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Stay on the pulse of the decisions being made at meetings for Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commission, with reports from BPR’s Laura Hackett.

Last night at Council: Tourism money for affordable housing? And a vote on Long Shoals housing project delayed

Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer proclaims November 11-18 as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Laura Hackett
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer proclaims November 11-18 as Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

Most of the 70-plus seats were empty at last night’s Asheville City Council meeting, but there were still important conversations about the use of local tourism funds and a housing development in South Asheville. Read on for the big discussions at the November 14 meeting.

Local tourism could fund affordable housing, regional infrastructure 

Money from local tourism may soon help fund infrastructure projects and affordable housing in the Asheville area.

After mounting public pressure from groups like Buncombe Decides and Asheville Food and Beverage for local tourism dollars to support affordable housing, a representative from the city shared an update on potential funding from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA).

In a presentation, Assistant to the City Manager Jaime Matthews shared possible subject areas for LIFT fund – or Legacy Investment from Tourism – applications: support affordable housing, infrastructure, and other regional assets like the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and Municipal Golf Course.

The LIFT fund, worth around $10 million, comes from the occupancy taxes, and the BCTDA will decide how to allocate the funds.

Buncombe County is submitting an application for $6 million dollars for the Ferry Road Project, a mixed-use housing project geared towards teachers, first responders, and social service professionals.

Asheville City Council is applying for $3 million to improve sidewalks and multimodal transportation along Coxe Ave. downtown, along with $1 million for the Nasty Branch Greenway and nearly $2.5 million for the repair of HVAC systems and other structures at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and Harrah’s Cherokee Center.

Councilmembers Sage Turner and Maggie Ullman expressed concern that the city was not submitting an affordable housing application.

“I am very very strong in my opinion that the lodging tax should go to affordable housing construction. And this is the first swing at that option, so let’s put forth a statement to support Ferry Road” Turner said.

Mayor Esther Manheimer and councilwoman Sandra Kilgore pushed back on this idea.

“Affordable housing is extremely important, we do everything we can to leverage more and more affordable housing in this city,” Manheimer said.

“Now that, for the very first time, we’re in a situation where this money can be used for maintenance, we need to have a conversation about what that means for the city. We have a lot of facilities that need to be maintained.”

The window for LIFT applications closes on December 1 and grant recipients are expected to be announced next spring.

Members of the Flournoy Development Group at the Asheville City Council meeting.
Laura Hackett
Members of the Flournoy Development Group at the Asheville City Council meeting.

A vote on South Asheville housing development delayed ‘til next month 

Council opted to delay a vote on a proposed housing development off Long Shoals Road. The project would bring nearly 300 units to a 8.8 acre plot of land across from Lake Julian.

Flournoy Development Group applied for conditional zoning for slimmer sidewalks, permission to have no bike lanes, and to increase unit density from 20 units/acre to 32 units/acre.

Several council members, including Sage Turner, Maggie Ullman, and Kim Roney expressed reservations about the project, noting the project’s lack of transportation accessibility and solar energy. Turner also criticized the project’s small number of family-sized units, since the project is within walking distance of three schools.

“It’s giving me real heartburn that we don’t see projects like this providing multimodal infrastructure because it tells me that we’re absolutely assuming that every single person in this neighborhood will have to drive a car,” Roney said. “Piling on more infrastructure for vehicles without a plan seems to me, the long term plan is to strand these neighbors with no other option.”

Will Buie, one of the engineers on the project, expressed a willingness to take council’s feedback on the development and bring them an updated plan next month.

Council is slated to vote on the project at its next meeting on December 12.

Other tidbits 

  • Council has proclaimed now through November 18 as “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.”
  • As part of the consent agenda, a $50,000 grant for Asheville PEAK Academy was approved to support its “It Takes a Village” staffing recruitment initiative.    
  • Council accepted $356,800 from the N.C. Dept. of Transportation for the Greenway Connector Project, which will add shared-use path connections between three priority greenways: Beaucatcher, Nasty Branch, and Bacoate Forest. Construction of the project is planned to start in Spring 2024 and last approximately nine months.

Every second and fourth Tuesday, Asheville City Council meets at the Council Chamber on the 2nd Floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza beginning at 5:00 p.m. See the full recording of the November 14 meeting and the action agenda.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the presentation about LIFT applications was made by a representative of the city.

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.