Sunday, December 23, 2012

I-26 Update

It now appears that there are some monies available to possibly complete work (still many years away) on a portion of the I-26 project, which has been in discussion for almost 20 years now.  Currently, there is funding to widen I-240 through West Asheville, but no funding to address the problems related to the I-26/I-240 interchange and Jeff Bowen Bridge (formely Smoky Park).  Regardless, the NC Department of Transportation will be having to update the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the entire project.  The I-26 ConnectUs group, which represents neighborhoods most impacted by the project, recently sent the following letter to NCDOT outlining its goals and considerations that it would like to see addressed as this project picks up steam again.

____________


Vince Rhea, P.E.
N.C. Dept. of Transportation
1548 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1548

Re: I-26 Connector, TIP No. I-2513

Dear Mr. Rhea:

            Now that work on the I-26 Connector Project has begun again, the I-26 ConnectUs Group would like to provide the following comments to you and DOT regarding our hoped for goals for the project and the new EIS.  The I-26 ConnectUs Group represents most of the potentially impacted neighborhoods, including West Asheville, Burton Street, East-West Asheville, WECAN, and Montford.  Though we no longer have a specific representative for the Emma community, we continue to consider the interests of that neighborhood.  The group also has participation from the Asheville Housing Authority, Christians for a United Community, the design community and, of course, the Western North Carolina Alliance.

            The I-26 ConnectUs Project has revised its 2009 goal statement to better reflect the current status of the project and the need for all parties involved to step back from earlier, entrenched positions.  Our current goal statement, or vision, for the project appears below, and we would anticipate being able to support a project that met these goals: 

To ensure the long term health and success of the economy, citizens, and environment of Asheville and the surrounding area, the final design and construction of the Asheville I-26 Connector should achieve the following:
·       Safe travel for interstate and local traffic
·       Improved connections for all modes of local traffic
·       Minimal destruction of neighborhoods, homes, and businesses
·       Minimal harm to air and water quality
·       Improvements that match the scale and character of Asheville

In addition, there are several issues that we request the new EIS specifically address.  Many of these are standard considerations for EISs, but we want to be sure DOT understands what we think is most important and provides information that will help Asheville and DOT make the best possible decisions around this project.  Therefore, we request that the new EIS include the following; 

·       Recognition of the importance of the environment and character of Asheville, their role in promoting regional tourism, and an analysis of the impacts the various alternatives will have on these.
·       An assessment of the impacts the alternatives will have on neighborhood and city connectivity via local streets and documentation of specific impacts to neighborhoods.
·       An analysis of how this project helps advance or impede the goals and implementation of various plans adopted by the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, and the region, including the Long Range Transportation Plan; the City’s 2025 plan, Greenway Master Plan, Transit Master Plan, Pedestrian Plan, and Bicycle Plan; and the County’s new Greenway Master Plan. 


·       An analysis of whether improvements to local roads and/or transportation demand management strategies would be effective at reducing local traffic on I-26.
·       A clear explanation of the traffic forecast and the resulting recommendation on the number of lanes, as well as the tradeoffs inherent in the relationship between the number of lanes and the level of service.
·       A new traffic forecast that uses a revised local model to see if state and national trends in reduction of VMT is occurring in Asheville and what impact that might have on the project.
·       An analysis of the application of the NCDOT Complete Streets Policy and the new NCDOT Public Health Policy to this project and how this project advances or impedes the goals of these policies.
·       A more complete analysis of the air and water quality impacts of the various alternatives.

For purposes of the EIS, we also note the addition of New Belgium to our community in the vicinity of this project, and we ask that the DOT consider in its design alternatives providing easier highway access for New Belgium truck traffic that reduces the impact on surrounding neighborhoods.   

            Finally, we encourage DOT to focus the funding available for this project on Section B.  We realize the only currently available funding is for Section A through West Asheville, but Section A is a much lower priority and, if funding continues to be limited, should be built after Section B.  In no case should Section A be built before or apart from Section B, as that would be unnecessarily destructive to neighborhoods, homes, and the environment and would not address any transportation need.

            Thank you for your consideration of these comments.  As members and leaders of this community, we look forward to working with you and others to design and chose the alternative that will best serve Asheville and its citizens and visitors for decades to come.  

Sincerely,
           
Julie V. Mayfield
Executive Director




Cc:              Asheville City Council
            Buncombe County Commission
            Paul Black, French Broad River MPO
            Jay Swain, NCDOT Division 13
            Rick Tipton, NCDOT Division 13

The Future of the Ice House

At the January 8 meeting, Asheville City Council is expected to vote on what to do with the Ice House property that the city recently purchased.  Please share your comments here on what you would like to see happen with the site. 

How can it be secured?  Should it be preserved?  Should certainly parts of it be preserved?  Should it be demolished?  If it is demolished, what should the site be used for until a more permanent solution is figured out? 

Below are two memos sent to the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission (AARRC) communicating the considerations and options that City of Asheville is exploring in regards to the site.  (The AARRC voted 10 to 1 in favor of a resolution to support the COA report to demolish the Ice House.)


TO:                         Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission

FROM:             Stephanie Monson Dahl, Urban Planner

SUBJECT:             Consideration of Advisory Position to Asheville City Council Regarding 
                        Disposition of Ice Plant Building at 91 Riverside Drive in the River Arts District

DATE:             December 13, 2012


Background:  The City of Asheville purchased the property, PIN #9638973694, for redevelopment purposes on November 30, 2012. The property includes 2.2  acres of open space on the French Broad River and approximately 1 acre of developed property  on the east side of Riverside Drive where the approximately 50,000 square foot building known as the Ice House is situated.

Review: City staff will recommended to Council that the building be demolished based on the following review: preliminary due diligence documents regarding potential for rehabilitation; staff’s understanding  that structural steel had been removed from the inside of the building/other compromises to the integrity of the building structure have been made while the building has sat unsecured for years; and the projected direct and indirect financial costs associated with supporting heavy security measures to protect public safety in and around the building. While staff supports the administration and achievement of many Council goals, protecting the public health, safety and welfare is staff’s chief duty.  Staff’s recommendation to pursue demolition of the building includes the preservation of the iconic smokestack to the south of the building.
The River District Design Review Committee held a special meeting on December 5, 2012 to consider this item, as it is part of their mandate by ordinance to review any building or demolition activity that will have a substantial impact in the River District. Because opinions on this item were diverse with no clear consensus on a recommendation to Council apparent, the Committee did not vote on the item.
Council will consider staff’s recommendation, consider public input, and give policy direction to staff on the immediate disposition of the property at their meeting on January 8, 2012. Council may consider a variety of options not discussed in this memo. Any associated staff report and exhibits sent  to Council will be available to the public on the Friday in advance of their meeting.

Pros and Cons developed by staff regarding demolition include:
Pro: 
·       Eliminates a health and safety hazard that is widely considered a public nuisance
·       Alleviates need for costly and potentially ineffective security measures by owner (City).
·       Provides a potentially more attractive redevelopment site for investor in the future, as more potential forms of redevelopment possible.
·       Cleans up physical appearance of district, potentially attracting investment and detracting disinvestment and blight/nuisance use.
·       Has potential for more interim uses (open space, parking, temporary uses, festival support) as a site than if the building remains, including potential revenue producing uses.
·       Multiple potential purchasers have reviewed the building, met with City staff, and have not found a solvent financial and business plan for the building
Con: 
·       Eliminates a contributing building to Riverside Industrial Historic District
·       If demolished, rehabilitation credits (Federal, state, and local) are unavailable to developers.
·       Cost to demolish: $145,000 base rate, plus contingency (not to exceed  $225,000)

If Council chooses to demolish the building, staff recommends that the newly acquired property be used in the short term for parking that supports riverfront revitalization (festivals and events/strolls, general business support and access to open space and recreation), and be used in the long term to support a redevelopment accomplished through public private partnership. In order to determine the preferred long term redevelopment option for the property the City will include 91 Riverside Drive as part of the Riverside Drive Strategic Planning process scheduled for Spring 2013.

 Recommendation: Staff recommends the Riverfront Commission provide Asheville City Council with a formal recommendation on the consideration of demolition or other disposition of the building located at 91 Riverside Drive.  

_____________________________________
 
SUPPLEMENTAL MEMO

TO Asheville Riverfront Redevelopment Commission
FROM Stephanie Monson, Urban Planner
SUBJECT Policy Options for Disposition of Ice Plant- Expanded Discussion
DATE December 13, 2012

The purpose of this memo is to provide the Riverfront Commission with more information
about the policy options Asheville City Council may consider regarding the disposition of
the Ice House building at 91 Riverside Drive, recently acquired by the City of Asheville
for redevelopment purposes.

Primary Policy Options include:

Option 1 Extension of Current Efforts
Policy Goal: Meet the minimum (plus) for unsafe building ordinance requirements
regarding the abatement of life hazards associated with building. Directly respond to
Council’s Strategic Plan goal of improving public safety in neighborhoods with the
highest levels of crime.
Review: Staff is guided in this by Chapter 4, Article 6 of the Unified Development
Ordinance, regarding unsafe buildings aimed at protecting the safety of its citizens. The
Ice House as an unsecured, dilapidated building is a public nuisance, generating at least
250 calls for service to the Asheville Police Department in the past two years, with an
unknown number of unrecorded incidents. The building is compromised externally, with
penetrations of the building’s exterior spanning over 20 feet, allowing easy entrance to
the building. The Ice House is also compromised internally, which becomes a safety
hazard to curious passersby who regularly wander inside, people experiencing
homelessness that are seeking shelter from the elements, and any public safety officials
trying to protect the health, safety, and welfare of individuals or groups who have chosen
to enter or stay in the building. The dilapidated condition of the interior is evidenced in
photographs, confirmed by the apprehension of suspects deconstructing the building for
personal gain, and by building safety professionals noting rotting structural materials. At
minimum, the City must secure and or remedy by ordinance the building to an extent
that abates the hazardous associated conditions. The ordinance notes that if the owner
of the building cannot abate the hazardous conditions, a demolition must be sought.
City staff, as part of its current 60-day Security Plan, is currently meeting or exceeding
the minimum required to protect safety by the following measures:
Completed
• Evacuation and relocation of individuals living in the building: A team of outside
agency (Homeless Service Providers) workers and City public safety officials
found new shelter for 12 individuals and their pets living in the unsecured
building.
• Posting of structure being a dangerous building: City Building Safety personnel
posted “Notice of Dangerous Building” signs in multiple locations around the
perimeter of the building.
• Provision of additional physical security to the building: A city facilities team
closed as much of the exterior penetrations as possible using conventional
lumber and other readily available construction materials as of Tuesday
December 4th, 2012. Security tape was strung across areas they were unable to
board up.
Ongoing
• Provision of additional public safety patrol: under the direction of Fire Chief Scott
Burnette and Chief of Police William Anderson, additional patrols have been
implemented.
Next Step
• Provisions of additional operational measures to abate hazard: City staff suggest
that the safest and most secure environment can be created in the short term by
focusing on operational measures and human resources. Substantial physical
improvements to the building require Council‘s authorization and funding. Easily
compromised security measures like fencing around or boarding up the building
are considered impediments to the operation of police and fire when responding
to a call public safety; the City will provide a substantial operational presence on
the Ice House site that insures physical safety. This measure will continue until
policy direction changes.
Fiscal Impacts: $12,000 to $15,000 for 60 days, not including staff time such as
increased patrols, coordination of efforts, and use of labor to secure building.
Other Considerations: The extension of this plan from a short term, interim (60-day)
option to a six-month option or longer would not be recommended without additional
physical improvements to the building itself. Because of this, it is estimated that for every
six months, this option would cost $50,000 to $60,000.

Option 2 Demolition of Main Building and Preservation of Iconic Smokestack
Policy Goal: Meet the unsafe building ordinance and eliminate future need to address life
hazards on site. Create redevelopment opportunities that align with adopted plans and
strategies for the area. Directly respond to Council’s Strategic Plan goals of promoting
sustainable, high-density, infill growth that makes efficient use of existing resources, and
continuing efforts to rejuvenate the riverfront area by removal of a safety hazard that hasbeen deemed unattractive for redevelopment.
Review: Staff has developed the following considerations associated with the proposed
demolition of the Ice Plant building.
Pros:
• Immediately eliminates the hazards associated with the building’s condition and
fulfills the unsafe building ordinance requirement.
• Prepares the developable portion of the site for interim uses that support
revitalization of the riverfront, such as temporary commercial or special event
uses or parking for the same and for business accessibility or riverfront
recreation
• Provides a shovel ready site for developers looking to partner with the City on
new construction.
Cons:
• Eliminates a contributing building to the National Riverside Industrial Historic
District, meaning any potential future use of historic tax credits are lost upon
demolition
• Option eliminates a historic asset reflecting the cultural history of Asheville pre-
World War II
Fiscal Impacts: The City’s lowest responsible bid for demolition is $145,000. The City
expects to abate a moderate amount of asbestos before that time, and to pay $10,000 to
$15,000 to secure and protect the iconic smokestack. Creation of temporary parking lot
on site is estimated at $25,000 to $35,000. Council would be asked to allocate an
amount not to exceed $225,000 for the project.
Other Considerations: Staff concludes that the rehabilitation standards required to
access the tax credits appear to be unattractive to potential development partners, as
the limitations on redevelopment are significant. For example, few, if any, windows could
be installed on the exterior, and most of the building could not be used as habitable
space due to existing low ceiling heights.
In a related effort, a small area strategic planning process is underway to determine long
term uses of City owned property along Riverside Drive in the River Arts District. A
preferred redevelopment scenario will be chosen for the site(s) and presented to the
Riverfront Commission and ultimately Council. Staff will be guided by fiscal
sustainability; however, additional costs are likely to be associated with future
redevelopment.

Option 3 Non Profit Partnership Model/Preservation for Museum Project-
Policy Goal: Preserving the building for a monumental project based on the cultural
history of the riverfront. Supports future infill riverfront redevelopment project in
partnership with a nonprofit organization.
Review: This option suggests “mothballing” the building for a future museum project.
One redevelopment example has been presented to staff and community members in
the form of a Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The programming and resulting
spatial needs of the Museum model are based off the newly opened Peoria Riverfront
Museum (Illinois).
Pros:
• Preserves the building
• Displays the historic nature of the Ice Plant
• Could potentially spur a regional tourist attraction
Cons
• Does not mitigate the life hazard and associated liabilities
• Less support for temporary uses that support vibrancy
• Prolonged vacancy of dilapidated riverfront structures detracts from revitalization
• Narrows field of potential redevelopment partners
• No identified institutional partner at present
Fiscal Impacts: Unknown. The cost of a similar museum project is estimated at $80
million. It is likely that the municipality will carry a substantial amount of total
redevelopment or maintenance costs, as evidenced with such projects as Pack Square
Conservancy and the Grove Arcade Rehabilitation. Funding for institutional projects is
highly competitive, and corporate entities to partner with on a project of this size and
scope are limited. Minimum cost to the City to “mothball” the building is estimated at
$180,000; however, this estimate does not include continuing security and maintenance
of the existing structure.

Other considerations: Council will need to review national best practices for such a
project, including partnership/management structures, financial models and pro formas.
Staff notes that monumental projects such as these may provide high community benefit
in the long run, but require substantial time and public subsidy to achieve.

WECAN December General Membership Meeting Minutes (Draft)

WECAN General Membership Meeting December 6, 2012 at 64 Clingman Ave.
Board Members Present were: Byron Ballard, Joe Fioccola, Bret Frk, Yuri Koslen, Patrick Pearson (Proxy for  Suzanne Willis) Luke Perry and Joanne Skinner. Board Members not present were Jeff Carnivale, Jessie Nell Coleman, Tom Gibson, AnnaBeth Hardcastle, and Mike Kenton. Other Members present were:  Stephanie Greiner, Gray Hayes, Alex Krug, Rachel Larson, Hanni Muerdter, Mark Schieferstein and Addy Wygmans, Also present were:  Lt Jamee Crawford, CRO Evan Coward, Marsha Stickford, Steph Monson Dahl.

    Luke officially called the General Membership meeting to order at 6:38 p. m. with a round of introductions and recalling ones most pleasant memories of the past week.

ICE HOUSE: Lt Crawford gave an overview of the Ice House Property at 91 Riverside Dr. A joint effort of several city departments resulted in the city’s acquisition of the property last Friday. Steph reported that an order of demolition which was on the last City Council Agenda has been removed and rescheduled for January. Comments on the impact of a demolition to the district were collected at a River District Design Review Committee meeting. A diverse range of opinions were presented from Safety: ‘people first’ to ‘it is the most important building and needs to be preserved.’ AB Preservation Society and the NC State Historic Preservation Office say it promotes visual harmony and historic integrity of the Riverside Industrial Historic District.  So demolition has been removed from consideration until additional due diligence has been completed. The current process consists of developing a menu of options, legal analysis with fiscal, environmental, political and economic impacts to City Council by the end of December and reconsider the demolition issue in January. Additional meetings are scheduled for the coming weeks to develop a public safety plan which includes increased patrols of the ice house as well as other vacant buildings in the district. The building is still not completely physically secure but the squatters have been removed, at least once and City staff have put up additional boards and tape at the site.  Lt Crawford said progress is slow  but in the right direction and the police goal is safety not necessarily preservation or demolition.  Canvassing of council members has been going on. Public input is welcomed at the Council meeting. Formal letters from organized groups are effective. Council can  receive comments by snail mail, email, and in person in advance of the meeting. The project has caused the city to look at vacant buildings and review the state statutes, codes and ordinances to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with these issues city-wide. The law enforcement process of dealing with vacant structures is complaint driven but responsive to criminal and public safety issues. We will see what can be done in the next 60 days. Luke thanked all the city departments for their efforts in this matter.

APD CRO: SFB: Evan came from a meeting with the South French Broad Neighborhood Their organization has had uneven progress but is refocusing on crime issues. Their biggest one is prostitution and Officer Kenny Clamser is the Police Departments spearhead in that effort working with Our Voice and Jail Diversion to redirect and rehab the women. SFB wants to meet with the Housing Authority and they want to have a joint neighborhood meeting for the residents around the Aston Park area in January or February  including WECAN, S French Broad Neighborhood and the newly constituted APD Housing units about the Aston Garden Apartments. Possibly in conjunction with the YWCA.  Other issues   People sleeping on the porch of Jolie DeSheas at 295 W Haywood St.  Evan will talk to them about lighting and signage. The light at the end of Jefferson has been fixed but there is still traffic going there and needles found. Evan encouraged recording tags for research but not physically blocking people in or getting physically involved. That information may not lead to an immediate arrest due to structural problems with the law and the learning curve of lawbreakers but could have other uses

TREASURERS REPORT
: Luke read a report from AnnaBeth. WECAN is tax exempt as a  501c 3 organization. (Incorporated in NC since 1997) The IRS had a question about refilling papers but AnnaBeth found that they are not required unless our annual receipts exceed $25,000. Our current balance is $256.79.

Joe reported  a SUMMARY OF ACTIVITY since our last General Membership Meeting :
Aug 2--General Membership Meeting O-B Park... Bicycle Race… Designs for a New kiosk at the bus stop at Owens-Bell Park… Aug 7--National Night Out… Sept 6…River Music Concerts on Riverside Dr... Sep 13 East Of The Riverway Day: Dog and Pony Show... Sep            18+20 Energy Plan Focus Groups:.. Communication Committee Block Jessies... East West Asheville Neighborhood/New Belgium... Roberts St Traffic Counts… Clingman Bulb out Striping… The Clingman Forest Greenway design team has been selected: Site-works Studios… Oct 4 Hillcrest Walkover bridge after 1 year.... Goat keeper... Bike skills park... Roberts Street Parking Plan ... Oct 10 New Belgium/EWANA Meeting ... 12 Adopt A Highway… 14 Garden Club…           Drainage Repair... IDIOT-ARAD… Oct 22-Master Plan Steering Committee… Nov 1 Ice House Discussion… Oct 19 Master Plan Steering Committee… Nov 26 Newsletter… Dec 3-Evie Littlejohn passed away.. Dec 6 General Membership Meeting… Election of Board Members… Master Plan Process… Refreshments…

MINUTES: The minutes from the August meeting and the minutes from the November meeting as corrected by Cara were approved as corrected:  There were 4 incidents that I know of (I've learned of more since the meeting, though): August: screams, no one located (correct as is) Sept: Man attacked by 4-5 people (correct as is) Oct: A man beat up by two assailants in the Ice House, the police were not called and the man was brought to a Shelter by Wedge employees Oct 27: Melissa Weiss gave her phone to the witness On Oct. 27 to report the beating which resulted in the death of Andrew Stephens Marsh (correction: Melissa was not to one talking to police on the phone). Thanks, Cara

ELECTION OF BOARD MEMBERS: Bylaws call for 3 year terms for board members who may serve up to two full consecutive terms, then they must rotate off the board for at least a year.  Attendance at meetings is not restricted to board members. So the fun may continue even while technically off the board. We meet the first Thursday of the month at 64 Clingman Ave at 6:30 p.m. Current Board composition is as follows:
Class of 2012::: Yuri/1*Expiring term renewable  Byron/1*Expiring term renewable Brett/2*Expiring term non-renewable
Class of 2013::: Jessie/1  Joe/1  AnnaBeth/1  Jeff/1  Tom/1     Class of 2014::: Mike/1  Luke/1  JoAnn/1  Suzanne/1
Joe thanked Bret for his service over the last 6 years as well as his continuing participation in the Master Planning process. Luke opened the floor for nominations. Joe nominated Byron and Yuri.  Yuri nominated Mark, Grey and Stephanie. Luke Nominated Rachel and Hanni, and Byron nominated Pattiy provisionally.  Then Stephanie, Grey and Hanni declined their nominations.  The slate of Byron, Mark, Rachel, Yuri and Pattiy (provisionally) was nominated to the Class of 2015 and approved by acclamation. Welcome aboard the board!
Officers are elected by the board at the January meeting.

MASTER PLANNING
: Luke gave an overview of the Ad-Hoc Master Planning Steering Committee meetings. They began to meet in August with awareness of the changes since the plan was written in 2000 and the changes and challenges that are immanent. The group has met monthly since then to review, study and analyze the Citizens Master Plan to see where we are now and facilitate a discussion with the neighborhood in the coming months.  Chapter assignments were made as follows: Yuri: Patton Avenue and Interstate I-240; Luke: Infill Opportunities; Pattiy: Riverfront Area and The Arts District; Bret: Green Infrastructure and Ecological Restoration Plan; Hanni: Main Street on Clingman Avenue and Lower Clingman Avenue; Joe: Top of the Hill; Bret: Existing Conditions (Data); AnnaBeth and Rachel Existing Conditions (Social);  Bret gave a brief overview of GIS. Geographic Information Systems integrate hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically connected information. GIS lets us visualize, question, analyze, interpret, and understand data to reveal relationships, patterns, and trends. The use of  GIS has been enhanced by the city by providing access to a lot of their data. GIS will be a useful tool to inform the planning process.

EAST OF THE RIVERWAY: Luke continues to be in contact. As part of the nation-wide Sustainable Communities Initiative, the City of Asheville received a TIGER II Planning Grant to work with the neighborhoods of the “East of the Riverway” area.  Asheville is one of a few cities in the country to be awarded this grant which is helping fund planning efforts in the Southside, South French Broad, Hillcrest, Lee Walker Heights, WECAN and River Arts District.  The City of Asheville has partnered with Green Opportunities, the Asheville Design Center and many others to build stronger communities with a voice that is heard across the greater Asheville community. Some of the funding will be used to produce working drawings for the Clingman Forest and Town Branch Greenways, the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan, RADTIP, the Reid Center Job Training Center and organizing the Southside neighborhood.  Luke shared some graphic Census Data that includes only Census tract 9 which excludes Hillcrest Apts. He also distributed a copy of the RADTIP Preferred Alternative which was presented earlier today. Steph explained that the main focus for us was the 2.2 mile multimodal build out through the River Arts District and WECAN. The next steps are working with consultants to develop detailed drawings. RADTIP should be complete in about 5 years.

IN4M On Wednesday there was an informational forum about Buncombe County's 2013 Property Tax Reappraisal. At the meeting the main concern was gentrification and the impact of the New Belgium Development. NB should not have a direct impact on residential property values since it is a commercial property. Since no inspections are done beforehand the question was brought up that if one leaves the outside of a house looking shabby any improvements on the inside could not be assessed. However, assessors are aware of permits for major renovations. Luke passed around an information sheet and will present a graphic flow chart explaining the process by the next meeting.

RIVERSIDE DRIVE STRATEGIC PLAN: Steph announced a community planning process in March to develop a vision  and preferred use for the Progress Energy Brick Building behind 12Bones among other buildings in the area.

NEW BELGIUM DESIGNS: Luke showed some architectural renderings of the final designs for the brewery. Deconstruction should begin in January, site work begins in April and construction in September of 2013.

BLOCK JESSIES
: Yuri explained that Block Jessies are a development of the Communication Committee. Named in honor of longtime WECAN resident Jessie Coleman of Knoxville Place, they will be collectors of contact information and dispersers of  community interest and public safety information in their "block." They would not need to attend monthly meetings just be in touch with their neighbors on their block. However, monthly board meetings are fun and open and anyone may attend. Committed so far: Block 1) Chicken Hill: Luke; Block 2 ) Patton to Hilliard: Jessie; Block 3) Rector: ?; Block 4) Merritt Park:?;  Block 5) Prospect Terrace:? Block 6) Clingman Ave:?; Block 7) Clingman Lofts: Hanni; Block 8) Jefferson: Yuri; Block 9) Park Ave: Bret; Block 10) Grey Eagle:?; Block 11) Roundabout:?; Block 12) Riverside: Pattiy;  Contact any of them with questions, issues or problems. Some more Block Jessies are still needed.
Thanks to all those who brought food.
The meeting adjourned at 8:20 p.m.
Minutes submitted by Joe Fioccola

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ice House- Thank You + Save the Chimney

Below is our follow-up letter to the City of Asheville for purchasing the Ice House property in order to effectively address the short-term challenges while also creating long-term positive outcomes.  There is discussion that the City will demolish the building, and if so, we are lobbying to save the large brick chimney.  Please come to the WECAN meeting this Thursday if you would like more information on this issue.
________________


December 3, 2012

Honorable Terry Bellamy, Mayor of Asheville
Asheville City Council
Gary Jackson, Asheville City Manager
Stephanie Monson, COA Riverfront Redevelopment Coordinator and Urban Planner for Economic             Development
Chief William J. Anderson, City of Asheville Chief of Police
Lt. Jamee Crawford, Asheville Police Department
Evan Coward, Asheville Police Department Community Resource Officer
Heather Dillashaw, The Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, City of Asheville
Marsha Stickford, City of Asheville Neighborhood Volunteer Coordinator
Dawa Hitch, City of Asheville Community Relations Division Head
Anne Simmons
Tootie Lee

To Whom It May Concern:

We very much appreciate the acknowledgement and prompt attention to the growing problems at the Ice House on Riverside Drive. It is clear the City leaders heard the concerns of citizens to address this problem site.  Beyond that, we were very excited to learn that the City had acquired an option to secure the property, and most recently, is now in ownership of the property.  With the city’s leadership and vision, we now believe that this site will actually become a significant community asset, instead of an ongoing community concern. Additionally, we commend the city taking a compassionate approach, working collaboratively across departments, to provide resources to those who had been utilizing the building for shelter.   
We are still concerned about the building being unsecured in the short term.  While we understand there are plans to demolish the building, we hope the City will take care to address the ability for people to access the building in the short term.  Additionally, if demolition does proceed, we request that every effort be made to save the tall, brick smokestack on the property.
Finally, we remain concerned about the other vacant buildings that remain open and unsecured, posing dangerous risks to the public.
We thank the City of Asheville for stepping forward with the leadership that was needed to address this issue and we look forward to continued collaboration among leaders and the community as our neighborhoods grow and change.

Sincerely,
West End / Clingman Avenue Neighborhood  (WECAN)

River Arts District Business Association (RADBA)

River Arts District Artists (RADA)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

WECAN Meeting this Thursday at 6:30

Please join us this Thursday, December 6th at 6:30 pm for our monthly neighborhood meeting.  This is our annual membership meeting and we will be having food.  If you are interested in getting involved, this is your chance as we will be updating our WECAN Board membership and have spaces open.  Additionally, we have a lot going on in the neighborhood that we will be discussing.  Here is the tentative agenda:

Introductions
additional agenda Items
Summary of activity since August--Joe
Approval of minutes of August Meeting
Nomination/Election of board members
                (Thanks to outgoing member Brett)
Master Plan
Block Jessies Neighbor survey
Ice House/PECI  planning
Updates: 
    New Belgium
    East of the Riverway
Ideas for the future of WECAN
Fundraising ideas

Please come and join us.  We meet at the Jessie Neal Coleman Community Room at 64 Clingman Ave (corner of Hilliard and Clingman).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

WECAN NEWS • November 2012


And do not miss the WECAN Annual Meeting on Thursday, December 6, 2012 @ 6:30pm @ 64 Clingman Avenue @ MHO in the Jessie Nell Coleman Community Room on the 1st floor!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

IN4M #1: Property Tax Valuation 101

ASHEVILLE (November 20, 2012) –River Arts District BusinessAssociation (RADBA) and Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAC) present IN4M, a informational forum series to provide education and resources around maintaining Creative Independent Commerce in Asheville’s River Arts District.

The first IN4M event is IN4M:Property Tax Valuation101 with Gary Roberts, Buncombe County Tax Director. Gary will address “What makes property values change?” on Wednesday, December 5 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Asheville Area Arts Council (346 Depot Street). 

IN4M: Property Tax Valuation 101 is free and open to the public.  It is especially relevant for business and property owners and renters in the River Arts District.

Background
On October 9, 2012, at Phil Mechanic Studios, artists and business owners in the River Arts District met with County Commission candidates to discuss the impact of the arts and raise awareness of the impact of the arts on the economy.
Concern for property value and tax increases led to questions about affordable rents and living in the district as well as the West End/Clingman Avenue Neighborhoods.  As a follow up to the Candidate Forum, River Arts District Business Association and the Asheville Area Arts Council present IN4M, a series of informational, educational forums to discuss the complexities around increasing property values, taxes and general change in the River Arts District.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

City to Buy Ice Plant Property

In response the continuing problems at the Ice Plant on Riverside Drive, the City of Asheville is moving forward to purchase the building, with a promise to secure it as soon as possible.  This is a very positive development for the neighborhood and we appreciate the city's leadership in addressing this problem.  See below for the city's response to our request for action as well as additional details about these developments.  Additionally, the local press has picked it up, with a story from News 13 and a write-up in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dear WECAN, RADBA, RADA members,

Thank you for reaching out to City Council and staff to share your concerns about the Ice House property.  Please know we are working across departments and coordinating efforts to address concerns about the structure itself, people illegally living in the structure and violence or criminal activity happening around the property.  I hope this update gives you confidence the city takes the safety of this property and surrounding properties seriously.

With respect to the structure, the city recently acquired an option to purchase the property.  We are negotiating with the current owners, and approaching what we hope will be a closing date.  Whatever the outcome of the real estate transaction, we are confident the property will be secured as soon as possible.  If the purchase goes through, the City, as the owner, will evaluate every option, including demolition, to make sure the property is safe.

In the interim, the police department will continue to work closely with resource providers involved with the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative.  Early last week, they again went to the building and people illegally living in the building were given a seven day notice to vacate the premises and were introduced to service providers who can be good resources for the transition.  We were successful in finding alternative shelter for nearly a dozen people, but we realize there are many transients who also occupy the structure.  Officers followed up again Monday morning and found no one occupying the building.

Police officers will also continue increased patrols in the area.  The more information they have, the better they can do their jobs.  If you see or hear violence or other activity threatening to life or property, please call 911 immediately.  We are also encouraging the community to stay in touch with APD District Commander Lt. Jamee Crawford at 777-3607 and Community Resource Officers Evan Coward 777-4505 or Tyler Radford 545-8374 with the hopes the community will also continue to relay non-emergency safety concerns.

With respect to policies concerning deteriorated or dilapidated buildings, please see the attached response from Building Safety Director Robert Griffin.

In his email, he mentions a few ordinances and general statutes.  Here is a direct link to those items.

Minimum Housing Code (Section 4-217)

Unsafe Building Code (Section 4-180 to 4-190)

North Carolina General Statutes (160A-426 – through 160A-432)

Thank you all for taking interest in your community and your willingness to engage with your government.  I was unable to pull all addresses from the original email and would be grateful if this message were forwarded to anyone who may have been missed.  Please don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions.

All my best,

Dawa Hitch
City of Asheville
Public Information Officer
Community Relations Division Head
828.259.5981


From: "Robert Griffin" <rgriffin@ashevillenc.gov>
Date: November 15, 2012 5:09:37 PM EST
To: "Dawa Hitch" <DHitch@ashevillenc.gov>
Subject: Ice House


Dawa -  Here is the requested information on the Ice House and the process we follow for deteriorated or dilapidated buildings.

The City’s Minimum Housing Code (Section 4-217) and Unsafe Building Code (Sec. 4-180 to 4-190) details the process for structures that meet the definition of deteriorated or dilapidated buildings.  In addition, N.C.G.S.  160A-426 through 160A-432 outline a process for dilapidated structures.  The city’s legal department provides oversight and guidance of the process to ensure all legal requirements are followed, protecting all city residents by preventing an order from being overturned.
As a matter of practice, city staff works with property owners to resolve issues associated with deteriorated or dilapidated properties.  Currently, there are approximately 100 structures of residential and commercial property that have been identified as being open to the public and vacant, having structural deficiencies, or other unsafe conditions.  Structures are added to the list based on complaints from neighbors, public safety agencies, social services and visual observance by building inspectors.
When a building has compromised structural integrity, it is declared dilapidated, setting in motion the process outlined in the ordinances and statutes referenced above.   A building that is open and vacant is visited monthly by an inspector to verify the building maintains the posted indication as being unsafe, is secure, or no action has occurred.
With respect to the Ice House property, there has been ongoing contact with the owner about securing or demolishing the property.  At times, the property was secured at other times the condition of the property was further compromised by individuals stripping the building of materials such as copper, steel and other salvageable items.  When active discussions were taking place on potential purchase, the City did not pursue further actions due to the understanding that a new owner would purchase the property and immediately secure rehabilitation of the building or demolish for clean access to the property.
At this time, the city is under contract to purchase the property.  No matter the outcome, we have every expectation the property will be secured as soon as possible.  If the purchase goes through, the City, as the owner, will evaluate every option, including demolition, to make sure the property is safe.


Robert Griffin, Director
Development Services Department
City of Asheville
P.O. Box 7148
Asheville, NC 28802
(828) 259-5726 - Office
(828) 250-8814 - Fax
rgriffin@ashevillenc.gov
www.ashevillenc.gov

Friday, November 16, 2012

MHO's HouseWarming Party • Friday, November 30th @ 6:30pm


SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING on Friday, November 30 at The Venue in downtown Asheville to support affordable housing and emergency home repairs for your neighbors in Buncombe County. 
Hosted by Mountain Housing Opportunities, The Housewarming Party benefits MHO’s Affordable Housing + Emergency Home Repair programs that serve underprivileged families in Buncombe County. Heavy hors d’oeuvres, beverages from The Merry Wine Market and New Belgium Brewery, and entertainment from the Butch Quisto Jazz Quartet comprise this charitable evening. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, November 30. Tickets cost $55 per person, $100 per couple. For more, visit www.mtnhousing.org or call (828) 254-4030.

HELP US SPREAD THE WORD (come celebrate the holidays and help our neighbors)
Please tell your friends and share information on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/520836267944400/

IF YOU CAN’T JOIN US (you can still help)
Throughout the holiday season and during the event, an online gift registry lets you donate housewarming gifts, including: as little as $2.50 for a roof shingle and up to as much as you like for appliances, furnaces, and more, that go directly to those in need. It’s just like a wedding registry, and can fit any budget—if we all give a little, it can go a long way.  So, if you can’t make it to this event, please consider a donation of any amount here—there is no amount too small: http://www.simpleregistry.com/mho/

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ice Plant- Community Request for Action (with response from Mayor Bellamy)

In light of the ongoing problems at the Ice Plant on Riverside Drive, the following is the letter that was sent to the City of Asheville and Ice Plant property owners on behalf of WECAN, RADBA, and RADA:

November 12, 2012

Honorable Terry Bellamy, Mayor of Asheville
Asheville City Council
Gary Jackson, Asheville City Manager
Stephanie Monson, COA Riverfront Redevelopment Coordinator and Urban Planner for Economic Development
Chief William J. Anderson, City of Asheville Chief of Police
Lt. Jamee Crawford, Asheville Police Department
Evan Coward, Asheville Police Department Community Resource Officer
Heather Dillashaw, The Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, City of Asheville
Marsha Stickford, City of Asheville Neighborhood Volunteer Coordinator
Anne Simmons
Tootie Lee


To Whom It May Concern:

On Saturday October 27, 2012, Stephen Andrew Marsh was killed inside The Ice Plant @ 91 Riverside Drive by Ian Alexander Allen.  It has come to light that the perfect storm of homeless squatting, mental health issues, safety concerns limiting Asheville Police & Fire Department access and property owner neglect of security & civic duty have all contributed to this event.  As organizations representing concerned residents, business owners, and workers, we believe it is long past time for the problems at the Ice Plant to be addressed.  It is unfortunate and tragic that it has taken the senseless death of a community member to bring about significant steps to fix this problem.  This particular building is a public safety hazard, has recently been host to numerous violent incidents, is a significant drain on public resources, and represents blight on the many, many years of hard and committed work that neighbors, business owners, and the City of Asheville have invested into making this area a safe and special place. 

At the West End / Clingman Avenue Neighborhood (WECAN) meeting on Thursday, November 1, Stephanie Monson shared that the City of Asheville staff have been directed to investigate both legal and fiscal possible remedies and report back to the City Manager with a comprehensive plan that would address not only the Ice Plant, but any other similar property situation.  We look forward to the City of Asheville coming forward with the leadership that has long been desperately needed in this particular instance.  As a community, we request the following:

  • The Ice Plant should be secured immediately, but no later than Friday, November 16.
  • An updated policy from the City of Asheville detailing how it will address vacant and dangerous buildings in and around our neighborhood.  We expect to receive a digital version of the policy on or before Friday, November 16.
  • The policy should clearly hold to account property owners to secure their property.  If a property is sold or changes hands, the property still must remain secured until the building is demolished or it becomes legally occupied.
  • The policy should clearly communicate steps to ensure that other problem properties (remnants of the Old Cotton Mill and Days Warehouse are our greatest concern now) will be secured within 60 days from the date of this letter.
We thank you for your consideration and attention to this pressing issue.  Our thoughts and prayers extend to the family and friends of Andy Marsh with the hopes that his death will serve as a wake up call to ensure this tragedy does not occur again.  We look forward to working with the City of Asheville to come up with a solution that will benefit everyone, and to ensure that the River Arts District will continue to be a safe and enjoyable place to live, work, and play.


Sincerely,


West End / Clingman Avenue Neighborhood  (WECAN)

River Arts District Business Association (RADBA)

River Arts District Artists (RADA)

This is the Mayor's response on November 12th to the letter: 

Thank you for your email.  I appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns with council.  Your concerns have been a topic of discussion for the leadership of the senior staff and they have a plan to address many of the concerns that you have outlined.  Mr. Jackson will provide you the details of what has been decided and he or his staff will provide you information on the implementation schedule as well.

Again, thank you for your email.

Sincerely,

Mayor Bellamy

Monday, November 5, 2012

WECAN November Meeting Minutes (draft)

WECAN Board Meeting November 1, 2012 at Merritt Park Meeting Room.

Board Members Present were:  Jessie Nell Coleman, Joe Fioccola Bret Frk, Yuri Koslen, Luke Perry and Suzanne Willis. Board Members not present were Byron Ballard, Jeff Carnivale, Tom Gibson, AnnaBeth Hardcastle, Mike Kenton and Joanne Skinner.
Also present were: Officer Evan Coward, Lt. Jamie Crawford, Cara Gilpin, Tootie Lee, Stephanie Monson, Hanni Muerdter, Officer Tyler Radford, Anne Simmons, and Pattiy Torno. Luke had one correction for the October minutes in the section Bike Skills Park change 'met' to 'consulted. Minutes approved as corrected. He called the meeting to order at 6:38 p.m. with a round of introductions.

APD CRO UPDATE-ICE HOUSE DISCUSSION: Last week on Saturday October 27 there was a fight at the old Ice Storage building at 91 Riverside Drive that resulted in  the death of Andrew Stephens Marsh. Luke offered our thoughts and prayers and a moment of silence. Tootie Lee and Anne Simmons-- the owners of the building, said their concern was great, and they were grateful for the meeting. They reported some bad news-- they can't afford to raze the building all they can do is post it against trespassers; and some good news-- it has been on the market and it is set to be sold. (Closing date is in later this month.) A concern was raised that whatever happens with the property in the future the larger problem remains and will be displaced to other vacant or abandoned buildings in the area.

Stephanie provided a little background on the city response. Over several years many complicated options have been considered such as razing, eminent domain, liens, etc. (Estimated cost to demolish building is $200,000 and over $60,000 just to fence it.) Rather than acting quickly and setting an impossible precedent to maintain with the other vacant buildings from Lyman St.to Riverside Dr. the city is considering several policy options that will have to incorporate HHS issues response to mental illness, homelessness, legal, and financial aspects. The city has established an informal deadline of two weeks to develop a plan or solution or policy options that the city is physically and legally capable of implementing.

Lt Crawford emphasized the need for a holistic approach with one focus on public safety. She said the original call on that Saturday night came in from Melissa Weiss at the Wedge as a simple assault-someone was heavily beaten. When the officers arrived, witnesses-- a married couple who lived there, led to the rear which was pitch dark where they found the victim and the suspect-- an Ian Alexander Allen. The couple had been squatting there for six and a half months among 15 other people. Previously the Lt. was hired off-duty by an architect measuring and drawing the building for the East of the Riverway Project because they felt unsafe. She confirmed that the building was wide open and dangerous. At some point there was a question of asbestos hazard but the 'brownfield inspection' confirmed there is no asbestos. Bret asked if a deadline like 60 days could be established to secure the building or it would be razed. The Fire Department says it is not fit for occupancy and will not enter the building. The owners averred that the building has been secured many times but people keep breaking in. Lt. Crawford said we want no more incidents or assaults. We need ideas and we need to do more than what we have so far until a comprehensive policy is in place. 

Cara, who works at the Wedge, reported that there have been several incidents since August: one call from the Wedge that they heard a scream but officers were unable to locate. In September, a man with a head contusion and a ripped and bloody shirt passed out at the Wedge saying he was jumped and sexually assaulted by a group of 4 or 5 men (both black and white) and October  27  someone was beaten up in the Ice House and taken away. She was thankful that the Wedge was perceived as a 'safe haven' where people can come if they need help, but she also feels powerless and unsafe and wonders what can be done to make the area feel safe? Bret asserted that legally, it is the landowners responsibility to secure their property and assure its safety. Pattiy confirmed that the Fire Department has decided the Ice House is a 'surround and drown" because it is structurally unsound. She also noted that other property owners have been responsible and done the right thing. When Dave Steel left they tore down the building rather than allow graffiti taggers to climb on the roof and risk their lives and his liability. Luke noted that being open is a public safety hazard not just for transients. Some people have been doing photo shoots or commercials there.

Lt. Crawford brought up the issue of code enforcement rules: in Greenville, NC once a property is declared a public safety hazard the owner has 9 months to correct it before the city will demolish it. She talked about the Charlie District  the police area of which she is in charge. Many times there are only five cars covering the area from I240 downtown to Airport Road so keeping units at the Ice House is impractical. Officer Coward agreed that they are working with serious limitations unique in the city. We need to address the issues and homelessness is just one of them. The new homeless initiative was working  He passed out cards that are given to homeless campers when they are located giving them 7 days to move or be moved and advising them of the services and service providers available to them.

Luke summarized that the building is structurally unsound and unsafe and unsecurable; Police and Fire won't enter and don't have the resources to handle the problem. So what are the next action steps until the next owner closes on the property. Pattiy asked if the results of the city's self-imposed 2 week deadline could be brought to the next RADBA meeting on Tuesday November 27 at 4 p.m. at the F.L.S. boardroom at 130 Roberts Street. She observed that for all its problems this community has some powerful resources. There are at least two community organizations that meet monthly.( WECAN and RADBA) She encouraged the rest of the community to use these meetings to report problems and be informed. Officer Coward reminded everyone that the best thing to assume is if you didn't tell the police they won't know about it. Stephanie said to 'pester' her to get it done in the next two weeks. Bret suggested concrete barriers to keep people out in the next two weeks. Joe asked about lighting.

COMMUNITY RESOURCE OFFICER
: Lt. Crawford introduced our newest CRO Tyler Radford and the process of how they are selected and assigned.

AD HOC MASTER PLAN STEERING COMMITTEE:
Luke reported that the group met on October 22 and settled that in order to update the Citizens Master Plan published in 2001 we needed to read it and be familiar with it. Luke noted that a master plan should be a living document and guide and needed to adjust and change or it will wither and die. The group divided the main features among themselves to read and report back at the next meeting on November 19. The group will continue to meet monthly and hopes to have something to present to the board by early spring. (April or May)

ANNUAL MEETING/NEWSLETTER: Joe reported that the required annual meeting and election of new board members should happen in the fall. Last year we held it in conjunction with the regularly scheduled monthly board meeting in December. By consensus it was decided to repeat that this year. We also send out a newsletter summarizing our achievements and announcing the meeting. Last time we did the bulk by email. Joe provided a list of brief (2-3 paragraphs) articles to be written: Living Treasure Matthew Bacoate; New Neighbor: New Belgium; Clingman Circle Celebration; New Kiosk and Bike Tools; New Sidewalk on Lyman St; EOTR Energy Plans; Future Bike Skills Park; Updating the Citizens Master Plan; General Membership Meeting Dec 6. Yuri volunteered to write something about 'Block Jessies", Luke about EOTR; Byron was volunteered to write about Mr. Bacoate and the Clingman Circle.  Pattiy agreed to format it with photos if the articles are received by November 15th.

COMMUNICATION COMMITTEE:BLOCK JESSIES: Yuri will email the volunteer 'Jessies'  to begin making their lists of contacts, Half of the dozen 'Jessies' are still needed for Blocks 2,4,5,6,10 and 11.

BIKE SKILLS PARK: Luke reported that the conversation continues to activate unused spaces in the neighborhood and showed where the sites being considered were.

NEW BELGIUM/EWANA MEETING
: Luke reported that the group met today and Pattiy was amazed that the brewing equipment had to be designed and would cost as much as the building itself. The East West Asheville Neighborhood Association met on October 10th and had 120 people show up at Hall Fletcher Elementary.  City officials and DOT explained the process of choosing the truck route to the New Belgium site. A citizen also proposed an alternative around the Riverside Railroad trestle along an infrequently used railroad spur. He was not very sensitive to the existing business owner and railroad user's needs.

DOT TIP PROJECT I-26: Luke reported that the I-26 Connector project was back on the table. He heard from Juliet Mayfield with the WNC Alliance that funding would be available for Section A. (Which is the I26/I40/I240/Brevard Road Interchange) And that the environmental impact study was moving forward. The process is supposed to examine the impact on all three sections before land acquisition or construction can begin on any one section. They are an active group representing stakeholders and will need some community input at various points in the process which is still several years before construction begins.

UPCOMING EVENTS:
Party for the People: Benefit to support work at Hillcrest of Women's Wellbeing and Development Foundation Friday Nov 3, 7-9:30 p.m. @ Jubilee.
Southside Community Meeting: Tuesday Nov.13, 6 p.m. @ Southside Grant Center
Idiotarad: November 18  2-5-p.m. details at www.raceofawesome.com.  Pattiy announced that Curve Studios was staffing a running crew with a work day on Friday November 16 9am-noon to tag non-native invasive vegetation that will need to be cleared during the race. also a cardboard trail to be laid and spread with mulch and removal of concrete debris and trash around the margins to facilitate the mowing crews.
Bret reported that construction for a new house on W. Haywood St has broken ground between 411 and 421
Meeting adjourned at 8:15 p.m.
Minutes submitted by Joe Fioccola

WECAN 2000 Citizens Master Plan: can be read at http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/PlanningDevelopment/NeighborhoodPlans.aspx