But representatives of key property owners, many of them well-known Asheville families, say they’ve been caught off-guard by the rezoning requests. The Asheville Planning & Zoning Commission was prepared to talk about, and vote on, the rezoning during its Nov. 7 meeting, but three attorneys representing affected landowners urged the commission to hold off. After hearing from the attorneys, the commission agreed to postpone its discussion to its Jan. 24 meeting.
The rezoning “could dramatically negatively impact, financially, all of these properties,” said Wyatt Stevens, representing Ingles, which has several land tracts that would be affected, as well as a group that owns the Harry’s on the Hill car dealership off of Patton Avenue.
Stevens said the land owners did not receive proper notification of the Planning & Zoning Commission’s notice of rezoning. The two other attorneys who spoke – Bob Long Jr. and Craig Justice – lodged similar complaints about the lack of proper notification.
Long, representing Asheville landowner and former Asheville City Councilman Chris Peterson, called the proposed rezoning the biggest “change in zoning for substantial areas for commercial activity in my lifetime.”
Justice noted that the rezoning is described in the city’s new comprehensive plan, which Asheville City Council adopted this past summer. Still, Justice said his clients, who own property along Merrimon Avenue, were not aware of the rezoning proposal. (The city of Asheville launched the process of drawing up its new comprehensive plan back in 2016.)
The proposed rezoning would affect a total of 145 acres at four key locations around Asheville. It would affect a total of 40 property owners. Here are the locations:
-40 acres along Patton Avenue, including the Kmart and Harry’s on the Hill location.
-21 acres along Merrimon Avenue, including the Fresh Market, Ingles and Stein Mart.
-40 acres along Tunnel Road, including Innsbruck Mall.
-43 acres on Bleachery Boulevard, including Walmart.
At a presentation to the Asheville Riverfront Redevelopment Commission the day after the P&Z meeting, city planner Vaidila Satvika said the rezoning request was a first big step in implementing the city’s new comprehensive plan. The goal is to promote higher density development, mixed-use development that supports increased walkability, affordability and the increased use of the city’s bus system.
“We have inherited world that is auto-oriented, and we’re trying to change that,” Satvika told the riverfront commission.
The rezoning is actually a two-prong process, Satvika said. The first rezoning would move the property to an existing designation known as “urban place.” The next rezoning would be to designate the property “urban center,” one that would encompass more form-based code elements. City planners have been implementing more form-based zoning regulations around Asheville, a type of zoning that places a greater emphasis on the look of a structure rather than its use.
Current uses of property would be grandfathered in, Satvika said. But any change of use, and any major renovation, would trigger compliance with the new rules if adopted.