The Truth About Flooding in the RAD

The Citizen-Times recently published a fluff opinion piece to address flooding concerns in the RAD (click for article). They interviewed two people - the public relations person for New Belgium and essentially the PR person for the Riverside Redevelopment project, Stephanie Monson Dahl, the City's urban planner.  So, real research was conducted.  NOT.

There is a 99% chance of flooding in next 30 years in RAD
This is an interesting exercise.  The North Carolina Flood Insurance Program put together a flood map.  You can input your address and view its rating (high, low) and likelihood of flooding and when. According to this, the 12 Bones area and Curve Studios area have an 85% chance of flooding in the next 15 years and 99% chance in the next 30 years.  It is rated as HIGH.  If you're interested in looking for yourself, click here: Link to Flood Map

So, with 85% to 99% chance of flooding, let's talk about that.

Asheville River Arts District Ponzi Scheme

$250 Million Investment in River Arts District 
IN A FLOOD PLAIN

$26 Million from the City of Asheville (taxpayers);
$20 million from NCDOT and other grants 
PLUS 200 Million in PRIVATE INVESTMENT (public/private partnerships)

And, let's not forget.  Projects of this size and scope ALWAYS end up costing more than they estimate -  never less.
We've done this because, as with any Ponzi scheme, new growth provides the illusion of prosperity. In the near term, revenue grows, while the corresponding maintenance obligations — which are not counted on the public balance sheet — are a generation away.
www.StrongTowns.org
THE ELEMENTS OF A PONZI SCHEME
  1. City of Asheville will invest $26 million (at least) in taxpayer dollars
    • As touted by their plan, the City expects an increase in tax revenue from this development.  This is how they plan to repay its debt.
    • The City does not expect increase in revenue or the tax base from these development plans for at least 3 to 5 years.
    • The increase in tax base will NOT cover the long term debt which will result in having to get more debt to pay off the old debt. 
    • We are shifting today's debt to later generations of Asheville Taxpayers
  2.  Private investors will invest $200 million 
    • City will enter into public-private partnerships where the City will give tax breaks and development incentives to build in the RAD.  This is estimated at $200 million in private investment.  
    • When the area floods again, who will pay for the cleanup?  A hotel is planned on the river. 
  3. Expected increase in revenue will NOT cover the debt expenses.
    • Our City of Asheville can't even balance its own budget.  Last year they had to increase taxes in order to balance it. What will it take to balance the budget of this debt in the coming years?
WOW! $50 Million of Public and $200 Million of Private Investment dollars in 2.2 Miles
The City of Asheville is touting a lot of wonderful perks to this development - mainly better bike and walk paths and connecting neighborhoods; a boat ramp and a transit center.  How does that cost $250 Million? We are promising HUGE RETURNS for what?

When the area floods again (as we have experienced two major floods in the last 100 years), who pays for that?

Growth Ponzi Scheme
Read the article "Growth Ponzi Scheme" from Strong Towns, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2009 for the purpose of "understanding the intersection between local finance and land use. How does the design of our places impact their financial success or failure?"  

Land development occurs in three stages and the City of Asheville is in the process of doing all three along the river:

1) Transfer payments between governments: where the federal or state government makes a direct investment in growth at the local level, such as funding a water or sewer system expansion.   DONE & DONE! US ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & CLEAN WATER MANAGEMENT TRUST FUND



2) Transportation spending: where transportation infrastructure is used to improve access to a site that can then be developed. DONE & DONE... RADTIP


3) Public and private-sector debt: where cities, developers, companies, and individuals take on debt as part of the development process, whether during construction or through the assumption of a mortgage.  DONE & DONE & WILL DO SOME MORE!

Read the entire Strong Towns "The Growth Ponzi" article.  It is very enlightening!



Asheville Hiring Appraisers to Begin Land Acquisitions


To see these full minutes from the City of Asheville, click here.

As you can see, the City of Asheville began in January hiring pre-approved appraiser to "perform land acquisition functions associated with TIGER VI greenways".

To see more information about where this land grab will happen, click here.

Here's a March 13th Update:

To see these actual minutes from the City of Asheville, click here.

Greenways and Right of Ways

Land acquisition to begin in the RAD and along MANY miles of Greenways.  To see the City's Notice about this click here.

Here's all the information.

In addition to the River Arts District 2.2 miles along the French Broad River, if you have or are a tenant of property in the following areas you are affected (some of these, the process has already started or completed):

Beaucatcher Mountain Greenway -1.25 Miles
Top of Beaucatcher Mountain from Memorial Stadium to above McCormick Field to Helen's Bridge. These property owners have already been involved in the ROW process as their property lines are in the process of being redrawn.

Beverly Hills Greenway - 1.25 Miles
From Recreation Park to Haw Creek Park, through the wooded Beverly Hills neighbord

Clingman Forest Greenway - 1.0 Mile
Near Aston Park at the intersection of Clingman Forest and Hilliard Avenue to the Sr. Southside Center near the intersection of Depot St and Livingston Street

French Broad River Greenway - East and West Banks - 10.75 miles
East Bank = Western edge of the River Arts District to Amboy Road
West Bank = Begins at Hominy Creek Park to Richmond Hill Park

Glenn's Creek Greenway - 1.5 Miles
From Weaver Park on Merrimon Avenue to Riverside Drive along the French Broad River

Haw Creek Greenway - .75 Miles
Northward from the East Asheville Recreation Center to the Haw Creek Elementary School

Hominy Creek Greenway - 4.5 Miles
Begins at Hominy Creek Park to Enka along the Smokey Park Highway

Montford Greenway - 1.25 Miles
Begins at Gudger Street below the Asheville Chamber, near the Rudolph Learning Center. A portion will originate at Montford Complex and along the Riverside Cemetery.

Reed Creek Greenway - 2.0 Miles
From the Botanical Gardens on W.T. Weaver Boulevard to Aston Park at the intersection of Clingman and Hilliard Avenue

Rhododendron Creek Greenway - .75 Miles
Begins at Hominy Creek Greenway on Shelburn Road to Sand Hill Road

Swannanoa River Greenway - 7.75 Miles
Starts at Amboy Road Bridge, along Meadow and Swannanoa River Road

Tower Branch Creek Greenway - 1.25 Miles
From Southside Center to Memorial Stadium

Buncombe County Greenways within the City of Asheville:
Bent Creek Greenway - 2.75 Miles
Hominy Creek Greenway - 1.0 Mile
Lake Julian Greenway - 3.0 Miles
  Western portion of the trail passes through densely developed areas along Long Shoals Road which include mixed use development such as Biltmore Park, residential communities and schools.

Here are links to Greenways Documents to read these in detail:

City of Asheville Greenway Master Plan (with maps)
Greenways Recommendation Map

Wilma Dykeman Riverway Project
According to this article from September 15, 2014 in the Citizen-Times:
"Most of the $5.5 million from multiple grants will be used to acquire land for the Wilma Dykeman Riverway project and other nonconstruction, preliminary activities for the RADTIP project, said Steph Monson Dahl, an urban planner for the city. The process of purchasing the right of way will take about a year, she said."
The entire Wilma Dykeman Riverway project encompasses 17 miles connecting the French Broad River and Swannanoa River.

River Arts District
As you know, the RADTIP (River Arts District Transportation Project) encompasses 2.2 miles along the French Broad River in the River Arts District but it doesn't stop there.

Against Greenways?
As stated throughout this site, we are not against greenways.  We are not here to fight against their development although there are opponents throughout the country that are opposed because of increasing unwanted traffic, raised property taxes and having no value to the property but shortening it.

In our research, these Greenways are 10 feet to 12 feet in width and will encourage and act as multimodal transportation paths - namely cyclists - to enjoy.  All the same, pay the fair market full value for those portions.



Riverfront to Get $50 Million Makeover

Article Highlights

  • City to spend $50 Million in next 6 years on greenways, road-rerouting and other infrastructure
  • They expect $200 Million in private investment
  • Amenities cited such as better bike paths and sidewalks, public restrooms, parking garage
  • Road changes discussed - two roundabouts - one at Lyman & Depot and of course, the other infamous roundabout near 12 Bones
  • Breakdown of the budget was outlined

Citizen Times: March 22, 2015
Riverfront to Get $50 Million Makeover
ASHEVILLE – Public spending on greenways, road rerouting and other infrastructure upgrades in and around what has become known as the city's River Arts District will reach $50 million in the next six years, municipal staff involved with the projects say.
That infusion of public funding into a once derelict industrial district will be accompanied by about $200 million in private investment.
The overhaul is being led by the city, though about 50 percent of public money is coming from federal and state sources
Click here to read full article

Gentrification of the River Arts District and East of the River

The City of Asheville and AARRC commissioned a gentrification study in February 2014 which was completed in June, 2014. The study cost approximately $25,000.  This study includes the River Arts District as part of it's study and findings.

Why is this important?  Big Investment means Big Development
As places become popular, investors rush in.  Add the investment of a company like New Belgium and the values of property surrounding it will also get a dramatic increase.  The City  just announced an investment of nearly $250 Million on a 2.2 stretch of road in the heart of the River Arts District. $200 Million from private investors and $50 million from the City and grants.  This means BIG development is coming. It doesn't cost $250 million to put in bike paths and sidewalks and make the grass greener. This will inevitably also push rents up, driving those who can't afford to pay to only visit by bike or public transit.

According to this study, River Arts District is in Middle Phase of Gentrification

Link to Gentrification Study: http://ashevillearts.com/wp-content/uploads/AvlGentFinalReport6-30-14.pdf

Georgraphic Area - The study includes the areas that essentially connect downtown Asheville to the River:

  • Hillcrest
  • WECAN
  • River Arts District
  • South French Broad
  • Southside
  • Erskine-Walton
  • Livingston and Lee Walker Heights

Click map to enlarge (this map comes from the Study)

Highlights:
Middle Phase of Gentrification = This study considers this area currently in the "Middle" stage of Gentrification: pg 36 -
"neighborhood prices and values have already risen sharply and displacement has begun, while affordable residential and non-residential space remains available, as does some available develop-able land"
If measures are not put into place, then the "Late" phase is inevitable and quite soon.  Late essentially means too late.
"neighborhood housing prices and values have skyrocketed; leaving little affordable housing, non-residential space, or developable parcels, and most, if not all, lower-income individuals and households have been displaced and are unable to return"
"There is little doubt that these trends will continue.  And the corresponding impacts on artists and lower-income households, especially on households of color, are likely to be severe." (pg. 36)

Gentrification is inevitable as areas become more popular.  It's what happens. But thought you should know about this report because it did offer several suggested remedies.  We would be curious about what the City is considering with this $250 Million investment.

12 Bones Owners: What Happens to Us?

Article Highlights

  • Owners of 12 Bones, Bryan King and Angela Koh, questioned the AARRC Members about the plans for their property
  • Question was met with: “A lot of things could happen,” Stephanie Monson Dahl told the 12 Bones owners. “There are a lot of variables. I know that’s not a great answer,” she said.
  • Same scenario could apply to other property owners
  • Accusations by Chris Peterson, owner of 12 Bones Property of conflicts of interest on the AARRC board
  • According to the City, many stakeholders are unaware of the plans

The Tribune Papers / March 21, 2015
12 Bones Owners: What Happens to Us?
"Last week the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission welcomed news that speedy progress is being made on its ambitious game plan for retooling the city’s waterfront.
But amid the enthusiasm, owners of one of Asheville’s best-known eateries, whose place stands literally in the path of progress, asked a simple, direct question: “What happens to us when all this happens?”
Click here to read full article

Insider Trading? RAD: The Company to Buy and Sell

Chapter 1: Where it all started
If you know anything about insider trading, you know it's illegal because that person used confidential information to trade on stocks and gain an advantage. Unfortunately, people are tempted to do this because of the vast amount of money to be made. In short, greed.  And, who can blame them. Through our research, we began to discover a similar practice occurring in the Riverside Drive Riverfront Redevelopment plan.

It began with New Belgium - 2011/2012
The addition of New Belgium, together with the Tiger II grant of $14 million has created a sudden interest in an area of Asheville that for a long time was not popular - the River Arts District (aka RAD). It has been known as "gritty" and "industrial" which is what many of the artists and current businesses like about the place.  Unfortunately, it has suddenly become the "company" everyone wants to buy and sell.

Public Interest 
While it is not illegal to buy and sell property based on information you have about the future development of an area (that's how you make money in real estate or stocks), it is questionable whether such persons should also serve on public Boards and Commissions that plan and dictate what will happen in those same areas.  Afterall, these are lands owned by the City of Asheville and/or by taxpaying citizens of Asheville.  Shouldn't the folks serving on the City Boards and Commissions be putting the best interests of the citizens of Asheville first? We shouldn't have to worry about that.

The AARRC requires having at least two RAD property owners on the Commission but at this point, we cannot find one member of the commission whose property will be negatively impacted by these Riverfront Redevelopment Plans. Instead, there are many that will gain from it. In the corporate world, we call that a Conflict of Interest.

Perhaps they should have sought the perspective of tenants or owners who will actually lose something in order to get their input.  It's easy to give away property that isn't yours.  If our information is incorrect on this, please send us an email and let us know. We want to know what you think or what you have agreed to.

So, in the next few weeks we'll be writing about the "insider trading" and conflicts of interest that's going on in the AARRC.

We are also not against what having New Belgium means to Asheville but it also invites a lot of greed.  Here's how greed has affected the Riverfront plan:

Old vs. New Plan
If you compare the Riverfront Redevelopment Plan of 2005 (a year after the 2004 flood) to the 2014 version (my how soon we forget), you will see one major change - the new focus on development - hotels, increased rents, 4 and 5 story buildings directly on the French Broad.  The original plan prepared mostly by Riverlink and those truly concerned about the French Broad focused upon the river, flooding issues, maintaining the "vibe" and such.
2005 Old Plan (pg 45)
Vacant buildings and property in the floodway are not able to be redeveloped and present safety and blighting problems for surrounding businesses and for the community as a whole. Acquisition of these properties would allow redevelopment as greenway sections or small riverside parks. 
The new plan adopted August 2014 doesn't even include a section on "Safety, Environmental or Flooding".  It focuses completely on how to develop the 10 acres the City owns along the River. Property they originally acquired for greenway plans, not a road and not development.  This is a Developer's Brochure.

Related Articles:
AARRC Membership
Property Rights: Whose Are They? Case Example




Properties to be acquired and timeline

Property list request
We requested a list of property addresses that will be affected by the RADTIP in the RAD.  We sent our request to the City Attorney who very kindly and very quickly forwarded our request to the appropriate individuals.

Response: Stephanie Monson Dahl called and reported that they do not have a list and will not have a list for 2 months.  (Must be a lot of properties if it's gonna take 2 months.)

Timeline:
This puts the timeline (from last Thursday's AARRC meeting) as this:
  • Pull plats now (March and April) so they can have official list
  • General Public Meeting (May) - Probably around May they will hold general public meeting before letters go out in June.  Why May? Because they said they didn't want it to be a shock to people.  My guess is, it will still be a shock to people. In addition, they want to minimize the blow back so no need to rush on that open meeting. 
  • June - the letters start going to property owners and tenants.  Meanwhile, the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Committee (around 30 people) will be headed to Knoxville TN on their commission retreat, a trip paid for by the Asheville taxpayers.
So, our question is, how did they estimate $5.5 million needed for land acquisition?  How is it that they have put into place this massive project, requested grant funds and other funds to acquire lands and they don't know the property owners or the tenants?  If this is true, then we wonder if they have done their due diligence throughout the entire process running from use of federal funds to environmental concerns to property owners.

As we get the list, we will provide it.

Related Articles:
Right of Way Acquisition Process Starts Immediately
Right of Way is Wrong Way 
12 Bones Isn't the Only Property to be Redrawn or Acquired



Right of Way is the Wrong Way in NC

Regardless of where you live in North Carolina, the Right of Way process is the wrong way.  

What is the right of way process in Asheville? 50% of Value

City Council has been preparing for all this land grab. Last April they created a draft Right-of-Way Acquisition Policy and debated whether or not to take this to Council or vote because it's just an "administrative" policy.  We are not sure of the status but we did send an email to request the final but have not received it yet.  Click here to see the draft. The draft provides for 50% of base tax value (excluding improvements) for the NET new square footage.

North Carolina does not require just compensation

As of right now, North Carolina is the ONLY state constitution that does not expressly state that a government must pay for the private property it takes. North Carolina also does not guarantee jury trials in condemnation cases.  Opponents of changing the law think that the local municipalities will do the right thing. This is wrong.

There is a bill (House Bill 3) in NC legislature by Representative Chuck McGrady to correct this. The bill's opposition states:
"But Rep. Darren Jackson, a Knightdale Democrat, voted against the bill last session and says a constitutional amendment isn’t needed. “Until proven otherwise, I trust local municipalities to make those decisions themselves,” he said. “I have a general objection to putting things in our constitution unless absolutely necessary.”" (Jan 15, 2015 Article, News & Observer)
Why does this matter in Asheville or the River Arts District?  

If you're in the RADTIP (2.2 mile stretch of Riverside Drive) or along the 21 planned Greenways (click here for map) then your property is about to be redrawn or taken.

So, what's wrong with this? Are you against Mother Earth?
Greenways are nice. Being against a greenway is like being against Mother Earth and nature and hiking.  No, we're not against greenways and we're not against the RAD but we are against not paying fairly. The citizens of the City and the County have paid taxes and invested their personal as well as business lives into this area.

Set an example
We are calling for the City of Asheville to be an example and pay as any independent, private individual or developer would have to pay rather than going with the minimum, lowest standard. Why would anyone want to invest in the City of Asheville if they're only going to treat a taxpayer like that?

$5.5 Million to Buy Land
We are working to get a list of those properties effected but $5.5 million means this is not just a few properties:
"Most of the $5.5 million from multiple grants will be used to acquire land for the Wilma Dykeman Riverway project and other nonconstruction, preliminary activities for the RADTIP project" (September 2014,Click to read Citizen Times Article).
The Wilma Dykeman plan includes RAD. This is one of the few references to this we could find in the media.  All the other stories have been about the wonderful growth opportunity and benefits.

What is the State's involvement? 
So, because no one has contacted any of the property owners about the process or their rights as of now, we ask the question: what is the policy of Asheville?

Reported by the Asheville Daily Plant at a Feb 6th meeting hosted by CIBO, an official with the NC DOT reported about the status of various traffic projects in Asheville, namely the I-26 corrdior but there was a question about the RAD traffic project:
"An unidentified CIBO member asked about the status of road projects in Asheville's River Arts District, noting "They're going to be spending all that money - what's going to be the state's involvement? Click here to read article
Related Articles:
Properties to be acquired and timeline
12 Bones Isn't the Only Property to be Redrawn or Acquired


Form Based Code coming to the River Arts District

City of Asheville seeking Form Based Code Consultant to supersede entirely or in part current zoning in the River Arts District

January 12, 2015 - City of Asheville issues RFP for "Form Based Code Project: River Arts District"
February 16, 2015 - Deadline for submissions
March 13, 2015 - Selection complete
April 16, 2015 - Commencement of Project

Summary from the City of Asheville: up to 1,000,000 square feet to be built out
"The City’s economic development office developed the Riverside Drive Development Plan, a re-use strategy for ten acres of publically owned land in the middle of the district. The plan envisions significant new commercial and residential build-out (350,000 to 1,000,000 square feet) and considers form, but current zoning and development regulations do not support its recommendations. Throughout the district, the presence of the flood plain, known and unknown contamination issues, and the adjacency to the railroad ROW presents serious development constraints. A new, form based code will need to address these issues."
The RFP is no longer online but if you would like a copy, please email us and we can send it to you.

12 Stakeholders chosen by City to give input through interviews
As part of the "Scope of the Project" the "selected Consultant will interview up to 12 designated stakeholders (from a list provided by city staff)"

$100,000 Budget for this Project

Proposed Form Based Code Boundary (click to enlarge):

In short, this includes all properties along the French Broad River from Amboy Road northward, across Patton Avenue on Emma Road, to a section just past Atkinson St (map is not very clear).

Also includes parts of the communities lying east of the French Broad into Depot St, Clingman, Livingston.

Why is the City considering this? Public sector involvement in real estate
To increase the square footage of develop-able land. Refer to the Riverfront Redevelopment Plan, pgs 17 - 20.
"Fundamentally, property development is an area where government has very little positive to contribute. Government cannot accurately forecast future economic conditions, as the New London-Pfizer situation demonstrates, and public officials have far less expertise in real estate development than private sector investors. Moreover, land-use restrictions such as zoning distort the real estate markets and are often used to justify public-sector involvement in real estate, as the private sector isn’t capable of fighting city hall—or so the story goes."  (click to read article: The Dangerous Minds of Urban Planners)
Pros and Cons of Form Based Code
As you know Form Based Code was approved in the area of West Asheville along Haywood Road (click here to read articles) which largely received positive approval from the community.  As of 2014, there are currently a little over 400 form based code communities nationwide. However, this is a relatively new form of zoning which should be reviewed and while the pros always get the spotlight, there are cons.

More on this as we get it.

SOBs, MSDs, RAD, TAX

Why would the RAD also be an MSD and have SOBs with increased TAX? No, we're not talking about greedy developers.

As of October 2014, the City of Asheville together with the AARRC rezoned the entire River Arts District (RAD) as a Municipal Service District (MSD).  Now, Esther Manheimer and the City Council, have created a much friendly name for it:  Innovation District.  That sounds a lot better than the truth.

Why did they rezone as an MSD?  
An MSD allows for SOBS - special obligation bonds.  Why does this matter?  Special obligation bonds are not considered the same type of debt and therefore do not require public vote.  This is apparently how the AARRC plans to fund this massive project.  By indebting the City to the tune of millions without a public vote.

Increase in TAXES
In addition, the City of Asheville may levy ADDITIONAL taxes in addition to those already levied throughout the City.  Although it has been stated by Asheville City officials that this is not planned, it is possible and will probably be inevitable once the City has indebted itself for this project.




Artists Out, Corporate In: RIVER CORPORATE DISTRICT

RIVER ARTS CORPORATE DISTRICT

So far, the only information to be released about the Riverside Drive Riverfront Redevelopment Plan has been about the greenway, open space and New Belgium.  All of these sound wonderful but we wanted to point out the other plans the City of Asheville has in store that will inevitably push out the artists and make this your next Biltmore Park.  You can read the entire plan that was adopted in August 2014 here:  Riverside Drive Redevelopment Plan

Just the facts from the Riverside Drive Redevelopment Plan, pages are noted:

Office and Retail Rental Rates to go up, up, up
  • Expected rental rates after development in the River Arts District will be $32/square foot for retail (pg 56). Current average rate is $17.67/sq ft.  See here.
  • Expected office rental rates will be $28/square foot.   Current average rate in downtown Asheville is $16/sq ft. See here.
According to the Alternatives to Gentrification study that was released June 2014, 71 artists were surveyed.  The average rent was $12/square foot.  The median rent was $333.  Artists considered affordable rent to be $6 - $12/sf.  Well, get ready to get kicked out.

"Maximize Development Potential" (pg. 8)
  • "RDDP endorses maximizing development potential as the most efficient way to catalyze additional economic opportunities throughout RAD" (pg. 8).  In other words, how to make the most money.
  • If the City just "played by the rules" and developed existing public land there is a 6% return on investment.  
  • If the City, however, adds a hotel and other developments, there is a 22% return on investment.
Potential Planned Development Options:  If the form based code is along the River as planned, they could and have in the plan:
  • 227 Room Hotel directly on the French Broad River (see pg 19) on a 29,132 square foot space
  • 59 Apartments (pg 65)
  • 70 Condos (pg 65)
  • 10 Restaurants/Eateries
  • 30 Retail spaces
  • 61,980 Office square feet
Total projected NET (after costs) cash flow: $72Million. Click on image below to see enlarged graphic - This graphic is from the Riverside Redevelopment Plan:

Area D is the planned hotel.

How to get rid of current tenants to make way for this development?
Meet the building code or demolish (pg 34) as suggested in the Plan:
"What if RAD were to become a City/County pilot area in which all buildings and open spaces were either a) brought up to code or b) demolished? This idea has a surprising amount of QUIET support - and it might include provisions for land swaps that would remove uses inappropriate in RAD." (pg. 34)
Wow!  This is already happening because the City received draft findings of this plan well before August 2014 and immediately began work implementing:
"ASHEVILLE – The city on Monday cut the electricity to eight buildings in the River Arts District and requested a disconnection of gas services, said Shannon Tuch, director of development services.
The city cited various code violations and safety concerns for the structures at 339 Old Lyman St. Tenants rent space in the buildings from property owner Robert Camille and run a variety of operations, including a dance studio, art studios and a woodworking shop." (July 14, 2014, Citizen-Times, "City of Asheville shuts down RAD buildings")
Artists were kicked out without notice.

Projected Costs of the Plan (Who pays for the costs?  The city would give incentives as they already have to developers): See pages 69 and 70 of the Plan.
  • Play By the Rules = If the City makes no changes and just develops on their current available parcels, the cost of these developments is projected at $42 Million.
  • Implement Form Based Code = This increases the amount of development that can occur, so costs go up. The estimated cost to develop would be $61 Million.
  • Add Riverfront Hotel = This dramatically increases costs to $94 Million
  • Maximize Partnerships = In other words, give development incentives. The cost jumps to $123 Million.
Problems identified in the Plan:
  • Parking is an issue.  There isn't much. But, as stated in last night's AARRC meeting when this issue was raised, the answer was "No city has ample parking." Parking would be disbursed to surrounding neighborhoods.  
  • Only 50,000 square feet of the 10 acres along one-half of the Riverside Drive are suitable for new construction (pg. 10)  "How can this development potential be maximized?"
  • All city parcels are within the 100-year and 500-year flood plain (pg. 13)  In fact, 74% of RAD properties are within 100-year flood plain.
  • Current zoning regulations restrict retail space. Must change this! (pg. 13)
  • Riverside Drive must be straightened to maximize development potential (pg. 13)

The biggest problem with all this development is the flooding issue.  You can't stop nature.

  • This plan even cites flooding as a problem  "A fire in 1915 and a flood the following year completely destroyed Riverside Park.  It was never rebuilt". (pg. 40)
  • According to this article about the flood in 1916, what we call today, the River Arts District, was a bustling busy place full of businesses and residences.  This was where the main railroad was and how people came into the City. Everyone was shuttled to downtown from the River Arts area.
  • The flood of 1916 had huge financial impact as well as cost the lives of 29 people: "Property damage was estimated at about $3 million, which would equate to $66,874,077.67 in today's dollar." (Article
So, while we are not against development, greenways, open space, etc., we are against the City turning back the hands of time and putting businesses and lives back at risk by recreating a situation that could be disastrous. The City needs to prove that it has put into place preventive measures. If not, who will pay?

"RAD is poised to become the City's and the County's next area for focused revitalization, rehabilitation.... especially given the New Belgium brewery's $135 million investment just across the River." (pg 1)

Related Articles:
Insider Trading? RAD: The Company to Buy and Sell
12 Bones Isn't the Only Property to be Redrawn or Acquired
RAD Lofts Approved by the AARRC


12 Bones Isn't the Only Property to Be Redrawn or Acquired

In case you have not put 2 and 2 together, 12 Bones is NOT the only property that will have their property lines redrawn and the business displaced.  There are others and that includes residential property owners and tenants as well.

From what we gathered at last night's meeting of the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission, the consultants will be pulling ALL the plats that have property lines redrawn where they need right of way access. According to Stephanie, there will be many because there has not been a roadway project of this scope in Asheville for a long time.

The question becomes... whose properties and where?  Like the river, it's a little muddy.  We know the City of Asheville is instituting a greenway along the French Broad River.  This greenway will ultimately be 17 miles long and is part of the Wilma Dykeman plan.   At last night's meeting, the question was asked if the right of way process started for just those along the greenway or those along the RADTIP (the 2.2 mile Riverside Redevelopment area).  They answered: both.

Related Articles:

Right of Way Acquisition Process Starts Immediately


Right of Way Acquisition Process Starts Immediately

Ready, Set, Grab Some Land!
At today's Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission meeting held at the Chamber, staff were giddy with excitement. Why?  Because "25% final engineering drawings delivered!"  And, I put that in quotes.  That's exactly how it appears in their notes.   Why is this so important?  Because the City can now proceed with Right of Way acquisition on their 2.2 mile stretch of Riverside Drive.

What does this mean? Timeframe
According to Stephanie Monson Dahl, who was extremely excited, the consultants will begin 'IMMEDIATELY' pulling all plats that pertain to properties that need to be acquired.

Between June 2015 and January 2016, appraisals will be conducted by contractors.

By June 2015, the City will begin sending letters to business owners, property owners (residential and commercial) and tenants that notifies them of what is happening.  Basically, telling them, "We've redrawn your property lines and here is what they will be", according to Stephanie.

For business owners, the City can offer business relocation assistance but it won't be much.

The city will make an offer with these letters.  The owner can reject and then go to court.  But, going to court does not stop the process.  Construction will continue even if in court.

NOTE: According to Stephanie, this ROW process happens all the time but not to this scale. The City has not had a major right of way acquisition like this in years because they've not had a roadway plan of this size in years.

Who does this effect?
If you own a property, residence or are a tenant within this Riverside Drive Redevelopment Plan, RADTIP plan or French Broad River Greenway Plan, this effects you.

The City has not publicized which properties this will effect. The 12 Bones property is a known property only because it is so directly on their plans and has received media attention since it's such a popular restaurant.

In short, if you're a property owner or tenant, you're screwed.  Get ready to get a letter.

Questions? 
Contact your members of the AARRC.  Click here for membership names and email addresses.  

OR

Attend the next meeting of the AARC on Thursday, April 9, 2015 in the Asheville Chamber Board Room (2nd Floor), 36 Montford Avenue.






Flooding Information in the River Arts District

The entire Riverside Drive Redevelopment Plan (the Plan) is within the 100-year and 500-year flood plain
  • All 7 of the proposed development areas that the City is planning are within the 100-year and the 500-year flood plain as determined by FEMA (AARRC Riverside Redevelopment Plan dated August 2014)
  • Major flooding in the area occurred in July l916 (Click here for history and pictures) In 1916, the River Arts District was full of businesses and homes.  The flood of 1916 changed all that. 
  • The River Arts District and Biltmore  Village suffered major flooding in September 2004 (Click here for photos)
 A new roadway is planned to go directly alongside the French Broad River (see the Plan)

This plan calls for the potential displacement of 12 Bones.

The original Wilma Dykeman Riverway Plan of 2004 did NOT call for a river directly on the French Broad River.
  • "Cragnolin and RiverLink favor a different plan than the one the city is pushing. RiverLink and community members worked for years formulating the Wilma Dykeman Riverway plan, which in part calls for the roadway to take a straighter path near the Riverview Station studio building, a former tannery — a track that is considerably farther away from the river." (Citizen Times, January 17, 2015, "Big plans, big floods for River Arts District")
The Plan calls for the development of a hotel directly on the French Broad River in this 2.2 mile stretch.

The Plan calls for potential apartments, office and retail space in this flood zone.

Question?  What happens when it floods again?  

RAD Lofts Appproved by the AARRC

RAD Lofts approved by AARRC
So, the RADLofts development by owner Harry Pilos is very close to being completely approved.  It was unanimously approved at today's Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission held at the Chamber board room.

Next step:  City's Planning and Zoning Department but that should be a breeze since Karl Koon (who is also on the P&Z Committee) listened to the entire presentation but left the room when it came time to vote.  Also noted, Jan Davis left the room before the presentation since he will be voting on the conditional use permits.

The adjusted plan calls for:

5 Stories
237 apartments, 92 of which will be 2 bedroom
19,000 square feet of retail space
8,000 square feet of office space
344 parking spaces

The adjustments were made to add affordable units. Looks like Harry needed some financing and added the affordable units. See this article about the RAD Lofts.  By doing this, however, the number of residential units went up.  The original plan was for 209 units.

If all goes according to plan, Harry Pilos projects the plan to begin in about a year.  

Where is RAD Lofts?  Up the hill, behind Curve Studio on the triangle of Roberts Street and Clingman.

Property Rights: Whose Are They? Case Example

Most of the time the only people that care about Property Rights are the Property Owners. So, in the case of the recent news about 12 Bones possibly being condemned, most people don't care and wonder over the hoopla.  Afterall, that property will serve a greater good.  Or, will it?  Whose greater good will it actually serve?

On an upcoming article we will discuss the ways that members of the AARRC have themselves financially benefited from their knowledge and association with this commission and New Belgium. Back to the topic on hand...

Why does 12 Bones matter?
From what we can tell, the 12 Bones property is a case example of a known property that will have to be acquired.  The City and those in charge of this plan have certain feelings about this and those feelings are not in favor of any property owner.  Commercial and residential property owners in or around the River Arts District and who are also around the New Belgium property should be concerned.

New Belgium Influence
New Belgium? What do they have to do with it?  Well, New Belgium needs a better road in order to accommodate 75 eighteen-wheeler trucks on Riverside Drive between Broadway and Craven Street (aqccording to Jay Richardson of New Belgium), basically, 150 trips per day.  They also have many other plans for New Belgium such as a museum and sightseeing spots and guess what?  They don't want to sightsee your house.

Concern over the Project, Not about the Property Owner
What's the current sentiment?  Well, it's always easier to give away someone else's property when it ain't your own and so far, everyone involved except the owners themselves seem just fine with it:
Jan Davis, City  Councilman and owner of Jan Davis Tires and who sat on the AARRC, was asked about the potential loss of 12 Bones and said "it's impact on the riverfront as a whole would be overwhelmingly positive.  This is looking to the future." (December 6, 2012, Citizen Times, River project threatens 12 Bones).  
In other words, it's for the greater, long term good.  He even thinks that the city  is doing them a favor..
"This planning gives people who own the property to plan for their future."  Well, funny thing is, he knows exactly who the property owner is and that property owner, Chris Peterson, has contributed to his campaign on several occasions but yet, Jan has never contacted Mr. Peterson about this.  In fact, Mr. Peterson has received no such notice other than this first article in the paper in 2012.
When Pattiy Torno, currently chairwoman of the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission which is head of all of this and who is also owner of Curve Studios close to 12 Bones, was asked about the potential loss of 12 Bones, she said "...the bigger impact will come in making it easier for people to walk, ride, or park along what is now a substandard section of road." (Dec 25, 2015, Citizen Times, City  seeks funds for RAD road plan).
Pattiy  Torno is also concerned with the homeless but not in helping them.  She wants them to move elsewhere.  She said when she walks to the river "The people that come out of the tent are like, "What are you doing here?...If they're intimidating to me, they're intimidating to other people."  
Dan Baechtold, the city transportation planner, says that because of the increase in traffic which will be caused by New Belgium (remember, the 150 trips per day of 18 wheelers), "...that's part of the thinking behind rerouting the roads near 12 Bones. To get throught that area now, northbound vehicles must make a sharp right turn in front of the restaurant." (Dec 25, 2012, Citizen Times, City  seeks funds for RAD road plan). Question is, is he worried about the normal traffic or New Belgium's trucks?  He even later states that there is no congestion problem right now.
Dan goes on to say that there is a good chance 12 Bones will not survive the new roadway plan and will need to relocate  (Dec 25, 2012, Citizen Times, City  seeks funds for RAD road plan).

In short, the dream plan to have a 17 mile Greenway, combined with catering to the demands and promises made to New Belgium, have made our City leaders lose sight of the residential owners, tenants, business owners and property owners in this area.  Get Ready.

Update: The Right of Way acquisition process is starting now!  Click here to read more.







Can Asheville neighborhoods be popular and affordable?

A Gentrification study (Alternatives to Gentrification in East of the Riverway) was commissioned by the AARRC in February 2014 with a projected cost to the consultants of $25,000.  The study was completed in July 2014.  The Citizen Times wrote this article about it:

Article Highlights:
  • West End/Clingman, Southside and RAD are already in the "middle" stage of gentrification, a report for the city says.
  • The changes also raise questions about the long-term meaning of the word "arts" in the River Arts District, or RAD, the report found. 
  • Tax values are quadrupling (Roberts Street artist's tax value went from $65,000 in 2001 to $251,000 in 2014)
  • proportion of African Americans fell from 79 percent in 1990 to 56 percent in 2010 while the white population rose from 20.7 percent to 39.4 percent.
  • Pattiy Torno: "It has the potential to be a very serious threat to the River Arts District in terms of allowing it to maintain its reputation as an arts district," 
  • The city gentrification report lists several steps local government could take to create or preserve affordable housing and studio space in the area.
  • Artists who responded to a survey done for the gentrification study generally said they can afford their space now, but worried about how long that will be the case.
Future projects in the area that are likely to make matters worse:
  • Construction of greenways, landscaping, parking and sidewalks along 2.2 miles of Riverside Drive and Lyman Street between Hill Street and Amboy Road.
  • A greenway paralleling Clingman Avenue.
  • A greenway paralleling Town Branch, running from Depot Street east to McDowell Street.
  • RAD Lofts, a complex with 209 apartments and retail and office space on the former Dave Steel site between Clingman Avenue Extension and Roberts Street.
  • New Belgium Brewing's brewery and tasting center on the west bank of the French Broad River.
  • Street improvements on Craven Street near the New Belgium site and a greenway along the river in that area.
  • A roundabout at the intersection of Clingman Avenue Extension, Roberts Street and Lyman Street. 
Citizen Times / August 20, 2014
Can Asheville neighborhoods be popular and affordable?


After finishing his yard, one of JoAnn Skinner's Clingman Avenue neighbors used to roll his lawn mower down the street and, free of charge, cut the patch of grass in front of her house.

The man and his wife are gone now, and Skinner doesn't even know the names of some of her neighbors on Clingman, which connects downtown with the bustling River Arts District.

"They passed on. Their children went to college" and aren't coming back, she said. In many families with roots in the West End/Clingman Avenue neighborhood, "The children don't see a future for them in Asheville. It's basically a tourist town."

Meeting Notice: To Property Owners, Artists and Stakeholders

Property Owners, Artists and other Businesses in the River Arts District and Stakeholders:  

If you are interested in the Riverfront Redevelopment activities and actions, then attend their monthly meetings. The Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission meets at 4:00 p.m. on the 2nd Thursday of each month in the Chamber of Commerce Board Room at 36 Montford Avenue. Usually, there is complimentary beer provided by New Belgium.

Next Meeting:
Thursday, March 12th at 4:00pm
Chamber Board Room, 36 Montford Avenue

Proposed Agenda:
AGENDA

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

SUBCOMMITTEE UPDATES

4:05 PM Planning and Design Review Committee – Carleton Collins

4:10 PM Networking Committee – Peter Sprague

4:15 PM Staff Update – Steph Monson Dahl

4:20 PM Rules Committee – Joe Ferikes

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

4:40 PM Riverfront Commission Retreat – Stephanie Monson Dahl
4:45 PM French Broad River Greenway East Section Staff Presentation
4:55 PM Planning and Design Review Committee Chair Presentation
5:25 PM Design Review: RADLOFTS

FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS

NEXT MEETING: THURSDAY, APRIL 9TH AT 4 PM, ASHEVILLE AREA
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SECOND FLOOR BOARD ROOM