Asheville City Council voted 6-1 to on Tuesday night to deny the rezoning required for a developer to build a proposed 6-story, 170-room hotel on Fairview Road near Biltmore Village. Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler was the lone vote in favor of the project.
Over the past couple of months, Asheville City Council members have expressed increasing concern over the flood of hotel construction projects coming their way. Some council members, including Mayor Esther Manheimer, indicated their displeasure with hotel projects during their first meeting October, when they voted 4-2 in favor of a Brevard Road project. But during their second October meeting, when faced with yet another hotel proposal, this one on Biltmore Avenue, several City Council members expressed their opposition. The developer pulled the request at the last minute.
Tuesday night, Asheville attorney Derek Allen presented a plan by the Ohio-based hotel developer Rockbridge for an independent hotel at 62 Fairview Road. As part of the project, developers proposed building a 120-seat, two-story restaurant closest to the property’s Fairview Road frontage.
The location is the site of a marble/granite business adjacent to Davis Home Furniture and just up Fairview Road from Sweeten Creek Road. The site is also a brownfield site, and it sits in the flood plain of Sweeten Creek.
Allen ticked off the project’s positives: the hotel would provide a shuttle to Biltmore Estate and bus passes for employees; it would employ about 100 people and pay them a living wage; neighboring Biltmore Village businesses were in favor of it; it would not have a significant impact on traffic, according to a traffic impact study; and the hotel would help better define that southerly side of Biltmore Village, he said.
“It just makes sense for the area,” Allen concluded as he urged council members to evaluate the hotel on its own merits.
During the public comment period, two people spoke in favor of the hotel, including Karl Koon, who owns property adjacent to the site. Koon owns Asheville Oil Company and said he would probably have to move his business from its 4 Fairview Road location.
One resident of the area said concerns about increased traffic “could not be understated,” and activist Dee Williams said she wanted more information about how low income residents might benefit from the project.
With the public comment section closed, Councilman Vijay Kapoor kicked off council’s discussion. Kapoor agreed with the concerns over increased traffic congestion. He also said that there were already seven hotels in the Biltmore Village area, with one more under construction. (In the immediate Biltmore Village area, I count the new Holiday Inn, the Biltmore DoubleTree and the Hampton Inn and Suites Biltmore Village, all off Hendersonville Road; the Grand Bohemian; a Homes2 Suites under construction on Thompson Street; and a new Marriott under construction on Meadow Road at its intersection with the point where Biltmore Avenue turns into Hendersonville Road. That’s not to mention the two hotels on the Biltmore Estate property.)
“In terms of thinking about the diversity of what we have in various parts of city, just as I was opposed to the Airport Road hotel, I feel the same way about this,” Kapoor said.
Councilwoman Julie Mayfield said she, too, opposed the project. The proposal “does not look, in my mind, like what a town center should look like,” said Mayfield, referencing the city’s new comprehensive plan which emphasizes smaller, denser, more mixed-use develop referred to as town centers at specific key areas around the city, including Biltmore Village.
“I still don’t know how we get development we want if we don’t ask for it,” she said.
With that, Kapoor motioned to deny the project and Councilman Keith Young seconded it. The board voted 6-1 for that motion, with the vice mayor opposed. Wisler didn’t not comment on her vote during the meeting.