The highlight from yesterday’s meeting of Asheville City Council was Jerry Sternberg’s presentation during public comment. He spoke on behalf of the River Rats – a group of industrialists located along the French Broad River. They’re small business owners, normal people too busy making payroll to hang out at charettes.

The businesses are about to be victimized by the city’s River Arts District form-based code. They feel threatened. They are told they’ll be grandfathered, but that means they won’t be able to expand if they get good at what they’re doing or rebuild in the event of a flood. Speaking of floods, the new plan would require up-to-the-curb store fronts for pedestrian interaction, which means the new buildings would go in the floodplain instead of on the higher ground where they now reside. The area in question is located by railroad tracks and a river – elements that used to be important for business. Sternberg asked where the recycler was supposed to go when she gets forced out. He suggested locating her in the neighborhoods of members of council and then said the county rejected two recycling facilities already this year. Sternberg defied me to ask a lady who works with the planning department, who is a nice person with as much respect for my art as I have for hers, how they decide what goes into the code. He said she said, “Staff and neighbors get together and stand beside a building and see what feels good.”