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