffs megadevelopment being proposed to wipe out a pristine forest next to Asheville’s Richmond Hill Park, I have not heard one intelligent/forward-thinking person voice support for this project or explain how dumping thousands of renters, along with congested traffic, guns and toilets, at the end Richmond Hill Drive — a heavily traveled road that has been denied speed humps due to fire safety concerns and sloping toward the third-oldest river in the world — will improve our city or quality of life. Traffic and environmental issues, along with living wages, infrastructure, public safety, generational wealth and our very existence, are all intertwined.
We’re at a critical moment. If we do not stop The Bluffs, we will have no one to blame but ourselves for the unraveling of all that we have stitched together over time. Few have crystalized it as well as Asheville’s own Wilma Dykeman in The French Broad:
“Dwellers of the French Broad country are learning an ancient lesson in all their resources: it is easy to destroy. Because the river belongs to everyone, it is the possession of no one. And as towns and villages grew, they dumped their trash. Filth is the price we pay for apathy.”
Aren’t you glad that there were wise and visionary activists before us who chose not to be apathetic? What will your legacy be?
We must protect our future and stop The Bluffs. In fact, the best use of Tourism Development Authority marketing dollars would be to buy the tract and put it into land conservation for future generations. What better/more focused advertising could there be than to position Asheville as a visionary city?
— Robert McGee
Editor’s note: This letter has been updated from the print version, which mentioned a June 24 public hearing on the matter. That hearing has been continued for 60 days, following a May decision by Woodfin’s Board of Commissioners that “updated the town’s code and dissolved the Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustment and created a Planning Board and separate Board of Adjustment, which is now taking up the issue,” according to the Asheville Citizen Times.