Asheville’s riverfront is experiencing some of the most energetic growth and economic renewal in the city, and it’s not just limited to the River Arts District. New businesses in Biltmore Station and Biltmore Village, new homes in Kenilworth, Oakley and Tunnel Road, and the city’s infrastructure and flood mitigation improvement project at Azalea Road are indicators of growth in the Swannanoa River Corridor. Each month, the City of Asheville holds an open house at City Hall to encourage the sharing of information on riverfront developments between the city, residents, and private businesses. This month, staff will focus on the Swannanoa River Corridor.
Asheville’s river corridor as depicted in the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay plan
The open houses are held every third Thursday on the 5th floor of City Hall, and residents, property owners, entrepreneurs or anyone interested in the future of the river corridor are invited to attend. City staff and members of the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission are on hand to answer questions and also to hear from members of the public. Each month has a special focus area, but conversation is not limited to that topic.
“These open houses are an excellent time to hear from the community about what they think is important to pay attention to as this area moves forward,” said Urban Planner Steph Monson Dahl. “This kind of interaction really helps us, residents, and the private sector visualize the kind of change that is going on in the corridor.”
The next Riverfront Open house will be held Thursday, June 19 from 3-5 p.m. For more information, contact Steph Monson Dahl at email@example.com or
June 17, 2014
As part of a push to eliminate graffiti in the City of Asheville, the city will assist property owners in cleaning up graffiti between July 1 and September 30, 2014, but there’s no need to wait to sign up.
As of Monday, June 16, property owners can use the online Asheville App (ashevillenc.gov/ashevilleapp) to sign up ahead of the July 1 start date. Click the graffiti category and type “I’d like help with graffiti clean up,” along with the address, in the fields provided to go ahead and get on the list for graffiti removal.
The City of Asheville, with help from an anonymous donor, is providing up to $500.00 in graffiti clean up per building, with an agreement that the property owner pays costs above $500.00.
June 17, 2014
Six months in and the Lake Craig/Azalea Road project is well underway as specialized contractors begin the highly visible streambed relocation along the Swannanoa River at Gashes Creek Road.
Despite the scale of this project to manage high waters during floods and install infrastructure improvements and roadway access, the facilities at Recreation Park such as the picnic area, pool and the WNC Nature Center remain open to the public.
“This is a big project, but we understand that as we move into the summer, people are going to want to use this park,” said Stormwater Services Manager McCray Coates. “There are designated construction areas in place which will allow the park to remain usable.” Access to the river at the park will be limited as work begins on the streambed relocation this week, Coates says. “We do want people to stay out of the construction area,” he said.
Keeping the project rolling involves managing several specific tasks at the same time:
One of the main fixtures of the project is the relocation of the streambed next to Recreation Park. The section currently has a sharp turn that, during high water, erodes and potentially undermines the embankment beneath Azalea Road. A contractor has already cleared vegetation along to site and begun moving fill from one bank to the other and over the next few weeks, work will increase at that site.
Straightening the bend in the river will ease erosion on the bank, while boulders placed in the streambed will slow water as it moves downstream.
Park amenities like picnic pavilions and the Recreation Park Pool are still open for the park’s most popular season.
Crews have completed pilings for a bridge that will tie into the new roadway connecting the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex with Gashes Creek Road, a move that will introduce a smoother traffic pattern and incorporate infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. Next, crews will begin building the bridge abutments for the 150-foot bridge span across the Swannanoa River.
The construction team is removing fill from a plain that runs along the river, a move that will allow water a place to go in cases of high flood waters.
On the other side of the Swannanoa River, trucks are compacting dirt along the future site of the road that will connect to the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex.
Work on phase one of the Lake Craig/Azalea Road project is anticipated to be complete in December. Click here more information.
June 9, 2014
Public Works crews are patching, milling and repairing road surfaces around Asheville ahead of a coming repaving project that will address streets throughout the city.
In May, Asheville City Council approved a $1.12 million contract to repave 5.44 miles of city streets, the majority of which are residential neighborhood roads. The repaving will take place this summer and fall, but city crews are currently patching holes and milling surfaces so those streets can be ready when the contractor begins paving.
“We’re trying to get out ahead of them and get the things done that we can,” said Streets Operations Manager Jerry Yates. Taking care of the work in-house also saves the city money in the long run.
Crews will be patching surfaces on Ambler Road and Vermont Avenue and milling the surface of Fairway Drive and Brookwood Court. Additionally, concrete crews are pouring new sidewalks on Hilliard Avenue and Stormwater Services is tackling drainage improvements ahead of the paving schedule.
The repaving project is funded through a portion of the three-cent increase to the property tax rate approved by Asheville City Council during the 2013/2014 budget process. One cent of that increase is dedicated exclusively to infrastructure maintenance. Work is anticipated to take place throughout the summer and fall.
The list of streets being repaved during this project can be found below:
Stratford Rd from Windsor Rd to Elmwood Pl
Vermont Ave from Haywood Rd to Davenport Rd
Fairway Dr from Governor’s View to Swannanoa River Rd
Ambler Rd from Gladstone Rd to Governor’s View Rd
Shiloh Rd from Hendersonville Rd to Caribou Rd
Brookwood Ct from Brookwood Rd to end
Cherokee Rd from Mayflower Rd to Bluebriar Rd
Church St from Patton Ave to Hilliard Ave
Swift St from Dover St to Culvern St
Hilliard Ave from Biltmore Ave to Clingman Ave
Sunset Dr from Baird St to new pavement
June 5, 2014
The City of Asheville’s proposed budget is more accessible than ever thanks to a new tool developed in collaboration between the city and the volunteer group Code for Asheville.
The tool, available at www.avlbudget.org offers an illustrated breakdown of how the city’s revenues and expenditures fit together and gives the public a picture of where the money goes.
“The city’s budget process is probably the most intricate and involved decision City Council makes, and this tool offers the public a chance to see how it all works,” said Dawa Hitch, the city’s Director of Communication & Public Engagement. “We are so appreciative of the efforts of Code for Asheville in making this happen.”
The success of the budget tool rose out of a Code Across Asheville meeting in February in which the volunteer group of local developers, designers and self-described “data geeks,” expressed enthusiasm for finding opportunities to utilize City of Asheville open data to increase the public’s access to information.
Code for Asheville worked closely with an interdepartmental city government team that provided information on typical resident inquiries and the data necessary to develop the tool.
“Publicly available data is a fantastic resource, and groups like Code for Asheville show what can happen when the community jumps in and provides solutions to presenting that data,” said Scott Barnwell, the city’s Business & Public Technology Manager. “Those folks deserve a lot of credit for making this a reality.”
Asheville City Council will hold a public hearing on the 2014/2015 budget at its June 10 meeting, with a final vote on June 24.
Find out more about Code for Asheville at CodeforAsheville.org.
June 3, 2014
Asheville Fire Department Captain Jeff Bowen, who died in the line of duty during a 2011 fire, was honored Saturday, June 2 in a ceremony at the Buncombe County Courthouse.
Capt. Bowen’s name was added to a memorial stone located outside the courthouse dedicated to emergency personnel who have lost their lives in the service of protecting others.
AFD Deputy Chief Michael Knisely and Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore spoke at the ceremony, which was attended by family, friends, fellow firefighters and other emergency responders.
Capt. Bowen’s name is the 19th to be added to the memorial. See pictures from the dedication below.
Click here for more on Capt. Bowen and tributes to his sacrifice.
June 2, 2014
The City of Asheville’s IT Services Department has found a new home for some city emergency backup applications, using a cloud technology platform provided by CloudVelocity and Amazon Web Services.
The development, announced in May, ensures that two of the city’s important, but previously unprotected systems – the point-of-sale system for the U.S. Cellular Center and the city’s Water Resources asset management system – can function properly even in the case of a hardware failure, power outage, or natural disaster.
“Utilizing the cloud platform allows us to restore these functions quickly and without experiencing loss of information or time due to a system outage,” says the City of Asheville’s chief information officer Jonathan Feldman.
In times of disaster, municipalities rely on backup technology to recover critical operational systems, but often, that backup requires establishing an off-site facility to house hardware and host duplicate systems. From a fiscal standpoint, Feldman says, that was a no-go for these systems. “We didn’t have the resources to develop an entire second facility that was far enough away to protect from regional disaster.”
So the city’s IT Services team migrated those systems into Amazon’s Web Services systems using CloudVelocity’s software. The transition took about a month to complete, and the final product passed an outside security auditor’s assessment before launch.
Having a backup system easily accessible and secure but located, in this case, at a data center on the west coast, is an asset as it means those systems are not impacted by local events. It is a concept known as geographic dispersion.
The information in the city’s primary data center and in the cloud is consistently synchronized so the backup system is ready to be launched at any time. But unlike traditional off-site backup facilities, the cloud-based recovery system is only operating when it is in use or during test runs. That means a greatly reduced operational cost, since the City does not have to purchase backup hardware.
“Instead of capital costs in the hundreds of thousands for a modern disaster recovery center, we pay for automation software, computing, and data storage when we use it, at a tenth of the cost,” says Kevin Hymel, Technical Services Manager for the City.
But perhaps the most important outcome is an automated disaster recovery system that reduces recovery time from 12 hours to two, and one that will remain available in case of any city-wide weather or power related event.
“We will continue to look for opportunities to utilize this technology for any city system that requires disaster recovery,” Feldman said.
June 2, 2014
Following a revision to the City’s traffic calming policy and approval by Asheville City Council, the City of Asheville Transportation Department has resumed projects designed to ease traffic speed on neighborhood roads.
Speeding and unnecessary through-traffic presents dangers that affect the quality of life in residential areas. In order to provide a safer environment, the City of Asheville seeks to provide traffic calming to neighborhoods that go through the process of requesting it. A 2000 Traffic Calming Policy approved by City Council established a protocol for responding to requests from residents for traffic calming installations, but funding for such projects has been unavailable since 2007.
With $100,000 funding approved in the 2013/2014 budget, the Transportation Department is able to once more address requests for traffic calming, beginning with those submitted since 2007.
“We have a backlog of traffic calming projects requested by residents that stretches back seven years or so, and those are going to be our first priority right now,” said Transportation Director Ken Putnam. “We appreciate the patience of these folks and are working closely with them to move projects forward.”
The department worked closely with the Public Safety Committee, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force sub-committee and the Asheville Police Department to develop next steps.
In March City Council approved an action plan and revisions to the traffic calming policy that shifted focus to the use of speed humps, speed cushions or other lower-cost strategies. That move will stretch the funding budgeted for the projects by focusing on installation instead of design.
“Speed humps are really the most economical kind of device to slow traffic, and they are easier on vehicles,” Putnam said. “Bicyclists also seem to prefer them to other speed reduction devices.”
Staff is currently analyzing or working with the top seven locations on the waiting list to determine those that meet a certain threshold of traffic volume and have an identified speeding problem. Residents on the first of those, Bear Creek Road, have already reviewed the locations for speed humps and completed the necessary collection of signatures. Work is expected to take place in July.
“We work closely with the neighborhoods on these,” Putnam says. “Especially since there is the possibility that interest in traffic calming may have declined over time.”
The revised Traffic Calming Policy also includes changes that make it easier for neighborhoods to initiate the consideration of speed humps, allows for the combination of public-private funding and ensure safe access for emergency vehicles.
Additionally, the city plans a public outreach campaign designed to increase awareness of speeding and other dangerous driving habits.
“We really want the community to gather around the cause that safer driving is better for individuals, for neighborhoods and for the city as a whole,” Putnam said.
Updates on individual traffic calming projects will be posted to the City’s Projects Page.
Click here to see the entire list of locations that are under consideration or being evaluated for traffic calming.
May 28, 2014
From left to right: Lieutenant Aaron O’Hern, Commander Doug Bradley, Ken Vasilik, Petty Officer Anh Tinh, Petty Officer David Christensen
The Commander and several officers of the USS Asheville visited an exhibit at Asheville City Hall dedicated to the naval vessels that have borne that name throughout history.
Commander Doug Bradley, alongside Petty Officer Anh Tinh, Lieutenant Aaron O’Hern and Petty Officer David Christensen visited the exhibit located in the lobby of City Hall on Tuesday. Commander Bradley was the keynote speaker for Monday’s Memorial Day service held in Pack Square Park. The visit was organized by Ken Vasilik from the Mayor’s Committee on Veterans Affairs. Vasilik is a retired Naval CEC Captain.
Four ships have had the name USS Asheville since 1920, the most recent being a Los Angeles-class submarine. The Walter F. Ashe USS Asheville exhibit at Asheville City Hall pays tribute to all of these vessels and displays a collection of photos, uniforms, pennants and other artifacts as well as models of the ships.
May 27, 2014
An approach developed four years ago by the Ashville Police Department to interacting with people experiencing homelessness has proved so successful it is now official departmental policy.
The APD’s homelessness strategy prioritizes connecting people with available services and housing assistance over making arrests, and giving people using illegal camps seven days to vacate. The success of the procedure is cited as a major factor in reducing chronic homelessness in Asheville, and in April, the APD added the approach to its policy manual and began department-wide training in such interactions.
In 2005, Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission adopted a 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, and Council supported the establishment of the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative and the “Housing First” model. That approach calls for providing housing to people experiencing homelessness with no strings attached – a model that gained big successes on a national level.
In 2010, the APD applied that philosophy when responding to calls about homeless camps, introducing people there to service providers and handing out information outlining where to find housing assistance.
“We adopted a protocol that gives people seven days to vacate a camp, while at the same time connecting them to services,” says Sgt. Jackie Stepp. The department also partnered with outreach groups like Homeward Bound and the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville. “The idea is to connect them with services and divert them away from the justice system, and not go into a situation anticipating making an arrest.”
Heather Dillashaw, Director of the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, says the APD’s participation and outreach is a major factor in reducing chronic homelessness in Asheville from 293 identified in 2005 to 47 by the beginning of 2013, an 84% drop.
“It has absolutely made a huge difference,” Dillashaw says. “We certainly would not have made this kind of headway without the APD’s work early on. Their experience provided us with information on who among the homeless community were drawing on our public safety resources, so we knew where to focus our efforts.”
In tandem with the policy’s adoption, officers have also been undergoing Crisis Intervention Training, an approach to interacting one-on-one in crisis situations. CIT was developed in order to find constructive ways to approach and assist people in mental or emotional crisis. Like the homelessness policy, it seeks to establish relationships and find solutions rather than put people in jail. And despite its primary role, the training has proven a valuable tool when approaching people experiencing homelessness or in other interactions with the public. “People in these situations don’t necessarily have a mental issue,” Stepp said. “But there is often tension when you go into a camp and this helps us establish that we are there to help, and are not there as adversaries.”
Information about resources available to people experiencing homelessness can be found by calling 828-259-5851 or online here.
May 9, 2014