Oakley neighborhood residents in East Asheville gear up to oppose big new mixed-use development


Update Feb. 3: Asheville City Council voted to approve this development on Jan. 27. Councilman Cecil Bothwell cast the lone dissenting vote.

Posted Jan. 23, 2015: Some residents in East Asheville’s Oakley neighborhood are gearing up to fight a proposed mixed use development on Fairview Road that would include a 309-unit apartment complex and more than 9,700 square feet of retail space. The Flournoy Development Co. project is dubbed Biltmore Apartments.

The project would cover about 14 acres with frontage on busy Fairview Road, adjacent to both Biltmore Village and the Oakley neighborhood. The developer needs City Council to rezone the property for them to fulfill their development plan. The project, initially rejected by Asheville’s Planning and Zoning Committee, has been extensively revised.

Asheville City Council plans to discuss, and potentially vote, on the issue during its Jan. 27 meeting. City staff is recommending approval of the project as it stands now after all the back-and-forth.

The revisions still don’t satisfy some residents, who call the project a bad fit for the neighborhood. Fairview Road already has more than twice the number of injury traffic accidents of every other street of similar size in the city, they argue, with the project adding 500 more car trips per day on the road. Biltmore Village and River Road would also be impacted, they note.

Here’s some good background from the staff repot to Asheville City Council:

Review: Site: The project site consists of two parcels with a combined area of approximately 14.02 acres (according to submitted plans) and frontage on Fairview Road and Stoner Road just outside of Biltmore Village on the edge of the Oakley neighborhood. The site is currently zoned Urban Village (rezoned in 2007 as a part of a larger development project that was never realized). Adjacent parcels are zoned Commercial Industrial (CI) to the west and north, RM-8 and UV to the east and UV to the south.
The project area is currently vacant and has mature trees across the site. Surrounding uses include commercial/industrial operations, retail, the Norfolk Southern rail line and single-family residential. The site has some steep grade changes from adjacent parcels, especially along Stoner Road and the parcel to the west, along Fairview Road. …

The applicant is proposing the construction of a mixed-use development with primarily residential units but also live-work and retail space. As indicated in the Required Reviews section of this report, the project was revised after an original plan was
not supported by staff or the Planning & Zoning Commission. Current plans indicate a total of 309 residential units with 155 1-bedroom, 122 2-bedroom and 32 3-bedroom configurations (up from 298 units previously). There are 5 live-work units identified as well as 9,742 square feet for retail uses (original plan showed 7,600 square feet for retail). …

On October 16th, the Planning & Zoning Commission reviewed the original proposal and voted unanimously NOT to support the requested conditional zoning (6-0). Commissioners agreed with staff’s recommendation on that application that the project’s design and mix of uses was not aligned with the intent of the Urban Place zoning district and had serious concerns about the retaining walls as a method of incorporating the use into the site. Additionally, the Commission did NOT approve the requested variance relating to the distance between pedestrian entrances along Fairview Road.
The project was amended to address many of the comments raised by staff and the Commission and the revision was approved by a vote of 4-1 on November 20, 2014. The dissenting vote was due to concerns about integration of the project into the area and a desire for a greater mix of uses. Additionally there was some discussion regarding the district requirement for locating entrances on each primary façade, with one Commissioner wishing to see more entrances on each building; however staff has consistently and historically applied this requirement only to street facing façades which in this case would be Fairview Road and not internal buildings as they face onto a parking field.
Since the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, staff has met with the two adjacent residential neighbors who haveexpressed significant concern regarding the increased traffic into the neighborhood, the retaining walls and the lack of integration of the proposal into the area. Other area residents have expressed similar concerns.


jen March 16, 2016 - 11:53 am

The retaining wall, the leveling of the hill, the sea of asphalt parking and the raising of the flood plain (loss of the Swannanoa River plain, the prime farm land of 60 -70 years ago) for this project are very, very sad sights to behold. The retaining wall in particular is absolutely heinous design–I’d like to hear about how that is acceptable in city P&Z regulation.

AVL LVR January 28, 2015 - 9:35 am

Congrads, they have approved the apartments! Now we need to widen the road to five lane like the east side of Fairview Rd.

AVL LVR January 28, 2015 - 9:41 am

It makes sense to widen the whole road. It is a major east west rd. I use it all the time as a cut off. Some of those shacks need to be torn down anyways and replaced with high density housing like these.

luther blissett January 28, 2015 - 9:50 pm

Please knock on those people’s doors, LVR, and tell them that their “shacks” are getting in the way of an easier drive. Then you can go and tell the people who live in trailers what you think of them. I’ll stick with taking 240/40 between River Ridge and Sweeten Creek when I’m in a hurry.

AVL LVR January 28, 2015 - 10:49 pm

It’s about improving people’s lives. If we never allow trailers and shacks to be built, we never have them. Build a Haiti and you’ll have a Haiti, but a Switzerland and you’ll have a Switzerland. Real simple.

luther blissett January 29, 2015 - 1:07 am

Once again with the theoreticals and hypotheticals.

Robert Moses would be proud of you.

hauntedheadnc January 29, 2015 - 1:43 am

To build a Switzerland, you’d need to pay Switzerland’s wages, which Asheville does not. I’m terribly sorry that those who are not millionaires offend you by existing, but them’s the breaks.

Also, for someone who professes to be a LVR of AVL, it surprises me how much of AVL you’re willing to eradicate in the name of convenience or to rid it of people of an income level you find distasteful. If you really loved Asheville, you’d look for ways to help it acommodate everyone of every income level who wishes to contribute to it and make it their home.

AVL LVR January 29, 2015 - 10:19 am

Again more misinformation from hauntedheadnc. We will do both. We’ll accommodate people of every income group and revitalize the sketchy areas of town. Additionally, I would like to see the whole country become “rich” middle class. The Democrats have always received support from the richest and the poorest. Don’t you think they have a vested interest to keep them that way?

Unlike Robert Moses, I support historical preservation. Also, I don’t support high rises as such. I like buildings with character, craftsmanship, and beauty.

Widening the rest of Fairview Rd will remove the complaint (road unable to handle the traffic) and the complainers. No historical building (if there are any they can be moved) will be destroyed. Giant concrete Lego block high rises will NOT replace them. Instead, beautifully-crafted mixed-housing will. We don’t need the wealth of Switzerland, there are plenty of developers who will come in and do it (encourage not protest them). Gentrification is good as long as we accommodate everyone which is what we should also be working on, but blocking real beautiful development for shacks and trailers is not plain stupid. Shacks and trailers lack long-term durability (poor construction quality)and are eyesores (for all income groups) and sustain a vicious cycle of poverty.

hauntedheadnc January 29, 2015 - 11:02 am

What shacks and trailers are you referring to on Fairview? When I go down that road, all I see are 1920’s-1940’s vintage bungalows and a few other, grander houses, plus some churches and a handful of commercial structures. When you’re willing to call those, all of which would be erased in a road widening, “shacks and trailers” you sound like someone who’s really not concerned with providing opportunity as much as someone concerned with expelling people who have committed the egregious sin of not having enough zeroes in their bank balance.

AVL LVR January 29, 2015 - 11:28 am

Widening improves neighborhood. I remember Boone when I was young, widening 421 and 221 (especially the intersection) definitely improved the area. What you call vintage bungalows (not actually though) were replaced by more beautiful buildings (for example the one with Anytime fitness in it). US 19E widening is also improving Burnsville (I noticed several new building on that stretch). As long as we aren’t tearing down historically significant buildings (move them if necessary) and properly compensating the owners, widening is an excellent tool to revitalize neighborhoods and remove the trash. Especially as a tourist town where 1 in 7 jobs rely on tourism, we need more zoning to protect farming in Leicester etc. and neighborhoods from trailers and shacks. We don’t have to go as far as Helen, Georgia did though.

luther blissett January 29, 2015 - 1:19 pm

“more beautiful buildings (for example the one with Anytime fitness in it)”

In Boone? I’ve just looked at it on Google Street View: faux-Italianate cladding on concrete blocks, reminiscent of the worst Mission and Pulliam efforts on Hendersonville Road (home of stupid faux castles and bloated cottages kitschy mock-Alpine strip malls).

At least we now know where your taste lies: knock down honest houses that show a bit of age and put up cheap, profitable cookie-cutter pastiches in their place. Never mind what they’ll look like in 20 years when all the bits start falling off.

AVL LVR January 29, 2015 - 3:50 pm

That building in Boone was a major improvement on the old house that was there.

I really admire Pulliam’s work. Because of him, we have a Chipotle, Panera, and now Publix. He turned South Asheville into almost as good as North Asheville and downtown. I wish he would do the same with east and west Asheville. Maybe you are one of the ones who criticize Biltmore Lake and wishes to have Enka Lake back? These developments really HAVE improved Asheville.

luther blissett January 29, 2015 - 5:40 pm

“I really admire Pulliam’s work. Because of him, we have a Chipotle, Panera, and now Publix.”

Whoop-de-do. We also have a bunch of buildings on H’ville Road that look like shop-spoilt seconds from the Vegas Strip. Do you admire the Southern Community Bank & Trust, aka ‘what the f is that castle thing’? The ‘paint a Bi-Lo purple’ approach to The Rush? Pulliam’s made a decent living slapping up property that people will be eager to tear down in 20 years.

(Not that there aren’t good Pulliam projects. The Sprint/Marco’s building by Earth Fare has character.)

What do I like? Buildings that aren’t cheap pastiches, and are appropriate for their location, not just cookie-cutter CAD models slapped down in an available parcel with everything around them expected to adjust.

(Architecturally, I don’t mind Biltmore Lake: the condos are the usual fugly, because the scale is all wrong for that design; the houses are typical modern build on small lots, but there’s plenty worse in and around town. The residents are another matter.)

Tiger January 28, 2015 - 9:28 am

Asheville City Council approved Biltmore Apartments at its meeting last night.

Jason W. January 25, 2015 - 11:29 am

It looks to me that the property in question is more industrial than residential.

hauntedheadnc January 23, 2015 - 11:55 pm

I’m all for density, and I think that if you live close to the center of town, density and redevelopment is something you realistically have to expect.

That being said, when you look at the site plan for this thing, it’s not at all urban. It looks like they’re trying to cram a suburban project onto an urban lot. That’s why I would be apprehensive about this. Land in and close to downtown is too precious to waste on suburban development.

luther blissett January 25, 2015 - 5:20 pm

Yeah, the site plan devotes most of the acreage to parking space for 600 cars: four and five-story buildings in a desert of asphalt propped up by a big retaining wall. It’s going to look more like the Target than something residential.

It’s a plan that would make sense on a flatter parcel in south Asheville, but on that slope?

Murphy January 23, 2015 - 1:38 pm

This project should be shut down because of the size/height and potential for failure of the retaining wall alone…

just look at what has happened to similar walls in the area… the one out in Fairview started to fail and had to taken apart and reinforced and the continuing disaster at the airport…

ashevillain January 23, 2015 - 1:04 pm

“they will force the older stock to lower prices”

LOL. Yeah, right. I’m sure you know that deflation only ever happens in theory, right? The best we can hope for is that others won’t increase their rates as fast as they have been recently.

And just in case you aren’t aware, there is pseudo-rate-fixing already happening among all of the major apartment complexes in Asheville. Each of them calls around to the other ones to see what their rates are. Then they change their rates (if they are far enough off) to reflect that. I had a leasing agent flatly admit this to me. Of course when the vacancy rate is as low as it is, it makes it A LOT easier for landlords to raise rates and not lose tenants also.

And for the record, I am not opposed to this complex. I think we need more apts. However, this place does seem ill-prepared-for. If Fairview Rd. is already as dangerous as the numbers make it seem, then perhaps fixing that problem should happen first.

AVL LVR January 23, 2015 - 1:59 pm

Deflation is not just a theory. Gas prices have gone down as shale oil increased supply. Apartments are cheaper in Greenville because they have more of them. Of course, each apartment complex calls around to get as much as possible. You think its not happing in Greenville where rents are a lot less. As more units come online though from outside companies, they will go from price-cooperation to price-competition.

Barry Summers January 23, 2015 - 2:19 pm

“Apartments are cheaper in Greenville because they have more of them.”

I don’t know, ‘Asheville Lover’, don’t you suppose it might have something to do with the fact that these apartments are in Asheville as opposed to being in (don’t get me wrong, Greenville is a lovely place, but…) Greenville?

AVL LVR January 23, 2015 - 3:44 pm

Barry, you have a valid point which I have always agreed with. Yet, you know as well as I that Asheville wasn’t always so expensive. If the population was stable or shrinking, we would have normalized the vacancy rates to 5%. From CT, “A “healthy” vacancy rate is considered around 5 percent, said consultant Patrick Bowen, whose company is based in Pickerington, Ohio….A healthy level means there’s enough supply that owners feel pressure to lower prices and maintain the apartments, he said.

His calculation showed the region needs 5,575 rentals to fill the gap.”

Lets build more units to fill the gap. We may never build enough to fill the ever widening gap, but the alternative is having rents soar. “One bedroom apartments in Boulder rent for $1338 a month on average and two bedroom apartment rents average $1826.”

Are we in a catch-22? Market Asheville=people moving in=expensive housing ;solution build more affordable units=more people moving in Same goes with living wage jobs. The more industries we bring in, the more people will come to fill them which again makes housing less affordable. Do not market Asheville means tourism suffers which can effect 1 in 7 Asheville jobs.

AVL LVR January 23, 2015 - 4:04 pm

Greenville County has a lot more buildable land than we do, so that effects rents too. If Asheville’s population continues to increase, by 2030 we will begin running out of land to build more housing on. A lot of land is unbuildable (at a reasonable rate) because of geography and because a lot of land is locked up in parks (Pisgah National Forest, Bent Creek Rec. Area, etc.-I do NOT recommend opening these up for development. They improve our quality of life and bring in tourist $$). Right now there is space as this development proves. Once we run out land, housing will become a lot more unaffordable. All the “cheap” land would have been taken. We will have to build up-taller buildings and increased density.

ashevillain January 23, 2015 - 2:20 pm

Oh I see. So THIS ONE is THE ONE that will drive down prices? I won’t be holding my breath waiting for this scenario to pan out.

Same idea was presented when Verde Vista was built a few years ago. And Eastwood Village a few years before that. And…etc.

Arden has more apt complexes than anywhere in the county probably (and they’re still building more) and I haven’t seen rates decrease there yet either.

I hope the rent rates do become competitive here sometime in my lifetime. I would not bet on it though.

AVL LVR January 23, 2015 - 3:30 pm

The increased population offset increased supply. If those apartments weren’t built then I guarantee you rents would have soared a lot more than what we have now. Check Boulder, CO or San Fran

I too have questioned whether or not we need more housing. The more we build, the more people will come. If we limit supply prices will rise which could create aggravate homelessness but we could force them out of town (is that right though?).

luther blissett January 23, 2015 - 6:47 pm

Once again, LVR is very good on theoretical supply/demand curves that might apply to fungible commodities but don’t necessarily translate into real estate.

The grading issues with this particular proposal look absurd. It feels almost like the developers searched Google Maps for cheap green acreage without having “terrain mode” switched on. This isn’t going to be like gently flattening off parcels in South Asheville or Arden. I really can’t square the plan here with the landscape.

It does, at least, show off a cycle, and here’s where I agree in part with LVR: if you’re going to build on steep hills where there’s some remaining acreage, then you either need to price it way high (exclusive gated mountain subdivisions) or build it up and out to cover the development costs. Or perhaps you build it cheap, which is what I’d worry about here, because if that retaining wall doesn’t retain…

And yeah, Fairview Road just lowered its speed limit last year: people drive it like it’s Swannanoa River Road or Sweeten Creek, and it’s not.

AVL LVR January 26, 2015 - 4:03 pm

These apartments look beautiful. I have no problem with their height or density. I would agree with others regarding the retaining walls. It seems to be if they would pour concrete like the Hoover Dam it wouldn’t cave in as the AVL airport did. Maybe, they should use up all the South Asheville/Arden “flatter land” first and then see what is possible in the rest of Asheville. The area by the old Diamond Brands location in Arden is a ghost town-looks like an abandoned grocery store. I say tear it down and build these there instead.

JC January 23, 2015 - 4:46 pm

Gas prices have gone down because OPEC has lowered them to fight shale oil and Russian oil. Revising history while it’s happening? Very FOX newsy.

AVL LVR January 23, 2015 - 9:15 pm

JC/RJ, You are describing a price war. Apartments will undergo a similar “price war” to the benefit of its tenants. Expect a drop in apartment rents if the market is flooded with units.

RJ January 23, 2015 - 4:51 pm

Gas prices have gone down because OPEC has lowered them to fight shale oil and Russian oil. Revising history while it’s happening; very FOX newsy.

Barry Summers January 23, 2015 - 10:00 pm

Gas prices and precious metal prices started going up the day Obama was inaugurated. They both started dropping on a day in May 2011. The current price of gas is more related to this larger event than any other.

What happened in May 2011 to cause the drop we are benefiting from today?

bit.ly/1zEYlUD (drag & drop)

You’re right – ignore the evidence, look away… look away… look away…

FDR January 25, 2015 - 1:25 pm

We all agree with you. Don’t fight the folks that still think the world is flat.

FDR January 25, 2015 - 1:26 pm

I’m agreeing with RJ.

adam January 23, 2015 - 12:10 pm

As a renter, we need as many units to stabilize the market. Or, better yet, to stabilize Leslie & Associates.

Jessika January 23, 2015 - 2:56 pm

Leslie & Associates is the worst

MC January 23, 2015 - 5:50 pm

Leslie and Associates have been great to us. We pay our rent on time!

RW January 24, 2015 - 12:52 pm

We had a terrible experience with Leslie and Associates regarding what appears to be discrimanatory practice towards people with disabilities. Nothing to do with rent being paid on time. When I spoke with others in the community, all being people who are professionals and who pay rents on time, I was given a 100% consistent review that as a community business, they are terrible. Seriously, not a single person I have spoken with has said that they are a positive contributor to this community.

adam January 26, 2015 - 12:09 pm

What are you implying? That we didn’t? Watch what you write, there, bub.

Listen, we rented from them for over 5 years. We paid $75 per animal as a pet ‘deposit’ plus the regular deposit. We then paid $20 a month for ‘pet rent’. When we moved out, they deducted $100 from our deposit to clean the carpets (which were NOT clean when we moved in) due to pet hair. I told them to use the pet fee to cover that cost and they replied, and I am quoting,”Oh, that is just for catastrophic damage.”

So I then asked for my pet deposit back. They then told me it was not a deposit, it was a fee.

We paid around $110 in pet rent, plus the deposit, and they still took our money because the 15 year old carpet was not ‘up to their standards’ but still looked far better than when we moved in there.

Did I mention missing window panes for weeks on end in winter? Or the urine stains in the ceiling from a wayward possum that took months to have fixed? Or the hole in our ceiling chewed by said possum that was ‘repaired’ with duct tape? Oh, and this was a ‘luxury’ unit.

Leslie owns more than 1000 units in town. He sets the ceiling for rents as he owns the majority of units. If that company could be broken up, the rents would be far different, I guarantee it.

AVL LVR January 23, 2015 - 11:20 am

I support these 100%. Flournoy Development Co. is building the Aventine in Arden. From a recent C-T article, Asheville needs over 5,000 more units to have a healthy vacancy level (at 5%). Although these may not be affordable, they will force the older stock to lower prices. We can’t block every proposal or we’ll never have a chance for affordable housing. Asheville lacks strong developers (Pulliam is retiring), but at least we have some sharks in Charlotte and Atlanta area coming in. I’d rather it be local, but I’ll take what we can get.

Jake Mike January 23, 2015 - 11:55 am

I would be on board, but I think this stretch of Fairview road is the wrong place for this kind of development.

There is another large apartment complex in the works on Stoner and Thompson, which raises a lot less concerns over traffic, and would actually improve pedestrian safety by building some sidewalks. I’m all on board for population density and increasing inventory, but it has to be in the right places.

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