Friday, December 10, 2010

Reid Center on City Council Agenda

Asheville City Council will consider a proposal by the Asheville Housing Authority on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 concerning the W.C. Reid Center.  The AHA is asking to be allowed to apply for a US HUD grant that could bring up to $5 million dollars to help renovate the Reid Center and give it a new life as a Community Job Training Facility, once the Parks & Rec Department moves its programing to the new Recreation Center on Livingston Street.  From what i have heard at several meetings in the past few weeks, the surrounding community really would like the Reid Center to stay functional.  It was one of two African American elementary schools in Asheville, before our school system was desegregated, so it is historically significant to the African American community.  Please consider attending the City Council Meeting this coming Tuesday, if you have an opinion you would like to voice.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bike Skills Park on January WECAN Agenda

Whit Riley has offered to bring together some of the partners who are working on getting a bike skills park to happen around the corner of West Haywood & Roberts Streets.  We are expecting folks from SORBA, Asheville On Bikes and more to explain what all the hoopla is about.  Join us Thursday, January 6, 2011 @ 6:30pm @ MHO Community @ 64 Clingman Avenue for WECAN's regular board meeting.  The presentation will start @ 7pm.

No Aston Gateway Community Board meeting for December

Just to let everyone know that the regularly scheduled Third Thursday of the Month, Aston Gateway Community Board Meeting will be cancelled for December 2010.  Thanks Jeff for letting us know.

Pedestrian Bridge Now Open

We heard @ the December 2, 2010 WECAN Board Meeting that the pedestrian bridge over I-240 @ Roberts Street is now open the public, 24 hours a day.  Increased Police patrolling has begun.  For those of you who live near by, please keep a log of activity... there will be some public forums to see how it is all working in 2011.  Also, if you see anything happening anywhere in the neighborhood that does not look right, please always report it to the APD... use 911 if it is an emergency or 252-1110 if it is not.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WECAN December 2010 Board Meeting Minutes • Draft


WECAN Board Meeting 2 DEC 2010
Members present: Jeff Carnivale, Jessie Coleman,  Joe Fioccola, AnnaBeth Hardcastle, Yuri Koslen, Whit Rylee and Pattiy Torno.
Also Present: John Bryant, Liliane Bryant, Evan Coward.
Not present: Byron Ballard, Bret Frk, Lisa Hadden, Kathleen Kingston, Geraldine Melendez, Jose Ruiz and Teresa Wood.
                Meeting called to order at 6:35 with welcome and introductions around the table. The minutes were approved as distributed. Thank you Byron.
                Jeff reported from the Aston Gateway Community Board which met on the 3rd Thursday in November with an outside facilitator to express and refine the Mission, Vision and Core values of that group. They have also been working on a letter to protest the placement and request the removal of the Confederate Historic marker in Aston Park. Pattiy volunteered to draft a supporting letter from WECAN.  Jeff will email her the AGCB Draft and Mission/ Vision/ Values. Pattiy suggested they contact the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Jeff reported that an intern was working on the PhotoVoice Project and welcomed input. This should be completed and presented in a spring celebration. Pattiy heard through Alan Glines that a Doctor wanted to donate mature trees to Aston Park and was referred them to the AGCB.  
                Clingman Streetscape Update: Pattiy advised that construction of the new sidewalks may not happen until it warms up in the spring. Progress Energy is proceeding with moving the poles and has assured her that there will be no major power outages for residents during the construction. She also talked to the mayor about a parade and party celebrating the completion sometime between April and June.
                Pattiy announced that info or news for the WECAN Blog can be sent to WECANNEWS@Gmail.com. The blog address is WECANNEWS.BLOGSPOT.COM.
                Evan, Joe, Jeff, Yuri and Pattiy attended the City Council Community Meeting at the Reid Center on Tuesday November 30. About 100 people were in attendance in spite of heavy rains representing a good cross section of residents, the full city council and city staff. The acoustics were not the best.  There was a lot of information presented from speakers for the Southside Neighborhood and AB Tech and city departments of Parks and Recreation and Cultural Arts, Finance and Transportation. Written questions were addressed in the time allotted but there were not a lot of specific answers to many questions. The biggest public response was to a potential road from AB Tech through the Walton Street Park and Pool. Pattiy was expecting some report on the Urban Progress Zone Grant for the “East of the Riverway” area. $3 million was requested and $850,000 was awarded which will be used mostly for transportation planning in the defined area.
                RADTIP ( River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project) has $600,000 to do preliminary assessments and environmental impact on a 2.2 mile stretch of roadway along Riverside Drive and Lyman Street between Hill Street and Amboy Road. The studies will designate a clear route for the preferred roadway and bicycle paths and rights of way  which will make the city eligible to apply for state and federal funding for up to 30% for actual construction drawings and costs over the next ten years. The first public meeting is planned for Saturday January 22, 2011 at AB-Tech Ferguson Auditorium. (Time TBA)
                RAD Bridge to Bridge Planning :Stephanie Monson(Office of Economic Development)and Kate O’Hara (Brownfields Initiative) are planning a three day work-session to develop a small area plan in the River Arts District for the area between the Riverlink Bridge and the Smokey Park Bridges. Representatives of all regulatory bodies in control of the area will be on hand and property owners (29 owners of 60 parcels) will be invited to develop the plan towards the end of March 2011.  
               Ice House Update: Stephanie, Officer Jackie Stepp and Marsha Stickford met with the owners of the Ice Storage House on Riverside Drive. They were told that the city can no longer allow it to continue in its current state. They are being cooperative. There was an estimate of $150,000 to remove it; $15-20,000 to secure it; and they have been given some options to choose from. The ball is rolling and something will happen soon. Kudos to Jackie and Evan for their efforts.
                The once legal “Graffiti Wall” near the Chesterfield Mill Site is no longer legal. The parking areas have been secured and posted no trespassing and the lot has been cleared of vegetation and debris. The owners will put up security lighting and are considering using the space for other activities such as a tailgate market. Thanks John and Liliane.
                Discussion of Jefferson Drive Clean Up of Kudzu encroaching on the sidewalks and the street this year.  The most effective time to clear it is from March to June before the kudzu becomes active. It has also made more trash and other activity at the dead end of Jefferson. Evan will talk to Marsha about it being a public safety issue. The fire department did not even clear the kudzu from around the fire hydrant. It is the city’s responsibility to clear sidewalks at DOT properties inside the city limits and property owners are responsible for keeping them clear along private properties. Yuri suggested that the best use of volunteer time on work days would be to prioritize working on the park. For sidewalks he suggested we should knock on doors and ask people to help. Joe suggested getting on the Z-link list for sidewalk clearances. They are a group of volunteers organized by city councilor Cecil Bothwell who clear overgrown sidewalks to make Asheville more walkable. Saturday mornings are generally a good time to schedule workdays. 
            Owens Bell Park Day: Pattiy has been talking to Warren Wilson Work-Service coordinator about getting some students to help Jon Calabria with the maintenance of the water retention ponds at Owens Bell Park. (Looking at the last weekend in January or the first one in February.) Pattiy is also working on getting a volunteer landscape professional to help.
                Pedestrian Bridge Update: Pattiy talked to City Traffic Engineer Ken Putnam about the Hillcrest pedestrian bridge. Evan reported it opened today at 3 p.m. D.O.T. removed the gates.  There is new fencing between Hillcrest and the Interstate. All the sidewalks are cleared and some will be replaced/repaired soon. What is finally needed there is additional lighting and a CEPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) study. The gate to Hillcrest off Hill Street is now open from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M.  There are still questions about who maintains the sidewalks there. Reportedly, if it is a controlled access area then it is D.O.T’s responsibility and if it is open access then it would be the city’s responsibility. The continuing issues of the kudzu on Clingman Avenue and under the I240 Bridge make it worth our efforts to begin a conversation with D.O.T. about maintaining their many properties in our neighborhood. Annabeth  is working on a project with D.O.T. in Madison County and like all big organizations and burocracies some individuals are better at communicating or getting things done than others. She will investigate better ways to relate. 
                Bike Skills Park: We can begin to talk about how to make it happen, what it is, and what WECAN’s role would be. Pattiy’s concern is that we may not need another “Aston Park” (i.e. used primarily by outsiders instead or at the expense of the neighborhood.) Does WECAN want to sponsor or facilitate the discussion between the bicycle promoters and the residents? Yuri suggested that every project doesn’t need to serve every aspect of the community. Momentum may have some benefits for the neighborhood and tourism.  Whit said the enthusiasts and Bothwell are behind it.  Whit also reported that the international bike association (SORBA?) is currently surveying the area from Hunter Volvo to Montford Commons Greenway for a mountain bike graduated skills park and doing cost estimates and he will invite them to make a presentation at the WECAN January 6 Board meeting at 7 p.m. 
          Joe was talking to Susan Roderick of Asheville Greenworks about the landscaping they have invested in along the I240 W to Patton Avenue/Clingman Avenue exit Ramp about whether WECAN neighbors are using it, what would make it better and can we help maintain it. Joe suggested that the big kudzu covered field in between W Haywood and the pathway made it less than inviting but we have a lot of people who use the sidewalk on Hilliard and if the connection or entryway was kept up and cleared it would be used as well. Yuri will talk to Susan about what they need or want from WECAN.
          Discussion of WECAN organization. Yuri suggested that Pattiy can do a better job of disseminating responsibilities through committees and delegating. She wears many hats (Artist, Business owner, Resident, Property owner, Organizer,and member of several committees) has many connections in what she does every day and said reporting to WECAN was not an extra burden on her. Yuri suggested that we should try to rotate the facilitation of meetings to take the burden of setting and keeping to an agenda off her back. What communications systems would help and be most effective? (Email vs. Facebook vs. snail mail) Annabeth using her compulsive editorial expertise had some questions and noted some spelling errors in the by-laws. There was discussion of making the WECAN by-laws "public" and reversing a previous decision not to and how WECAN meetings traditionally run. At the January meeting an agenda item will be to review that earlier decision and have an orientation for new board members.. 
The next meeting will be 6:30 on January 6, 2011. Major agenda item will be selection of officers.
Meeting adjourned at 8:05
Minutes submitted by Joe Fioccola                     

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mayor Bellamy hosts Public Forum @ the Reid Center

On Tuesday, November 30, 2010 @ 6:30pm, Mayor Bellamy & Asheville City Council hosted a public forum to inform about a number of projects in & around WECAN.  Included were the new Recreation Center @ Livingston Street, Choctaw Greenway, Walton Street Park, Clingman Streetscape Project, Mission Hospital Construction, AB Tech transporation planning, etc. There was a Q&A afterwards and Dawa Htich, the City of Asheville's Public Infomation Officer has promised that some of the questions with answers can be found @ www.ashevillenc.gov/progress.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

WECAN July 2010 Board Meeting Minutes • Draft


WECAN board minutes for July 1, 2010 as written by Pattiy Torno

The meeting was called to order @ 6:37pm. WECAN Board members present: Pattiy Torno & Yuri Koslen.  Others present include: WECAN residents: Morgan Daven, Whit Rylee, John & his son, Alwyn Nelson & Greta Dietrich… from the Asheville Design Center: Chris Joyell, Laura Clemmons & from city council & Staff: Gordon Smith, Stephanie Monson, Marsha Stickford & Billy Brittain.
 
WECAN residents & property owners’ comments from emails and personal conversations were read/relayed into this record as requested by Byron Ballard & daughter Kate, Lynn Player, Luella Heetderks, Gail McCarthy, Marty Black & Bret Frk even though they were physically unable to be present at the meeting.

Pattiy dispensed with approval of board minutes and treasure’s report.

Pattiy spoke about a conversation she had on June 24th, 2010 with Adin McCain, PE & Project Manager from HNTB Corporation of Chicago, the consulting firm hired to get neighborhood feedback to include in the environmental studies currently underway by the NCDOT as regards the I-26 connector.  

It seems that this firm is getting some pressure to speed up the time frame of their work, with the hope of some public meetings this fall so that information can be included in the environmental study also due out this fall.   Pattiy will keep the neighborhood informed of any developments & opportunities to comment as she hears of them.  Pattiiy did pass on the names of active WECAN residents for Mr. McCann to contact.

All present looked at and commented on the latest version for the top half of the Clingman Streetscape Project plan.  This version was well received with minor comments that will be relayed to city staff currently working on the project.

Pattiy suggested that 100 Park Avenue is a wonderful place from which to watch the downtown 4th of July fireworks display.  She also relayed that WECAN has permission from the current owners to occupy this property for select neighborhood events.  As there was a nice impromptu gathering there last 4th of July that was enjoyed by those present, Pattiy suggested that perhaps this might happen again this year, so if you are inclined, please join your neighbors around 9:30pm, July 4, 2010 to watch the bright lights in the sky.  Pattiy will be providing sparklers for this event.

The conversation turned to the question of whether or not to re-open the pedestrian bridge across I-240 that connects Hillcrest with WECAN @ Roberts & West Haywood Streets. 

Pattiy entered into the record the following from emails she received from neighbors unable to attend this meeting.

Lynn Player: IT is my belief that the folks in HILLSIDE should have a safe passage across 240. I support the opening of the pedestrian bridge. The safety of all people is vital to our Asheville community. Please include my opinion in the discussion on Thursday.

Marty Black: I do have concerns over reopening the bridge since it was closed because of drug trafficking and other crimes.  I fear that it will once again bring easy access to our river arts district with a resulting in an increase in crime.  We're finally beginning to improve our "bad neighborhood" image.

Gail McCarthy: It looks like it’s going to one of those things that public opinion will have a heavy influence. 

In that case, I suggest that part of the deal is to have the city or someone commit to extra security measures for the neighborhood. Perhaps set up a “gate house” and/or video surveilance of the entry to the walkway.  I know the city’s budget is more than strained, but if somehow the residents/city/grants/public-private funding could cover the costs that might be a good thing.???  Especially with the new River Development Committee in existance now.  Perhaps we could rent the corner “office” in Whit ‘s building that overlooks that area???

Bret Frk: Just saw an article in the Mountain X stating that someone was killed while attempting to cross the highway on their way to Hillcrest.  In response, it seems that Councilman Gordon Smith is spearheading an effort, with a meeting with Hillcrest and the Mayor, to reopen the pedestrian bridge connecting Hillcrest with Club street.  I am heading out of town for a few weeks and was hoping to write a letter to both the mayor and Mr. Smith  expressing my concern – but am running out of time.  I am wondering if it would make more sense to come from WECAN and neighborhood.

The article stated that they have ‘walked’ the route on the north side of the highway and on the highway stating that, from a city planning perspective, that the bridge should re-open.  But also, from a city planning perspective, the area where this bridge routes people, it is not a 'defensible space' with little visibility, the ability to patrol being inaccessible by car let alone one way streets nearby.  It does not seem they fully understand the ramifications to the WECAN side, the issues that this causes and the extent of what happens now in the DOT Right of Way with the homeless camps, prostitution, public urination, and the happenings under the bridge and the staircase on club street.  To me, if they are going to have to re-open that bridge, a great deal of work will have to happen along the ROW, along the woods and along that sidewalk, not to mention additional patrols to make that truly safe – a true burden on our police force and tax payer dollar.

This was closed for a reason back in 1994 and in my belief, should not be re-opened.  If it truly is an issue of safety, the fence should be blocked at the highway at hillcrest, residents use the existing bridges on the north side of the highway and understand that the quickest route to downtown is not necessarily the safest.    
Pattiy also included two conversations she had:

With Byron & Kate Ballard who Pattiy heard to say:  the bridge should be reopened.  Kate suggested that she would love to be able to walk to Westgate to go have Chinese food.  Byron suggested that with the correct level of attention, creativity,  cooperation & common sense, what is now a problem area could become wonderful.  She suggested a partnership between the City of Asheville, Asheville Greenworks, APD, Asheville Housing Authority, etc to bring all the pieces together to make this work.

Matt Parris:  Matt owns Roots Studios @ 166 W. Haywood Street and has commented about the unsavory reality that he lives with on a daily basis and the need clean up his end of the River Arts District, particularly the DOT ROW and under the I-240 bridge.

And now back to the live meeting:

Pattiy Torno:  sees it as a social justice issue.  She would like to see WECAN, Montford & Hillcrest Residents, the Asheville Housing Authority, City Council & Staff, the NCDOT all come together to do the short term & long term plan around what is best for all concerned here.  Reconnecting the Montford, Hillcrest & WECAN neighborhoods is paramount.

Morgan Daven: sees it as a social justice issue.  Morgan voiced concerns the flow resulting from opening the bridge can be good or bad, depending on who is involved, and suggests trying to get the good element to prevail here.
He is more in favor of having the bridge open if there is an investment to make that space more visible and open…make the WECAN side safer, cleared out… He would love to see the investment happen…Just cutting the padlock would be the worst possible scenario.


Whit Rylee: recounted a story from the early 1990’s of his neighbors who used to run off crack dealers off their porch every day when they got home… While it is better than back then, he still get folks filtering  thru the woods, one time a gun shot victim in his front yard at 4am.  Whit still councils neighbors to not go into the woods under the I-240 bridge.  One friend did not listen and found the police looking for a guy who shot another man. 

Whit said that what we now know as Hillcrest was originally named “WEST END Apartments”… so it belongs with us.

“Until you address this whole area… there will be good folks and bad folks using an unsafe space”… Whit would like to see the dangerous place become a safe place… perhaps the bike/mountain bike course would be worth making a magnet park… Open the Bridge… just do it right!

Marsha Stickford is here at the behest of the Mayor… She announced the  July 20, 2010 meeting of the Public Safety Committee of City Council as a fact finding mission about this issue… This meeting will be held @ 3:30pm in the Municipal Building (downtown fire station) Training Room on the 4th floor… and invited anyone who might wish to have their views heard on this issue to attend.

Stephanie Monson: as staff liaison to the Asheville Riverfront Redevelopment Commission, her focus is how this issue fits into the bigger picture… working for the City’s office of Economic Development, her job looks at the big picture as far as funding opportunities are concerned. 

Yuri Koslen: also considers this a social justice issue… There are three bridges that cross I-240.  He uses the one @ Hill Street.  He is concerned that the current bike & pedestrian infrastructure (bridges, sidewalks & stairs) in place is not being maintained which makes it unusable.  This needs to change.  He suggested a mural project like Lexington Avenue, getting Hillcrest involved & the kids of all the neighborhoods to help good folks take ownership of this are.
Whether it is opening the bridge… or the redesign of the whole deal…it is important to do the immediate & the 10 to 20 year plan

John Nelson: we need to have pedestrian & bike connections.
The bridge not being open is not stopping people from coming thru just not safely…. people go under the bridge, thru the holes that are cut in the chain link which means that bridge being locked is only slowing people down a little but making it hard for that to crossing to ever be bike or elderly or handicapped friendly.

Gordon Smith: The pedestrian crossing under discussion was closed in 1994 and revisited 1999 after two similar deaths & council voted in 1999, 4 to 3 to keep it closed.  The focus was on Hillcrest as far as public feedback at that time & no other neighborhood was consulted.  At the time there was a lot of illegal activity that the Hillcrest residents felt might go away if the bridge stayed closed.

The July 20th Meeting is an important fact finding tool for council.  APD will be bring crime stats to this meeting… Council will visit this issue sometime in August 2010.  The recommendations decided by council would then need to go to the NC DOT for agreement & compliance.  Generally, the DOT does what Council asks, according to Mr. Smith.

Hillcrest has had one community meeting regarding the death of Anthony Ray Gilmore.  Gordon meet with David Nash & Gene Bell who said there would be a second community meeting in Hillcrest after the issue cooled a little.  The Asheville Housing Authority will most likely not voice an position here, letting the public comment do that job.

Chris Joyell: Executive Director for the Asheville Design Center, spoke about their desire to help re-integrate the Hillcrest community back to its roots.  He talked about the three versions of the I-26 connector still in the running, 3, 4 and 4b.  He informed that the ADC 4b plan has been modified by the NCDOT and he has not seen the current version.   He said that the environmental assessments were due this fall but that the public comment session were scheduled for this winter.  He also spoke about the Western North Carolina Alliance and their push to include all the affected neighborhoods, noting that they do not have a contact with WECAN.  Now they do.

Laura Clemmons: Americorp Vista intern at the design center who works mostly with the Burton Street community & the I-26 connector

Billy Brittain: His 5 years of working for APD has brought him in close contact with the issues surrounding Hillcrest, WECAN & the Bridge debate.
He voiced the concern that opening the bridge might be good initially but without appropriate follow thru could be a bad thing.
He agreed that security measures would be needed which could include additional patrols, lighting, vegetation removal, neighborhood watch & getting the good folks to use this area on an ongoing basis.

Now on to more just meeting conversation:
There was a discussion about the reality that this part of our neighborhood is not a family friendly place.  This is not new… It has been & will continue to be a dangerous place until something changes.  The closing of the bridge in 1994 did not change this reality.  The bad element still uses this area on a daily basis.

Perhaps the discussion of reopening the bridge will be the needed catalyst for change here to make this end of WECAN a more positive, productive, happy section of our community.

It was also pointed out that if you open the bridge to pedestrians, once on the WECAN side @ Roberts Street, there are no sidewalks for folks to walk on.  It was suggested that the City of Asheville needs to take a more aggressive stance in favor of more sidewalks and stop relying on developers to build our sidewalks for us.

So to RE-CAP the salient points:

Just cutting the lock will not work.

A concerted, cooperative effort on the parts of WECAN, Montford, Hillcrest, the APD, Asheville City Council & staff, The Asheville Housing Authority and all other interested parties will be necessary to make the reopening of the pedestrian bridge over I-240 @ Roberts Street a positive for all the citizen affected.

Those present at this meeting seem to be in favor of reopening the pedestrian bridge IF the plan and actions include:
  1. Removing the overgrown vegetation around the pedestrian bridge as well as in the DOT ROW under the east side of I-240 Smokey Park Bridge.
  2. Making sure the steps and sidewalks that connect the pedestrian bridge down to Roberts Street and up to Downtown are cleared of brush and then repaired & maintained to stay clear of debris and vegetation.
  3. Additional security measures are put in place that may include routine police visitation, lighting for the area, a gate house for security patrol & ways to encourage the positive element to frequent this area.
  4. Steps are taken to involve the communities on both sides of I-240 to help take ownership of this area that might include a mountain bike park & a mural project for the neighborhood kids.

Next steps:

Pattiy will draft minutes from this meeting and circulate them back to those here at the meeting and to the neighborhood for comment.  Once the comments are received and integrated, then these minutes will be forwarded to Mayor Bellamy, Maggie Burleson & Jeff Richarson at the Mayor’s request, for consideration during Council’s deliberations on the issue of reopening the pedestrian bridge. 

Pattiy will also put out a call to the neighborhood for anyone who wishes to come to the July 20th meeting of the Public Safety Committee of City Council to be sure that WECAN has representation.

Pattiy will continue to keep the neighborhood posted on facebook and via email as to any meetings concerning this topic to the WECAN residents email list… if you are not getting regular WECAN News Flashes from Pattiy and wish to, please send your email to: pattiy@ashevilleRAD.com for inclusion on that list.