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Last night at commission: mermaid sighting, plastic talk, and more money for Ferry Road

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meet every first and third Tuesday at 200 College Street.
BPR News
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meet every first and third Tuesday at 200 College Street.

Last night, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners held a thorough discussion on the reduction of single-use plastic, awarded more than $700,000 to the Ferry Road project, and appointed Melissa Moore as its new finance director.

Mermaid sighting and plastic wars

Following a Plastic Free march and rally at Pack Square Park, 13 members of various environmental coalitions – including resident Sarah Ray, dressed as a French Broad River mermaid, spoke during the public comment period to advocate for a ban on single-use plastic bags and plastic foam/Styrofoam takeout containers in Buncombe County.

While Buncombe County has not voted on any ordinance related to plastic bag bans, surrounding cities, including Asheville, Woodfin, and Black Mountain have all agreed to begin phasing out single-use plastic bags. The City of Asheville was the first to move on this issue, formally launching its Plastic Reduction Initiative in October 2022.

Thickening the plot on plastic regulation is a leaked provision on page 67 of the NC state budget that would limit the power of local government from adopting a resolution that “prohibits or otherwise regulates the use, disposition, or sale of an auxiliary container.”

At the meeting, local advocates maintained that even if this provision passes, local governments should find creative ways to work around the problem and decrease plastic use in Buncombe County.

Currently, there is no draft ordinance on a potential plastic ban, confirmed county spokesperson Lillian Govus.

“That would have to go through the Environmental & Energy Stewardship Subcommittee. They meet again on October 20. Anything would have to go through that before it gets to the agenda for commissioners,” Govus said.

More money for Ferry Road

The Ferry Road Project, a future affordable housing development on county-owned land, received an additional $718,616 in COVID Recovery funding. The money was originally slated for a Mountain Housing Opportunities project, but the organization said it no longer wished to accept funding in that form due to “clawback requirements in the contract” and asked to receive funds from the Affordable Housing General Obligation Bond money. The county approved both measures.

This new funding for Ferry Road builds on the $2.2 million approved for the project at the September 5 meeting. In total, Ferry Road has received $4.9 million in COVID Recovery funding from the county. The money will support the creation of an access road and the development of housing in partnership with the NC Department of Transportation and Development Finance Institute, respectively.

Economic development policy… develops 

The county made changes to its economic development incentives for the first time since 2017. In a presentation, Tim Love, the county’s director of economic development, outlined the major changes, which include:

  • An updated wage index that awards economic incentives to employers on a sliding scale based on the number of new jobs created that meet particular requirements. The regulation requires new positions to match the county’s median single-person household of $28.60/hour for 2022 in order to receive a higher incentive. 
  • Possible bonus incentives for companies offering a higher percentage of jobs meeting or exceeding that wage.
  • Employers who receive incentives will be required to participate in the Inclusive Hiring Partners, a local resource that directs companies to use more equitable hiring practices, or an equivalent program. 

Other tidbits

  • Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month runs from September 15-October 15. The county made a formal proclamation, honoring the “invaluable ways Hispanics and Latinos contribute to our common goals, celebrate their diverse cultures, and work toward a stronger, more inclusive, and more prosperous society for all.”  
  • Melissa Moore was named as the county’s new finance director. Moore joins the county from Pflugerville, Texas, where she served as the city’s finance director. 
  • Mountain Mobility, a transport service that primarily serves senior adults and people with disabilities, is on the road to seek more funding. Commissioners voted unanimously to start the process of applying for $1.6 million in federal and nearly $180,000 in state dollars to expand its programming. 

Every first and third Tuesday, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meets at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville beginning at 5:00 p.m. See the full recording of the September 19 meeting.

Laura Hackett joined Blue Ridge Public Radio in June 2023. Originally from Florida, she moved to Asheville more than six years ago and in that time has worked as a writer, journalist, and content creator for organizations like AVLtoday, Mountain Xpress, and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has a degree in creative writing from Florida Southern College, and in 2023, she completed the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY's Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program. In her free time, she loves exploring the city by bike, testing out new restaurants, and hanging out with her dog Iroh at French Broad River Park.