Funding applicants present to the Housing and Community Development Committee on March 24. Photo by Kari Barrows

City Council subcommitt­ee reviews nonprofit funding requests

Nonprofit organizations made their best pitch to City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee for a share of federal and city funds for the 2017-18 fiscal year at a day-long meeting on Friday, March 24. Some left happy, while others expressed dissatisfaction with a process they said favored established city partners who had received funding in prior years.

OTTER-LY ENGAGING: The Nature Center’s otter inhabitants draw kids and adults alike to watch their antics, which can be playful, cuddly and athletic, all in the space of a few minutes. Photo courtesy of the WNC Nature Center

The incredible shrinking subsidy: WNC Nature Center achieves 3-year reduction goal in one year

When the WNC Nature Center learned the city of Asheville’s subsidy for the facility would shrink by more than half over three years, the environmental education attraction wasn’t immediately sure how it would make up the funding shortfall. But it didn’t take long to figure it out: the Nature Center met the three-year goal in only one year. The attraction is expanding to meet demand, and visitation is setting new records nearly every month.

FULL HOUSE: This drawing from the 2013 Asheville/Buncombe Child Watch tour depicts the living situation of a local family. With rents continuing to increase in 2017, families and individuals are looking for new solutions to finding affordable places to live.

Space race: Deconstruc­ting Asheville’­s affordable housing problem

While 2016 statistics show increasing availability in the area’s rental housing market, Asheville renters say their choices remain limited and prices steep. Several city initiatives — including a $25 million affordable housing bond referendum approved by voters in November — aim to bolster the supply of affordable housing, while some private-sector players are pursuing similar goals.

FUTURE VISION: At the city planning department’s offices, Planning Director Todd Okolichany reviews documents with staff. Planner Stacy Merten, left of Okolichany, is the staff lead for the comprehensive plan update project. Photo by Virginia Daffron

The road ahead: Asheville launches comprehens­ive planning process

Asheville’s last comprehensive city plan was completed in 2003. Since then, the city has gained 16,000 residents and embarked on a wide range of revitalization, infrastructure and multimodal transportation projects. Now it’s time to begin a new planning process that will span a year and a half and involve a broad cross-section of the city’s residents.

City Council will hear a report on the conclusions of a community visioning process as the next step on Haywood Street parcels. Photo by Virginia Daffron

What’s next for Haywood Street site?

One clear winner from the 2015 City Council elections: local hopes for a public space for the city-owned lots facing the Basilica of St. Lawrence and the U.S. Cellular Center. Not so clear: exactly what kind of space Asheville needs and who will pay for it. The city’s Planning and Economic Development committee took up the hot potato issue to try to figure out how to move forward.

URBAN FOREST  Unaware of the controversy over their fate, 23 mature oaks stand on a knoll overlooking Coxe Avenue. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Oaks’ last stand: South Slope urban forest won’t get city funds

If the 23 mature oak trees at 11 Collier Ave. on Asheville’s South Slope are to escape the chainsaw, it will have to be without the city’s help. While City Council followed through on its commitment to explore possible strategies for preserving the urban forest, in the end Council decided that committing resources to the effort in advance of significant private fundraising wasn’t a responsible use of taxpayer assets.

Following a moment of silence in remembrance of former Councilman Marc Hunt's son Taylor, Boy Scout Troop 91 led the Pledge of Allegiance. Photo by Virginia Daffron

City Council to take steps on expanding Homestays, planning for park

In its first full meeting since three newly-elected Council members were seated, City Council moved in new directions on a public space for a city-owned lot on Haywood Street and on including some accessory dwelling units in the city’s homestay ordinance for short-term rentals. Council also considered downtown development review standards and passed a resolution on the I-26 connector project.