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Reality Check: Why people on one West Asheville road have been waiting years for sidewalks

People on on Hazel Mill Road, which is about two miles from downtown and intersects with Patton Avenue, have been asking for sidewalks for years. It was supposed to happen years ago, but it still hasn't happened. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

People in one West Asheville neighborhood have been asking for sidewalks for years. It was supposed to happen years ago, but it still hasn't happened.

This is on Hazel Mill Road, which is about two miles from downtown and intersects with Patton Avenue.

Sidewalks were supposed to come as part of a development project approved three years ago. Development on what remains an empty field has been talked about repeatedly.

"The person who lived here before me was like, 'That's about to be developed,'" explained Rachel Reeser, who lives near the property.

She got that warning 11 years ago.

"Nothing has happened since, and so, to us, it's not ever really going to happen. But, of course, sad it will, and it'll change things for us, for sure," Reeser said.

Some things have changed.

"Cars are going extremely too fast for this small and curvy road," Reeser said.

She said cars use Hazel Mill to bypass parts of Patton Avenue. Reeser said "Slow down" signs have helped recently, but the amount of pedestrian traffic has picked up. For safety, Reeser lets people walk through her yard to get to Patton Ave.

"They use our yard in lieu of a sidewalk, because it's the safest way to get down there," she said.

In 2014, Asheville City Council approved a plan to develop the field across from Reeser. City council approved more than 100 apartment units. The plan included the developer paying $14,000 to contribute to sidewalks. Without the apartment construction, the sidewalks haven't been built. But new units next door have.

"It's dangerous. I have to have a blinking light when I go down it (Hazel Mill), because people are coming too fast," said Lisa Fox, who lives in one of the new apartments.

"It can be dangerous at times," said Andre Farrar, who also lives in one of the apartments.

The property changed hands in January. Most of the plan is the same, but the new developer made some changes which require further city approval. Developer Harry Pilos said he hopes to put shovels in the ground early in the summer. The plan still includes the money for sidewalks.

"I would love it. It would be wonderful," Reeser said. Fox and Farrar felt the same way.

Pilos plans 113 units, 12 of which would be affordable housing. He wants to fill the rest with people who work downtown. He plans to set the rent for a two-bedroom at $1,350 a month. Pilos says the site has views of downtown and the Grove Park Inn. From Reeser's perspective,more people on the street means sidewalks would be needed even more.

Pilos is waiting to receive final approval from the Technical Review Committee.


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