AshevilleCity - County Gov.Leslee KulbaNews Stories

Green chauvinism can’t see forest for trees


By Leslee Kulba –

Tuesday, Asheville City Council celebrated the Platinum LEED certification of the Dr. Wesley Grant, Sr. Southside Center. The new cultural arts center in the Livingston Street community was conceived through discussions of what to do with the aging W.C. Reid Recreational Center. At council’s meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Terry Bellamy wished to congratulate the female architect, Jane Gianvito Mathews and the women that worked for her for their girl power.

Later in the meeting, council unanimously approved the construction of another building for which architects are striving to attain LEED certification. The new quarter-cent tax Buncombe County shoppers have been paying is going toward a five-story, 185,421 sq. ft. Allied Health and Workforce Development Facility on the AB Tech campus. In addition to classroom, office, and lab space, the building will house the college’s daycare facility.

To make way, all buildings of the former St. Genevieve campus will be torn down except for the Ivy Building. Mayor Terry Bellamy was concerned the landscaping would not suffice for the nonconforming edifice. She asked that the buffer be thickened with evergreens added. Already, the parking lot is a maze of green, showing more deference to stormwater best practices than students trying to get to class on time. Councilman Gordon Smith did not mind the height, as the building would be a beacon for the city’s green building standards.

Councilman Marc Hunt championed the cause of cyclists asking for lane striping in the lot. Hunt acknowledged not many people cycle to the college, but thought now was a good time to inspire more of the healthy habit. The developer hesitated, but the matter was laid to rest when avid cyclist Cecil Bothwell said he never has problems manoeuvring around parking lots where traffic is slow. Bike lanes are for streets where motorists can be inattentive or disrespectful.

Smith next championed the cause of transit asking for bus stops on both sides of the street. Upon learning that the bus only goes one way, Smith still wanted the second shelter, and asked that bus service be enhanced to go both ways on Victoria Road. It was Transportation Department Director Ken Putnam who put the matter to rest, showing the routing loop and saying there was no provision in the transit master plan to change it.

After council unanimously approved the plans for the edifice, they revisited an issue from their last meeting. George Morosani had wished to re-establish a mobile home community on part of a lot he had had rezoned for commercial use. Under new standards, he would have had to provide a specified acreage of open space or give the city a fee in lieu amounting to about $50,000. The property was already graced by mature trees, so Morosani asked if that could suffice for the green space. To meet the city’s requirement, he would have to uproot existing infrastructure and the trees – a rather hypocritical, resource-intensive gesture in the name of being green.

Members of council had balked at the idea of waiving the fee in lieu. Councilman Chris Pelly argued open space was for the public and big trees on private property should not count, but Bellamy and Jan Davis argued on behalf of the project’s alignment with council’s strategic goals. After Esther Manheimer, Bothwell, Pelly, and Smith voted against waiving the fee, Bellamy was beside herself. She kept trying to explain to her green friends that they had just voted to penalize somebody for preserving “mature trees, not little shrubs.” Morosani is expected to pay the fee and save the trees.

In Other Matters –

Council unanimously approved the licensing of a pubcycle on an experimental basis. The concept is a form of tour bus powered by a team of peddlers consuming alcoholic beverages. The vehicles will be steered and braked by a sober, licensed professional. The vehicles will only be operated on certain streets, and they are equipped with an electric motor to mitigate traffic snarls.

The city will now have case managers for tracking and expediting permit applications. This will be an enhancement to the one-stop streamlining shop set up to address developers’ complaints about red tape, delays, getting lost in the shuffle, and being told by one inspector to do something only to be told by the next to undo it.

Robert Griffin, who heads the Development Services Department, also announced that the lobby of city hall was going to be retrofitted with modern security features. Although no incidents have been reported, the mayor and others have long felt the need to subject citizens entering the premises to inspection. The problem was figuring out how to do it while respecting the historical significance of the building. The new metal detector and rerouting of civilian foot traffic should be in place sometime around March.

Share this story
Show More

Related Articles