With high-profile rezoning requests, Asheville city officials aim for ‘urban center’ development

Jason Sandford

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

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Asheville city officials are focused on a series of proposed high-profile property re-zoning requests that they hope will result in more mixed-use, high-density residential development along four busy city roadways.

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.

Jason Sandford

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

  • 1

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  1. HelenG December 4, 2018

    This is a great plan, concentrate higher density along urban corridors and then have decent bus routes that run on a timely basis. Instead of a throwing mud against a wall have having dense housing spattered all over the place and in single family home areas. No one can get anywhere, and they all need a car parked either at their home or at their work. There is another way to live that works a whole lot better and Asheville is getting there.

  2. luther blissett November 24, 2018

    Not sure why you’re talking about “potential entrepreneurs” when this is specifically about areas with corporate big-box retail and huge street-facing parking lots that only approach capacity during the holidays. (Does Sav-Mor / Stein Mart really need 200 spaces?) It’s not even about smaller strip-mall stores.

    The “urban center” zoning model is not massively ambitious: think in terms of the movie-set town at Biltmore Park, where you can safely walk between locations instead of driving 300 yards from big-box to big-box like the retail sprawl on the outskirts of Greenville.

    Ideally, that kind of development creates opportunities for 2-3 story builds with reasonable office space for… potential entrepreneurs.

  3. Jody November 19, 2018

    Merrimon already has form-based zoning along sections. This is why Staples, TJ’s, HT and some of the new North Merrimon buildings look the way they do- with a certain presentation along the street and the corresponding change in access. It is meant to encourage pedestrian street-level access but you can see that it has unintended consequences such as strange, fake, inaccessible storefronts. I am in favor of the concept but it does translate strangely in the mountains. It obviously works better in flat places. The other place that has this is the Broadway corridor to UNCA. IMO this section has overly complicated rules and those have obviously left this in development limbo for many years-

  4. Curious November 17, 2018

    Does anyone know what the impact of this zoning change would be to the long-established businesses along the Merrimon corridor?

  5. North Asheville November 16, 2018

    ” . . .21 acres along Merrimon Avenue, including the Fresh Market, Ingles and Stein Mart . .”
    Can you give some details on what the proposed zoning changes for this area would entail?

  6. Big Al November 15, 2018

    “We have inherited world that is auto-oriented, and we’re trying to change that,”

    Just don’t be surprised when a lot of potential entrepreneurs choose not to start businesses where Asheville will not let them have parking spaces.

    Governments that attempt to legislate changes in behavior forget that the people vote far more often with their wallets than with their ballots.

    1. Hauntedheadnc November 16, 2018

      People have already been voting with their wallets, which is why Asheville is a tourist destination in the first place. Tourists come to experience Asheville’s well-preserved, walkable downtown, and we were the first city in the region to get our downtown act together… Other places like Greenville and Spartanburg have followed our lead, and now people are going to their downtowns to walk around and explore. Why wouldn’t you build more of what people are coming to see?

      1. Shannon December 3, 2018

        We can’t just base our developments on what tourists want. We have to balance it out with what works for locals. There are some powerful forces clashing here with these proposals. This will have the biggest impact on Asheville that anyone has ever seen.


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