Correction: The initial story, posted Sept. 8, was amended Sept. 13 to reflect the correct number of condo units proposed and draw a distinction between condo units and guest rooms as defined under city rules.

There’s a new 27-unit condo building planned for 145 Biltmore Ave. in downtown Asheville that is straddling the line between a condo building and a hotel, something that triggered a discussion about the status and tracking of short-term rentals at Friday morning’s Asheville Downtown Commission meeting.

145 Biltmore Ave.

The commission’s Downtown Design Review Committee got an early look at plans recently, and Chairman Michael McDonough was reporting back to the full commission. He told his colleagues he initially thought the project would be condos, but that it had “evolved toward lodging.”

Alan Glines, assistant director of the city’s Planning Services Department, concurred, saying developers were planning to ask Asheville City Council for a conditional use permit. Glines reminded commissioners that City Council earlier this year approved a new ordinance that requires any project proposing 20 or more guest rooms up for short-term rental must come before Council for approval. The rules were passed in response to growing concern about Asheville’s ongoing hotel building boom and the impacts of increased tourism on city infrastructure. (Glines added that a project of 21 or more rooms for lodging also has a requirement for parking.)

McDonough said the project property fronts both Biltmore and South Lexington (which parallel one another) and said the design review committee had a discussion about setbacks and where, exactly, they would be required. The project is proposing 42 “guest rooms” as counted under the city’s rules, Glines said; one condo unit could contain multiple “guest rooms.”

Commission members Byron Greiner and Dane Barrager asked Glines how the new rules for short-term rentals apply to existing buildings in downtown. Greiner asked specifically about the new 55 South Market condo project, which just started construction. There are 70 luxury condominiums planned there, and 20 of them are being marketed as short-term rentals, said Greiner, who works as a Realtor.

Glines said city planning staff had a conversation earlier in the week about that very topic – what happens when folks in existing buildings start doing short-term rentals. The answer, he said, is that they need to get the proper permits. He noted that most existing commercial condo buildings have strict rules about how and when owners can rent out their units. Many “don’t want a lot of rentals,” he said, adding that city staffers are still working on “how we watch the incremental use of short-term rentals” in existing buildings.

The 145 Biltmore Ave. project is a “fortuitous” one in that developers have been transparent about their plans. “It gave us a chance to see that we will probably see more projects like this,” he said, noting that “my guess is they could have hidden” the planned use and gone through the approval process of a regular condo building.

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11 Comments

  1. luther blissett says:

    WLOS has the rendering of the new balcony-tastic design, seven stories on a quarter-acre lot looming over everything around it:

    http://wlos.com/news/local/luxury-condo-complex-proposed-for-south-slope-neighborhood

    It looks like a cross between a Menger sponge and an stacked assemblage of double-wides.

  2. Not a mention here of the wonderful barber Walter Wells who has owned this unassuming building for years and years. He epitomizes the caring and generous Asheville citizen that makes this town so great. I hope he has profited mightily from the sale of this property. For those who never experienced his care, I’m sorry; and for those who have, we’ll keep paying it forward.

  3. I’m very curious how the Asheville City Council can approve STR condo rental’s in Asheville and not allow the 400+ individually owned (mostly by residents of Asheville or attached counties) STR’s. I don’t believe that these condo units actually qualify a commercial condo units in that they are not mixed use and therefore are in fact residential condo units. I would love to do STR in an apartment I own in a 7 unit building and all HOA owners have agreed to approve. I’m sure there are others that would apply for permits as well. What’s the deal? Does the City Council only serve developers instead of the people who elect them? How do I get contact information for each current City Council member and those running to get their opinion on this?

  4. Alberice Architecture has a rendering up for a rather monstrous-looking 7 story building in that spot:
    http://alberice.net/portfolio-items/biltmore-avenue-mixed-use-development/?portfolioID=7

    Notably, that building calls for 128 units on twice as much land (both 145 AND 155 Biltmore)

    Since Alberice designed 45 Asheland and 12 South Lexington as well, I think it’s probably fair to say that Alberice is likely to be the architect at 145 Biltmore, so it’s a fair guess that the rendering linked above is an earlier version of the project currently being proposed.

    I use the term monstrous not because it’s too big, but rather because it’s so ugly. It looks like a hideous monolithic white and gray box utterly devoid of interesting design features. Remember the Ellington proposed just up the street from here? That was way bigger but not monstrous. But it’s designs like this that give big buildings a bad name and result in NIMBYs pushing through regulations that limiting all new construction to 3 stories or less.

    Here’s hoping that Alberice refines the design and actually lives up to the “Art Deco” inspiration that they claim.

  5. So, basically here we’re admitting that we’ve pretty much given up on providing residences for actual residents of the city? We’ve gone full on, “all tourists all the time” now?

    • luther blissett says:

      They have a website — http://www.145biltmore.com/ — for “a world-class modern art deco residence” that doesn’t yet exist and a contact phone number with a California area code. (The contact person is Al Sneeden, who is part of the equally unbuilt Charlotte-boring 45 Asheland Ave condo project, so I wonder if he’s also connected to the built-but-miserable 12 S Lex.)

      Apparently the new condo kings have decided to go full AirBnB. I assume they’ll deploy the same architectural genius.

    • I’m not saying I disagree with you but as a explanation, tourism money provides new money to the local economy. Resident money is just the re-spending of money already in the local economy. It doesn’t have as much value to the overall economy. That’s why imports in general are very important to the US economy. It provides money from outside the US that didn’t exist before. It’s called the multiplier effect. Providing affordable housing that rents for $562 a month is not very feasible for developers considering the cost of land and property taxes in downtown Asheville. Also few want to deal with the many hassles of long term rentals, especially at the rent low end. Current residents and businesses located near possible affordable units are not supportive of having those units anywhere near them. They will site over and over the reduction of their property values and the increase in crime which are both supported factually. Sad to say but living in any city is not affordable for most and especially not affordable housing whether they are tourist towns or not. This is not unique to Asheville at all.
      I personally live in Madison county because Asheville is too expensive. Yes I do have a rush hour free 22 minute drive to Asheville but that’s nothing compared to the time I spent driving while living in other cities. That’s the way it is. The closer in you are to cities the more expensive it is. The further out you are the less expensive.

      • I really don’t care if the housing is affordable, I just want it to be housing. I realize that housing downtown is going to be expensive — although I’m an advocate of a required affordability percentage in all new developments. However, that’s really not the issue right this second. The issue is that Asheville is already too much of a theme park, and that problem is not helped when we’re turning our residential neighborhoods into nothing more than backdrops for some tourist’s dose of “Asheville: The Experience™”

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