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.
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