AshevilleCity - County Gov.Leslee KulbaNews Stories

Big-Ticket Asks Allowed Extended Public Airing


The first project was the greenway/blueway proposed to stretch from Reynolds Village to the UNC Asheville campus. The applicant was the Town of Woodfin, and Town Administrator Jason Young thanked the commissioners for moving his Prezi up on the agenda so he could continue his fifteen-year perfect-attendance streak with the Woodfin aldermen.

The greenway/blueway would stretch along the French Broad River. According to the grant application, it would address just about every sustainability challenge the county faced. It would help with multimodal transit; once completed, people would be able to bike, walk, paddle, or float to work or fresh local food markets. It would improve community health as people would be encouraged to drive less. Rehabilitation of the old Craggy Mountain Line for excursion rail would create a tourist destination with an opportunity for regional storytelling.

The plan calls for several boat launches along the ground trail and general improvements to existing parks and pedways. Five acres of land, donated by the Silver family of Silver-Line Plastics fame, will be converted into a park at a cost of $2,118,000. Young explained it will take about six months to construct the park and eighteen months to navigate the approvals and permitting processes. The Army Corps of Engineers was not going to allow so much as 0.1” of an inch difference in the flood models. The most wow-worthy feature, though, is the $1,587,000 whitewater wave installation just north of the Craggy Mountain Bridge. It would articulate the water surface for kayakers, paddleboarders, tubers, and surfers.

The total cost for the greenway/blueway, to be completed and operational by 2020, was estimated at $13,910,000. The county had previously donated $132,000; and the commissioners were being asked to contribute another $1 million, payable over four years. Co-presenter Marc Hunt explained several grant applications had been submitted to organizations like the Federal Transportation Administration, the Tourism Development Authority, and the state; and the funds from any commitment would improve eligibility for the others.

The second project was the revitalization of Lee Walker Heights, or Lee Walker Hots as it is referred to in the online aftermarket. David Nash, COO of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville, said the public housing development had opened in 1951. The units are structurally sound, but since the bathrooms are upstairs, none of them qualify as handicap-accessible. Another reason for tearing the buildings down and starting again, he said, was the development’s isolation from the rest of the city.

The Housing Authority was asking the county for $4.2 million as an equal match for the City of Asheville’s subsidy. The amount would be payable over three years in the amounts of $2.5 million, $1.2 million, and $0.5 million. Funds would go toward constructing a total of 212 units to replace the existing 96. The buildings would be, “built to green-design standards to the greatest extent possible,” and solar-ready. 184 of the units would be fully accessible or convertible to ADA standards. The watercolor renditions depicted a contemporary urban flair, iconoclastic for public housing.

The land would be graded to build a road to Biltmore Avenue through the old Matthews Ford property. Duke Energy currently owns the parcel, where recent efforts to build a substation met with obstruction. The city is now attempting to purchase the property, which is one of three parcels it has prioritized for creating affordable or mixed-use housing.

Nash said the residents had been involved in a 30-month planning process. They asked for a lot of community space including a special place for after-school programs and several walking trails to “promote community health and activity through the built environment.” Current residents would be given first rights of refusal for the new apartments, which would be rent-controlled and affordable to people earning $7.25 to $17.50 per hour by today’s standards.

Crystal Reid, a resident of almost eight years, described the planning process. She said she hadn’t realized how difficult it is to create affordable housing and quality living space. She was grateful authorities from various agencies reached out to ask what the residents wanted. She went to Raleigh to learn more about the process and share what she learned with her neighbors. “A lot of times,” she said, “residents may not know the words to ask, they may not know how to justify what they’re asking for, and if you don’t open your mouth, you will not know.”

The project was put on hold last year after failing a competitive bid for tax credits. During public comment, Jerry Rice reframed the issue as the commissioners turning unsuspecting taxpayers into a seed venture capital firm.

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