Candidate Questionnaire – City Council

1. Please state your views on the role of historic preservation and our historic resources in the future of the city.

Andrew Fletcher: A huge part of the appeal of our city is our history as told by the stories of people and place as told by our architecture. Our peculiar history after the Great Depression retained many properties that would have been demolished in other cities, largely due to the slow growth of our city. In the decades since, rapid growth and our out-dated land use policies has put many of our historical properties under threat. While I firmly believe that urban density (up) is preferred to suburban sprawl (out), I feel strongly that we must thread the needle by designing policies to steer our growth into development without displacement of our working people and places. This will be a difficult process, and I’ll need the help of the PSABC. If you’re looking for my opinion on recent developments, I opposed the demolition of the historical and affordable properties on the east side of Charlotte Street, but I support the redevelopment of the old Fuddrucker’s site on the west side of Charlotte Street. Look for more of that type of decision making from me. The reason that we need land-use reform is because our existing zoning rules allowed both to happen. I know we can do better together.

Will Hornaday: As the current president of Albemarle Park-Manor Grounds Association, vice-chair of the Historic Resources Commission (HRC), and providing pro bono graphic design services for PSABC, preservation of Asheville’s historic resources is very important to me. I also know that preservation is a critical tool in addressing our housing crisis, fighting climate change, is a proven economic generator, and is embedded in the DNA of Asheville. Through some economic misfortune, luck, and the hard work of preservation advocates, much of our city’s historic built environment has been preserved, unlike many similar cities. As a councilmember, I will be a champion for preservation and look for additional ways to increase funding to support city staff to further recognize and protect these assets that benefit all in our community.

Grant Millin: I have been a history buff since childhood so I know I need to know more. My family owned TS Morrison & Co. at one point which was the oldest continuously operating retail store in Asheville until in closed in 2006. Unfortunately, the last owner sold all the historical accoutrement. I contacted PSABC suggesting TS Morrison & Co. be preserved as the WNC Heritage Museum… of course allowing for everyone’s heritage to be displayed.

I’ve looked over the COA Historic Resources Commission webpage and the PSABC website. I honestly think of public safety, housing, climate, and other issues as being high priority. However, we are talking history more recently in contrast to equity issues. I am not at all opposed to participating in activities like upgrading the Historic Preservation Master Plan for Asheville and Buncombe County. 
This where our expert citizens again come in. In this case PSABC members and folks on the Historic Resources Commission and Asheville-Buncombe African-American Heritage Commission. Two cases where the COA Boards and Commissions Restructure may not lead to lot’s of cuts to subject matter engagement options like Asheville historical matters.

2. What will be your top three priorities to ensure the preservation of Asheville’s historic buildings and neighborhoods?

Andrew Fletcher: The big one and that’s land-use reform. Our UDO is out of date, as proved by the Charlotte Street developments. Second, I’m ready to listen and respond to our community over consultants hired to provide political cover to pre-made decisions. My slogan is “With You For Asheville” and I mean what I say – I’ve got a track record on the Downtown Commission of deep skepticism for out-of-town developers who force us to live with their decisions while they live elsewhere. That sets me apart from many on our current council who are pro-development no matter the losses to us locals and who the development is intended for. Third, I’d request to be the council liaison to the Historic Resources Commission.

Will Hornaday: My first priority will be to draft and implement a Deconstruction Program/Ordinance that would incentivize then require owners of structures 75 years or older to deconstruct rather than demolish. Portland, Savannah, and San Antonio have deconstruction programs and have found that they significantly reduce the loss of historic structures because it costs 80% more to deconstruct than to demolish. And because deconstruction is more labor intensive than demolition, it creates more local jobs and can benefit hard-to-employ workers. Deconstruction is better for our environment because 70% of the salvaged materials are resold for reuse and kept out of the landfill and it is less traumatic and harmful for nearby neighbors.

Increase funding available to the HRC to support public outreach, education, and research in the form of
additional staff resources, funds for projects to heighten visibility of historic resources, and small grants to homeowners, partner agencies, and organizations.

Demolition by Neglect ordinance for our landmarked properties to ensure owner tax savings go towards the maintenance and upkeep of historically recognized properties.

I would also like to see protections put in place to protect historic view corridors. We are a city with amazing views accented by our unique historic built environment and development is threatening those valued sightlines. With community input and the help of the State Historic Preservation Office, County and City officials I want to identify and protect cherished view corridors. An example that highlights this need is the new Element Hotel that diminished the iconic view of downtown as you pass through the tunnel on Tunnel Road.

Grant Millin: The 101 Charlotte project and the current development there is an example of where our historical resources subject matter experts come in. I focus on things like getting COA overall strategy ’shipshape.’ I honestly don’t have three specifics, but wherever the UDO, conditional zoning, and the Living Asheville Comprehensive Plan have nexus around historical buildings and neighborhoods I would stop and think before approving projects and choosing between strategy and limited resources of time, money, and COA human resources and loss of historic buildings and neighborhoods.

I want to see the top three priorities here from Historic Resources Commission, the African-American Heritage Commission, and PSABC. I would be interested in seeing those findings.

3. Asheville has four local historic districts and 42 local historic landmarks. Would you support the establishment of new local historic districts or landmarks in the city?
– In recent years, the City hired consultants to conduct a survey to identify historic sites connected to Asheville’s Black community. Would you support the establishment of local historic districts or landmarks to recognize the story of Black people and other traditionally excluded communities in Asheville?

Andrew Fletcher: Yes, but within reason. We have to make sure that we are preserving housing for our workforce, where we see the most serious deficit, not just preserving historic homes for the wealthy and retired. I’d look to the PSABC for ways we can accomplish that. I support the PSABC’s efforts to landmark and restore the Historic Walton Street Pool.

-Absolutely, but we need to walk into that with eyes wide open about potential side effects to ensure that the overall result on Black Neighborhoods is positive and that our Black neighbors share in the benefit, rather than get priced out. That means that we need to have excellent community relationships, trust through transparency and programs that foster resident retention, such as property tax rebates, to keep people at risk of being gentrified in their homes.

Will Hornaday: Yes, with a focus on historically underserved neighborhoods who are losing so many of their important cultural and historic resources to development and gentrification. We also need National Register Districting for these same underserved areas, so owners can benefit from the same rehabilitation tax credits that owners in our established districts already do. I also would like to see our city explore the under-utilized conservation districting to preserve scale and character in neighborhoods. More conversations with these neighborhood groups about the benefits, process, and the ways SHPO, HRC, and PSABC can lend support would be a first step. There should also be zoning overlay districts to ‘Gateways’ to historic districts.

-Yes, the lack of landmarks representing the Black community and the need to lower the barriers to forming a district should be a priority of the City of Asheville, the State Historic Preservation Office, and preservation advocates. I strongly support this. A city should encourage and lower barriers to what they say they want.

Grant Millin: I followed the relatively new Asheville-Buncombe African-American Heritage Commission. I can imagine the AHC being more relevant versus being eliminated with the new COA Boards and Commission Restructure effort. While I actually make restructure at city hall a core aspect of my campaign, rolling back achievements in civic engagement and tangibles for the Asheville African-American is of no interest to me. At the same time COA needs to be serious about the reference to core services that finally came up during the March 17-18 strategic retreat. I have looked over Vision 2036 and I am not sure if historic preservation is a priority. We should take a look.

The YMI Cultural Center seems to be on better footing. The Pack Square Visioning project is another opportunity. I share this great commentary from a UNCA instructor that seems relevant:
Asheville Urban Trail severely lacks representation; recommendations for change
Living Asheville Goal #8 is Elevate the Arts and Cultural Sectors to Strengthen and Preserve Heritage and History. There’s an interesting Historic Resources Map in the Living Asheville document… then there’s an Our Aspirations wheel that doesn’t seem to mention historic resources.
I bring up the Vision 2036 Strategic Operating Plan and processes like the COA strategic retreat as being more important than some might think. Strategy is about consistence, coherence, and congruence… among other things. So historic resources may get focus and analysis… but then when an exciting real estate project comes along the goals narrow and historic preservation slips from council focus.
So I am not interested in things getting worse for Asheville’s African-Americans. If this consultant did an inventory of Asheville African-American historic resources and nothing is being done, I am interested in what’s happening. I have no idea where to look for this report. I just looked at the Asheville-Buncombe African-American Heritage Commission webpage and I see nothing like that. Please share the document.

4. Are you aware of ways that historic preservation can assist the need for affordable housing and in addressing climate change? Would you consider using preservation strategies to support those goals? Would you be open to working with the preservation community toward the goal of preserving affordable housing units?

Andrew Fletcher: This past week I watched as the bulldozers took down historic, affordable housing on Charlotte Street. These were homes for many of my personal friends and coworkers in the service industry over the years. I have memories in of being in them. I was struck that all of these materials were on their way to the county landfill, and that new material and the waste that goes with modern construction methods would replace it. I’m well aware that affordability and environmentalism can go hand in hand for the same reasons it’s smart for me to keep my 87 truck on the road and in good condition rather than take it to the junkyard and force the environment to bear the cost of producing another truck for me.

Will Hornaday: For nearly two years, in the fight to save 13 houses on and around Charlotte Street, I have been part of the efforts to educate elected officials and the community of the important role historic buildings play in protecting our environment, providing affordable housing, creating space for small local startup businesses to thrive through adaptive reuse and contributing to our city’s economic vitality, authenticity and sense of place. I think we had success with the community, but not with most of those we elected to represent us. These buildings are all slated to be demolished as I write this. Half of the homes are being demolished without an approved plan for what will replace them on that site. This is an embarrassment to what we claim to be as a city. We can do better.

Grant Millin: I would be open to working with the preservation community toward the goal of preserving affordable housing units. I lived in the Commodore Apartments on E. Chestnut and lived in an older house on Baird Street. The first house my family lived in Asheville was historic.

You can see I am interested in making Asheville historic preservation possibly more of a big deal than it is. We can’t let Asheville get 100-200 percent worse!

5. What incentives do you think the City of Asheville can use to encourage preservation of our historic resources?

Andrew Fletcher: Targeted property tax rebates have the potential to accomplish many of our shared goals around affordability and preservation. Beyond that I’ll admit that I know more about how the First Amendment interacts with city policy than I do about the intricacies of historical preservation, but I’d like to assure you that I would work with PSABC as a partner when I need to learn more before a decision, rather than in opposition after I’ve already arrived at a decision.

Will Hornaday: The same way Land Use Incentive Grants are issued to large scale developers who meet certain criteria by the city, we can incentivize Preservation Incentive Grants for projects that adaptively reuse our buildings, infill projects, and commercial to residential conversion of our historic structures.

Require HRC representative on Planning and Zoning and Downtown Commission for any demolition within a National Register District. This was recommended in the City of Asheville’s Historic Preservation Master Plan.

Establish a city policy that Asheville planning staff consult with HRC staff in the decision-making process on applications that will affect National Register properties.

Work to increase state Historic Tax Credits through advocacy to North Carolina legislators.

Grant Millin: While its 2015 era and no doubt in need of upgrade, I am reading the Historic Preservation Master Plan for Asheville and Buncombe County. I see the Historic Tax Credit and the implementation table. I’d be very interested in learning more from the PSABC as to the current issues. Without the historic side of Asheville preserved, our identity disappears. Open Space and viewshed and the environmental spectrum plus the history of Asheville is all on the table these days along with a range of equity issues. I am interested in pulling all this issues together into a Community Economic Development 3.0 (CED 3.0) platform that reduces the BTDA over five years while transferring occupancy tax resources to a new CED 3.0 organization… that by the way is more strategically diverse and can more likely acquire a range of grants, etc.