Friday, July 30, 2010

Asheville Ordinance Aimed at Sustainability... voted down:

The ordinance, crafted over two years by the Mayor’s Affordable Housing task force, allows developers to build denser housing than normally allowed by an area’s zoning if it’s considered affordable or sustainable and located in certain areas a quarter-mile from major transit corridors. Exactly how much denser the projects may be depends on how affordable, how green and how close to transit they are. The rules would allow such projects to be directly approved by Planning and Zoning, instead of having to go before Asheville City Council for a vote.

However, at the commission meeting last Thursday, there was a sharp split between advocates of the proposed rules, who believe it would provide a major boost to making Asheville a better place to live, and those who fear it would intrude on neighborhoods and harm the democratic process. The commission ended up voting down the initial proposal, with members Jerome Jones and Cindy Weeks supporting it. The body then unanimously approved asking city staff to revise the proposal to exempt neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes and to reduce the areas affected by the proposed ordinance to those within an eighth of a mile of transit corridors.

The article focuses on how much of the opposition centered on the alleged negative effect that the ordinance would have on single-family residential areas.  As in other sustainability efforts, the single-family detached home continues to be a sacred cow--immune from even allowing compatible uses nearby. 

This is really unfortunate as, historically, the neighborhood corner store was a key part of the community.  In addition to providing basic sundries without having to resort to traveling on crowded city streets and state roads, the corner store often provided a community gathering place.

Today, though, the single, segregated use model of residential development often treats anything other than similar, homogeneous residential detached houses as some sort of development pox.

The key to advancing a sustainable development pattern is not to absolutely bar compatible uses but to craft land development codes that allow compatible commercial uses to appropriately conform to compatible residential uses.  This can be done through a wide variety of codes ranging from design regulations to sign ordinances to building codes.

Unfortunately, it appears that even a progressive city like Asheville is not ready to consider the sacred cow in context.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

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