Community Weighs in on Charlotte St. Development - TribPapers

Community Weighs in on Charlotte St. Development

Residences being challenged to make way for a large scale development installation on Charlotte Street that demolishes historical homes and rewrites the community’s zoning laws.

Asheville – On January 7 RCG-Killian Chestnut Residential Properties LLC held a Zoom meeting to discuss the proposed development of the 100 block of Charlotte Street and the area behind it on Chestnut Street, Forman Avenue and Baird Street. The proposed development would bring 194 new residential units, 30,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet of retail space to a six-acre plot that’s part of a local historic district. The project calls for the removal of several old structures on the site, including 13 homes that are part of the larger Chestnut Hill Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Approximately 100 people attended this meeting.  After interviewing directly with two, Benji B. and Richard Koerber., who live in the neighborhood and were present on the Zoom. This is a synopsis of some of the points given that day by them and by others.

More information will follow in later issues of the Tribune.

Masterplan will dwarf all nearby residences with heights reaching five stories to accomodate new residences, premium commercial retail spaces and a parking garage. Screen shot from Zoom Meeting.
Masterplan will dwarf all nearby residences with heights reaching five stories to accomodate new residences, premium commercial retail spaces and a parking garage.

How do you think the public felt about this development?

Benji Burrell: “General gist, if you took everybody’s opinions and swirled it up in a blender and average it out, overall I think, well over a majority of people are skeptical about the scale of the project, more than anything else, regardless of the home destruction, regardless of the affordable housing, I think that everybody thinks that a 5-story building right on Charlotte Street next to everything else that is 2-story max is excessive and doesn’t match the character of the neighborhood. It also sets a negative precedence.”  Adding that much density pushes us away from the characteristics we like about the neighborhood. People like it here because they like the quality of life, the feel of the neighborhood.  Overall, people didn’t like the scale (of the proposed development) and some people didn’t like the design. A few liked the design—the minority. A lot of people are concerned about the destruction of existing, what is called, historic homes, but that may not be the majority of people. They seem to be the loudest, because of the organization, Preservation Society of Asheville/Buncombe County (PSABC), behind them, but maybe they are not the majority.   

Richard Koerber:  “This meeting is a required process, so I think they (the developers) presented it pretty clearly. Of course, there are going to be plenty of unanswered questions.”  The general public was pretty clearly “against” {the development} or pretty inquisitive about wanting more details. The details given were more about the project, rather than the appropriateness of the project.  In addition, there were many questions that simply were not answered.  Some people were clearly against the development, particularly because of the scale of the design and the design itself,  while others needed more details, many more specific details. There need to be some very specific renderings of the development that we can see, from a number of viewpoints, not just the frontal view.   

There was a definite feel against the removal of some of the historic houses.  Some present felt that there was a disconnect with regards to the design aesthetic,  the scale of the design.  “It does not even try to carry on the legacy of the neighborhood,” said Benji  “It looks like a development in downtown Charlotte.  This will set a precedent for the future.” Then later Richard Koerber. said,  “We spent years developing this neighborhood, a lot of hard work — sweat, blood, tears, and all supported by the community—which was not recognized.  Charlotte Street has changed a lot in the last few years by our hard-working community efforts.  This needs to be addressed. We want to be a part of the process, and proceed as a community.”

What were some issues that were not answered at this meeting?

The question of what variances and specifically what changes to zoning needed were not answered.  Chris Day (civil engineer) for RCG-Killian only answered that as the project involved more than 50 residence (194 residential units are proposed), the project needed conditional zoning variances from the city. Day did not give any specific details.  He did not answer what other expenses would be needed to be funded by the Asheville City Council. According to Benji, RD 8 and RM 16 codes need to be met, particularly as to the density and height of the project.  Currently, the development project is planning to be five stories high, when most of the houses there are now only 2 stories high.  “Day did not give any details as to what specific variances are needed,”   “The other part that was totally lacking was any presentation of what the current zoning is there now,  and what that allows and doesn’t allow.  Richard said:  “As a community, a  neighborhood and a city, we spent years developing to create a process and the model for a whole vision forward.  It wasn’t done casually.  The starting point wasn’t even recognized. It doesn’t abide by any of what we had worked for, it totally disregards what has already taken place.  This was a total shock.”

Home after home along Baird Street and Charlotte is marked with signs imploring City Council to reject development proposal. Photo by Anthony Abraira.
Home after home along Baird Street and Charlotte is marked with signs imploring City Council to reject development proposal. Photo by Anthony Abraira.

What about the issue of affordable housing?

Many feel this issue needs to be looked at closely, as affordable housing has been of great concern to the city council for a number of years. It is often a part of the conversation at many of their meetings. The residents of Chestnut Hill District mentioned that there are already has a number of affordable residences there.  Benji said, “I am concerned these people will have to move. From the city’s perspective, plenty of people with money are moving into the area and can buy the higher end properties, whatever they want, around or outside the city  But the people who live in the less expensive housing that is in the block, are going to have a harder time finding what they need and near to the city.

“I think Wyatt Stevens of Roberts  & Stevens said, ‘there are currently 30 units available in existing homes owned by the Killians.  Twenty-one out of the 30 are occupied.’”  Stevens said, “They are going to be putting in 194 living units  of which 19 would be deed-restricted affordable housing.”   That means a net loss of 9 affordable housing units. Losing that many percentage-wise is very high.   Benji said, “I think it is one of the City’s priority to support people who don’t make a lot of money to be able to still live within a decent range of the city and both take advantage of its services but also have access to the economy that cities create.’

Another neighbor said, “Developers, when proposing these ideas,  never consider the citizenry; they always consider the speculative outsider.  These units could be more in the spirit of creating common ground,  to live amongst us. These are the same people who created the Aloft,  which is taken from North Florida, which has nothing to do with mountains. The hotel is very poorly built and is an eyesore.”

Planning and Zoning Commission

The Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Asheville is an advisory board to City Council. According to their website, the next meeting is scheduled for February 3, 2021, with applications to have been submitted by December 22, 2020. The Commission is chaired by Tony Hauser. The Commission consists of seven members, five City residents appointed by the City Council and two residents of the extra-territorial area of the City and appointed by Buncombe County Commissioners. It meets on the 1st Wednesday of each month at 5:00 pm. Go to their website to be to learn more.

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