Letter: We can’t freeze Asheville in time

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In response to Bill Branyon’s recent opinion essay in the Mountain Xpress [“Sierra Club Chimera: WENOCA Chapter Endorsements Are an Environmental Disgrace,” June 29]:

I don’t know anything about the Sierra Club or Branyon’s claims about the organization. But I am saddened whenever I see Ashevilleans using fearmongering language that pits longtime residents against anyone who is from “out of town.”

At the intersection of housing, land use and the environment, there is a lot of uncertainly and anxiety in Asheville. Fear and confusion are understandable.

But the solution to our overlapping affordability and climate crises can’t be to try to freeze our city in time, to shut our borders or to blame anyone who hasn’t lived here long enough to earn the right kind of Asheville cred. And we needn’t be starry-eyed about capitalism or private builders to understand that everyone’s home was “developed” by someone, and it’s a bit hypocritical to live in such a home and at the same time declare that no more homes should be built.

Such “no growth,” neo-Malthusian thinking only leads to an “us” vs. “them” mentality, which is easily weaponized to pit different groups of working people — even workers who build homes for a living — against one another. And by maintaining scarcity in housing, it only preserves Asheville as a sprawled-out, carbon-intensive playground for the wealthy.

All successful cities grow. Let’s talk about how Asheville will do it equitably, sustainably and in a way that facilitates transit, “gentle density” and walkability. And let’s do it without resorting to xenophobia or provincialism.

— Andrew Paul


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11 thoughts on “Letter: We can’t freeze Asheville in time

  1. J.P.

    I have never taken issue with “outsiders” moving here, however, the extremely high numbers of people moving here are causing our roads to become over-exhausted and all the new development being created for these new comers are causing us to lose the whole reason they visited in the first place – our TREES. They are clear cutting huge pieces of land to build new over-priced developments. Eventually WNC will be as ugly as the places these people came from. THAT is what I have a problem with.

    • Peter Robbins

      THAT is why people favor gentle infill and urban density — to discourage urban sprawl. You’ve got the right point but the wrong side.

    • BillArnold

      J.P. you just took issue with outsiders…. plus you are very condescending by inferring the outsiders come from ugly places. You need to look in the mirror and do a check

      • J.P.

        Why do you think people move here? Because our area is so beautiful, which leads to the assumption they don’t like where they live. I absolutely do not have a problem with outsiders moving here. I have a problem with them not taking the homes already available and wanting everything to be new and expensive. Do you not have an issue with our beautiful trees being cut down everywhere, making our area look more like a “big city”? If you don’t, you are either someone making lots of money off these developments or you, too, are an outsider who doesn’t care about our beautiful WNC.

        • BillArnold

          there you go making assumptions. There are so many reasons to move to Asheville and now there are many reasons to NOT move to Asheville. Locals are beginning to be hostile, homeless are taking over downtown, police that are quitting in droves, Cutting down a few trees are the least of concerns

  2. Grant Millin

    It’s not about neo-Malthusian, xenophobia, or provincialism. There’s a small number of sites in the US with climate and water factors like the Asheville area… that also has a unique community culture that isn’t based on post 70s sprawl. Because people are abandoning unsustainable places and want to end up in places like Asheville.

    So Tragedy of the Commons and ‘growth math’ are two sample sides of the ‘unsustainability equation’. Few of us really know how little developable space there is in Asheville city limits… which has Blue Ridge mountain sides everywhere. This isn’t an ideological battle or NIMBYism. Just look up Asheville on the Internet and look for available lots:


    Stuff can get bulldozed and new stuff can be built. But after a while Future Asheville could easily lack the good phenomena those who’ve been here some time recognize is going away. Development, crime, a huge substation for all the hotels and people who moved here… it’s a list of challenges that emerging Future Asheville incorporates that deserves to be properly surfaced and addressed.

    That’s why if I run for city council again, I worked out the bulk of the kind of agenda we need during the 2022 primary. One that includes the Asheville-Buncombe Digital Twin.

    It’s about facts versus “gentle density” and ‘growth math’… I guess.

  3. Robert

    Yeah, well, we can have some intelligent conversations as soon as you stop referring to longtime citizens such as myself as a Nimby whenever we voice very valid concerns (backed up by science and careful studies) about community, traffic, infrastructure, noise ordinances, health and public safety, the importance of Nature, etc.

    • Peter Robbins

      Uh, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t “transit,” “gentle density” and “walkability” address concerns about “community, traffic, infrastructure, health and public safety, the importance of Nature, etc.?” Sounds like you fellers have a lot to talk about — if one of you would listen.

    • NIMBY

      Science and careful studies also suggest this land was stolen from Native Americans…

      The local opposition to growth is 100% NIMBYism, coupled with poor vision from local leaders who are unable to develop a plan for responsible infill. Or perhaps it’s actually called “that’s not my Asheville”-ism, but that doesn’t pack the same punch and it’s really not “your Asheville”.

      Growth will happen whether we like it or not. Would we like to influence where the growth occurs or let it sprawl to neighboring counties down interstates, as is the trend?

      The folks who benefit most from preventing “gentle density” are existing property owners. The folks who are harmed most are lower-income renters, who are more likely to be BIPOC individuals than the average Asheville resident. It’s a nuanced conversation that too many “locals” forget.

      • kw

        So what you’re saying is that the Cherokee in our area (and much later, the Black people in Montford) should have been what you call NIMBY and fought like hell to keep their homes and communities. I could not agree more. My father was Cherokee, my fiancé is Black, and I will continue to stand up to protect what we have.

  4. 3g

    You can try and try and try again but you are not going to stop the growth. See the thing is, there are people that have lived here that remember Asheville the way it was and there are people that like Asheville for the way it is now. Some people will leave Asheville and some people will move to Asheville. What one person hates another person likes. We all have choices, If you like it here stay or move here, if you don’t like it make a change and move somewhere that is more compatible to your taste. The times they are changin…………..

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