While progress may seem slow, the remaking of Pack Square continues. Thanks to George Pack, community leaders and urban-design professionals, we are very close to realizing a world-class civic lawn. We should remember that this is our community’s front yard, and this ambitious undertaking will say much about us as a community and as a generation.
Unfortunately, the actions of a very few may soon diminish this effort. County commissioners and County Manager Wanda Greene have betrayed George Pack, the Park Square Conservancy (PSC), the community and future generations.
In 2001, the city of Asheville, PSC and Buncombe County came together for a visionary agreement to forge a new and bold image for our civic lawn. The agreement, signed by Wanda Greene, defined the footprint of the park and established design guidelines for buildings and roads that will form the walls of this grand outdoor room.
For reasons unclear, our county manager and commissioners recently decided to reverse their (and our) participation in the 2001 agreement and instead carve off some of the parkland held in county trust for generations—and sell it to a developer for another bland condominium. Not only that, but they seemed to do so as quietly as possible. The intent to sell this prime parkland was buried in one legal notice on one day, and was quietly approved without discussion by county commissioners and without appearing on a public meeting agenda.
This shortsighted transfer of our public land to private interests was on the heels of a disturbingly similar recent event. The same players negotiated quietly (on behalf of the public?) for months to lease 70 acres of our public riverfront land for the construction of an old-school power plant, complete with oil storage tanks and smokestacks. The same deceit and backroom dealing, and well-connected private interests get prime public land at below-market prices. Were these betrayals based on ignorance, indifference or corruption? Throw in eight years of meekly funding [Bobby] Medford’s corrupt Sheriff’s Department, and it appears to me to be all three.
The citizens of Buncombe County deserve a full accounting of this latest violation of the public trust and the return of this land back to the public park intended by George Pack. Until that happens, incumbents Bill Stanley, Carol Peterson and Commission Chair Nathan Ramsey do not deserve re-election. (David Gantt has at least expressed some concern.) Let them know that you can’t vote for them.
— Michael McDonough