Torpedoing the forum

As one of the invitees that agreed to participate in a Parkside forum [“We Need to Talk,” Commentary, Aug. 27], it’s disappointing to see it fail. The secrecy and unanswered questions surrounding this very important issue fairly scream for a full public discussion. Our local media, primarily the Asheville Citizen-Times and WLOS, have failed to fully present the facts, and misinformation rules. For example, some still apparently believe that years ago, the Pack Square Conservancy proposed a building on the Parkside footprint, so why should we object now? The fact that this is false won’t be reported outside this letter.

What other facts are down the memory hole? The county staff was planning to sell that park property to a developer long before Stewart Coleman came along. No one from the county will have to face questioning on this. Some county staff planned to threaten the Conservancy over their budget in order to force them to support Parkside. Has anyone confronted them over this? No. [Former] Asheville Planning and Development Director Scott Shuford advocated a deal to City Council that would allow Stewart Coleman to develop part of the Marjorie Street lot, less than two minutes after Mr. Coleman purchased the park property next door at the county with this very plan in mind. Does this raise questions for you? Too bad.

The unanswered questions will remain unanswered, because certain people don’t want to answer them. I’m glad that Mountain Xpress and the League of Women Voters tried to set up this forum, but I am disappointed they allowed a few participants to torpedo it simply by not confirming. Of course they’d rather not face the public. They know how unpopular this thing is. Will they allow it to roll forward? We may not know until it’s too late to stop it. Perhaps that’s the plan.

— Barry Summers

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9 thoughts on “Torpedoing the forum

  1. LOKEL

    Barry, one can go the the Conservancies own website and view plans that illustrate “infill” in that very location (unless those illustrations have been removed by your group).

    Please take a look at the following links (that were at one time on the PackSquarePark website.)

    Can you or anyone else explain what “SITE B” is: since your own published guidelines refer Site B as a “development opportunity that is part of the strategy to bring new life and activity to the PERIMETER OF BOTH PACK SQUARE AND CITY-COUNTY PLAZA.”

    The last link, even shows the suggested sight lines regarding a building in the exact spot of the proposed Parkside Condo.

    These pages in fact prove that there was (at some point) discussion in the planning stages that there INDEED is/was a plan to build on SITE B (the proposed site of the Black Dog project).

    How can you or any other member of the “Conservancy” claim that there was never a building planned on this spot!

  2. LOKEL

    Furthermore, Barry.

    Here is a link, (that no longer exists on the Pack Square Park website), that matches the other watercolor renderings still on the site, that clearly shows a building in the exact spot of the once proposed Parkside Project.

    Explain this rendering – as it came directly from the Pack Square Conservancy’s OWN GUIDELINES.

  3. Barry Summers

    Lokel – At the risk of being attacked again for the crime of merely presenting the facts, here’s the answers to your questions.

    First, to clear up something – I am not now nor have I ever been associated with the Pack Square Conservancy. More often than not, I am one of those folks on the outside challenging them to do more to protect the park. So I am not responsible for any insinuated shenanigans relating to illustrations on their website.

    As to “Site B”, I don’t know how it could be any clearer. That illustration you post there, at the top, the second page down, has a very clear map of the various potential sites for development. Site B is VERY clearly mapped out. The northern edge of “SITE B” is where the wall starts south of the Magnolia tree. Extend that line east towards City Hall, and it follows the southern edge of the building. Basically, it is the entire area SOUTH of that line, including Marjorie Street, and the parking lots south of it. All the Conservancy illustrations that I have ever seen, including the ones in the Guidelines you site here, show potential buildings south of that line. The fly in the ointment was always the Hayes & Hopson building, which the Conservancy had no control over. It was hoped that it could be acquired & demolished, & that line would extend essentially through it’s footprint. That’s what the Guidelines “Site B” illustrations show.

    The Parkside building footprint would have been mostly NORTH of that line, covering a big chunk of what was always assumed to be park. The back quarter of the building would have sat partly on what was called Site B, but most of it was NORTH of that line.

    As for that other illustration, I called spokesperson Donna Clark at the Conservancy, and she confirms that it was done by the same illustrator, but that Coleman had hired him to superimpose HIS building on THEIR illustration. I don’t know how ticked off they are about that, but it was NOT a “Conservancy” illustration. She wasn’t sure if it was ever on their website, but if it had, it was only to refute Coleman’s claim that his building complied with their Guidelines, which it clearly did not. By the way, this conclusion was shared by their own design team, an outside architectural expert, the Downtown Association’s urban planner, and the City Planning staff.

    Does this clear everything up? I won’t say if this confusion about “Site B” and the Parkside building was a deliberate attempt to mislead good people like yourself. However, it sure is hard to have an honest debate when the facts are blurred like this.

  4. LOKEL

    Ok so here is another view of Site B and it seems to dispute your previous post Barry … one can zoom into this image by right clicking on the image.

    It looks this illustration, again from the Conservancies own design guidelines (now removed from their site – for reasons no one can explain), shows a proposed example of a building that the Conservancy deemed OK for the edge of the Park … I do not see a magnolia tree.

  5. LOKEL

    Also in response to your previous comment … if you zoom in on the second illustration down you will see that site B starts right on S. Spruce Street and continue all the way to the City Building (and does include Majorie Street as you suggest) but it is very clear that the Parkside project would have fit into the area know as site B – and no one can deny that these illustrations are from the Conservancies own design guidelines and do show (and tell) that a building has/was considered for that site from the word go (note the date on the page is 2003)

    It seems very disingenuous to me that the Conservancy and others as well act like there was something underhanded about Mr Colemans plans to build in that location (whether or not the land that was sold is/was part of the Pack bequeath).

  6. Barry Summers

    Okay, I guess it’s no use to reply directly to LOKEL anymore. To everyone else: go to the Conservancy image posted by LOKEL second from the top (the one with the yellow highlighting.) Right click on the image, select “View Image”. You can left click & zoom in on the top right image to see that “Site B” is clearly on a line SOUTH of the south facade of City Hall. It’s really that simple.

    If you look at the image below that one, there’s a small lighter rectangle in front of the large “Site B” area. That represents what the Conservancy thought might be an entrance plaza/sidewalk area in front of whatever was on Site B. That rectangle is almost exactly what the Parkside building footprint would have been, INSIDE the park, not to mention the extra land taken up by the road, etc.

    Help me out here – Is this really that hard to follow, or are some people just pretending not to get it?

    As for the absence of the Magnolia tree in that other illustration, look again. No trees at all. Are you now going to say that the Conservancy advocates cutting down all trees anywhere near the park?

  7. ashevillian

    Barry, the TRUTH, is that the kooks running this fiasco cut down more than 50 trees that were already growing within the confines of the park.

    Not to mention the varies flowering plants etc. some of which were planted by civic organizations like Scout troops, garden clubs etc.

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