“Perhaps there was a mistake, but Asheville City Mayor Esther Manheimer forgot to include an entire paragraph WNC4Peace submitted for an International Day of Peace proclamation.”
While the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners did not make a formal commitment to any plan for the 137-acre site, several members expressed a desire for denser development focused on housing.
The first week of August was déjà vu all over again for Jane Anderson, executive director of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association. After a jubilant but all too brief return to near normalcy for the hospitality industry beginning in late spring, COVID-19 cases were again on the rise, and business owners were once again forced […]
The largest single grant of $4 million will support broadband infrastructure expansion in unserved areas of the county. Brownie Newman, chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, said that investment would leverage an additional $6 million from the state of North Carolina and private broadband providers.
Asheville Cider Crawl is set for Saturday, Aug. 28, plus the Omni Grove Park Inn hosts its 29th annual National Gingerbread House Competition, Metro Wines raises money for homeless pets, and more local food news.
Currently, Buncombe recommends indoor masking as a response to COVID-19 but has instituted no legal mandate. The city of Asheville also plans to reinstate a similar requirement, while rules in other county municipalities would be left to their governing bodies.
Residents who have owned their primary residence for at least five years and make no more than 80% of the area median income — $60,100 for a family of four — could apply for aid to cover property tax increases starting Sunday, Aug. 1.
In Asheville and Buncombe County, the return to in-person government meetings has also meant a return to in-person public comment — and the end of live remote comment, despite there being no technological obstacle to continuing the practice. The decision has drawn concern from citizens who say it reduces their ability for civic participation.
House Bill 412 would enable the two Haywood County municipalities to levy a 2% occupancy tax on accommodations like hotels, motels and Airbnbs, which would then be managed by new town-specific tourism development authorities.
Buncombe County’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget — passed unanimously by the Board of Commissioners on June 15 — includes an effective property tax increase of 2 cents per $100 of valuation. It also includes $300,000 toward property tax relief grants.
If the vote takes place as planned, it would mark the second consecutive year in which the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the budget immediately after the public hearing. Last year, Chair Brownie Newman noted that the board has historically allowed some time between the hearing and the vote to consider resident input.
“The last three superintendents we’ve had here, including you, have not brought anything but mayhem to the school system,” declared Buncombe Commissioner Al Whitesides to Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman.
The ordinance drew over an hour of public comment, with the majority of speakers in favor of the law.
“Brownie Newman says that if we give tax relief to businesses that have suffered from the pandemic, we would have to raise taxes on everyone else in order to maintain county services.”
“The path we’re on right now is a collision that puts us backwards and actually takes classrooms offline,” said Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, regarding the Asheville City Schools plan to relocate preschool classrooms from Asheville Primary School to other elementary schools and Asheville Housing Authority developments.
The funds, equal to roughly a quarter of budgeted property tax revenue for the current fiscal year and more than its budgeted spending on general government administration, represent by far the largest pot of federal support yet provided to the county during the pandemic.
“We would end up basically having to raise taxes on everyone else to fund these rebates to businesses that we understand have had a tough year, but many of which have had a great decade ahead of this year,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman.
Presentations by the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment and Planning Board, both delivered to the county Board of Commissioners on Feb. 2, emphasized the need for changes in how the county handles its zoning and land use policy.
Of Buncombe County’s roughly 1,600 employees, 465 are currently working remotely, and 283 have said they would continue to do so indefinitely if allowed. If those employees remained remote, the county would need about 22,700 fewer square feet of office space, allowing for more services to be consolidated in fewer buildings.
While county relief has heretofore been available only in the form of low-interest loans, businesses will now be able to seek grants of $5,000 to hire or rehire employees at a living wage. Staff had previously believed such a grant program to be illegal but had since received updated guidance from the UNC School of Government.
“We recognize that it’s not a perfect system and the demand is quite high,” said Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County’s public health director, at a Jan. 12 special meeting called to address local vaccination efforts. “We just want to reiterate that we will not have sufficient supply of vaccine for a very long time, so it is likely that we will still hear frustration and concerns about being able to get an appointment.”