Windshield Tours in the RAD

Windshield Tours
No, this is not some kind of new art installation in the River Arts District or the name of some new, funky garage band.  The Windshield Tours is how certain buildings in the RAD were selected for inspection which ultimately resulted in several artists losing their space back in 2014. It was coined "Windshield tours" by the AARRC when the ad hoc committee known as the 'Cleanup Crew' went on a tour of the River Arts District to pick out buildings they thought needed to be cleaned up.
"Sprague [Peter] and Ferikes [Joseph] went on a windshield tour of the RAD extended area with the goal of identifying buildings and properties that could benefit from improvements or increased use that would help to raise the value of the property." (from April 11, 2013 Minutes of the AARRC)
Artists Kicked Out
Almost a year ago, several artists were suddenly kicked out of the RAD which surprised many since the City is always touting its love of the arts.  Click here to read the Citizen-Times article about the this. So, we did the research and found the truth:



Let's put this into perspective (below is directly from the AARRC minutes):
  • April 2012 - New Belgium announces Asheville as it's east coast site. They'll be the neighbors across the French Broad River and are going to invest $175 million making their 20 acres look beautiful.   
  • July 2012 - The AARRC discusses the Hans Rees Tannery site (also known as 339 Old Lyman Street) as possible redevelopment area but it poses a problem - it's not owned by the City.  This is the same area the artists were kicked out of in July 2014.
  • April 2013 - the AARRC starts to heavily discuss how to address these dilipated buildings and those that "don't fit" in the RAD.  After their April 2013 Windshield Tour, the AARRC realizes they need some kind of legal means to do what they want to do.  
  • May to July 2013 - They officially create a committee to address it in May and by July, Asheville creates a new department, the “multi-disciplinary Development Services Department” led by Shannon Tuch.  They then begin researching and putting together the legal information and power to accomplish what they want.  
  • October 2013 - They begin work taking over the functions of the River District Design Review Committee of the City so they can begin controlling what gets developed along the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers and how it gets developed.
  • November 2013 - They begin discussing the cost to the City to demolish city-owned buildings. 
  • July 2014 - The cleanup of properties owned by the City begins immediately, but those owned by private property owners takes a little more time but by July 2014, the City is ready to act and kicks out the artists at 339 Old Lyman Street and shuts down the building.
Unofficial Cleanup Crew
We are all for cleaning up the RAD of abandoned buildings, preventing fire and cleaning up vacant lots of industrial waste, especially those owned by the City. These areas are a magnet for crime,  and become trash dumps and essentially an eyesore to the community at large. The issue here is not the cleanup, but the manner in which it was conducted.  This drive-by Windshield Tour was not done by some official of the City, a building inspector, City employee or even Riverlink. This was done on an arbitrary basis by an ad hoc committee of the AARRC commission that has gone rogue.

The City should not be arbitrarily selecting buildings for inspection.  If the buildings are owned by the City, then they should definitely clean them up.  If they are private property owners, then selection of those buildings should not be done arbitrarily by a Windshield Tour of a couple of people.

Artists Representative in Question
Of course, this also begs the question of where was Pattiy Torno when these decisions were being made?  As the self-entitled artist representative, why did she not go and talk to the building owner or the artists in that building?  If the changes had been made that building and the artists's space could have been saved. The real truth is, the AARRC wants control of that building which is now for sale and which may be taken over by the City.

In addition, there are several other buildings in the RAD which avoided inspection and we wonder if they were treated equally. #6, #9 and #12 Curve Studios is owned by Pattiy Torno and are very old. Artists occupy them as well.   Of course, Pattiy Torno owns these buildings so it is highly unlikely that they faced any scrutiny. In fact, Pattiy managed to save her buildings from being impacted by the planned road widening.  That will not happen on her side of the road now.  Apparently, she saved her buildings from inspection, too.

The artists in the RAD should elect themselves a new artist representative for the AARRC committee.  Pattiy's term ends this December. They should request her removal and put in a representative who will look out for all the artists, not just her own.

Next on the agenda: The AARRC wants to implement form based code in the RAD. We wrote about this last week - Form Based Code and Why River Arts District Artists Should Oppose It.  The artists and business owners in the RAD should question why the City wants to significantly change the zoning in the RAD?  Why now and why the RAD?

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