Thursday, March 30, 2006

Meeting: Anti-Illegal Immigration Rally Planning

Attended a planning meeting for a proposed anti-illegal immigration rally. The meeting was held at Buncombe GOP HQ at 53 Shiloh Rd, Asheville.

After some discussion of the issue of illegal immigration, we decided that we would first recommend that the Buncombe County Commission adopt a set of proposals placing sanctions on employers that hire illegals. After that time we would reconsider holding a rally.

The draft proposal was read and reviewed and handed off to Walter Plaue to refine and deliver to the commission.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Meeting: Board of Adjustments

Attended the Board of Adjustments meeting where they would hear the appeals from Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods on the Staples building, the Prudential sign, and the Walgreen's development.

The appellants could not prove that they had standing to have their cases heard and all three were dismissed without a hearing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Meeting: No Wal-Mart

Attended a meeting of the local Wal-Mart Watch group.

David Roat, who worked on Robin Cape's campaign, arrived late but when asked how things seemed to be going he appeared very confident that the Wal-Mart project would not survive city council.

After a round of introductions, Roat announced that he "knew who I was" and cautioned other members not to reveal any "sensitive information" that they didn't want to get out to the "other side." At that point I volunteered to leave saying that I "didn't want to disrupt the meeting."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Radio: Intelligent Design

Called in to WZGM 1350 AM to make comments in response to a letter to the editor in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

This is the letter:
Regarding the various “scientific” explanations for “intelligent design,” I have only one thing to say: Reason is for people who do not believe. --Tom Sherry, Candler

Talk show host Ken Bagwell read the letter on air and asked if anyone understood what the writer was trying to say. Here are my comments made on the radio:
Essentially, what the writer is saying is that the rational mind is inferior to mysticism.

He is saying that the theory of intelligent design is constructed in order to appeal to the rational mind--the same way other scientific theories are meant to be grasped and understood by the rational mind.

Reason is that faculty of the mind that identifies and integrates sensory perception of the real world. Mysticism means believing in something in spite of the absence of any evidence of its existence.

Mr. Sherry is claiming that he has no use for the rational mind and does not need arguments that appeal to it. He feels secure that his religious faith is sufficient for understanding the the whole of reality.

Usually, the flaw in this kind of argument is that, in order to convice someone to dismiss reason and logic, you have to appeal to the faculties of reason and logic. However, Mr. Sherry avoids this flaw. He is actually being consistent in his letter by providing no rational arguments to back up his claim: "Reason is for people who do not believe."

Anyone who believes that Mr. Sherry knows what he's talking about would HAVE to rely entirely on faith and would certainly have no need for the rational mind.

LTE: Lift the Sunday Hunting Ban

Sent in the below letter to the Asheville Citizen-Times on the controversy over the NRA proposal to lift the ban on hunting on Sundays. This is a modified version of my earlier comments on the radio on this subject.
I believe in limited government. That means that the government is given a very small range of action and I get to decide the rest. Why would anyone need to impose their religion on me in order to preserve their traditions? Is hunting a legal activity? If that's true, then by what right does the government restrict my exercise of a legal activity on Sundays? Is this a public safety issue? Is this a cost or budgetary issue? Is national security at stake? No, it is purely religious. If any person's religious tradition is popular then surely that person does not need to use the government to impose their religion on me in order to maintain their tradition. There are some good traditions and some bad traditions. Some traditions should be preserved and some traditions deserve to be chipped away at. I believe that using the police power of the government to impose religion on a free people in a pluralistic society is a bad tradition.

I received a reply from the editor indicating that this letter would run.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Meeting: John Armor at Buncombe LP

Attended the Buncombe County Libertarian Party social at El Chapala Restaurant on Merrimon Avenue which hosted a visit by Republican congressional candidate John Armor.

We had an excellent conversation and many good questions were asked. Mr. Armor promised to inform us about the availability of campaign materials and whether or not unafilliated voters can vote in the upcoming primary elections. My understanding from talking with Alice Keller is that they can.

Radio: John Armor

Called in to WZGM 1350 AM to announce the speaking engagement of John Armor at the Buncombe County Libertarian social at El Chapala Restaurant on Merrimon Avenue tonight at 8:00 PM.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Meeting: BCGOP Action Club

Prepared and submitted a graphic to club president Kathie Lack showing how the action club should organize its projects:

Buncombe County Republican Action Club Project Management

Friday, March 17, 2006

Radio: Hunting on Sundays

Called into the Ken Bagwell radio show on WZGM 1350 AM regarding the issue of eliminating the ban on hunting on Sundays.

These were my comments:
"I believe in limited government. That means that the government is given a very small range of action and I get to decide the rest. Why would anyone need to impose their religion on me in order to preserve their traditions? Is hunting a legal activity? If that's true then: by what right does the government restrict my exercise of a legal activity? Is this a public safety issue? Is this a cost or budgetary issue? Is national security at stake? No, it is purely religious. If your tradition is popular then surely you don't need to use the government to impose your religion on me in order to maintain your tradition. There are some good traditions and some bad traditions. Some traditions should be preserved and some traditions deserve to be chipped away at. I believe that using the police power of the government to impose religion on a free people in a pluralistic society is a bad tradition."

I sent this email to Kathy Rhodarmer:
Kathy, I appreciate your comments on the radio today and I agree with what you said. But you left your argument incomplete. What you stated was a proposition, not an argument. You stated, essentially, that "the Christian religion is a very important part of the fabric of America." That is true, but it is not a complete argument. It is only one part of an argument: a proposition. For an argument to be valid it must have true propositions and a true conclusion. Without stating the conclusion that this proposition leads to, you are leaving it up to the listener to determine your argument. If a listener were to complete the argument in his mind it might sound like this: PROPOSITION 1: The Christian religion is a very important part of the fabric of America (TRUE). CONCLUSION: Therefore, one person has the right to use the government to impose the Christian religion on another person who is not a Christian (FALSE). So you see, the proposition, while true in itself, does not reasonably lead to the conclusion that is implied.

The exchange continues:
Rhodarmerx15@aol.com wrote:

> By your logic then, we need to take all laws off the books
> that happen to coincide with what the Christian religion
> espouses as wrong. Stealing, lying giving just a couple.


Laws against stealing and lying (fraud, perjury, libel) are good laws because they protect my individual rights. Laws banning legal activities on Sunday are bad laws because the violate my individual rights.

America has a government established on the basis of secular law. In some cases these laws are in agreement ("coincide") with other codes of law in history; and in other cases they are not. For example, sanctions against certain criminal offenses are fairly common across cultures and across time. Both ancient and modern Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews--and even atheists--are in agreement that murder and theft should be prohibited by law. But there are some disagreements when it comes to adultery, coveting your neighbor's wife or keeping the Sabbath holy. In fact, there is even disagreement among Christians (Protestants, Catholics, Lutherans) regarding the authentic text of the Decalogue.

If American law was based on Christian religious scripture then worshiping graven images would be illegal and a punishable offense. And I can tell you that if someone where to slap me on the cheek, there would be hell to pay--and my response to unprovoked physical assault would be supported in a court of law; that is, secular law.

> By your standards, one might think stealing is wrong while
> another person does not. Who tells you that these things
> are wrong?


The standard of natural rights secured by secular American law enshrined in a Constitution which is designed to protect the individual liberty of the religious and non-religious alike in a pluralistic society.

> And to reference Ayn Rand's ideas of where she
> thinks right and wrong come from is not enough for me.

How about the words and signature of John Adams:

"The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense founded on the Christian religion."


And this is my response to questions from radio talk show host Ken Bagwell:

Ken Bagwell wrote:

> Not so, my friend. Do you think you would have the right to
> life, liberty, and property under Sharia Law?


Those rights might not be protected to my satisfaction under Sharia Law but I would still possess them.

> Speaking of the Founders...where do you think they got their
> ideas concerning life, liberty, and property?


...and the pursuit of happiness...?

John Locke and Aristotle.

Ken Bagwell wrote:

> Locke, Montesque, Blackstone and the Scriptures.
> I don't doubt you, but I would like to see documentation
> indicating that they referred to Aristotle.


I don't think you'll find the founders very often explicitly quoting or tracing their influences; but they are evident in the subtext, their words and deeds, and the history of ideas.

You have cited some influential sources which have certainly helped inform the founders in the construction of a rational and just social system. My point in citing only Locke and Aristotle is that I believe them to be the most central and least derivative.

See Aristotle's "metaphysics," "politics" and "ethics" as the source for notions regarding the law of identity, epistemology, the supremacy of reason, and the ethics of rational self-interest and seeking the "good life." (In fact, it is useful also to note the enormous influence Aristotle had on Christian thought in the person of Thomas Aquinas.)

I think you will find in a survey of political history that the most influential thinkers have stood on the shoulders of giants and in the realm of modern American political philosophy I identify these as Locke and Aristotle.

Certainly a number of other philosophers are considered among the greats--Plato, Marx, Kant--but are flawed and their themes run counter to that strain that resulted in the great American experiment (most notably in their assertions of the primacy of consciousness over existence.) So, excluding the misguided and the derivative and reducing the list to its essentials I am left with these two. Since the founding, I would add the names of Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand to the pantheon of great thinkers who fully justify, explicate and expand on the political basis of America.

You may find some interesting source material on this in the classic work by Leo Strauss entitled "History of Political Philosophy."

Strauss has also produced a study of individual rights in his book "Natural Right and History" which you might find interesting.

For a specific review of John Locke's influence, I recommend "John Locke's Political Philosophy" by Harry Binswanger:

"More than anyone since Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, John Locke was responsible for the existence of the United States. He virtually created the theory of individual rights, and all the Founding Fathers were thoroughly schooled in his Second Treatise of Government."

Meeting: BCGOP Action Club

Attended the Buncombe County GOP Action Club meeting at Ryan's restaurant on Patton Avenue. The meeting went fairly well. We added a Candidate Development project and removed the Fundraising project. I announced that John Armor will be speaking before the Buncombe County Libertarian Party and invited other candidates to see me about doing the same.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Radio: On City Council

Called into the Ken Bagwell radio show on WZGM 1350 AM regarding city council.

This was the basis of my comments:

Holly Jones: Minority Business Plan, symbolic legislation

Public Comment by Zev: Bicycle is his only means of transportation, he want us to appreciate the benefits he offers us: 1) not adding to traffic, 2) not contributing to pollution, 3) physically fit. Separated bike paths, paved, vegetative buffer, separating fence. Who will pay? He doesn't pay highway tax. Bryan Freeborn: carries a city-owned cellphone w/camera in his shirt so he can take pictures of car drivers who yell at him.

Brownie Newman: Putting the breaks on conservation easement, 27 acres, RiverLink to use $87k to clean up, permanent. Can't RiverLink clean up the Swannanoa River without an easement. Something stinks about this deal.

Jan Davis: traffic calming, Freeborn: which ones? The ones in the middle of the road? Yeah!

Civic Center

Attended the Civic Center Task Force meeting at the Civic Center banquet hall.

The Asheville Citizen-Times has all of the Civic Center Task Force documents from the last meeting posted online. They include the list of potential funding sources which shows that six out of the seven potential sources are not under the control of the city. Five of those six must gain approval from the state legislature and one, the alcohol tax, is collected by the state and redistributed back to the city based on population--another reason for annexation.

This was meant to be the last meeting before sending a recommendation to city council; however, many questions were raised and the task force called for another meeting.

Meeting: "House for Sale"

Attended a gathering at the Buncombe County GOP headquarters at 53 Shiloh Road, Asheville, to publicize a new anti-corruption campaign. Yards signs were handed out that read "House For Sale" and displayed a picture of Jim Black, a phone number to call for a recorded messages, and a website democratcorruption.com

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Asheville Democracy for America

Joined the progressive group Asheville Democracy for America.

The group meets on the first Wed's of the month. On Wed. March 1, 2006, will meet at the West Asheville Library, 942 Haywood Rd.

Monday, March 13, 2006

John Armor Invitation

Invited libertarian-oriented Republican candidate for Congress John Armor to speak before the Buncombe County Libertarian Party at their next social on Monday, March 20th, at El Chapala Restaurant. Mr. Armor accepted.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Meeting: John Armor at Yelton's

Attended a town hall meeting with congressional candidate John Armor at 221 Jupiter Road, Jupiter, NC at 5:00 PM. Mr. Armor fielded questions about his candidacy and certain controversial allegations about unethical and possible criminal activities of Congressman Charles Taylor.

John Armor agreed to speak before the Buncombe County Libertarian Party.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bike and Pedestrian Task Force

Attended the inaugural Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Task Force meeting at the West Asheville Community Center, 970 Haywood.

The presentation briefly covered the Metropolitan Planning Organization and it's role in helping to develop a state-wide multimodal transportation improvement program (TIP). The all-volunteer task force is set up to gather, document and report on input for the MPO. Cynthia Nix was the presenter.

When pressed on the subject, Nix explained that they were interested in accommodating a cycling market--both manifest and potential--instead of seeking to influence transportation behavior.

She cited membership in the Blue Ridge Cycling Club at 250 and in the Asheville Racing Club at 250 (with minimal overlap); and her own retail cycling business mailing list of 5,000 (purged bi-annually). She also told me of a 1980 survey that went to the public in city water bills asking about the need or desire for more bike and pedestrial accommodation with a 30% positive response.

French Broad River MPO transit planner Jeff Burns was present and shared a detailed graphic showing the state's transit planning roadmap. Jeff promised to post the graphic online at frenchbroadrivermpo.org. The purview of the French Broad River MPO is the urbanized areas of Buncombe County, Haywood County, and Henderson County.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Brewfest

By Tim Peck
Mountain Guardian
March 8, 2006

The Annual Brewgrass Festival is a favorite among Asheville residents and others who come from quite far away to attend. The festival’s draw derives from its primary purpose: To promote high-quality microbrewed beers from the Asheville area and around the nation. A little bluegrass in the background all day long rounds out the offering as a perfect compliment to the high spirits. Last year, the festival sold out in one hour. I have attended the last two myself and already purchased my ticket for this year (on sale 3/5/06 at their website).

Festival attendees pay once for a $25.00 general admission ticket and are given a small beer glass as they enter the grounds. They can then stroll the grounds at will all day sampling various microbrewed beers pulled from cold taps that are housed in row after row of vendor booths throughout the venue—and all of this without charge. Only the food and merchandise vendors take money.

Most will lay out blankets on the ground or set up folding chairs facing the band stage. Lines are generally no more than 5 to 10 deep and move quickly. The sunny outdoor festival atmosphere keeps everyone in a happy mood and there is a general sense of camaraderie that is sustained until the festival closes after dusk. The longest lines are actually found at the portable restrooms tucked away at far corners where some take longer than others.

Among the local sponsors of the event are popular downtown pub Barley's Taproom, Greenlife Grocery, and the left-wing radio station WPEK 880 AM.

Wal-Mart Gets, Like, Totally Zoned

By Tim Peck
Mountain Guardian
March 8, 2006

The final Planning & Zoning Commission hearing on the rezoning of a few parcels in west Asheville for a new Wal-Mart Super Center was held on March 1st.

The usual suspects were present at the meeting to cheer and clap from the peanut gallery after every button-wearing naysayer made their public comment.

But to no avail. Rezoning favoring Wal-Mart passed 6 to 1, Chairman Tom Byers dissenting.

Byers felt that disapproval of the rezoning might possibly save the trailer park residents. This in spite of the fact that the property manager stated that the owner already had another bid with no provision to give the displaced residents any moving money; unlike Wal-Mart's offer of $4,000.

That $4,000 is now $7,500 each as a condition set by the commission in lieu of Wal-Mart laying unnecessary sidewalk 3/4 of a mile away to connect up with existing sidewalk. In their earlier presentation, Wal-Mart said that the sidewalk was unacceptable in the first place.

The real comedy occurred during public comment. The commission chair stated that the three-minute rule would be strictly enforced and the commissioners asked that comment be restricted to issues of land planning.

The crowd was a mix of anti-development types and more than a few Hispanics who stand to lose their housing when the property owner sells to Wal-Mart, or whomever. About 20 or more people came to the podium to speak and 2 of them addressed land planning issues. Several of them could speak English.

Most made faulty arguments about depressed wages, detrimental community impact, and the low esteem in which the company is held in the opinion of leftists. Others addressed the problem of the displacement of trailer park residents; seemingly blaming Wal-Mart for their dilemma. It should be noted that trailer parks are not allowed in the city per zoning ordinance. These trailers were ‘grandfathered’ in with no other guarantees or provisions for relocation.

One fellow looked like he had finally found that lost suit in the bottom drawer—and it still fit. Most others did not really bother to get dressed for the occasion. One by one, bearded and t-shirt clad, audience members strolled forward to denounce the project. Not one single person spoke in favor of the project.

About 5 non-English-speaking commentators addressed the commission; all needing a translator standing by. One of them brought a tape recording of a relative’s complaints and played into the microphone while a translator interpreted the recorded comments snippet-by-snippet. Several of our language-impaired Latinos brothers and sisters recited written statements that were clearly penned for them by English-savvy local activists. Several Spanish-only speakers asked that more information be supplied to them in Spanish because "none of us can speak English." Since legal immigration requires a working knowledge of English, this is an explicit admission by this spokesperson that she and her party are not in this country according to the law. I kept looking around for some police officers to help escort plaintiffs to a country where they might be considered legal citizens.

Alan Ditmore (who received 21,318 votes) argued against the project by pointing out that Wal-Mart refuses to dispense emergency contraception and because of this he has to wait behind school busses. This elicited a few giggles from the normally stoic commissioners. “You are directly creating people,” he said to the commission. A barely perceptible wave of laughter shimmered through the audience.

The stalwart anti-Wal-Mart activist Grant Millen was nowhere to be found. He would not have enjoyed himself.

Another demure and slinky female in her early 20's objected to the rezoning because she felt that the cars going in and out of Wal-Mart property would create excessive automobile emissions. With this statement, she perhaps unintentionally makes an argument in favor of the project: If her contention is true— that the nearby surface streets may become overwhelmed with pollution—this should imply that the new Wal-Mart in West Asheville will be very, very popular. Is that what she meant to say? I have to think so.

The Block

By Tim Peck
Mountain Guardian
March 8, 2006

The missed story coming out of the inaugural Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting, held at City Hall on March 1, occurred during discussions about “The Block,” where long-time Asheville resident, monied businessman and former City Council member Gene Ellison gave the committee an earful and a brief lesson in basic economics.

The Block

The Block, as it is generically called, is a section of downtown Asheville, in the area around Market and Eagle Streets just off Biltmore Avenue, and has been part of an extensive push for growth in the central business district. It has also been the focus of multifaceted debates concerning property rights, business development and cultural preservation; many of them occurring in City Hall.

This neighborhood has undergone several distinct phases over many decades; even going back as far as the Depression Era. That difficult era pounded this cloistered Black community hard and it is still bruising.

In the Jazz Era, it was a bastion of cultural and commercial activity and a foundation for filial cohesion where Blacks could comfortably congregate as a community and enjoy the sights and sounds of urbane conviviality in the clubs, restaurants and doorways of Eagle and Market Streets.

During the short-lived era of the Great Society, it became the target of urban renewal. City fathers at that time concluded that The Block and its surrounding area, comprised mostly of Blacks, was a blight on the city and that it‘s poverty-stricken inhabitants would be much fare much better elsewhere. So, with the handy lubricant of federal money, the city broke up the tight community and the residents were scattered around the city in newly constructed public housing “projects,” including Pisgah View and Deerfield. They would replace the existing neighborhood with assorted parking lots and with a new City of Asheville Public Works Department and garage (for housing garbage trucks) which has been given the amusing moniker “The Taj Garage” (see G.S. 160A, Article 22, Urban Redevelopment Law, § 160A-503 (2) ).

Around the mid-1970s, the inhabitants and patrons of The Block began to disperse. This phenomenon is in part attributable to the cumulative effects of desegregation. Blacks were increasingly able to move more easily in wider circles and this diluted the tribal clustering that was, and still is, typical of marginalized ethnic minorities.

It has recently suffered through the ravages of a burgeoning and entrenched illicit drug culture and the concurrent stifling atmosphere of crime, misdemeanor and ignominy.

But this once-blighted neighborhood has since been bought out, bulldozed, built up and cleaned up and it seems now to be a fairly viable and promising business area. The Black-owned businesses there are well integrated with the vital and diverse character of downtown. Its streets are currently the outdoor urban venue for the annual Goombay Festival, a celebration of African and Caribbean culture that began as a fundraiser to help revitalize the area. And property owners are still holding out for a substantial return on their investment in this storied quarter.

The Planners

In 1993, Gene Ellison was seated as a council member when the South Pack Square Redevelopment Plan was passed. This plan provided a sound and acceptable framework for the area's development.

However, new infill housing proposals promised to undermine the spirit of the plan under the pretext of “broad interpretation” and “flexibility.” The South Pack Square Development Plan Task Force endorsed this redevelopment proposal that emerged out of a budget amendment to accept $1,140,000 of federal money to eliminate blight ($800,000 of HUD Section 108 funds and $340,000 of EDI grant monies). “The money would be used to help Eagle/Market Streets Development Corporation (EMSDC) in the acquisition and redevelopment of three key properties in the South Pack Square redevelopment area.” (EMSDC is the nonprofit agency created by the city to oversee the redevelopment of The Block.)

“By itself, it will create over 8,000 square feet of additional retail and office space and 14 residential units. The funding would also leverage additional monies to be spent in a Mt. Zion Church project, resulting in a total of approximately 12,000 square feet of retail and office space and a total of 47 residential units. Five historically significant buildings will be restored to Secretary of Interior standards and a new infill building will be constructed on vacant property if these two projects are realized.”

At the City Council meeting of December 16, 2003, Mayor Whorley announced that attorney’s Gene Ellison and Howard McGlohon had filed a temporary restraining order against the City of Asheville and Eagle/Market Streets Development Corporation preventing a vote on the budget amendment. (McGlohon is the husband of the Assistant City Attorney Martha Walker-McGlohon and could give this action the appearance of a conflict of interest.)

The issue would eventually be debated in one of the most contentious City Council meetings on record. Tempers flared and patience wore thin. But a vote had to be taken. Council member Carl Mumpower declared this proposal to be nothing better than taxpayer-funded gentrification and the measure failed with Joe Dunn and Terry Bellamy siding with Mumpower against.

The Meeting

At the March 1st Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting, the touchy subject of The Block surfaced once again.

Gene Ellison, here to speak on the matter, patiently waited through presentations on plans for annexation and city real estate while standing just outside the packed meeting room eating a cheeseburger with one hand and wiping up the drippings with a napkin in the other.

After 20 minutes of discussion of The Block among council members and staff, Chairman Jan Davis allowed an agitated Ellison, co-owner of the Ritz building on South Market Street, to speak out of turn and offer his public comment during staff's presentation, explaining that he felt Ellison’s comments would be "germane to the present discussion." Indeed they were.

Citizen Ellison gave the committee a tongue-lashing about how he and other investors in The Block had been hoodwinked by the city since passage of the redevelopment plan. He and other property owners have invested heavily in The Block under one planning vision and the city turned around in October of 2003 and entertained development proposals that would significantly devalue their investments. Those private investments add up to over $2,000,000.

Ellison said that "inverse condemnation is no different than the ordinary kind." His demeanor and the character of his public comment made it unmistakable that Ellison and company were quite annoyed at this imposed hardship and quite adamant that some resolution be expedited in this matter.

By allowing subsidized, high-rise housing structures that are towering and generally incompatible with the promise of The Block and which would overshadow other privately-held properties, those properties would be effectively drained of their value as investments.

This would result in a profound reversal of fortune for Ellison and his fellow investors and in the eyes of Ellison & Friends amounts to a government taking for which they would appreciate some relief. Ellison was on record back in 1993 saying that the developments proposed would violate the South Pack Square Redevelopment Plans.

Now we are hearing from Ellison that "we've got people with no investment in these properties making decisions.”

In staff’s presentation on The Block, the committee was reminded that one stated goal of the development vision for this area was the preservation and promotion of a vestigial African-American culture spawned and nurtured in this historic part of town. Referencing this race-based public policy, Ellison now barks at the committee saying, "You can go ahead and take race out of this issue. Let me tell you something, there is no such thing as black money. We are businessmen and this is all about business! All money is green.”

Annexation on the Fast Track

By Tim Peck
Mountain Guardian
March 8, 2006

Adding to concerns about zoning, revaluation, development and district elections, Buncombe County must confront another controversy on the horizon: Many unsuspecting Buncombe County residents could very well have a new mailing address in the not too distant future: Asheville, NC.

At 8:00 AM on Tuesday, March 6th, the Asheville City Council met at the downtown municipal building to discuss the future enlargement of the city by way of annexation.  The meeting was attended by a majority of council members (absent Newman and Jones), a team of staff, a fair number of reporters, and a dismal few citizens.  Public officials and media outnumbered citizens 6 to 1.  Perhaps it was the unusual and smallish meeting place or the time of day that discouraged participation; or perhaps the absence of TV coverage.  Normally, council will meet in ample chambers at city hall with video cameras documenting the proceedings.

Members of city staff presented a large, color-coded map representing those areas under consideration to be engulfed by the boundaries of Asheville’s expanding city limits. The Resolution of Consideration for Annexation is required by statute on a periodic basis to formalize the process and announce to county dwellers that certain lands may be subject to annexation “within the reasonably near future.”  This “near future” used to be no less than one year after the announcement.

The resolution before council now reflects changes that will allow annexation to proceed much faster.  Changes in the law now make it possible for qualified areas to be officially annexed 70 days after passage of the resolution instead of one year as the law previously required.

Prior to the meeting, MG had spoken with Scott Shuford, the department head of the city’s planning department, on how many people could potentially be affected by this plan. Shuford said that, between the areas to be annexed and the consequent extension of the Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) out an additional 3 miles, he would estimate approximately 30,000 could have a new address in a fortnight.  They would also be able to participate in the double-taxation that current city residents are subjected to.  Beyond the five-figure numbers added to the city’s tax rolls, should all the areas under consideration be annexed, the city would double its physical size.

After the staff presentation explaining the map and its meaning, council member Robin Cape took the floor and asked staff about the “large white area in the middle of the map.”  She and staff concurred that this was the Biltmore Estate and Cape asked why this area of town was exempt from the annexation plans.  Scott Shuford was not in attendance and Julia Cogburn attempted an explanation.   Cape politely asked that staff look into it and help her understand this glaring peculiarity.

The explanation given by staff was a bit ambiguous, especially as applied to the Biltmore Inn. In this case, the estate is not under consideration because potential future annexation areas must meet specific density and development criteria as a condition of consideration.  Biltmore Estate has so few residences across its vast acreage and does not qualify for annexation under state law for this reason (see G.S. § 160A‑48).

Mayor Terry Bellamy asked the small audience if they had questions or comments. This MG reporter asked the only question: “Do you favor the incorporation of Leicester?” After an awkward and breathless silence, Bellamy asked, “Are there any other comments?”  Apparently, and perhaps for political reasons, questions seemed to have been magically transformed into comments—to the decided bemusement of the questioner. But before moving on, council member Jan Davis interrupted saying that the question deserved an answer.  Davis commented in general terms that there can be conflicting interests involved and the city wants to meet and work together with communities to determine the best solution for providing services going forward.  City Attorney Bob Oats supplemented this saying that as the incorporation process moves forward council will have a chance later to take a position on this matter.

With no more comments or questions apparent, a motion was made and a vote taken to adopt the resolution.  Council approved the resolution 5-1, Dr. Carl Mumpower dissenting.  The 12-minute meeting adjourned in time for breakfast.

Opinion

It seems to this reporter that between the logistical shell-game, the paltry communications, and the hurried legislative process, this whole perfunctory affair was conducted in a way that was designed to exclude the public.  The only avenue open to redress grievance in this matter is through the courts after the fact.  North Carolina law distinguishes itself with respect to forced annexation in that those about to be subsumed by a city have no say in the matter. Cities in this state are under no obligation to engage people from those areas under consideration in any dialogue concerning their future and a city’s plans for it. As constituted, North Carolina’s involuntary annexation laws are a particularly oily form of eminent domain.
At any regular or special meeting held no sooner than the tenth day following the public hearing and not later than 90 days following such public hearing, the governing board shall have authority to adopt an ordinance extending the corporate limits of the municipality to include all, or such part, of the area described in the notice of public hearing which meets the requirements of G.S. 160A-48 and which the governing board has concluded should be annexed. -G.S. 160A-49 (e), Procedure for annexation.

MP3 audio from the meeting

Monday, March 06, 2006

Citizens for Change

Attended the Citizens for Change meeting at Shoney's on Smokey Park Highway. Under discussion were the topics of zoning and annexation. I passed around the city's map of areas under consideration for annexation.