Height-tax for The Ellington

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners resolution to dedicate property-tax revenue for affordable housing as would be assessed for the proposed Ellington project over the next 10 years is prematurely ahead of City Council approval and an apparent strategic ploy to influence City Council’s vote to approve The Ellington, improperly tampering with the city’s quasi-judicial process. Even if The Ellington is approved by City Council, the Board’s resolution amounts to a feeble $425,000 annually, allowing only two affordable housing units to be built per year, or less, with rising construction costs.

A much more viable and effective proposal has been presented to City Council based on selling city airspace to The Ellington’s developers, for space used over and above the 215-foot height of the BB&T building, at $80,000 per linear foot, to be paid to the city upon the approval of The Ellington [and used] exclusively for workforce housing. The 305-foot-tall Ellington would pay $7.2 million for city airspace rights, allowing the immediate construction of 30-40 acutely needed affordable housing units.

The $7.2 million airspace price tag needs to be put in the context of projected revenues from the 125-room hotel over a 75-year period: $1.1 billion (that’s billion), not including the sale of the condos estimated at $75 to 80 million—making the sale of airspace rights miniscule and an appropriate, fair method for financing workforce housing, in addition to the Ellington’s 1.5 percent contribution based on condo sales.

The Buncombe County Board resolution uses citizen property taxes to finance its own public good, allowing The Ellington developers to be unjustly enriched. I use “unjustly enriched” as a legal term, with legal consequences.

The proposed Ellington will pay little more than minimum wages to most of its employees, making The Ellington itself a perpetrator of workers’ inability to afford basic housing, and therefore having to use citizen property-tax money to essentially supplement The Ellington’s low wages—[a plan that] is morally and disgracefully wrong.

Had the Board of Commissioners applied its resolution to all city and county commercial development, and not just singularly to The Ellington, there would not be the obvious appearance of baiting the City Council to approve The Ellington, irrespective of problems caused to the city by its massive scale.

— Robert Malkin
Asheville Citizen Voices

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10 thoughts on “Height-tax for The Ellington

  1. travelah

    How did you determine that the City of Asheville owns the air space above any piece of private property?

  2. Rob Close

    I doubt the city does have the right to do this.

    BBoC seems to be baiting though, well brought up. And if we know what their projected wages will be, hot damn, what an insult then.

    “can we have this playground for the rich? mind if we take advantage of the poor while we’re at it?”

  3. lokel

    Robert, who decided that the BB&T;is the model to which all other buildings should aspire?

    I am certain that the builders of the BB&T;built a building they thought they could successfully rent at the time of completion and in the years to come.

    Similarly, if the Grove Arcade had been completed as envisioned by EW Grove, there would be a 14 story tower ON TOP of what is there today: this would have been the tallest building in the skyline, even today, because of the elevation.

    Why shouldn’t this height be your guideline for all others?

    With regard to the wages paid by the occupants of the building… we do not have a living wage law in this town as it is; do you propose to initiate one just for the Ellington?

    The low wages and out-of-kilter real estate market in Asheville is why there is no “affordable” (read low rent) housing.

    And to that point. There is plenty of affordable housing in the area: it’s called SECTION 8.

    Asheville, is now a “service oriented” town, and until the government enacts legislation to force employers to pay living wages for their locations, there will be no truly affordable housing.

  4. travelah

    Voltaire is also credited with stating “A witty saying proves nothing”. If it was by his hand, then Voltaire offered at least one truth.

  5. Carrie

    “Someday people with too much time on their hands will quote Voltaire and me.”, Bugg, Jason, Mountain Xpress, 2007.

    Sooner than you thunk. I owe you a chicken casserole.

  6. Noah

    First of all, I believe that given the choice between the two “evils” of development – skyline impact and sprawl – that the choice is obvious. If we don’t build upward, we must build outward. A little of both is going to be necessary, but I would prefer more tall buildings in places where the need to drive is eliminated. Automobile traffic is one of the scourges of developing cities, and it’s already getting noticeably worse compared to a few years back. The details of how the Ellington is taxed and so forth need to be settled and set into a guiding policy for future developers so there doesn’t have to be all this expensive, time-wasting debating of every building someone builds. Asheville needs to make up it’s mind about what it wants and set down clear rules and stick with them. No conditional use permits, no BS, just a rulebook that is actively enforced.

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