The Asheville City Council meets this Tuesday 9/12/23 at 5 pm. You can attend the meeting on the 2nd Floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting online at this link.The full agenda for the formal meeting is here.
The Community Reparations Commission will hold their next meeting Monday, September 18th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The meeting will be held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. The public is welcome to attend. Meeting materials are available here. The meeting will be recorded and streamed here.
Use our prepared email template to take action on this week’s item.
Things that are top priority
Public Hearing A. Public hearing to conditionally zone 1 Oak Street from Central Business District to Central Business Expansion/Conditional Zone for the purpose of approving a conceptual master plan for the development of several multi-story buildings consisting of residential, hotel, retail and office uses. (Staff memo, Presentation)
This public hearing was rescheduled last month. City Council is being asked to approve a rezoning request for a 10.5 acre parcel containing three properties. The long term plan is to build five buildings: a six-story building with residential and retail spaces, a second six-story building with office and commercial spaces, a third six-story building with residential and commercial spaces, a nineteen-story building with residential and commercial spaces, and a twenty-story hotel.
We continue to have many of the same concerns raised in our August 21st GAP Report, when this item was last on the agenda. We know that the residents of the East End/Valley Street neighborhood, Asheville’s oldest historical Black community, have misgivings about aspects of this project, including the height of the proposed hotel. The project area includes land seized through eminent domain under so-called “urban renewal,” part of the legacy of harm that the City of Asheville apologized and promised to make amends for when it passed its Reparations Resolution in 2020. This is why our report from three weeks ago emphasized how important it is that East End’s concerns and needs be influential as this process moves forward.
The good news is that the developers (Project Aspire) have communicated a commitment to do that. Project Aspire wrote to East End residents last week to “offer a seat at the table next to us during the project process.” They went on to list a series of commitments, including hosting regular community meetings and inviting East End representatives to participate in development meetings. (You can read the full list of their commitments in the excerpted email below).
Unfortunately, none of these commitments have been included in the official zoning request that City Council will vote on. There is a simple remedy: City Council needs to make an amendment to the zoning request that incorporates the developer’s commitments before they approve it, in order to support the developer’s efforts and hold them accountable. If Project Aspire’s communicated commitments are sincere – and we see no reason to doubt that they are – then they should welcome this amendment.
Things to do
Write to the Asheville City Council and urge them to amend this rezoning request to include the commitments that the developers have already put in writing, so that there is an assurance that the needs of East End/Valley Street community members will be addressed.
We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue. You can (a) use our City Council template link to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.
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 addresses listed. Please consider making edits that reflect your personal interests and concerns on this issue.
Send to: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov
Subject: Amend the Oak St. Rezoning to Include Developer Commitments
Dear City Council Members,
I’m writing about an item on your agenda for Tuesday night, the rezoning of 1 Oak Street in order to facilitate a new development that includes a twenty-story hotel. I was pleased to hear that Project Aspire, the developers of this project, have made a series of commitments to the residents of the East End/Valley Street neighborhood, including hosting community input sessions, and having representatives from the neighborhood included in development meetings. These promises should be included in the conditions for this conditional zoning request, so that the East End community has some assurance that they will be honored. I’m writing to ask you to offer an amendment to the existing rezoning request to include these promises. I want the City’s actions to support Project Aspire’s valuable commitments and also create a channel by which they can be held accountable for them.
Thank you for your leadership,
Email Excerpt from Project Aspire
“(We) want to express that we hear the collective East End concerns, and not only hope to understand them, but also to offer a seat at the table next to us during the project process. In response to hearing your collective concerns Project Aspire commits to:
- Continue an ongoing dialogue and conversation regarding the process and development plans for the overall project, enabling the East End community to be aware of what is developing and to seek ways for participation.
- Host East End community meetings as part of each subsequent Level II application process within the masterplan.
- Invite a representative (up to three) for participation in conceptual development conversations for housing in Phase I and Phase II.
- Explore the involvement of a qualified African American nonprofit sponsor, to own or manage the Affordable Housing and/or Affordable Workspaces concept planned to wrap the Phase II public garage.
- Providing a forum for East End representatives to interface with the proposed hotel operator to discuss community objectives.
- Join the East End in asking the City for safer/improved access (crossing) from the East End to the CBD.
- Foster diversity and inclusion by creating meaningful connections to include hosting a Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) outreach program for:
- Connection with MWBE Vendors
- Connecting Prime Contractors with Sub-Contractors
- Providing project information to qualified MWBE participants in advance to help align opportunities.