The following guidelines are best practices for getting public officials to tune you in if you are involved in a development issue. Each piece of advice is based on interviews with people who used to turn thumbs up — or thumbs down — on development projects and others with experience in the field.
Council will vote on whether to reconsider a previous vote denying a conditional zoning for the project. If approved, Council members will have the opportunity to vote again on an updated proposal.
Members of the public wishing to speak live will be required to attend in-person and sign up at the meeting.
“When people are not in the same physical space, experiencing all the facial expressions, body postures and subtle tones of voice that others in the room are privy to, we don’t have a level playing field.”
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.
The new plan will include a hybrid model that will allow residents to either call in or attend commission meetings in person. In June, the public comment policy will shift entirely to in-person, eliminating the option for the public to call in to the meetings.
According to a staff report available before the meeting by Jennifer Barnette, Buncombe County’s budget director, the money comes from two federal programs funneled through the N.C. State Board of Elections. The federal coronavirus rescue package accounts for about $183,000 of the funding, while the Help America Vote Act provides the remaining $172,000.
Community members claim Asheville City Council tried to limit opportunities for public comment during its meeting of July 28 by introducing several new policies to regulate callers.
“Right now, the U.S. Forest Service is drafting the next forest management plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests … and, unfortunately, the current draft is inadequate in a few very important ways when it comes to protecting water quality.”
Many of the commenters during Asheville City Council’s June 9 meeting called for the resignation of Asheville Police Chief David Zack and Mayor Esther Manheimer. Many more called for the immediate defunding of the APD. The comments came at the end of a five-hour meeting held virtually and fraught with technical difficulties.
Tim Love, Buncombe County’s director of intergovernmental relations, said that roughly 75% of individuals seeking assistance from the One Buncombe Fund had been employed in the hospitality industry. Of those requests, he added, the vast majority were for support to maintain rent or mortgage payments.
On Feb. 14, the U.S. Forest Service kicked off a 90-day comment period on the long-awaited draft of a new plan for the forests, set to take effect in 2021 and guide the service’s management approach over the next 10-15 years. Comment online, by mail and at public meetings throughout WNC ends on Thursday, May 14.
During a Nov. 19 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, attorney Ron Payne said the settlement would bring the suit to an end, “hopefully in somewhat of an expeditious manner.” All six commissioners present were in favor of accepting the settlement, with Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferrara absent for the vote.
At the Sept. 17 regular meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, Mountain Xpress shared concerns about new fees for the fulfillment of public record requests. In a unanimous vote, the commission authorized the county’s communications office to assess special charges for requests deemed particularly extensive.
Under the new rules, proposed by Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman, members of the public would no longer be permitted to comment on each of the board’s motions individually. Instead, all public input would be lumped into a single general comment period, moved to the start of the meeting from its current position at the end.
Many emails represent the views of local organizations and user groups – such as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council, the Friends of Big Ivy, and mountain bikers – who have played active and forceful roles during the forest plan revision.
Buncombe County commissioners approved setting goals to make all county operations run on renewable energy sources by 2030 and all community operations run on renewable energy within 25 years.
Swannanoa residents met with members of the Community Advisory Group, federal and state environmental protection officials Thursday evening to review the 2016 Record of Decision for the Chemtronics Superfund site. The EPA also revealed the presence of a new contamination detection on the property.
On Thursday, Nov. 13, the Asheville-based investigative news outlet Carolina Public Press hosted its first Newsmakers series — in this case, a lively discussion that dived questions about the U.S. Forest Service’s draft plan for 1 million acres of public lands in Western North Carolina. (photos by Pat Barcas)