Wednesday, January 23, 2013

City Council Approves New Belgium Site Conditions

Last night, City Council voted unanimously to move forward with New Belgium's proposed brewery on Craven Street.  In addition, City Council also approved related bike and pedestrian improvements to Haywood Road as well as a feasibility study to explore using Riverside North as a preferred truck route to and from the facility.  Next steps will likely include studying how the turning radius at the Craven/Riverside intersection can be improved as well as increasing the clearance of the road at the Norfolk Southern Railroad trestle on Riverside Drive. Read more about this.

Below is a statement that was read to City Council last night on behalf of WECAN:

January 21, 2013
Dear City Council and the Honorable Mayor Bellamy,
As you are planning to vote on the New Belgium brewery project, please consider the perspective of the West End/ Clingman Avenue Neighborhood (WECAN).  WECAN sees our future quality of life tied together with our surrounding neighborhoods, and would like to take this opportunity to address the impacts of this project.
WECAN is primarily interested in seeing our neighborhood develop as laid out in our Master Plan, including more affordable infill development, safer pedestrian access and routes, multimodal transit, and ecological restoration enhancing the public experience.  The recent upgrades along Clingman Avenue is one example of this, with the City and NCDOT responding to the requests of a neighborhood to improve a major thoroughfare with traffic calming devices, better signage, bike lanes, sidewalks and adequate lighting.  Whether through improved safety & wellness, or reduced household transportation costs, infrastructure can improve quality of life. We would like to see City resources continue to be used to enhance the economic vitality of neighborhoods through a diverse mix of property and transportation uses.  
We appreciate New Belgium’s interest in a centrally located site, adjacent to the French Broad River.  Our neighborhood was established when the cotton mills built housing for its workers, creating an early sustainable community in the heart of Asheville. The creation of new jobs in the middle of Asheville’s residential core that will be accessible through multiple modes of transit is a huge benefit to our community and the city.  While many residents are excited about the potential of this project, many others are quite concerned about the unknown impacts including, but not limited to the scale of the facility, increased traffic, odor issues, and noise.
We believe this is an opportunity to address existing deficiencies in infrastructure that will only be magnified by the increased traffic to the New Belgium Brewery due to truck, employee, and visitor traffic.   We recognize that in order to enable additional job growth in our neighborhood, including the River Arts District, ease of access for freight vehicles (Riverside Dr, Hazel Mill Rd, etc.) needs to be resolved.   In addition, Haywood Rd. and Clingman Ave. will see increased traffic volumes, whether from visitors or from business operations.  We seek a commitment from NCDOT and the City to prioritize developing Haywood Road as a complement to Clingman Ave, serving as a continuous multimodal, mixed-use corridor as laid out in the Haywood Road Corridor Plan. This includes but is not limited to complete street planning: slow speeds, beautification through design and landscaping, pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities, and narrow travel lanes.  Inevitably, we recognize that large freight vehicles may use these corridors; a corridor design that promotes safety on shared roads in a residential area will promote successful economic development and strengthen neighborhoods.
We support the city staff’s recommendation to Council, with the following adjustments.
1.     Broaden the language to complete a feasibility study that identifies how to provide freight vehicle access to I-240 in the shortest route possible without crossing through neighborhood corridors.  This includes more due diligence and communication about the feasibility of the Riverside north route, including prioritizing improvements to the Craven Street Bridge in the RADTIP funding to enable truck turning.
2.     If and when changes are made to the Craven/Riverside intersection, we ask that utmost importance is placed on improving pedestrian and bicycle safety, including improving the connection to and from Roberts Street.
3.     Fund a shovel ready design for the Haywood Rd. corridor to make it multimodal and effective as a mixed-use neighborhood as laid out in the Haywood Rd. Corridor Plan. This design and construction should continue through Beacham’s curve to I-240, whether using city funds, or French Broad River MPO funds (either through amending the TIP or using STP-DA funds).
4.     Changing Clingman Extension and Roberts Street to one way is not a priority for the neighborhood and we do not currently see the need for it if this area will not be seeing increased truck traffic.  While we have no problem with studying this option, we would like to have more feedback and discussion with our community if this study moves forward.
5.     Finally, we ask the city to consider new approaches to understanding and communicating with impacted neighborhoods earlier in the process as other projects such as New Belgium come to the table. 
In conclusion, WECAN welcomes New Belgium to our neighborhood, and it is clear they take being part of the community very seriously.  We are grateful for the extensive efforts they are making to ensure open communication, solve problems creatively, and generate high quality jobs for those who need them.  We also appreciate the time, effort, and sensitivity the City has put forth to be responsive to neighborhood concerns. We look forward to proactive and increased collaboration among all parties as this project moves forward and others come down the line, in order to create healthy, prosperous, and truly sustainable neighborhoods.
West End / Clingman Avenue Neighborhood (WECAN)

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