Letter writer: City Council lets staff make development decisions

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I’m sure most of Asheville is aware that there are six new hotels scheduled to be built in downtown Asheville in the coming months.

What you may not know is how this came about, how City Council voted to recuse themselves from oversight on large-scale projects and allowed [it to be handled by] “staff,” a euphemism for that mysterious group of city employees, who, in effect, decide who, what, when and where building happens in Asheville and its environs.

Many of these projects are done with little or no public input, back room, if you will. The latest proposal on the table will allow people to build “add-ons” to their property, basically a smaller second home to be used for rental purposes. Another [is a] a proposed hotel across from the Basilica [of St. Lawrence]: Some groups have called for a green space there instead. That decision will have to wait until after the next City Council elections. No one wants that on their resume right now. Place your bets, folks.

So much for smart growth, and since I’ve given up on our politicians’ ability to govern and control the growth and development of the city, I would at least like to see the faces of this mysterious organization known as “staff,” who for all intents and purposes have become the de facto heads of government in Asheville when it comes to development.

— Jesse Junior

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11 thoughts on “Letter writer: City Council lets staff make development decisions

  1. Jaded Local

    Ah, somebody from Fletcher telling Asheville how it should be run.

  2. Grant Millin

    Asheville is a hub of commerce and culture for the region so I have no problem seeing insights from outside Asheville.

    I’m running for Asheville city council. If you know folks in Asheville let them know I have solutions like an Asheville Tourism Carbon Audit to start dialing in on some of the otherwise unarticulated risks around more hotels.

    We are in a hotel glut and instead of adjusting strategy like responsible business and community leaders do, I keep hearing the solution is more, more, more escalation of commitment in the current direction. That direction is more advertising to draw in more tourists using a tax versus a bottom line member-funded tourism advocacy organization. Taxes go to the public good, not industry marketing for an industry that is now more than healthy on its own… at least in terms of profits.

    The way there will be a big drop in tourists is when there’s another market crash and when the tourism industry is revealed to have not taken up concepts like sustainable tourism in the main. That’s about irresponsible markets and members of city council can work with other municipalities across the state and nation to push for smarter, more sustainable economics that benefit us all and even our necessary environmental requirements.

    I have a solution that includes passenger rail to Asheville and has a sustainable tourism element. I look forward to sharing this solution soon.



    • Austin

      I hope you realize that as a city councilperson, you would have zero influence on the decision to extend passenger rail to Asheville. Solutions are fantastic, but keep them grounded in reality.

      • Grant Millin

        Interesting advice, but there are literally no limits right now on responsible innovation.

        If we listen to the innovation killers when the risk analysis actually says ‘go big with responsible innovation’, then we’re just wasting opportunity and buying into staying stuck with the current escalation of commitment.

        The world isn’t flat mostly because someone said, “Let’s at least consider its actually round.” So bringing up a fresh approach to passenger rail to Asheville is a responsible, thoughtful act. We need elected officials who can do this strategic innovation work, and I’m more than capable.

        Very smart to bring up the interpretation of reality, Austin (Anonymous, No Last Name). You choose to be anonymous so don’t expect any parley after this response, ‘Austin’.

        • Austin

          It appears my last response to you was deleted, so let me try again.

          As a city council member, you’d have no power over the NCDOT or the federal government, who would have the authority and the funds to extend passenger rail to Asheville. I have grand plans for an elevated train going up Hendersonville Road to relieve congestion, but that doesn’t mean I could make them a reality.

          Planning is great, and unique and innovative planning is better, but don’t kid yourself or your potential constituents about what you can get done as a city council member.

          • Grant Milin

            You’re using a de minimis approach. Literally—at least without coordinated strategy—municipalities do not direct NC DOT and the US Government.

            But you’re being too narrow… plus you are not using your full name. I’m not kidding anyone, and no one can have a serous dialogue with you, “Austin”.

          • Austin

            Then explain how you’ll shape state and federal policy as a city council member, or even as a member of a coordinated group of city council members. Explain it especially in the light of North Carolina’s gerrymandered GOP majority which is openly hostile to the state’s urban areas and is doing all it can to harm them as extant entities and to punish their citizens for tending to vote progressively. Do you honestly think that a state that’s on the cusp of robbing the cities of their sales tax monies in order to distribute it to rural counties that did nothing to earn it is going to be at all interested in extending rail to anyone, let alone Asheville? Half the time, the state politicians have to be reminded that the state goes farther west than Hickory in the first place.

            Also, get off the fact that I’m not putting my last name out here. Certain persons on here and in other local forums like to track you down when you put your name out there, and those certain persons also take great delight in posting your personal information for everyone to see, including phone numbers. Quit harping on my missing last name and get upset about those certain persons who like to poison the well.

            Better yet, answer the questions I’m asking. I assure you that others will have tougher ones, and you’ll need to buck up if you want to make it in office.

          • Tracy Rose

            Please keep in mind that ad hominem and personal attacks are not permitted on the website. Thanks.

  3. OneWhoKnows

    The ‘staff’ you describe is the planning/zoning/permitting dept at the public works bldg. I have a permit application that was filed last September and STILL waiting for city to act after months of attempts to satisfy their demands. Most pitifully run city imaginably. Decades of NON leadership prevails and causes all the problems.

  4. Austin

    Jesse Junior, formerly of Arden as I recall from his letters to the AC-T, is one of the most ardent and consistent NIMBY’s around. No growth, nowhere, no how, at no time. Ever.

    I’m curious as to how restricting the supply is supposed to somehow increase affordability in a city and in a metro where people are being pushed out to hinterlands like Fletcher due to high housing costs and even higher rents.

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