Asheville City Council Tuesday approved new rules for future hotel projects, ending a nearly one-and-a-half-year moratorium on the construction of new hotels in the city.
The rules were approved by a 6-1 vote, with councilwoman Kim Roney voting no. Projects must now meet a new set of criteria including a public benefits table, which calls for contributions to affordable housing or to a reparations fund the city will create. A committee will be created to determine whether a project has met the criteria. Council also created a 'hotel overlay district' which contains areas outside of downtown where new hotel construction can occur without city council approval, provided the projects meet the new rules. Areas in the overlay district include the River Arts District, Biltmore Village, and in West Asheville along I-40 and near the junction of I-240 and I-26.
The council vote came the day the moratorium was set to expire. First approved in September 2019 for one year and then extended an additional five months, the moratorium came at the end of the decade-long transformation of Asheville as an burgeoning international tourist destination. Public outcry after a surge of new hotels were approved in downtown - notably the one that forever altered one of the city's most iconic structures the Flatiron Building - led lawmakers to take the unprecedented step of pausing all new construction until new measures were put in place to ensure year-round residents would benefit from the hotel boom. Even though the new rules passed easily, public comment during the process at council meetings was mostly against the new rules.
According to the city, more than 13-hundred new hotel rooms have been built since 2013, and more than 27-hundred additional rooms have been approved since then prior to the moratorium. Any future hotel projects in downtown will still need city council approval, as will any in the overlay district that do not meet the specified criteria.