Around 100 people attended Asheville City Council’s nearly five-hour meeting on March 14, during which 27 speakers declared both resistance and support for the conversion of the Flatiron Building into a hotel.
City Chief Financial Officer Barbara Whitehorn proposed that Asheville institute a program of regularly issued general obligation bonds to support capital improvement projects, while Council member Julie Mayfield discussed a property tax increase to boost Asheville’s operating budget.
While Mayor Esther Manheimer recommended in October that local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel resubmit their proposal to Asheville City Council in at least “a year’s time,” the two aren’t waiting. Their hotel is back on the agenda for Council’s meeting of Tuesday, March 12, less than five months after its first consideration.
City Manager Debra Campbell called the Feb. 12 capital budget briefing “food for thought” as she encouraged Council members to focus and prioritize their objectives. “This is why we’re presenting this information,” she said. “We’ve got some tough decisions that we need to make over the next several years.”
“Don’t just think that this is going to be somebody calling on the phone about a bar down the street or their neighbor next door,” said Council member Keith Young. “This opens up a larger door. I am totally not comfortable opening up a new pathway into our criminal justice system.”
A 170-room proposal on Fairview Road was voted down 6-1, with only Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler dissenting, while a public hearing on a 56-room project on Biltmore Avenue was continued at the developer’s request until March 26. Council members Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield raised concerns about the former hotel’s place in longer-term plans for Asheville.
In its first known formal engagement with Asheville, Airbnb sent two of its representatives to an Oct. 23 discussion of homestay regulations sponsored by the Homestay Network, a local group representing over 600 legally permitted homestay hosts. The firm has also committed to another meeting of over 50 stakeholders on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
“I am writing this letter to ask those who are making a lot of money here and others to donate to this reward and also consider helping set up a large reward fund to be used in all serious gun violence cases.”
According to interim City Manager Cathy Ball, Council held a closed session vote on the amount of Hooper’s $118,000 compensation. Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, and Council members Keith Young, Sheneika Smith and Brian Haynes all voted in favor of the agreement, while Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield voted in opposition.
To alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow, the N.C. Department of Transportation is in the early planning stages for widening Sweeten Creek Road from Rock Hill Road to Hendersonville Road.
At City Council’s Nov. 13 budget work session, four department directors spoke about their troubles with obtaining bids on service and construction contracts, recruiting qualified employees and retaining current staff. Burgeoning activity in other parts of the economy, they said, had created stiff competition for workers.
After Mayor Esther Manheimer and Council members Keith Young and Brian Haynes shared their intent to reject the project, attorney Wyatt Stevens pulled the building from consideration on behalf of his clients, local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel.
The Land Use Incentive Grant point maximum will increase from 140 to 200, with every 10 points worth a rebate of one year of city property taxes above a property’s pre-development total. But developers will also face stricter conditions when applying for LUIG money: The minimum period for which a project must guarantee affordable housing will increase from 15 to 20 years.
At the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 13th annual Elected Officials Reception on Aug. 16, local politicians acknowledged that the intensity of recent city and county government scandals have sometimes pushed other issues to the side.
On Aug. 13, the Planning & Economic Development Committee recommended that staff throw out the kitchen sink from the current definition. Council members Gwen Wisler, Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield moved to adopt a new “maximum flexibility” definition for kitchen spaces.
“Where is the questioning and outrage about this and other fatal shootings of area young people, especially those in public housing? “
“So in the name of progress, neighborhoods are being displaced, communities’ concerns are being ignored, and the people charged to serve the greater good have given over to the avarice of so-called ‘progress.'”
No additional changes made their way into this year’s budget as Council decided to adopt the ordinance in a 4-3 vote. Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice-Mayor Gwen Wisler, and Council members Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield all voted in support of the budget. Members Brian Haynes, Sheneika Smith and Keith Young voted against the plan; all three had shown hesitation about a police funding increase during previous work sessions.
Two weeks before the Fourth of July, the meeting’s agenda promises a grand finale of rhetorical explosions over two matters of unfinished business. The first is the Asheville city budget, which Council member Brian Haynes has said he will not support as long as it contains funding for additional officers to staff the Asheville Police Department’s downtown district. The second is a series of resolutions to rescind and replace the three motions on police policy previously proposed by Young and passed by Council on May 22.
In the letter, Kapoor writes that he will ask Council to “reconsider” its actions at the upcoming meeting on Tuesday, June 19. Speaking with Xpress, he clarified that he’ll be calling for the motions to be rescinded and their substance explored through the normal committee process.