Ashvegas Political Hit List: A complex land deal involving Buncombe, Henderson, Asheville

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Ashvegas: The City You Love. The News You Want.By James Harrison

Here we go—time for another Hit List. Here’s our best attempts at looping you in to political happenings across Asheville, Buncombe County and the state.

Righting the APD ship

During their meeting last month, Asheville City Council were presented with the findings of a four-month study on the department. Among the findings—problems in the department were “decades” in the making, and centered on poor communication and staff disagreements. Upon hearing the report, members of the Council offered backing to a list of overhauls and reforms geared at righting the troubled department (whose overall morale may be improving, according to a recent piece published in the Citizen-Times).

Complex county land deal

Commissioners are set to vote Tuesday on purchasing 137 acres of land in Bent Creek, after quickly agreeing to the transaction in a closed door, emergency meeting last month. The process surrounding the deal, which is estimated to cost around $7 million, left Republican commissioners unhappy. Proceeds from the complex sale are to be split with Henderson County and the City of Asheville—the latter of which will put proceeds toward the construction of a $6 million shooting range in Woodfin that will be used by both county and city law enforcement agencies. More on the deal here.

Update from the editor: County commissioners are set to consider new rules for the recording of closed sessions in the wake of how this closed-door meeting was handled. Here’s the text of a proposed resolution that’s being floated:

Resolution #: ____________


WHEREAS,  as a political subdivision of the State of North Carolina, Buncombe County exists solely to conduct the people’s business, and it is the public policy of North Carolina that the hearings, deliberations, and actions of public bodies be conducted openly;

WHEREAS,  pursuant to NCGS §143‐318.10, a public body is currently required to “keep full and accurate minutes of all official meetings, including any closed sessions held pursuant to G.S. 143‐318.11. Such minutes may be in written form or, at the option of the public body, may be in the form of sound or video and sound recordings. … [and such minutes and accounts shall be public records …  provided, however, that [closed session] minutes … may be withheld from public inspection so long as public inspection would frustrate the purpose of a closed session; and

WHEREAS,  subject to existing laws regarding confidentiality of personnel records, this Board desires to exercise its option and establish a policy that all closed sessions held by the Board shall be recorded in the form of sound or video and sound recordings.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Commissioners of Buncombe County, North Carolina, as follows:

1.  All closed sessions of this Board shall be recorded by the County in the form of sound or video and sound recordings. The recordings of closed sessions that become eligible for public inspection must be retained for at least two years from the date of the public release of the recording. Release of a recording of a closed session shall be governed by subsection G.S. 143‐318.10(e). The recording shall be a supplement to the general account of the closed session. The obligation created under this subsection to record a closed session using sound or video and sound recording does not apply to a closed session or a portion of a session that is closed pursuant to G.S. 143‐318.11(a)(6).

2.  That Section XV.  CLOSED SESSIONS, of the Rules and Procedures for the Board of County Commissioners, is amended to read:

A.  The Board may hold closed sessions as provided by law.  It shall commence a closed session by a majority vote to do so and terminate a closed session in the same manner.

B.  All closed sessions of this Board shall be recorded by the County in the form of sound or video and sound recordings. The recordings of closed sessions that become eligible for public inspection must be retained for at least two years from the date of the public release of the recording.  Release of a recording of a closed session shall be governed by subsection G.S. 143‐318.10(e). The recording shall be a supplement to the general account of the closed session. The obligation created under this subsection to record a closed session using sound or video and sound recording does not apply to a closed session or a portion of a session that is closed pursuant to G.S. 143‐318.11(a)(6).

3.  This policy is not required of the various boards or committees which are a part of or affiliated with this Board, nor is it required of groups to which Buncombe County appropriates funds.

4.  This Resolution is effective upon its adoption.

VanDuyn bills fizzle

Asheville state Sen. Terry Van Duyn has made headlines locally for introducing a number of bills during the current legislative session—many of which are expected to not go very far down the line. The senator recently introduced a bill geared at expanding Medicaid for North Carolina residents who fall into a coverage gap, but the measure is likely dead, according to this Citizen-Times report. Another bill put forward by VanDuyn would prohibit parents from citing religion as reason for exempting their children from vaccination—that measure also failed to gain traction.

McCrory makes moves

Fresh off a victory in a dispute over the legislature power to appoint of a coal ash commission, Gov. Pat McCrory found himself back at odds with Senate Republicans—this time over economic incentives. Calling for more sales tax revenues to be put toward rural counties, Senate leaders presented a plan which would cost Buncombe County millions of dollars, according to this Citizen-Times report. The issue was on Mayor Esther Manheimer’s agenda during a recent trip she made to Raleigh, and has received pushback from the governor, who served more than a decade as Charlotte mayor. There was no shortage of speculation as to how the rift between McCrory and Senators could shape the coming session, even as the governor sets the stage for his 2016 re-election bid.

McHenry backs brews

Described as a “man who knows his beer,” U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry was featured in an NPR piece last month on efforts being made by craft brewers to cut taxes and encourage small breweries to expand. It’s definitely worth a listen, but make sure to read the article online to see a pic of McHenry pouring a pint of Green Man in his Capitol Hill office. The congressman also recently introduced a bill geared at prohibiting rifle ammo bans by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. More on that here.

Tillis takes Cuba

Last month, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis visited the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Following his visit, Tillis, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on officials to keep the facility open.

Other items of note

– North Carolina is now open to fracking.

– Requesting NC public records? Expect to wait.

– Speaking of public records, the NC GOP has requested 14 years of state Attorney General (and likely gubernatorial candidate) Roy Cooper’s emails.

– The New Yorker focuses on politics at UNC

– Gov. Pat McCrory is not a fan of religious exemption bills.

– Historic tax credits could be on their way back.

James Harrison recently returned to Asheville after working as a government reporter for, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter at @jharrisonAVL.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. Tim Peck April 9, 2015

    Buncombe County Commissioners Meeting, 4/7, Recording Closed Sessions (55:15)

  2. Barry Summers April 4, 2015

    Good to see one of the last points of friction in the complex Asheville/Buncombe/Henderson water history get resolved.

    SaveOurWaterWNC was urging Asheville City Council members to get this land deal done as far back as summer of 2012. The unresolved status of this land was one of the last remnants of the fight over water from a decade ago. Glad to see this positive step in putting the old beefs to bed.

    When the NC Court of Appeals upholds the City’s lawsuit against the taking of their water system later this year, let’s hope that we can all take a breath and put this fight behind us.

    1. Tim Peck April 9, 2015

      Whatever the outcome of the appeals court (you don’t know), the matter will NOT be over. County ratepayers WILL receive justice. Nice happy talk, though.

  3. Jtroop April 4, 2015

    A silver lining about the gun range is that, perhaps, the Weaverville Police Dept. Will no longer need to shoot in the quarry along Reems Creek. This was the main reason the town was resistant to a greenway on the graded area along the north side of the stream between the lake and Northridge Commons.

  4. Santa April 4, 2015

    $6 million police shooting range? I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

  5. Tim Peck April 3, 2015

    “Van Duyn has made headlines ”

    Funny. Van Duyn makes headlines in the AC-T every time she farts.

    1. ashevillain April 3, 2015

      I’ll take ‘Jokes a 2nd grader might make’ for $200, Alex.

    2. Unaffiliated Voter April 7, 2015

      sure seems like it…wondering how ‘diverse’ her recent fundraiser was in the Ramble ?

  6. AVL LVR April 3, 2015

    Do the police really need a $6 million new shooting range?

    Aside, the police should not have the power of life and death. We are in the 21st century, by now they should only be using high-tech nonlethal weapons.

    I believe in the death penalty, but only under the law and not under police discretion.

    1. Sean April 4, 2015

      Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out. Tell me more.

      1. hauntedheadnc April 4, 2015

        Well, going from AVL LVR’s other posts, I think it has something to do with the fact that for one, bullets and lethal force are scarcely genteel and terribly uncouth. For another, if a “real” citizen of Asheville (you know, one of the “right” people) is ever threatened by a ruffian of one of the lower, undeserving classes, they can just order one of the servants to be shot in their stead.

        Therefore, the police don’t need real guns.


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