Archives – May, 2011
BB&T volunteers and the City of Asheville Parks and Recreation Department teamed up May 18-20 to give the Stephens-Lee Center a Spring cleaning both inside and out.
Around 50 BB&T employees participated in the company’s Lighthouse Project, in which volunteers give four or more hours of their time to community service projects across the nation.
“We felt that since the community supports us, we wanted to give support to the community,” said Wanda Sayer, BB&T Vice President and Commercial Officer. The company donated $5,400 in supplies for the effort as well. “BB&T hopes their efforts encourage others in the community to volunteer their time and support organizations like Stephens-Lee Community Center.”
Teams of volunteers mulched the center’s playground and landscaping areas at the front of the center, and repainted the main hallway and multipurpose room. Parks and Recreation staff provided support for the team, organizing materials, providing tools for the work and operating heavy equipment. The three-day effort was capped off with a cookout BB&T provided for volunteers, Stephens-Lee staff and neighbors.
“To have an organization like BB&T step up and invest their time and sweat equity makes a big difference in an important part of our community,” said Marsha Stickford, the City of Asheville’s Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator. “They just did a great job. It is really amazing the amount of improvement a group like this can get done.”
The Stephens-Lee Center plays a key role in the City of Asheville’s priority to provide opportunities for fitness, after school care, and learning programs for youth and adults.
This is the third year BB&T has conducted its Lighthouse Program, and Sayer said the idea to focus efforts on the Stephens-Lee Center this year came after reaching out to the City of Asheville and Mayor Terry Bellamy. “We wanted to see where the priorities were,” Sayer said. Two years ago, BB&T volunteers carried out a similar project at the Shiloh Community Center, repainting parts of the center and ball field areas and repairing bleachers and benches there.
To find out more about volunteer opportunities in the City of Asheville, contact Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator Marsha Stickford at (828) 259-5506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 27, 2011
If you haven’t been to the Asheville City Hall Snack Shop in awhile, you may be surprised by some of the changes there. The shop recently celebrated a grand-reopening, introducing the shop’s incoming owners and unveiling new healthy lunch choices, including a salad bar, and sporting a new look.
Right off the bat, diners will notice the shop’s remodel, which includes a paint job that restored the walls to their historic, brighter colors, the removal of carpet revealing original flooring, and new blinds. The overall effect is a brighter, more spacious-seeming room.
But some of the biggest changes include new menu items that promote a healthier diet and the development of more environmentally sustainable practices. Like the rest of City Hall, the shop has single-stream recycling bins to make it easier for patrons to recycle. For the first time, beginning in June, a composting component will be included as well, keeping even more material out of the landfill. The shop is also providing dine-in customers with dishes that can be washed and reused rather than tossed, and to-go customers will get compostable containers. Those steps were included in partnership with the city’s Office of Sustainability and helps move the City of Asheville closer to its goal to reduce its environmental impact.
Healthier menu items come thanks to the city’s Asheville Balanced Choices program that also includes changes in vending machine selections, healthy living classes and screenings for employees.
“The changes to our vending machine offerings and Snack Shop menu are a part of the City’s commitment to our Asheville Balanced Choices Wellness program and provide healthy food options that encourage our employees to make good health choices,” says Cheryl Walker, the city’s Health and Wellness Manager.
The Snack Shop is operated in collaboration with the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind, a partnership that has endured over the past 20 years, and the space is rented and run by private owners working with the division. “I think this is a great partnership,” said Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy at the re-opening ceremony. “I thank you so much for your leadership and collaboration.”
The shop’s new owners, who will take over operations in the coming weeks, are looking forward to serving the eatery’s clientele, and hope to get the word out to expand the customer base. Alongside the 189 employees that work in City Hall, the shop is popular with those who work in the Buncombe County Court House and the offices surrounding Pack Square Park. It also provides easy access for people enjoying the park and the Splashville fountain. “We welcome people from all over Asheville,” said Linda Pezzementi, who will take over the counter with husband Tony on June 1. She encourages people who haven’t been inside the shop in a while to give it another visit and see the changes. “The more we get the word out into the community the better,” Pezzementi said.
The City Hall Snack Shop is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
May 24, 2011
A May 12 ceremony in the Asheville Civic Center banquet hall honored Asheville Police Chief William Hogan in recognition of his years of service. Hogan, who announced his retirement from the department in April, had a 36-year career in law enforcement. He served as Chief of the APD for seven years.
“It has been an honor to serve with the professional and dedicated men and women of the Asheville police department,” Hogan said. “I have the utmost confidence in the level of service they will continue to provide to the citizens of Asheville.”
That same day, in a separate ceremony, APD Captain Wade Wood was sworn in as interim police chief. Wade, who has 19 years’ experience with the APD, will serve in the role while the selection process for a new chief is underway.
“We are fortunate to have someone with such a strong and proven track record in police administration ready to take the helm,” said Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson. “Captain Wood is exceptionally well prepared to step into the interim chief role while we proceed with a national recruitment effort to permanently fill the position.”
Below are pictures from Hogan’s retirement recognition and Woods’ swearing in ceremony.
May 20, 2011
Asheville’s historic structures and landmarks play a big part in its draw and appeal to both residents and visitors. With some 46 local historic landmarks and four local historic districts, as well as those listed on the national registry, the city enjoys architecture from multiple significant historical periods. The preservation of those homes and buildings led to the formation of the Historic Resources Commission which, alongside the Historic Preservation Division of Planning & Development, reviews changes to the exterior of designated structures to ensure the integrity of historic districts and landmarks.
The HRC, formed in 1979, is made up of of members appointed by Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commissioners, and meets once a month to review applications and discuss guidelines for historic districts.
To keep the public up to date on the evolution of the HRC and the facts surrounding National Historic Districts and landmarks, the HRC is preparing to launch its own E-newsletter. “We want to reach out and educate people about what it means to live in a historic district as well as keep people up to date about changes,” says Stacy Merten, who serves as staff liaison to the HRC and as Director of the Historic Resources Division of Planning & Development “We are in the process of evolving the HRC guidelines and the development approval process and we want to spread the word as much as possible.”
Recently, application submittals for Major Work Certificate of Appropriateness and review of Minor Work applications for Certificate of Appropriateness was moved to the City of Asheville’s Development Services Center located in the Public Works Building at 161 S. Charlotte Street to bring them under the same roof as other city permits.
Last year, the HRC updated its design review guidelines for the Montford Historic District to address community concerns, and potential updates are being discussed for the St. Dunstan’s Historic District.
And an upcoming initiative co-funded by the Historic Preservation Trust Fund and Buncombe County is expected to add ten acres and 35 structures to the Downtown National Historic District.
“There’s just a lot going on,” Merten said. “And the commission saw a chance to keep people up to speed.”
May is National Preservation Month, and to mark the occasion, the City of Asheville will host a talk by renowned Historic Preservation expert Mary Ruffin Hanbury on the benefits and strategies of preservation planning. The talk will be held May 26 at 5:30 p.m. In the Pack Library Activity Room.
To be added to the mailing list for the Historic Resources Commission E-newsletter, contact Christy Edwards at email@example.com.
May 18, 2011
Thanks to an invite by the Transportation Research Board and funding from the Federal Transit Administration, the City of Asheville was one of a handful of cities represented in a recent trip to India and China to study principles of sustainable public transportation and environmentally friendly mobility in those countries.
Transportation Planning Manager Mariate Echeverry was one of only 14 people nationwide selected to make the trip in April. With Strive Not to Drive week currently underway, Echeverry reflected on the trip, what she learned, and how it could play a part in Asheville’s transportation strategies.
The purpose of the tour was to study principles of livability and sustainability in five cities in Asia: Ahmedabad and Delhi in India and Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai in China, and learn how those cities are using public transportation to improve the quality of life, create greener and more livable communities and reduce congestion, air pollution and fuel consumption.
The group also met with government and university officials and experts in the field to ask questions and hear presentations on emerging and cutting edge transit techniques in the face of dramatic population increases.
“It was impressive to see such a level of commitment to provide high quality public transportation that is reliable, convenient, safe, attend the demand, and is fully multi-modal.” Echeverry said of the trip. “Everywhere we visited, they have decided to make public transportation – transit, bikes, and pedestrians – a priority and they are working towards improving the infrastructure.”
Echeverry said she thought the City of Asheville’s ongoing efforts to become more sustainable and transit friendly contributed to its selection to participate alongside larger transit and transportation agencies like Seattle’s King County Metro, the Chicago Transit Authority, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Boston DOT, and the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The City of Asheville is currently planning changes to its transit system and City Council has set goals to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. The city was also recently awarded a U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Housing TIGER II grant to set the design parameters for a comprehensive transportation system and “livable communities” initiative in the East of the Riverway Sustainable Multimodal Neighborhood initiative.
Echeverry said many of the strategies she saw on the trip had potential to play a part in Asheville’s transportation future, including integrated land use/transportation planning, multimodal approaches to transportation where cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians share the space equally, and a bike-share program that encourages more riders by making bike usage more convenient.
May 17, 2011
The City of Asheville will waive bus fares on all Asheville Transit routes May 16 – 20 in support of Strive Not to Drive week. The free fare week is geared toward encouraging Asheville residents to seek out alternative forms of transportation and introducing new riders to the city’s transit system.
“We want to make it easier for people to give transit a try,” said Transportation Planning Manager Mariate Echeverry. “Strive Not to Drive week is a great time to join others in the community in leaving the car at home and seeking out new ways to get around.”
Past promotions have indicated that waiving fares are an effective way to get more people to board the bus. In 2007, the City of Asheville conducted a three-month free-fare period that resulted in a 23% increase in ridership over the course of the promotion. Asheville Transit is currently examining even more strategies for bringing more people onto the bus.
In April, Asheville City Council approved waiving bus fares for Strive Not to Drive, making this year the first time the city transit system has played such a large part in the week.
“We are excited to be part of this great community partnership,” Echeverry said.
The timing is made even more appropriate by the steady increase in the price of gasoline, which has may have played a part in driving more people in Asheville to ride the bus. Numbers compiled by the City of Asheville Transportation Department indicate that ridership has increased steadily since the end of 2010, as the price of a gallon of gas edged toward $4.00. Over that time, the number of riders increased by close to 20 percent, from approximately 100,000 at the beginning of 2011, to around 120,000 at the end of April, growth that may have been aided by the approach of warmer weather.
“There is an apparant correlation between the price of gas and the numbers of people we see riding the transit system,” said Transportation Director Ken Putnam. “People see a useful option for spending less money to get where they need to go.”
The Transportation Department keeps close watch on monthly ridership numbers to identify trends and opportunities for Asheville Transit.
The City of Asheville has undertaken several infrastructure improvements over recent months that make it easier than ever for residents to participate in Strive Not to Drive week, including new bike lanes and sidewalk additions. The Asheville Transit system is currently implementing changes to both buses and routes intended to improve service to its customers, including the introduction of new hybrid buses earlier this year.
Click here for more transportation alternatives during Strive Not to Drive week.
Click here for updates and route information for the Asheville Transit system.
May 12, 2011
The City of Asheville’s push to increase energy efficiency and reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint takes a big step forward this week with the replacement of street light bulbs in two neighborhoods with LED lights. The LED (light-emitting diode) lights, use dramatically less energy than standard bulbs, which means a significant reduction in energy costs to the city.
Some 900 street lights, primarily in Asheville’s River District and Kenilworth neighborhoods, are being replaced during the first phase of the push, and will represent $45,000 in annual energy costs. Installation is expected to be complete by the end of June.
Maggie Ullman, Energy Coordinator with the city’s Office of Sustainability, says the upgrade to LED street lights represents one of the most exciting developments since the office was created three years ago to examine ways to reduce the City of Asheville’s energy use. And, she says, it reaffirms Asheville’s role as a leader in carbon footprint reduction.
“This is is a very big deal for Asheville. It is a highly visible step that will represent real savings.” Ullman said. “This first phase will represent the largest municipal LED installation in North Carolina.”
In 2009, Asheville City Council unanimously approved using Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to fund efficiency initiatives, including the first phase of the streetlight replacement. The revolving fund will roll energy savings back into the city’s green and efficiency initiatives.
Council and staff are currently working on opportunities for the second phase, which would represent a complete LED replacement for all 9,000 city streetlights and result in more that $600,000 in annual savings.
The Office Of Sustainability and the Community Relations Division have been working for the past several months to coordinate the replacement launch, including working with partners Progress Energy and BetaLED and getting word to neighborhoods included in the phase one installation. That outreach includes making announcements at community meetings and in neighborhood newsletters. The city has also set up an information page on its website with frequently asked questions and answers about the LED upfitting.
Alongside energy savings, the new LED light bulbs may have a different appearance than standard lighting, especially if the older bulbs have aged and dimmed. The primary difference will be the color, which have a a crisp white/blue tint. But, Ullman says, the lights meet all local, state and federal lighting safety requirements.
The installations will also conform to a 2006 lighting ordinance approved by City Council designed to reduce glare and light pollution. See that ordinance here.
The LED street light replacement is the latest in a list of green and energy efficient initiatives designed to reduce the City of Asheville’s energy use and carbon footprint. Last year, the city completed an energy efficient lighting retrofit for City Hall expected to save $15,000 annually. Click here to see more sustainability initiatives and successes.
May 9, 2011
Asheville residents are known to pay close attention to planning and development issues in their area, and no one has a better handle on the makeup of neighborhoods than the people who live in them. That’s why the City of Asheville’s Planning and Development Department has a group of planners who regularly interact with residents, neighborhood associations and other groups to hear ideas about growth and development.
Teams of Community Planning Liaisons are assigned to five sections of the city to focus on listening to input and use it to determine neighborhood priorities and help direct planning efforts. They are also a point of contact for land use and development questions. The program, begun about 18 months ago, has already resulted in an increased level of interaction between residents and city staff. And, says Planner Jessica Bernstein, residents have a first line of communication with the Planning and Development Department that can help navigate the department and city ordinances.
“[Planning and Development Director] Judy Daniel wanted each section of the city to have a point of contact,” says Bernstein, who serves as liaison for North Asheville. “If they have a question, we can get them to the right person to talk to. They have a go-to-guy.”
The Planning and Development Department also assigns a “Planner of the Day” (POD) each day to field calls or talk to those who come to the Department, and direct them to an appropriate city staffer that can address their concern or question. POD’s are assigned at City Hall and at the Development Services Center, as those locations each tend to get different types of questions.
Meeting with community members and having an ear open to feedback also helps the department identify trends and issues from the community, and have a chance to get residents thinking about planning and development issues long before a draft document comes to Asheville City Council.
“So often, when planners were seen in public, they were presenting development staff reports,” says Planner and Central Asheville liaison Blake Esselstyn. “We felt it was important to get neighborhoods involved with development, and we could take a proactive role in making that happen.”
Community liaisons share notes with each other to find trends that are common to all neighborhoods or issues that may cross over into two or more different sections.
So far, says Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator Marsha Stickford, residents have responded enthusiastically. “We get calls regularly,” Stickford says. “It really does foster this idea that we’re all in this together.”
Stickford, who works in the city’s Community Relations Division, regularly takes note of upcoming neighborhood association and other community meetings, and makes sure that the appropriate community planner is notified. She encourages organizations that meet about planning issues to contact her so she can pass the word along to the right person. “If we know they are out there, we can make that connection,” Stickford says.
To contact Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator Marsha Stickford about a community or neighborhood meetings, call (828) 259-5506 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to see a map of the City of Asheville’s Community Planning Areas.
Click here for details and contact information about the City of Asheville’s Planning Staff Community Liaisons.
May 5, 2011
The WNC Nature Center opened its new cougar exhibit over the weekend, delighting a crowd of visitors who came to be part of the event. The exhibit, featuring two eight-month old cougars acquired from Oregon, is the latest in a series of improvements the center is making to enhance the exhibits for both visitors and the animals.
The cougars arrived at the WNC Nature Center in September and have since been gradually acclimated to their new surroundings and the presence of people. This is the first time since 2007 that cougars have been exhibited at the WNC Nature Center, and over the past months, modifications were made to the exhibit to accommodate the younger, more agile animals, says center Director Chris Gentile.
The remodel included the replacement of 6,000 square feet of fencing with a woven steel mesh, which is lighter and allows for a better viewing experience by the public. The mesh, stronger than conventional chain link, is being used by zoos around the world, Gentile says, and has also replaced fencing in the center’s bobcat exhibit.
The cougar exhibit opened April 30, and was greeted by a performance by the Asheville High Cougar Pep Band in the center’s parking lot and a dance and prayer by Bo Spenser, a member of the Cherokee Nation. Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy cut the ribbon officially opening the exhibit.
The revamped cougar exhibit is just one of many recent and upcoming improvements for the WNC Nature Center. The new Otter Falls exhibit opened in April, and renovations for the red wolf and coyote exhibits are planned to begin in the near future.
The WNC Nature Center also recently announced the launch of its new website, which gives visitors information on hours and pricing, animals on exhibit, and educational and conservation programs. The site features of calendar of events, information on each of the Center’s 60 indigenous species, and online enrollment in programs and summer camps. Check it out at www.wncnaturecenter.com.
The WNC Nature Center’s mission is to increase public awareness and understanding of the natural environment of Western North Carolina. Featuring over 150 animals including otters, black bear and red wolf, the Center is open from 10:00 – 5:00 daily.
The Center is operated by the City of Asheville and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
May 3, 2011
On April 29, the Asheville Police Department, City of Asheville officials, friends, and family members gathered to recognize the graduation of 22 cadets from the Asheville Police Academy. The department’s newest officers were sworn in and received their badges in a ceremony held at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium.
“Congratulations to each of you. We are proud of each and every one of you,” said Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy. “Thanks also to your friends and families for their support.”
APD Chief Bill Hogan and City Manager Gary Jackson also had words of thanks and praise for the cadets, who put in 1,000 hours of work alongside volunteer time to complete the APD’s academy.
“Congratulations,” Hogan said. “You put a lot of long hours getting through this program.”
“You took the challenge and you measured up,” Jackson said. “We hope and pray for your well being, because you are the ones who put your safety on the line every day.”
The ceremony was led by academy instructor Lt. Gary Gudac, and badges were pinned by loved ones in attendance. The officers were sworn in by Asheville City Council member Jan Davis.
Mayor Bellamy also appealed to the new graduates to uphold the level of community interaction undertaken by the Asheville Police Department.
“It is incumbent upon you to engage with citizens and represent not only the department but the community as a whole,” Bellamy said.
The most recent graduates of the Asheville Police Academy are:
Joshua T. Andrews Toby R. Braswell
Noland C. Brown David V. Bruchon
Brad A. Butterfield Kevin W. Creasman
Ismael DelRosario Travis J. Edwards
James E. French Nathaniel D. Gearles
Brian P. Hernandez Kendrick T. Johnson
Lucas L. Lovelace Abraham Mata
Jefferson D. May Jenna M. Mellon
Dane R. Onderdonk Stephen E. Pinkerton
Daniel G. Simpson Allen R. Snedeker
William R. Vanderberg Rayleon Ward
May 2, 2011