Booming Buncombe: How new construction may impact your neighborhood

Asheville takes a top spot in a new study, but this time it isn't necessarily a good thing.

The study from ranks Asheville second out of 10 cities said to be gentrifying the fastest. The article also says the median home price has shot up over the past five years by $110,000.

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From apartments to new businesses and revitalization, it is easy to see Buncombe County is booming with construction. Within the City of Asheville, accommodating new residents is a big focus.

"The city is growing by a population growth of at least 1,000 people a year, so we have to keep up with that," said Alan Glines, the assistant director for the City of Asheville's Planning and Urban Design Department.

But, some people think the construction is creating a barrier between longtime residents and those who call these mountains their new home. Like Mary Carroll, who has lived on Stoner Road near Biltmore Village for almost 30 years. Hundreds of new neighbors are about to move into her neighborhood, thanks to two apartment complexes under construction.

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"They are destroying the beauty of these mountains," Carroll said.

The growth has resulted in a loss of trees to make way for a large retaining wall now directly across the street from her home. Carroll says she is also concerned about how the new developments will impact property values in the neighborhood, if the narrow road will be able to withstand increased traffic and how projects like these could forever change mountain communities.

"People say, 'Well, all we have are breweries and apartment buildings and motels being thrown up.' That's not a community. That's not the City of Asheville. We need to get back to our roots," Carroll said.

Carroll and other community members sent city officials a letter of concern. "They just dismiss it, or never reply, or never give us solutions," Carroll said of their response.

News 13 took the letter to Alan Glines with the City of Asheville. Though city council members are ultimately the decision makers for large scale projects, he is among those who help weigh the options before a development decision is made.

Glines said it was his first time seeing the letter, but he realizes there are questions about Asheville growing too fast. He says city officials are working to balance the growth and weighing the options to "... manage a quality of life and place making and not lose the quality of life we enjoy here, while more people come and the area is growing."

For example, Glines says city officials are working to update Asheville's Comprehensive Plan, which focuses on the long-term development plans for the city.

When it comes to vetting the construction projects, Glines said traffic and scale impacts, buffering and landscaping, sidewalk standards and opportunities for transit stops are among the items of deliberation.

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Developers are really looking at the downtown area right now, according to Glines. He said some specific areas where you may see construction within 2017 are on Eagle Street with The Foundry Hotel nearing completion by year's end. He added that construction could be starting soon on the RAD Lofts, in the River Arts District, which will include a mixture of housing and commercial space.

In an exclusive interview with Buncombe County Planner Nathan Pennington, News 13 learned a mixed-use development is in the works on about 50 acres alongside McIntosh Road, in south Buncombe County. Housing and a charter school will be featured on the site. Plus, just off Airport Road, a Holiday Inn is going up near Hobby Lobby.

Pennington added that you can expect to see the impact of the growth this year where large tracts of land are available. Areas such as Swannanoa and tracts of land in south Buncombe and west Buncombe make the list. He said there are reasons buildings are going up in certain areas.

"We'd like to cluster development where utilities are available because that's good planning," Pennington added.

Several residents polled about construction underway have mixed emotions.

"The area is so beautiful. I think we have to be careful of the natural resources that we're blessed with here," Janet Mitchell said.

"It does bring our jobs in, and it helps out that way. But as long as they keep it still kind of open and not crammed one top of one another, I think that's an important thing," Sandi Danielson added.

As work on the City of Asheville's Comprehensive plan continues, the public will be invited to attend meetings to offer feedback in the coming weeks. News 13 will keep you updated on the schedule for those meetings. You can also click here for more information about the plan and input opportunities.

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