City Council Meeting, March 8th: The Avery Project

In a stunning reversal, and using a procedure no one can remember ever implementing before, City Council reconsidered its 5-2 vote—take just 2 weeks previously—against “The Avery” project, a large, high-end residential development at the corner of Clingman and Hilliard. (Ordinarily, a downvoted project like this would not be allowed to return to Council for 12 months.)

I rose to ask how the public was to make sense of this unusual development, and what communications took place between the applicant, Council members, and City staff.

The mayor responded by saying that such communications would be public record—but experience shows that getting ahold of those public records is an often very slow (months) and unsatisfactory process.

I believe that Council members should disclose the substance of their conversations with people who have business before Council proactively.

This particular project went from 9 80% AMI units to 18, and will accept housing vouchers for those additional 9 (if, of course, the voucher program says they qualify). So that’s good, if not super-helpful for those suffering most in Asheville’s housing crunch. 

With this modification, the project sailed through. Not a single Councilmember was inclined to share their own process of reconsidering this project before the vote. I believe I heard one “nay,” but I can’t be sure. For some reason this vote was not taken member-by-member.

Everything about this was extraordinary. It was a huge reversal. It was done in two weeks. And not a single Councilmember chose to explain their change of opinion.

There was a remarkable lack of transparency and accountability in this process, which does not inspire public trust and confidence in government. The people’s work should be done in public, because this is Our City.

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