Letters to the editor

Give the Civic Center its due

There has been much discussion in the last few months concerning the Asheville Civic Center. It has been said that it is old and worn out. It has been said that it is outdated and needs to be replaced. A recent writer blamed the current condition on its management.

While it is nice to assume that such a facility [should] generate a profit, it normally does not work that way. A few years ago, only three convention centers in the United States produced a profit. Convention/civic centers are built to help the economic growth and well-being of the area.

As more and more groups and conventions utilize the facility, the economics of the area expand. How? New hotels accommodate the people coming in for [events at] this facility. These people — conventioneers, arts-and-crafts dealers, gun dealers, entertainers, sports teams — spend money in the community. They eat in our restaurants; they buy food from our grocery stores; they purchase gas for their vehicles. They also visit our shopping areas and leave their money with the merchants. All of this produces taxes. Some of these taxes are returned to the community. The hospitality taxes stay in the area. New businesses, form and old businesses expand. Jobs are created. Land values increase. Property taxes increase. … [It’s] a never-ending circle of economic growth!

We need to look at the current situation and understand that the Civic Center management cannot produce excellent results with an extremely limited budget. It is hard to equip and maintain a luxury liner with tugboat accessories.

Asheville and Buncombe County need to work together to upgrade/rebuild our current facility, and — if necessary in the future — to create a new facility. We have a beautiful facility. Let’s utilize it to its fullest.

— L. Barry Shields

Transportation, development and a good place to live

I’m writing in regard to Andrew Cline’s commentary, “Growth restrictions substitute government decisions for yours” [Nov. 17] and to Gregory Wilcox’s commentary “If you build them, it will come” [Dec. 1]. Mr. Cline promotes the “free market” and “individual decisions” (re: John Locke Foundation), while Mr. Wilcox argues against any form of urban/economic growth (re: Zero Population Growth). They both seem to represent idealistic extremes, ignoring a realistic and central fact of growth: Growth will happen; the choice is about how it happens, not “if” it happens.

The Asheville area faces serious livability issues, ranging from freeway expansion and air pollution to affordable-housing shortages and farm/forest destruction. These issues all stem from what is known as “suburban sprawl.” Regardless of how serious the state and [local] governments are about land-use planning, metropolitan Asheville should take immediate steps toward comprehensive, conscientious planning for growth.

Transportation options aren’t as simple as eight-lane freeways vs. narrow alleys. Housing choices shouldn’t [be limited to] either mansions or housing projects. And economic growth isn’t “Coming soon” vs. “Going out of business.”

Listen, Western North Carolina: We don’t have to accept “the way it is,” nor should we say “keep out.” Let’s give ourselves some options.

With transportation, we face increasing air pollution, congestion and even “road rage,” because we are almost completely auto-dependent. The possible extension and widening of I-26/I-240 illustrates this, as people’s homes and businesses face demolition. [However], street connectivity (walkable blocks and streets) and maintenance surpass road-widening and construction for efficiency.

A transportation system that prioritizes — in the following order: walking, bicycling, mass transit, cars and commercial vehicles — represents a balanced solution to auto-dependency. Wide sidewalks, bike lanes, reliable and comprehensive transit, and punctual commercial transport (e.g., delivery trucks) signal a healthy region.

It’s not about “getting rid of cars,” but reducing driving when given other choices. Balanced transportation works for people without a driver’s license, the elderly and the impoverished, plus anyone sick of increasing gas prices and air pollution.

Affordable housing and sustainable economic growth develop from balanced transportation. Mr. Cline mentions Mecklenburg County [Charlotte], which is wise to be considering, “… a county wide land-use plan that would cluster development around transit stops.” This is known as “transit-oriented development” (TOD), which predominated in most American cities before 1945 and is enjoying a rebirth in progressive areas. Apartments placed over ground-level businesses provide affordable housing with flexible job and transportation options. “Granny flats” (apartments over a larger house’s detached garage) are another viable option for affordable housing. “Treeless, cookie-cutter subdivisions” shouldn’t define single-family housing. Row houses, condominiums (tastefully designed) and semi-detached homes all offer affordable price ranges and lifestyle alternatives to standard suburbs. With frequently-connecting streets and nearby available transit, people walk a few blocks for city-wide access.

New schools, housing and businesses don’t have to degrade our livability. The practice of “infill” development — which uses old buildings and empty lots, or demolishes and replaces abandoned structures — saves land and taxpayers’ money and reduces pollution. Growth will continue, so let’s implement the intelligent choice and make Asheville compact and livable.

In his 1996 book, A Good Place to Live, Terry Pindell describes special cities across the country, including Asheville. In an interview with current Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnick, the mayor says, “God bent down and kissed this place,” referring to Western North Carolina’s quality of life. We have a responsibility — not only to our neighboring communities, but namely [to] ourselves — to become actively involved in our region’s livability. Attend meetings. Write letters. Ask questions. Get involved. It will all matter.

— Scott Adams
August, Ga.

Adams is a junior at UNCA.

Don’t overlook our local Web sites

Thank you for publishing the pullout Holiday Gift Guide in the Dec. 15 Mountain Xpress. It features a broad range of businesses and products available in our wonderfully diverse community. I must voice my dismay, however, at finding the small section captioned “A few shopping Web sites.” Did it give the addresses to the sites featured in the guide? No! It listed Web addresses for the huge shopping sites on the Net which are draining communities of local commerce across the country.

Why didn’t you print the Web sites of businesses that actually paid for advertising in this section? A quick glance and a few keystrokes turned up several: Black Dome Mountain Sports, Tops for Shoes, Diamond Brand, Earth Fare and the Mast General Store, just to name a few!

You would have better served your readers — and the folks who are paying your salaries (the advertisers) — by listing their Web-site addresses.

— Suzanne Daley

[Editor’s response: You make a good point; it would have made a good story to investigate what local retail businesses maintain their own Web sites. However, to list only those businesses that advertise with us would confuse the crucial line separating the advertising and editorial functions of the paper. The news story we would do would be about local Web sites, regardless of whether they advertise with us.

Bumper-sticker feud

Waaahhh! Mr. Wallace’s nasty little sticker [“Cats flattened while you wait”] got torn from his car [Letters, Dec. 8]. Poor baby! Here’s my sticker; it’s for you and your kind especially — “Balls flattened while you wait.” But I’ll be happy to flatten yours with absolutely no waiting, if you’re in a hurry.

— Anna VanDamme

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