City leaders consider rezoning areas throughout Asheville to create urban centers

The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed possible rezoning of some areas in Asheville into urban centers. The properties being considered include the area with the Innsbruck Mall on Tunnel Road, the Walmart area on Bleachery Boulevard, the Kmart on Patton Avenue and a couple locations on Merrimon Avenue. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

It was a packed house at Asheville City Hall on Wednesday as the Planning and Zoning Commission met to discuss possible rezoning of some areas in Asheville into urban centers. Many people had to listen from the hallway because the meeting room was filled to capacity.

“It's one of the ways we're looking at as a city to try to implement the recently adopted comprehensive plan for the city called Living Asheville," Asheville Planning and Urban Design director Todd Okolichany said, referring to urban center zoning.

"It would encourage more of a higher density mixed-use urban type of form of the development," he said.

Urban center zoning would basically allow for the development of buildings with residential and commercial units.

The properties being considered include the area with the Innsbruck Mall on Tunnel Road, the Walmart area on Bleachery Boulevard, the Kmart on Patton Avenue and a couple locations on Merrimon Avenue.

Okolichany said it could help address the issue of affordable housing in area.

"This is probably the most change that I have seen in zoning for substantial areas of commercial activity in our town during my lifetime," said Robert long, an attorney representing Chris Peterson, the owner of what used to be Edna’s Coffee Shop on Merrimon Avenue.

"Mr. Peterson received no letter prior to the formal letter of last Monday," Long said.

He said the hearing to approve the rezoning was sprung on property owners.

"We haven't had time to get either a comparative market analysis or an appraisal," Long said.

He also added that the influx of traffic could be a problem for people in the areas being considered.

"What plans does DOT have to accommodate the traffic volumes that are projected in the future?” Long asked planning and zoning members. “Safety questions, traffic studies of what would come of this if it were rezoned."

Because lawyers for many of the owners expressed concerns, the hearing was moved to Jan. 24.

If the planning and zoning commission approves the rezoning, it would move to the city council, which would have final say.

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