Form-based codes are the zonings du jour. Whereas traditionally zoning was believed imperative to prevent concrete plants and pig farms from moving into vibrant neighborhood communities; form-based codes legislate form rather than function. That is, a pig farm could move next-door, as long as it observes requirements for height, setback, and transparent fenestration. To avoid this, form-based codes typically have some kind of land use tables as well. The stated advantage is to promote the nebulous notion of feel.
The plan called for creating six districts, each with its own aesthetic guidelines to, as urban planner Alan Glines explained, “explain what we expect to happen where.” Some districts were designed to promote business growth, while others were intended to preserve historicity. “As you know, it is very hard for property owners to come together and all agree on changing everything out at the same time,” he explained.” So this is a very long-term plan that will take twenty to thirty years for a full buildout.”Glines said 900 letters were sent out for both the P&Z and city council public hearings. About fifty people responded, and for the most part, they were happy with the changes.
But during council’s public hearing half a dozen residents expressed concerns about the plan. Dierdre Duffy led off requesting that the scale be toned down, or maybe increased gradually, with demand. She had understood there would be a two-story limit, but now, four and six stories would be allowed. The watercolor renderings the neighborhood had been shown displayed one- and two-story buildings, but she didn’t believe the current plan even allowed one-story buildings. Glines later indicated some areas would be allowed to have buildings with seven stories.
Parking was another concern. The plan called for one space per housing unit, and she thought one space per bedroom might make more sense. “I don’t know how you figured it out, but I don’t think that’s enough parking,” she said. “I’m just concerned that the neighborhoods are going to become the spillover parking. It already is happening.”
Paul Olszewski shared similar concerns about traffic. “People are parking 500 feet into the community behind Isis Restaurant. . . . There are seven bars in three square blocks, right at the end of my street. And so people have been drinking and having a great time, and then they fly past my house.” Olszewski expressed concerns about his kids walking to and from school.
Michael Kohnle said he understood the common interest in keeping industry and ten-story hotels off Haywood Road, but shared, “I’m afraid we may have gone too far with this in some instances. A little two-lane road, with four-story, wall-to-wall buildings – I think it’s going to be a bit dark and canyony in there. . . . The charette folks didn’t show an accurate representation. They didn’t show four-story buildings, wall-to-wall, going down there when we had our presentations. They showed shadows just going to the middle of the road, and they’re going to go a lot farther than that in winter and shade both sides of the street.”
Council approved the plan unanimously.
Without much ado, council also adopted the Riverside Drive Development Plan. The city has acquired ten acres of property in the River Arts District. Much of the land is in a floodplain, and structures are derelict. It was decided that the land should be turned into a beautiful greenspace for passive recreation, accessible via multimodal transit. The buildable portion would be developed as a mixed-use urban village with affordable housing through public/private partnerships. 14 Riverside Drive would be turned into a portal to the RAD, by all means accessible by all modes of transportation. It would also be home to public lavatories.
Pattiy Torno, representing the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission, explained the RDDP was a drilldown, fine-grained addition to the Wilma Dykeman Riverway Plan. That plan was written and revised in 2000 and 2004, when there was hardly any business on the riverfront. Now, there are numerous new businesses, including pizzerias, breweries, and cafés. The RDDP represents the findings from 500 interviews with stakeholders from the RAD. Torno suggested the RDDP be accepted as an amendment to the Wilma Dykeman Riverway Plan. Furthermore, she and consultant Tom Gallagher agreed it was time for some type of master plan for the riverfront.
Councilman Marc Hunt requested that the public restroom component for 14 Riverside Drive not be forgotten. People enjoying river sports would need lavatories. “That has nothing to do with how long this meeting’s been,” added Mayor Esther Manheimer.
As the meeting began, Manheimer shared an announcement she received just prior to the meeting. “The city received some super-exciting news today, that our federal grant application for the river redevelopment project known as RADTIP has been funded. [applause] And that amounts to $14.6 million of the $30 million plan.“ Throughout the meeting, presenters complimented council on their accomplishment.