Plans, while not always binding, provide a blueprint, a framework for government and private citizens on which to base decisions about their futures and their finances.
What is the point of envisioning the future if, when the future arrives, the plans are changed and can’t be counted on? People lose trust.
I don’t pretend to know all the details about [the 101 Charlotte St.] project or its timelines, but I do know no one is saying, “Don’t do this project.” The request is to keep it within the scale of the neighborhood, keep the tree canopy, save the historic homes, honor the environment and City Council’s climate-change pledge, consider and respect the investments already made by the people City Council represents and abide by the Charlotte Street Overlay, the Neighborhood Plan and the Charlotte Street Corridor Plan.
The proposed plan is a “big city” entrance to one of the two historical neighborhoods in Asheville. It is wrong on many levels, and it will set the stage for the overcommercialization of Charlotte Street. I imagine Dr. Killian would not have approved of this development as proposed.
The general attitude of government is, if developers follow the rules, they can then proceed with their project or can request a change of the rules to accommodate their special needs. While conditional use requests are legal, they are often abused and overused. The UDO has been tweaked to the point that City Council no longer provides sufficient public participation and oftentimes doesn’t control the proceedings.
We should create incentives for developers to reuse properties that are deforested, already covered in concrete, not be held hostage to tax breaks and payments to comply with our rules. If we want to help, we can help with demolition of abandoned buildings and properties for reuse.
Cutting down trees and paving parking lots is not climate-change-sensitive, as City Council has pledged to be. If Asheville can’t be a standard-bearer for being the change we want to see, then who can be? A frightening thought.
To me, the saddest part about this protest is, it is not a NIMBY protest. The taxpayers and the Preservation Society have never said, “Don’t build here.” It has always been about saving Charlotte Street. And preservation can create many jobs. When you preserve nothing, you lose everything.
This is a defining moment for the future of Asheville and for the legacy of City Council’s service. Do you say, “Enough is enough” or do you say, “Our neighborhoods are up for grabs to the highest bidder”?
— Leni Sitnick
Editor’s note: This letter was written before the 101 Charlotte St. project developer withdrew a request for conditional zoning for the project and submitted an application for a smaller project in its place.