Use our prepared email template to take action on this week’s item.
Things of concern, more information needed
This is a rezoning request to facilitate the building of a new residential/commercial building adjacent to Maple Crest Apartments. The project site covers a total area of 4.59 acres, is located at 319 and 311 Biltmore Avenue, and will be developed into two buildings with a total of 221 residential units. From the staff report: “A total of 30% of the units (67 units) will be affordable with a target of 20% (45 units) at 60% Area Median Income (AMI) and below and a target of 10% (22 units) at 80% AMI and below, all for a minimum of 30 years.”
The folks at Just Economics sent out an action alert, inviting the Asheville City Council to push for improvements to the plan. They suggest that an additional 10% of the units (22 units) be set-asides for Housing Choice Voucher recipients. They also called for “the commercial space to be designated for a small grocery store, child care center or other entity that benefits the residents of Maple Crest and the future residents of 319 Biltmore.” We agree with these goals and encourage people to email City Council about them.
Things to do
Please email Asheville City Council encouraging them to amend the zoning request to include a provision for housing choice vouchers and a specific designation for use of the commercial space that benefits the community.
We have prepared an email template to reach out about this issue. You can (a) use our City Council email template to open up an email you can adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below this chart into an email, or (c) write your own message to email@example.com
Update: Buncombe County Commission Proposed Board Meeting Time/Schedule Change (Original Proposal from 6/6/23 meeting)
The Buncombe County Commission discussed a scheduling change at it’s June 6th meeting, and postponed a final decision, seeking more community input. They currently meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 5 pm. With the proposed change, they would meet at 10 am on the first Tuesday of each month; the meeting on the third Tuesday would remain at 5 pm.
We raised serious concerns about this proposed scheduling change in our 6/5/23 report and our 6/20/23 report. We reasoned that shifting one of the two County Commission meetings to the morning would make it almost impossible for many working people to attend. We have since learned through communication with County Commissioner Martin Moore that the proposal to shift the meeting schedule was in fact intended to increase equitable access. Mr. Moore pointed out that the existing schedule makes it virtually impossible for many service workers to be able to attend since they work evening hours. The County is seeking community input on this proposed scheduling change through an online survey, and we would encourage everyone to participate. We’re not sure an online survey alone will gather sufficient data, especially from more marginalized populations, but it is a starting point.
Things to do
Fill out Buncombe County’s scheduling survey. Share it with people in your network, especially those who often work evening hours.
Updates on previous items
Another Followup: Community Responder Pilot Program
We’ve been tracking this issue since April (see GAP Reports from 4/3/23, 4/10/23, 5/8/23, 5/15/23, 5/22/23, and 6/12/23). Originally, we raised questions about the Community Responder program based on a presentation by Asheville Fire Department Assistant Chief Captain Patrick Crudup at an Environment and Public Safety meeting. The stated goal of the program is “to focus collective efforts to assist persons that are unsheltered and/or experiencing addiction or experiencing behavioral health issues.” We asked whether the folks being placed in these new positions were going to receive any racial equity training, and if so, how that training would be implemented.
In the weeks that followed, we learned that the Community Responders received the same racial equity training that all City of Asheville employees receive. We wondered whether they received any more specialized training, and more broadly what structures had been set up to support them around issues of race. Most recently, we sent this question to City Manager Debra Campbell.
We received a response from Ms. Campbell, affirming that the City believes the training offered to the Community Responders was adequate to prepare them for their critical work. She wrote: “The Equity and Inclusion Trainings that we have provided for our Community Responders provides them with the tools, awareness, and skills to interact with and respond to our Community in a very Human, Equitable, and Inclusive way; reducing, eliminating, and helping to prevent harm.” She said that the pilot program would be evaluated after it concludes, and at that time the City would consider whether additional training was required. (You can read her full response below.)
We still have questions about the racial equity training process for this pilot project in particular and for the City as a whole. We will take note of how the City evaluates the training needs after the Community Responder pilot concludes, and will update you then.
Things to do
We are not recommending that community members take action on this item at this time. We will continue to monitor this issue and update you if action is needed.
Email from Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell
Thank you for your email and the opportunity to explain in more detail the content and intent of the equity training facilitated by City staff.
The “standard equity trainings” facilitated by the City’s Equity and Inclusion Department are designed to address your stated concern of implicit bias. The Equity and Inclusion Trainings that we have provided for our Community Responders, provides them with the tools, awareness, and skills to interact with and respond to our Community in a very Human, Equitable, and Inclusive way; reducing, eliminating, and helping to prevent harm. Along with the awareness and understanding of how to notice when Implicit Bias shows up and what meaningful actions to take within themselves, to prevent and address any unintended harm.
The Equity and Inclusion Trainings provided are not training that specializes in addictions and homelessness. The Community Responders are not addiction or homelessness specialists; they are however, well equipped and trained to respond to the needs of our Community in a way that addresses the immediate needs of our residents and visitors. For example emergency care, education and transportation to resources, etc.
While the pilot program is a focused initiative, our firefighters interact with community members of color who are navigating addiction and/or homelessness on a regular basis. The five individuals selected for the pilot program have an average of over 16 years with the Asheville Fire Department responding to calls and working with those experiencing crisis.
The Community Responder 60 day pilot was designed to connect those in need with available resources, and gather information on what gaps we have in our community. Following the pilot, we will take that information and available resources and decide on a path forward. We can then assess what the program could look like going forward and what additional training requirements would be included.
CITY COUNCIL EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT
You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can copy and paste the text below into an email and then address it to the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subject: The 319 Biltmore project could be improved
Dear City Council Members,
I read about an item on your June 27th agenda, a proposed shift in the zoning for 319 Biltmore Ave. I am encouraged that the developer is suggesting that 30% of the units be “affordable,” with 20% of the units offered at 60% of Area Median Income. I would like to see an additional 10% of the units be set-asides for Housing Choice Voucher recipients. I also think that the proposed commercial space could be designated for a use that benefits the residents of Maple Crest and the future residents of 319 Biltmore, such as a small grocery store or child care center.
Thanks for your leadership,