Tags:After two and a half hours of public debate and discussion on Jan. 25, Asheville City Council members gave the go-ahead for a parking-deck, hotel development at 51 Biltmore Ave. in downtown. The project passed 5-2, with Council members Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith voting against it.
Council members also approved, unanimously, selling the Reid Center to the Housing Authority for $254,500, and moving $480,000 (out of the capital fund) to pay for Civic Center renovations now. The latter is part of deal to bring the Southern Conference basketball tournament to town.
Here’s a compilation of Senior News Reporter David Forbes’ live dispatches via Twitter (stay tuned for the full report in our Feb. 2 print edition):
4:44 p.m. Asheville City Council meeting begins in 15. Follow #avlgov for coverage #avlnews
4:51 p.m. Downtown Assoc staff huddled over laptop in almost-full Council chambers, many attendees wearing "sidewalks for safety" stickers
5:02 p.m. Council chambers packed, meeting about to begin
5:05 p.m. And we're off, proclamations for A-B Tech Pres Hank Dunn, Black History Month and Catholic schools week up first.
5:13 p.m. Dunn to Council: Avl-Buncombe won't bring in "Boeing or Ford," but "we can grow our own" jobs
5:16 p.m. Bellamy to Asheville Catholic School students before reading proclamation: "Smile, you're on camera."
5:18 p.m. Mayor Bellamy on Black History month proclamation: reminder of what's been accomplished, still needs to be done
5:21 p.m. Consent agenda passes unanimously, Council chooses to delay pawn brokers electronic records ordinance
5:25 p.m. City budget audit for 2009-10 fiscal year now. Staff: $11-12 million in reserve, auditors found no improprieties
5:31 p.m. Auditor Brian Broom: Found no improper spending of fed, state funds, but found two "internal control weaknesses," now fixed
5:36 p.m. Broom: City fund balance, bond rating, debt all seem fine, within standards. Only problems due to financial software switch
5:39 p.m. Council members Russell, Bothwell praising staff for dealing with software switch well. Bellamy has "concerns," upset about delay
5:41 p.m. Bellamy: "I don't have the same level of comfort with the internal controls" or delay, wants whole Council to approve of corrections
5:44 p.m. Staff: delays due to turnover, software system change, re-organization of accounts structure
5:45 p.m. Without those three factors, staff say next year's audit should be on time
5:46 p.m. Bellamy: "fund balance is going in wrong direction," need to find ways to increase
5:49 p.m. Russell: with spending cuts, savings, reserves will make up greater percentage of city budget
5:51 p.m. Staff elaborating that state delay in giving city its sales tax refund meant fund balance rise was also delayed
5:53 p.m. Bellamy to Council: Part of my job to question auditors
5:56 p.m. Update on metered on-street parking for the handicapped
5:56 p.m. On to stimulus funds update: increase in funds for North Fork treatment plant's improvements passes 6-1, Bellamy against
5:58 p.m. Since Dec, 31, city issued 2,060 parking overtime citations, 101 to people with handicapped placard
5:59 p.m. City has six Battery Park Apartts residence on discounted parking, 3 ppl have purchased pre-paid meter parking
6:01 p.m. City still negotiating with AT&T to build new lot near Battery Park, 75+ hourly spaces
6:03 p.m. Transport Director Ken Putnam asking Council for authority to create four handicapped spaces next to Battery Park
6:05 p.m. Putnam: "That would go a long way to solving the problem in that particular area"
6:06 p.m. Battery Park resident Reilan Hanson: Since Civic Center parking made available for Battery Park residents, two people injured themselves
6:14 p.m. Council unanimously approves four new handicapped spaces near Battery Park
6:14 p.m. Hanson: With city making it more difficult for people w cars to live in Battery Park, danger of it becoming "HUD-subsidized flophouse"
6:17 p.m. Now onto consideration of the 51 Biltmore project, the night's big issue
6:18 p.m. City's Admin Director Lauren Bradley: Project must pass Council, then on to local government commission (due to its public-private nature)
6:21 p.m. More info on 51 Biltmore debate at http://bit.ly/eHarR2
6:22 p.m. Bradley: No city funds or economic incentive grants going to hotel/retail space part of project
6:22 p.m. Bradley: staff believe site good for parking deck because it will be mixed use, while standalone decks tamp down street activity
6:24 p.m. Bradley: Studies showed demand for parking, that's not changed, though studies didn't consider options such as a shuttle
6:24 p.m. Bradley: Council told staff in 2006 to pursue public-private partnership for parking, this is the result
6:26 p.m. Bradley: staff has been upfront that we're paying greater than estimated market value for land
6:26 p.m. Bradley: Hotel would have to pay city for spaces in parking deck
6:28 p.m. Bradley: Original proposal shared use of deck with Public Interest Projects, didn't feel that was in city's interest
6:29 p.m. Bradley: After city decided to purchase parcel, found additional pruchase of Hot Dog King would decrease construction costs
6:30 p.m. Bradley: despite costs, staff felt more money saved by getting long-term lease, saving on construction
6:32 p.m. Bradley: If Council approves 51 Biltmore and LGC signs off in Feb, closing would happen in late February, construction begin in March
6:36 p.m. Bradley: Funds from 51 Biltmore deck and some others would pay off debt.
6:37 p.m. Bradley: By conservative estimates, parking will still make $400,000+ over expenses even while paying off 51 Biltmore debt
6:38 p.m. Bradley: Over 50 yrs, 51 Biltmore deck will make $23 million profit
6:40 p.m. Bradley: Parking decks often built by government because private sector "can't wait 25 yrs" for profit
6:41 p.m. Bradley: Staff estimate project will spur redevelopment, more taxes in area, 405 jobs during construction, 118 after
6:42 p.m. John McKibbon of McKibbon hotel group, joking: "It’s good to see this much excitement about our project"
6:43 p.m. McKibbon: Project "win-win" and "tourism a low impact way" to grow community
6:47 p.m. PIP Pres Pat Whalen: Calls debate "a very painful education in public process," phrases case for project "magic vs. facts"
6:48 p.m. Whalen: Decks helped downtown, foolish for opponents to assume "no one will be driving cars in 50 years" but dismiss city's estimates
6:50 p.m. Whalen: "We can't run a city on make-believe," project will bring density, revenue, cost no taxpayer dollars
6:52 p.m. Biltmore business owner Laurey Masterton: Parking a "crucial" need in area, debate has become "painfully mean"
6:54 p.m. Robert Eides: City still looking at old stats to do new projects. "A progressive city" needs fringe parking, park-and-ride lots
6:56 p.m. Correction: name is Robert Eides
6:58 p.m. Asheville res Linda Brown: "Developer will tell you anything." Not opposed to parking decks, but opposed to this parking deck
6:59 p.m. Brown: City will suffer a net loss, please vote no, let hotel build its own deck
7:00 p.m. Brown: City should use parking funds for sidewalks, buses, better projects
7:01 p.m. Gallery owner Harry Myers: Approve of project, will improve business.
7:02 p.m. Blue Spiral/Fine Arts owner John Cram: "We need parking in the present tense, not the future ... Please vote yes."
7:03 p.m. Asheville resident Kim McGuire: It takes private, public, nonprofit working together to create a good city. Parking, hotel rooms, jobs needed
7:04 p.m. McGuire: Situation not "either/or." This project can provide density, revenue for greenways, other projects
7:05 p.m. Downtown property owner Jim Samsel: 51 Biltmore "critical" for downtown growth.
7:06 p.m. Samsel: "Good to see 21st century hotel replace 20th century parking lot." Well thought-out project.
7:07 p.m. Highland resident Laura Brano: Council should delay project for greater scrutiny since claims about its finances vary greatly
7:08 p.m. Kenilworth resident Donald Warren: Never seem to have a problem finding parking downtown, feel we need parking, but oppose
7:09 p.m. Warren: while this is under construction, spaces in current lot won't be available. More than parking brings people to downtown
7:11 p.m. Asheville resident Mark Bloom: Not really for or against, but want you to consider cost per space. Demand may not be there now
7:12 p.m. Bloom: Downtown businesses are hurting, but it's not due to parking
7:14 p.m. Barley's taproom owner: We've been waiting on a parking deck in that area for 16 years
7:15 p.m. Burt Samsel: Skeptical about revenue projections, "a red flag." Not opposed to hotel, but urging Council to turn down deck
7:17 p.m. Asheville resident Leslie Anderson: I managed city parking for a number of years, work of local government in "catalyzing downtown" often ignored
7:18 p.m. Anderson: 51 Biltmore is a good opportunity, question should be "what is the best use of this property?"
7:19 p.m. Anderson, speaking for group of three people: If we develop properly, won't have to worry about revenue
7:20 p.m. Anderson: City became vibrant again in 1980s-90s because of public-private partnerships like this
7:22 p.m. Anderson: parking decks created $200 million in investment in area, because "Council had courage and conviction"
7:24 p.m. Anderson: "We might wish society was in position to ignore need to store cars" but that's not realistic.
7:26 p.m. Diana Wortham director John Ellis: There are deals that fall through due to lack of parking, "we've lost business," need deck
7:28 p.m. Vincenzo's owner Dwight Butner: Downtown Asheville been example of public-private partnership, "we need this deck"
7:30 p.m. PIP employee Harry Weiss: Downtown is "the one model that will get us to the density," we need for better transit
7:30 p.m. Butner: Asheville a day's drive from 80 percent of the nation's population "No one's going to drive here to park and get on a bus"
7:31 p.m. Weiss: Downtown is "the only place where people pay for choosing to use these cars"
7:32 p.m. Weiss: Parking on Tunnel Road, single-family neighborhoods free. If charged them, could fund all the sidewalks we'd need
7:33 p.m. Weiss: "You should be fighting this battle on Tunnel Road" as downtown makes outsize contribution to city
7:35 p.m. Pack Place chair Karen Tessier: "This is greatly needed," decks have done much to catalyze downtown
7:36 p.m. Tessier: Lion's share of people who come to Pack Place "are our own citizens," not tourists, PIP not out to hurt community
7:38 p.m. Caterjohn: "You don't know how wonderful you have it" with bond paid off, hang onto it, don't need more parking
7:38 p.m. Asheville resident Karl Caterjohn: I've enjoyed many businesses downtown, never had to park farther than a block
7:39 p.m. Caterjohn: PIP in this "for profit, not public service" city should use funds on Civic Center
7:40 p.m. North Asheville resident Jake Quinn: Don't have opinion, but "whole lot of questions"
7:41 p.m. Quinn: Wants to know what other measures city has considered to address parking, wants to see property tax analysis
7:43 p.m. Quinn: Parking demand different from deficit, spaces already in place
7:44 p.m. Montford resident David Nutter: I'm a city planner, feel project "a credit to city" will help preserve downtown at its best
7:46 p.m. Haw Creek President Chris Pelly: We've been pushing for sidewalks, if the city takes this debt on, our concern will delay that
7:48 p.m. Pelly: I wonder if day will come when non-downtown residents will get this kind of attention for infrastructure
7:49 p.m. Mobilia owner Bill Griffin: Need critical mass of people to support downtown, we need adequate parking for that
7:52 p.m. Downtown Association Director Joe Minicozzi: This deck is part of park-and-ride system, needed to create a "downtown loop"
7:54 p.m. Minicozzi: Asheville's ahead of Portland here, decks there aren't as well cloaked or designed
7:56 p.m. Kimberly Kabicki: Parking will be a problem as long as we keep building decks. "Do we really need another hotel?"
7:57 p.m. Kabicki: "Need to get out of car culture"
7:58 p.m. Asheville Wine Market owner Eberhard Heide: Waiting on this deck for 18 years, will alleviate a big problem
8:00 p.m. Asheville resident James Sheeler: Parking is not top priority, "getting serious about transit" is
8:01 p.m. Says Aspen-like shuttle system a better idea. "You run the risk of getting into a trap, things have changed"
8:02 p.m. Asheville business owner Bill Maloney: Don't have trouble finding parking, but it just takes walking a block
8:03 p.m. Maloney: "People don't come downtown to park," dependable shuttle would be a big draw, "use this money for something more creative"
8:04 p.m. Megan Maloney: Fringe parking lots a better idea, need to get away from cars
8:06 p.m. Asheville resident Charlie Ball: Sees many similarities in Austin, TX. What gets past boom-bust cycle is partnerships like this project
8:07 p.m. Public comment closed.
8:10 p.m. Council member Bothwell: has parking deficit been helped by College Street deck? Putnam: Studies measured this specific part of town
8:12 p.m. Bothwell: decks do have a "ripple" effect, wondered what that deck had. Putnam: Mostly county employees, only open Mon-Fri
8:13 p.m. Bothwell: What occupancy rate do the projections assume? Bradley: They assume basically the current rate
8:15 p.m. Bothwell: What confidence do we have that costs won't inflate? Public works director Cathy Ball: We've planned for up to a 10 percent rise
8:16 p.m. Bothwell: Downtown merchants seem to be biggest supporters, what ways could they fund this
8:17 p.m. Staff: At this point, a business improvement district (funded by extra tax on downtown) would be a "hard row to hoe"
8:18 p.m. Council member Bill Russell: Fourth year on Council, this was one of the 1st exciting projects I saw.
8:18 p.m. Bothwell: wanted to get that on table, BIDs often used to fund trolleys, similar transit improvements
8:19 p.m. Russell: Question I get from tenants, artists, business owners is "where do we park?"
8:21 p.m. Vice Mayor Brownie Newman: People "are very passionate about downtown" mostly agree on what to do, differ on how to get there
8:22 p.m. Newman: biggest threat is sprawl, antidote is pattern of development we have in downtown
8:23 p.m. Newman: Analysis shows we'll have a net positive of $400,000 a year after this project, won't take up all our funds
8:25 p.m. Newman: "Heard from community very loudly" that they want to see transit, greenway plans. Need to do this, but those too
8:26 p.m. Council member Esther Manheimer: "Downtown was dead" in 1988. Not through inaction, it's become a vibrant place"
8:27 p.m. Manheimer: Wrong to frame this as though city's got $14 milion to spend as we want. Some projects pay for themselves
8:28 p.m. Manheimer: "Unless we charge a toll, sidewalks don't" make revenue. "More's the pity"
8:29 p.m. Manheimer: We have contracts signed in this deal, "bad business practice" to pull out on parking deck element now
8:31 p.m. Council member Gordon Smith: "Appreciate intelligence and civility" of debate tonight, "it got pretty heated out there"
8:32 p.m. Bothwell: If we're paying $1 mil a year on this, that's $1 mil that could go elsewhere
8:32 p.m. Smith: would vote for project if we already had dedicated funding for sidewalks, transit. For me question of priorities
8:34 p.m. Bothwell: Will bring value, but sidewalks raise value of whole neighborhoods. "We're diverting money that could go in that direction"
8:35 p.m. Bothwell: "Why haven't we studied a shuttle?" Should be short-term priority. We have income stream that's been freed up
8:36 p.m. Bothwell: that stream could go to sidewalks, transit, other options. "In uncertain times, seems latter is best option. Hold off"
8:37 p.m. As for projections, "50 years will see a lot of change."
8:37 p.m. Bothwell: "Making economic assumptions on next 25 years based on past seems like not a great idea"
8:38 p.m. Bothwell: "Going to tell a kid playing in street that we spent money on deck" — to me "that's not values" was elected to represent
8:40 p.m. Council member Jan Davis: "If there's not something in downtown we're going backwards... People drive cars to get into downtown"
8:42 p.m. Next resolution will approve deck itself, if passed
8:42 p.m. Downtown development amendment necessary for 51 Biltmore passes 5-2. Smith, Bothwell against
8:45 p.m. Davis concerned about price of property, asks why city is buying only part, not air rights
8:46 p.m. Bradley: PIP didn't want to sell, transaction structure so city's buying just space necessary to build garage
8:47 p.m. Bradley: Construction savings make up for increased land price. Davis: "Doesn't make me feel good, but I understand it"
8:48 p.m. Bradley: Part of reason for paying premium is because site is uniquely suited to this kind of project.
8:49 p.m. Bellamy: "No property tax dollars, under any scenario, are going into this." All money from people who use parking downtown
8:50 p.m. Bellamy: "Makes sense that we should use money collected downtown to help downtown"
8:51 p.m. Bellamy: Ever since I've been on Council, we've improved transit, because it's right thing to do.
8:53 p.m. Bellamy: We've been planning to put a deck on the spot, openly, for some time.
8:54 p.m. Bellamy: Reason for location is because we stopped decks in more visible places, blocking views or intruding
8:55 p.m. Bellamy worried about people going to Savannah, Charleston if they can't park near city core
8:58 p.m. 51 Biltmore deck approved 5-2. Smith, Bothwell against
8:59 p.m. 30 minute recess
8:59 p.m. Bellamy asks public "to stay engaged... We need you in Raleigh" to fight state cuts that will pass costs onto city
9:15 p.m. Back in session. Considering rezoning of 13 acres on Orchard Street from industrial to residential multi-family
9:18 p.m. Rezoning approved unanimously
9:20 p.m. Next rezoning for West Asheville plot from medium to high density to allow for a duplex already built on the site
9:21 p.m. Rezoning passes unanimously
9:24 p.m. Council now considering approving new signs for Mission Hospitals
9:27 p.m. Davis: Think these signs are good, but need for a Council vote on this points to fact sign ordinance "is onerous"
9:29 p.m. Council's Planning and Economic development committee will look at ordinance
9:30 p.m. Mission Hospitals signs approved unanimously
9:31 p.m. Next up, sale of Reid Center to Housing Authority for use as training/education/green jobs center for $254,500
9:34 p.m. Sale contingent on Housing Authority receiving federal grant. If doesn't go through, staff says city still has options for sale
9:36 p.m. Bellamy wonders how city insures Housing Authority keeps up promised use. HA staff: Grant requires us to
9:40 p.m. Reid Center sale passes unanimously
9:43 p.m. Council considering $480,000 (out of capital fund) in Civic Center renovations now, part of deal to bring Southern Conference to town
9:49 p.m. Civic Ctr renovations include increase in seating capacity, better locker rooms, more meeting rooms, larger concession stands
9:57 p.m. Civic Center renovations resolutions pass unanimously
10:00 p.m. Council endorses those unanimously
10:00 p.m. Council considering legislative items it will endorse, including Woodfin boundary, reconsidering aspects of Sullivan Acts
10:01 p.m. Russell, Newman endorse legislative "placeholder" item on agenda every other meeting to deal with matters that arise
10:04 p.m. Council unanimously endorses Mayor's association agenda, including better funding for biotech, judicial system
10:05 p.m. Council unanimously endorses ability of municipalities to set up tax plans to fund energy improvements
10:07 p.m. Council now considering recommendation of Sustainability committee to incentives policy, including ENERGY STAR, more affordable housing
10:08 p.m. Russell concerned committee exceeded mandate by offering too many suggested changes. Newman: we asked them to address all "green" aspects
10:09 p.m. Bothwell: Previously, green element optional on incentives projects, now should be requirement
10:10 p.m. Newman: I supported Montford Commons, but time to set a higher bar for benefits
10:10 p.m. Russell to Bothwell: How does that square with precedent? Montford Commons wasn't green
10:13 p.m. Manheimer: "This looks like it's still a work in progress. What do we do with it?"
10:20 p.m. Newman in favor of increased requirements. "Projects need to be truly transformational." Davis: "This has turned into a nightmare"
10:24 p.m. Council delays considering new incentives policy on "transformational" projects to Feb. 22
10:30 p.m. Public comment. Asheville resident Kyle Ross says she's going to present research on courts system, APD
10:31 p.m. Ross asks Council to talk to attorney about rehiring Officer Roger Aly. Bellamy: We can't discuss personnel issues
10:32 p.m. Bellamy: You can talk about aspects of police force, but not personnel. Attorney Oast: Council can't, but public can
10:34 p.m. Ross: "I'd like you to hold police chief to guiding principles" will speak more at next meeting
10:35 p.m. Bothwell complimenting Cathy Ball on hiring people in rehab programs to clear snow off sidewalks
10:36 p.m. Meeting adjourned
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