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City of Asheville and buskers reach agreement on street performing rules

Woolworth Walk on Haywood Street on Oct. 25, 2016. This is one of two spots in downtown Asheville that will soon be marked with a symbol, each denoting the center of a 120-foot circle. No more than one audible performer will be able to busk there at any one time. A six-foot pathway must be kept clear for pedestrians. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The City of Asheville and its busking community have finally reached a deal on how street performing and the congestion of downtown can mix.

On Tuesday evening, an amended ordinance was unanimously approved by city council with the blessing of the Buskers Collective.

RELATED | Busking regulations sent to city council to consider

A process that started out contentious led to compromise. Downtown residents, businesses, buskers and police all worked together to keep an Asheville tradition alive.

"This is a good plan, and we're supportive of it. And I think this is going to help address some of the public safety issues that we see, that are basically signs of success," Andrew Fletcher, of Asheville Buskers Collective, said.

Popularity led to congestion-locked sidewalks, traffic tie-ups and people dodging cars.

So, two high-density areas were identified. One was in front of the Woolworth Walk on Haywood Street. The other is within line-of-sight at the Flat Iron sculpture.

Those two spots will soon be marked with a symbol, each denoting the center of a 120-foot circle. No more than one audible performer will be able to busk there at any one time. A six-foot pathway must be kept clear for pedestrians.

Asheville's plan may be a one-of-a-kind solution for a problem that exists in other places.

"There's not a lot of good models when you look at other cities, and say, 'Well, how do these other cities do it?'" Fletcher said. "And a lot of those other cities, you look at the outcome, and really, if they had a busking culture, they no longer do."

Members of city council were unanimous in their vote and impressed by how far this cooperative process has come.

"It's this marriage of design and art and culture and safety and commerce and to have it come out like this tonight is really gratifying," Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith said.

The amended ordinance goes into effect within two weeks. It can be brought back to committee and city council for review and possible revisions depending on how it all goes.

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