Paddlers & Rafters vs. RAD Artists

So, we attended the AARRC monthly meeting yesterday. The agenda was light but the discord quite evident about one particular agenda item: the presentation of the whitewater park. Representatives for the project were there in force but only one presented with a few comments made by a couple of others.

If you recall, New Belgium announced Asheville as its east coast site April 2012. This was a huge boost for the AARRC because the AARRC until this point had no real leverage in order to get its funding for the RADTIP (road realignment and greenways).  This gave them the impetus to immediately begin plans for "updating" and revising the 2005 Riverside Redevelopment Plan which they did by August 2014.  It also gave them the leverage they needed to get attention from the City who finally started pushing for funding of the RADTIP plan.  Afterall, how was it going to meet the promises they made to New Belgium without it? So, by September 2014 with the help of Mayer Manheimer and her connections to the Utilities Commission, they received funding for the RADTIP.

Now what does this have to do with paddlers vs. artists?

Shortly after New Belgium announced in April 2012, the AARRC started hitting the ground hard for development.  After November 2012 you barely read any comments made or plans or discussions in the minutes of the AARRC about two big issues in the RAD - flooding and artists.  Weird, because Pattiy Torno, now chairwoman of AARRC and owner of the Curve Studios in the RAD, has been on this commission from day one.  But after November 2012 the Commission is so busy with their development plans that they no longer have time to address flooding or the artists.

This all changed at yesterday's meeting.  After the folks from the whitewater park presented, Pattiy opened up with a slew of comments and questions. You could tell this had really been bothering her. The whitewater project folks had just stated that they were not going to use ANY taxpayer funds for their $1.8 million dollar project and that their project would not have hardly any development on the riverbanks. Sounds like a good plan. Afterall, all the projects planned on the river so far use taxpayer funds.  The City and AARRC is expecting private investment of around $200 Million but they thought it would be in "partnership" with the City.  So, here comes a project that doesn't need the City which means they are not within the control of the AARRC and boom, the AARRC doesn't like that.

Pattiy went on to state that the poll on the Citizen-Times about the whitewater project doesn't support it and that she also asked the artists in the RAD and they don't either. In short, she asked that the whitewater people basically wait.  "Can't we just get RADTIP completed and the greenways and then see what fits?" (sic).  If the whitewater folks did that, then they would be waiting until 2017 or 2018. She then suggested they go to a completely different, out-of-the-way area away from her area.

Well, we hate to inform Pattiy (which we did) but the poll on the Citizen-Times that asked whether the City should spend $50 million in the RAD was also not well received.  61% said NO.

So, while it is commendable that Pattiy finally spoke up for the artists, where was she when it was planned that rents in the area will double or possibly triple which will make it unaffordable for artists?

And another question... the site area selected for the whitewater project is at the Bowen Bridge. This is the same area that the AARRC wishes to attract a hotel but I don't think a hotel would go there if paddlers are going to be walking all over their property.

Other Information:
  • The projected cost of the park is estimated to be $1.8 million and only includes the costs IN the river, not any costs that may be incurred on the riverbanks
  • The site preferred is under the Bowen Bridge and that's because they need to lower the depth of the river in order to create the kind of rapid planned.
  • This is a pet project of Marc Hunt, a boating advocate and former owner of whitewater rafting outfitting company, Sunburst Adventures, which he sold to Nantahala Outdoor Center
Related Article:
Could Whitewater Park come to River Arts District?
City Staff to Study Its Foreseeable Role in Whitewater Park

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