by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
Asheville city staff, on what appears to be no more than a whimsy, has undertaken a rezoning of one of the cityâ€™s main drags, Merrimon Avenue. Earlier in the process, proactive members of the community at-large but not affected worked with city staff to organize a visioning process.
The result would have been a Mixed Use Zoning for the corridor. It would grandfather in the existing eclectic structures, which range from a dome house to large houses over 100 years old to strip malls, to Buckhead-style architecture, etc. Currently, woods, sky, and mountains contribute to the scenery on Merrimon, but with few exceptions the new zoning will require any new structure to be brought up to the curb. New buildings will also have to be at least two stories high.
Business owners are unable to come up with a single person who approves of these stipulations. They further argue that if their building should burn down, or if they should need to undertake significant remodelings, they would have to conform to the new codes. The owners of Ingleâ€™s supermarket say it would put that store out of business, as building on its parking lot would give customers no place to park should they wish to keep a fraction of their store open, like they normally do during expansions.
Other business owners scoff at the attempt to makeÂ US HighwayÂ 25 a walkable corridor. One man saw an elderly woman tumble off the curb recently. Most are of the opinion that the road is too narrow and past-due for widening, a daunting task if all the buildings sit on the curb. Some business owners scoff at the requirement for window dressing to engage pedestrians, such as the owners of Morris Funeral Home.
Many property owners are out-of-town investors. They cannot exactly afford to fly in for every city council hearing that may or may not be continued. Other business owners say they were not informed. They did not know what those red signs were on the streets, and they did not know they were supposed subscribe to the local paper out of a sense of political duty in order to read public notices. Many are too busy trying to make their business work and make payroll to invest themselves in the political process.
Last night, about 40 property owners met to learn more about the process. Chris Peterson, an owner of many properties on Merrimon Avenue, has been trying to give the business owners a say in what they can do with their own property. Business owners are now describing them as â€œawakeâ€ and wanting to get involved politically. Most in Asheville, however, feel it is governmentâ€™s duty to appease the activistsâ€™ vision and sense of place by making one-size-fits-all rules for specialty businesses.