There is very big money that can be made by developers in downtown Asheville. There is very great damage that can be done to the Asheville community by development that is inappropriately sited, overly big or that has other community problems.
We seem to have to keep fighting these off-the-human-scale projects, including what now appears to be a major project waiting on the sidelines: the 11-story condominium in front of City Hall in City/County Plaza, being pushed by builder Stewart Coleman. This is the project that is the subject of a lawsuit about a segment of possible public parkland being sold by Buncombe County government.
Fortunately, right at this moment, I think there is at least one something we can do to push in the community direction.
From what I can see, the six candidates running for City Council—of which we will each get to vote for three—clearly break into two groups, conveniently of three candidates each. Based on their past actions, votes and sources of financial support, I basically would call these groups the pro-general-community group and the pro-development group.
I think we need to vote for the pro-general-community group of Brownie Newman, Bryan Freeborn and Elaine Lite. I believe they have genuine interest in Asheville as a community and have worked, each in their own way, to strengthen our community infrastructure, environment, transit, energy conservation and citizen access to government.
I think the pro-development group of Jan Davis, Dwight Butner and Bill Russell includes two older candidates who have definitely made positive contributions to the community, but as a group would support development I do not want to see. Jan Davis has voted pro-development. When Dwight Butner talks of making the highest and best use of property, it appears to me he is talking in economic terms and not in smaller-scale, quality-of-life terms. When Bill Russell talks of “balance” in city government but has an overwhelming majority of his financial support come from real estate and development people (including, apparently, $1,000 from Stewart Coleman—who would like to develop [that] 11-story condominium), I think I have a good idea of what kind of “balance” he wants.
Please come out and vote on Nov. 6, or vote now at the [Board] of Elections during Early Voting. Please know that the people we elect now determine what our city of Asheville looks and feels like in 10 years.
— James Sheeler