Consolidated Questions for 2020 City Council Candidates
1) What is your position on an owner(s) sub-dividing their land for development ( commercial or residential) and what actions will you take to implement that position?
There are things that we as a city can control, and things that the state of North Carolina controls, which we expressly cannot override. I will focus on what we can control and what we can do better--there’s a lot we can do better. In most cases, subdividing is allowed by right. If a parcel meets the requirements of size, access, and utility, it can be subdivided. The guiding principles of how we develop land in our community are within the UDO - Unified Development Ordinances. I believe the UDO needs an overhaul and or large update, particularly to Chapter 7, Development so that we can exert the control we have available to us and guide the development we want. This position comes from years of reviewing and being involved in projects on boards and commissions and through my work at the French Broad Food Co+Op.. In many ways, as a community our intentions are terrific and yet our reality is that the codes in our UDO don’t sync with each other well or are missing entire segments all together.
2) If and/or when traffic levels return to 20,000 cars per day during any time period, will you support reversing the Charlotte Street Road diet? If yes, what steps will you take?
I recall there was opposition to the road diet by the neighborhood. I would like to understand more about the concerns. Generally speaking, studies show that road diets are safer for all users, and are more pedestrian and multimodal friendly. I cannot speak to your question directly without better understanding the concerns. At this time I do not intend to reverse the road diet; I do intend to watch and monitor its level of success.
3) What is your position regarding the defunding of the Asheville Police Department and/or the reallocation of resources? Please include the steps you would take to implement your position.
I am hearing from our Black community: Stop beating us. Stop killing us. Stop harassing us. Stop criminalizing us. Stop profiling us. Stop treating us differently because of the way we look. Please help us. Please join us. Please work with us for change.
I am hearing from the police officers: Please tell us the kind of policing you would like us to do. Please help us serve our community better. Please help us. Please join us. Please work with us for change.
I am hearing from the broader community: Please stop. Please stop the oppressive systems and militarization of police in our community. Please stop spending so much money on these systems and spend it on systems that build us up, not tear us down, not tackle us. Build systems that restore justice. That builds bridges. Please help us. Please join us. Please work with us for change.
Despite how each group feels, we all have one common goal: Let’s work together for change.
I agree with our city manager and many on Council currently; we need to invest time and energy to better understand our community’s needs and desires for public safety. This may lead to restrategizing our spending, to broadening of social programs, to divesting and reinvesting in different ways. I am open to learning about the many ways our community envisions public safety and to helping us get there when we understand the goals more. There is no doubt that excessive use of force has become a widespread issue among police departments, and that Asheville, too, has had repeat issues.
4) The Grove Park Sunset Neighborhood Association stipulates that native trees and shrubs be used in new plantings in our neighborhood’s 3 public parks. In what other city-owned properties would you advocate for more native tree and shrub plantings that would reflect Asheville’s sense of place as a WNC/Appalachian community?
All. It is imperative we prioritize native species whenever possible. As a long time beekeeper and environmentalist, I understand the importance of native varieties to our ecosystem.
5) The City of Asheville is the only major city in NC that does not have some form of tree loss prevention program. Will you support the proposed Zero net Tree Canopy Loss Policy Amendment to the UDO? If yes, what specifically will you do as a member of Asheville City Council?
I am currently the Chair of the Downtown Commission, the public body that reviews all major policies and issues in downtown and carries out design review for projects. I also chair the Affordable Housing Committee. I have been following along and participating in the review of the TCPA. To get it right, we needed to engage many stakeholders in the development community. Because of COVID-19, this was not easily accomplished. I took it upon myself to share and discuss the ordinance amendment with various affordable housing developers, landscape architects, land use attorneys, advocates of affordability, civil engineers, and general contractors; many of which were unaware of the process. That is what you can expect of me on Council - to ensure those impacted are aware and a part of the conversation that leads to meaningful action.
I support the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment. I have written to Council with my recommendation and communicated with city staff and various stakeholders to understand the many impacts these amendments could have. My recommendation to Council includes approval and these items:
To expressly allow planting of qualifying trees in other non tree related buffers and setbacks in multifamily projects.
To add equity language to 7-19-5 so areas with known canopy loss and low incomes are prioritized when planting new trees and or in lieu of funding trees.
To look at exemptions for multifamily affordable housing that tie to other green initiatives such as green roofs and solar.
To allow trees that are younger than 365 days old to qualify as existing if they meet the caliper and non invasive species requirements.
6) All neighborhoods need trees and greenspaces. Will you support the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment to the UDO that will require developers to preserve percentages of existing trees and replace trees to offset tree removals? If yes, what will you do to insure that this requirement extends to affordable housing developers, too? If no, what are your specific objections?
See above answer.
7) Many older sidewalks in our neighborhood have significant damage and/or deterioration and are both hazardous for pedestrians and not ADA compliant. Neighbors using wheelchairs often must go into the street traffic due to the lack of adequate ramps. How will you address this in the Grove Park neighborhood as a member of City Council?
This is an issue across many neighborhoods and I am sorry this continues to be the case in yours. Walkability is a priority, particularly in a neighborhood with a recent road diet. I often refer folks to download and use “the Asheville App” to report ADA compliance issues and unsafe sidewalks. I use this tool downtown and in my West Asheville neighborhood often and am pleased with the results thus far. You can use your smartphone, grab a picture, pull up the app and have it reported in less than 1 minute. As for the larger concern, this is an infrastructure and funding issue. Sidewalks are graded and scheduled for replacement based on age and use.
8) The City of Asheville made sporadic repairs to the stormwater system with no improvements in some areas and unintended consequences of homes being flooded in others. What will you do as a City Councilperson to create and implement a holistic stormwater mediation plan?
Here is my recent letter to Hartwell Carson, our Riverkeeper, on the topic of a Stormwater Task Force:
Thanks for sending this over, Hartwell. You can count on my support. There are several things about this ask that align with how I prefer to tackle city projects:
Task forces are efficient and powerful ways to gather information and make recommendations.
You’ve already aligned it with other plans and initiatives
You’ve identified funding opportunities and potential partnerships
You’ve layered it into the multifaceted racial inequities our community has and continues to experience
You’ve identified minimal staff time needs, which is critical during a pandemic and need for reduced staff hours.
One thing I do hope all committees, efforts, task forces, etc., can understand and come together on is the reality that when we determine a need in the community, we have to identify financial solutions, too. We are powerful visionaries here in Asheville but we consistently lack the funding to implement our goals. We have to do more than envision.
I am not aware of why the city has balked at this in the past. If I had to guess, it’s because the work to improve our stormwater is vast, incredibly expensive, and up against many other priorities. There have been some critical steps taken recently. One is the reduction of the impervious surface rule. We used to require stormwater infrastructure when more than 5000sf of impervious surface was lost to redevelopment, construction, etc. Now the stormwater infrastructure is triggered at a 1% change in impervious surface.
As someone that cares tremendously about affordable housing, I have to acknowledge that this change and any other significant changes to stormwater requirements could impact affordability of all projects and induce projects that are larger and that can spread the costs across a larger structure. When those days come, I hope I can look to folks like you to support slightly taller structures and denser infill solutions that help manage the costs of more and more expensive land and site planning. Perhaps the day will come when the Earth is such a priority that it, too, gets a $500B infusion of cash from the fed. Until then, we’ll tackle it one task force and plan at a time.
9) Do you support the existing steep slope building restrictions, loosening current restrictions or tightening the current restrictions and what steps will you take to put your position into actions?
The goal of steep slope ordinances are to ensure safety, prevent landslides, to implement environmental protection measures that prevent or reduce erosion and stormwater issues, and to preserve our scenic hillsides. There is some language in the new TCPA that prohibits the removal of trees on steep slopes; I support this. We have challenging terrain in our beautiful mountains and we need not reduce the steep slope requirements. This, of course, puts pressure on additional multifamily construction as our population grows. To protect our mountains, we need to be strategic and thoughtful as we focus on infill the valleys.
10) Private and city construction vehicles have seriously damaged drainage ditches in our neighborhood’s higher elevations creating drainage problems plus pedestrian and vehicular safety issues. Complaints by neighbors have been ignored. What will you do to hold construction crews accountable for damages during and after projects?
This is interesting and unfortunate. Damage should be mitigated and corrected by the party that inflicted the damage. This also ties to concerns about infrastructure replacement and repair mentioned in an earlier question.
11) The Charlotte Street Road diet did not include the much-needed widening of the sidewalks along Charlotte Street. What will you do to widen these sidewalks?
I would need more info. Are the sidewalks able to be widened? Does that include purchasing adjacent land? Is there overcrowding on the sidewalks as is? I would want measures we can instate to understand if this is a problem and, if so, what schedule can we add it to if that is the case.
12) As a member of City Council, how will you address the city-wide problem of unsightly litter including cigarette butts especially along Charlotte Street and the 240 interchange?
You’re hitting a nerve with this one. I don’t understand why humans think earth is a trash can. I struggle with the words “throw away” as if there is somewhere “away” that trash goes. Yet people do it every hour, every day. In West Asheville, we have organized regular street cleanups through Asheville Greenworks. And in Downtown, a board I serve as Treasurer for (Asheville Downtown Association) does semi annual cleanups, too. At the last one, we invited city staff so they could learn the joys of cleaning up butts and see the level of waste running into our sewerage system and into our rivers. Perhaps Charlotte St. could be added or a similar group could activate to help. As for 240… that’s beyond the purview of City Council but I would gladly support a NoButts campaign. I do hope we become better stewards of our community and public spaces. Too often we all walk by trash or complain about it without thinking to just pick it up.
13) Many Asheville residents, especially senior citizens, have food insecurity. What can you as a member of Asheville City Council do to provide resources to address this Asheville-wide problem?
1 in 4 children and 1 in 5 adults suffer from food insecurity in our area. In my day job and volunteer life, I am already working on these issues. I work as the Finance and Project Manager for the French Broad Food Co+op in downtown. We instated the state’s first Double Up Food Bucks program, where people receiving SNAP benefits qualify for up to $20 a day in fresh, canned, or frozen produce. We recently grew the program to over 100 items and will begin advertising it in September. I also am in my 6th year on the board of Manna Food Bank and served 3 years as their Treasurer. We serve 16 counties, 100,000 people a month, and distribute over 20 million pounds of food annually. In my tenure on the board, we grew our facility, held a successful capital campaign, and expanded our services as far as our infrastructure can take us. As a Councilor, I can help raise awareness on these issues, work with the Asheville City School PODS and ensure meals are still getting to our kids, and ensure our community investment dollars (SPF, HOME, CBDG) are allocated to organizations that are working on these and other housing and food insecurity needs. Did you know Manna distributes 5,100 bags of groceries to kids each week in our area (all 16 counties)? We need volunteers badly; please consider joining us!
14) Cars travel at high rates of speed on the all-residential street of Kimberly between Country Club and Griffing Blvd. and APD does not have the resources to provide a regular presence. What specific traffic calming measures will you support to address this serious safety issue in our neighborhood?
I am an advocate for safe driving habits and for making it safer and easier for people to move around their neighborhoods and our city as a whole. It would be helpful to know what conversations your neighborhood association has already had; this is something that has been an issue for years and you likely have already put a lot of thought into this. What structural changes to the roadway (traffic calming measures) have you discussed? In approaching this topic, I would ensure that people potentially impacted are aware and a part of the conversation. The neighborhood is vital to families throughout our community; it includes many public facilities (schools, ball fields, daycares, summer camp, houses of worship).
15) Repairs of the collapse of Old Toll Road are now nearly a year behind schedule. What will you do as a member of City Council to expedite the repairs and reopen this important road in our neighborhood?
This is an issue for your neighborhood and, broadly, an issue of communication, environmental protection, public safety, and infrastructure and funding issues. A portion of the road was destroyed by flooding and a landslide, which are outcomes we may experience more frequently as weather becomes more severe and more frequently severe due to climate change. I saw the WLOS report on it this week and it appears there is some new activity occurring and that delays are due to unforeseen excavation issues, COVID-19 delays, and a shortage of workers. Unfortunately, this is something we’re seeing across the city right now and I’m sorry this is impacting your neighborhood.