The Mountain Xpress has an extensive article about the permitting process in Asheville. Cynic Jerry Sternberg says:

Once a developer gets his loan, gets his plans together, buys his land and finally walks into City Hall to start the permitting process, he’s a hostage. He has to do everything they tell him to do, and if he makes any waves at all, they will find a way to slow him down. He’s stuck, and it appears that some of the people in that department understand that rather well, and it’s a powerful place for them to be.

But developer John Spake doesn’t think it’s that bad:

My experience is, if you do your homework and you do your pre-submittal meetings and you keep staff involved while you’re designing your plans, you don’t have many surprises. If you just showed up one day with your plans and hadn’t talked to staff, and especially if you’re from outside the market and don’t know the expectations of staff, then I can see that being a problem.