MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

Legal fight over words 'shall' and 'may' could impact Asheville bond construction

A lawsuit against the City of Asheville may stall work to be funded by the bond referendum passed in November. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A lawsuit against the City of Asheville may stall work to be funded by the bond referendum passed in November.

The lawsuit claims the wording of the referendum was misleading.

RELATED | Asheville voters overwhelmingly approve bond referendum package

Sydney Bach, a retired attorney, said the difference between the words "shall" and "may" couldn't be more distinct.

He claims, while city documentation indicated property taxes "shall" be raised to cover the debt, what voters saw on the ballot is that the tax rate "may" be increased 3.5 cents.

"If you have democracy, you expect that you have transparency and openness," he explained. "And you tell people the truth, and if they want to vote on something knowing all the facts, knowing all the truth, that's fine. But don't misrepresent something to them."

RELATED | City council sends $74 million bond referendums to voters in November

Bach and former vice mayor Chris Peterson filed a lawsuit drawing attention to the language.

The money would pay for low-income housing, sidewalks and parks.

The lawsuit is now part of a war over words.

"'May' means perhaps, and 'shall' means it will happen. It's mandatory," he said. "And they knew this. But I think they just adopted whatever the bond council told them to put on the ballot."

The wrangling may halt bond construction projects until the court rules.

"The city cannot issue bonds," Bach said. "So that raises the question, why are they raising taxes under the guise of using it to pay off the bonds."

Earlier this month, a judge denied the city's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

If this case takes years, Bach has questions about where the extra tax revenue collected will go, as the court mulls over verbiage attached to a referendum.

"I just think they put boiler plate language on there that they got from their bond counsel, and it's unfortunate, but it's misleading," Bach said.

Trending