Some of what’s going around on a rainy Wednesday:
-With the construction of big hotels booming across town, Asheville City Council finally voted Tuesday night to approve new restrictions on large hotel construction. Under the new rules, any hotel project proposing 20 rooms or more must come to City Council for review. Also, any project of more than 100,00 square feet or taller than 100 feet must come before City Council for approval. City Council’s vote was unanimous. It was a response to growing public concern about the impact of the city’s tourism trade, which has seen an upswing in recent years. City Council also changed the review process to remove the quasi-judicial structure that severely limited communication between developers and City Council. The hope is that more communication will lead to more deals like the one struck in January between City Council and hotelier John McKibbon, who came before elected officials seeking approval of his major remodeling of the former BB&T building into a boutique hotel, condos and restaurant and retail space. McKibbon promised living-wage jobs for full-time workers in his hotel and gave $250,000 to the city’s affordable housing trust fund. He also agreed to spend $750,000 for sidewalks and public space in the area along with a revamped skyscraper, and gave local artists and restaurateurs preference for placement in his project. Later, McKibbon gave the nonprofit Mountain Housing Opportunities an interest-free $1 million loan to help spur the development of more affordable housing in the city. It’s been dubbed “the McKibbon standard,” and that kind of deal is what City Council was tacitly approving in its vote on Tuesday.
Still, the horse is out of the barn on this issue. City Council’s vote comes as two big new downtown hotels have opened in about the past year (Hilton Garden Inn at the corner of College and Charlotte streets, and Hyatt Place on Haywood Street) and the ongoing construction of four more: Asheville Foundry Inn at Eagle and Market streets; the Cambria on the corner of Page and Battery Park; The Arras on Pack Square; and the AC Hotel on the corner of College and Broadway. A host of other new hotels are planned or under construction around the city, including traditional traffic corridors such as Tunnel Road, Biltmore Village and Airport Road.
-Remember that record-breaking 78-degree February day? That was Sunday.
-Disclaimer Comedy is proud to present Myq Kaplan at The Southern in downtown Asheville at 8 p.m. on Feb. 18. Tickets are $8 online and $10 at the door. Myq Kaplan is a comedian named Myq Kaplan (pronounced “Mike”). He is a 2010 Last Comic Standing Finalist and has appeared on the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, the Late Show with David Letterman, Comedy Central Presents, and all the other places he’s been. You can listen to Myq’s podcast, Hang Out With Me, on the Keith and The Girl network. His debut CD, Vegan Mind Meld, was one of iTunes’ top ten best-selling comedy albums in 2010, followed by Meat Robot in 2013 and his one-hour Netflix special Small Dork and Handsome in 2014. Kaplan is also releasing his fourth comedy album, No Kidding, out Feb. 17 on ASPECIALTHING RECORDS.
-Ten Thousand Villages in Montreat will celebrate “Love Your Pet Day” by hosting a benefit for Asheville Humane Society from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18. Ten Thousand Villages will donate 15 percent of all sales to Asheville Humane Society.
-A series of four free public lectures will be held at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville’s downtown location of 36 Montford Ave. The Monday-night events will cover topics of diplomacy, politics, and news, and will be led by Lenoir-Rhyne’s Diplomat in Residence, Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Colton, an accomplished veteran of international journalism and diplomacy. Colton is an award-winning journalist who has worked for ABC News, NBC News, Newsweek, and NPR. The Asheville native also had a distinguished career as a U.S. Foreign Service diplomat in seven Middle Eastern countries. Doors will open each night at 5 p.m., and lectures will begin at 5:30 p.m. The first lecture of the series will take place on February 27, and will explore Global Adventures in Hot-Spots of Diplomacy, Politics, & News, according to a press release.
-On Friday, March 3, four local experts on North Carolina’s environment and energy policy will meet in the Asheville High School auditorium to debate the resolution “Fracking should be abolished in the state of North Carolina,” according to a press release. The debate will run from 6-7:30 p.m. The event is free, and the public is invited. Speaking on the panel will be N.C. Rep. John Ager, N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, and Asheville City Councilwoman Julie Mayfield (with another speaker to be finalized). The formally structured debate is sponsored by the Asheville High/SILSA Speech & Debate Team. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions of the participants at the end of the debate. Elizabeth Propst, a student at Asheville High School, will serve as moderator, and student members of the Asheville High/SILSA Speech & Debate Team will act as timekeepers. Concessions will be sold at the event, and proceeds will go to the team.