Candidate Questionnaire – Mayor

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

Cliff Feingold:  Since the early 1800’s Asheville’s primary industry has been tourism.  I have lived in Asheville for the past 70 years, so I have seen a great deal of Asheville’s history – before it was history.  The mountains, the climate and the history are the driving forces behind our successful tourism industry.  Of those three engines, preservation of the history is the one that we can, and must, control.

Esther Manheimer: I value and support historic preservation, and I recognize the role that preservation and restoration of historic structures has played in Asheville’s current vitality.  I have a record of working hard to advocate for the North Carolina tax credit providing incentives to those willing to revitalize and restore historic structures.  This forward-looking legislation enables more preservation in Asheville.

Projects benefiting from the tax credit program include the Kress Building, Battery Park Apartments, the Grove Arcade, many buildings in Biltmore Village and homes throughout Asheville.  The focus on saving the tax credit program was a key initiative of the North Carolin Metro Mayors, an organization I previously chaired.  In support of this program, we held a rally and press conference at the Grove Arcade.

Kim Roney: Historic preservation is key to maintaining cultural identity, achieving sustainability goals, and connecting people to the lessons of the past and the possibilities of the future. I think there are opportunities for historic preservation to address issues across all the themes of the Living Asheville Comprehensive Plan, and this could be measurable through a community benefits table for conditional zoning of residential, commercial, and mixed-use development. I have advocated for equity and sustainability analyses to be included in staff reports as a way to operationalize equity and ensure data points to measure outcomes. Alongside financial impacts, adding these analyses to staff reports would aid in decision making beyond initial costs, weaving in consideration of the long-term costs for ours and future generations when overseeing our budgets, plans, and policies.

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

Cliff Feingold: The successful restoration of historic neighborhoods such as Montford needs to be ongoing projects.  Charlotte Street and its surrounding neighborhoods need to be protected from developers who have dollar signs in their eyes.  The beautiful art deco theme of downtown should be preserved and added to, rather than the new, modern designs that have been favored in recent years.

Esther Manheimer: The top three priorities to ensure the preservation of Asheville’s historic buildings and neighborhoods are those identified by the Historic Resources Commission.  In 2015, the HRC adopted the Historic Preservation Master Plan for Asheville and Buncombe County which provides a roadmap to addressing historic preservation in Asheville and Buncombe County.  In the HRC’s 2021 annual report, published in January 2022, the HRC identified the need to continue to implement the goals and strategies outlined in the Plan.  I support that focus and that work and value the hard work of this volunteer board which is supported by city staff.

Since the adoption of the Plan, other specific efforts have been identified such as the African American Heritage Resource Survey, which was recently funded and should be completed in 2022.  As a previous liaison to HRC, I attended an HRC retreat and participated in a discussion about the HRC’s need to consider ways to bridge the work of the HRC and African American heritage in Asheville. I am glad to see this focus and I am supportive of this continued effort.  Along these same lines, I support the preservation of important historical landmarks that represent the African American community in Asheville and seeking the designation of these assets as local landmarks (e.g. Walton Street pool).

Another priority is continuing to advocate for the North Carolina historic tax credit to allow residential and commercial restoration of historic districts.  This tax credit periodically comes under legislative scrutiny and requires renewed support to avoid its elimination.

Finally, additional community education concerning historic resources is needed.

Kim Roney: 1. Operationalizing equity: I have advocated for equity and sustainability analyses to be included in staff reports as a way to operationalize equity and ensure data points to measure outcomes. Alongside financial impacts, adding these analyses to staff reports
would aid in decision making beyond initial costs, weaving in consideration of the long-term costs for ours and future generations when overseeing our budgets, plans, and policies.

2. Reparations: I’m committed to supporting Reparations Commission recommendations in the focus areas of criminal justice, economic development, education, health, and housing. Suggestions for a line-item in the City budget might look like a percentage policy similar to the general fund balance policy, set to track with future growth and designed to achieve equitable outcomes in focus areas. Land reparations should be of equal or greater value to lots taken during Urban Renewal, and might include facilities like Stephens Lee and community centers. I hear calls from impacted community members to include narrative data and process accountability, and to mitigate compounding damages.

3. Neighborhood Resiliency: The over-reliance on the tourism industry extracts our resources, burdens our infrastructure, and displaces our vulnerable neighbors. At this year’s Council budget retreat, I brought forward a strategic priority of Neighborhood Resiliency. Potential action items included stormwater mitigation, and Urban Forest Master Plan, securing food systems, and participatory budgeting. Preservation grants focused on addressing the vulnerability index in the City’s Climate Justice Initiative could be part of this priority as well for residential, commercial, and public resources. We could get much farther and faster in our goals for neighborhood resiliency if we had a serious shift in our occupancy tax legislation, beginnings of which are under consideration in this short session of the NC General Assembly.

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?

Cliff Feingold: The destruction of the Eagle Street neighborhood in favor of the “Taj Magarage” and other city buildings was a shame.  There are several Black neighborhoods that deserve restoration with preservation in mind.  Other ethnic minorities should also be recognized and honored with preservation.

Esther Manheimer: Yes, if a neighborhood is supportive of the establishment of their neighborhood as a local historic district, I am supportive of the establishment of additional local historic districts.  Further, I am supportive of the establishment of local districts and landmarks to recognize the story of Black people and other traditionally excluded communities in Asheville.  To create a local historic district, a majority of the neighborhood must support the establishment of the district. It is important this designation is a neighborhood decision and that equity be considered in the decision. If a new district were established, I would advocate for resources to assist homeowners in navigating the regulations and guidelines that come with the designation and resources to assist homeowners in the cost of repairs to their historic homes that might be more costly due to the designation.

Kim Roney: Yes. I’m committed to prioritizing our new Reparations Commission, as well as community-led efforts to hear Every Black Voice as part of the process. While listening to neighbors impacted by Urban Renewal and redlining, I imagine there may be some overlapping and/or consistent suggestions to what has been asked here. An example might look like historic designation of Walton Street Pool.

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?

Cliff Feingold: I would certainly be interested in working with the preservation community to establish affordable housing while enhancing the history of our beautiful city.  Renovating established buildings to accommodate people, while maintaining the original exterior design, would be less expensive (more affordable) than building from scratch.

Esther Manheimer: “The greenest home is the one already built”.  The environmental impact of building new homes is substantial and I understand and value that preserving existing housing stock can support our community goals in addressing climate change.  Furthermore, many older or historic houses serve as affordable single and multifamily housing, adding to the overall inventory of affordable housing options.

I have worked with the preservation community in the goal of preserving affordable housing, specifically in the recent effort to save several of the historic homes impacted by the Killian project.  Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in avoiding the demolition of the homes which may have been avoided had the developer pursued the conditional zoning application giving the city the opportunity to negotiate for the preservation of the homes.  Instead the developer withdrew the application, leaving the city without the authority to prevent the demolition under state law.  In the future, I will work hard to find resolution to such conflicting efforts.

Kim Roney: Partnering for deeply-affordable housing through creative and cooperative solutions is a key tenet of my campaign, and I appreciate the community advocacy towards preserving affordable units. I’ve heard solutions from Council candidates around a deconstruction policy which could function as an anti-gentrification tool while creating demand for green jobs that keep valuable
materials out of the landfill (Hornaday) and adding displacement protection to the community benefits table for new lodging uses (Fletcher). These are the kind of solutions that can help us meet our goals while addressing climate justice, and why I appreciate neighbors bringing their lived and professional experience to the necessary work ahead of us.

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

Cliff Feingold: So far as incentives to encourage preservation, I would rely on the advice of the people who have experience in this field.  I do not believe in reinventing the wheel.  Asheville has done a great job in preservation and many very smart people have been successful in this endeavor.

Esther Manheimer:  Recently I supported the city council’s adoption of a community benefits table which, as an option, incentivizes adaptive reuse of historic structures in the context of hotel applications.  The community benefits table is a new concept for Asheville and applied in this limited manner as council was looking specifically at the rewrite of the hotel ordinance. I support adopting the community benefits table approach in the context of other types of development including residential and commercial uses.

Other ways to incentivize preservation of historic resources could include discounted permitting fees or the incorporation of adaptive reuse in the Land Use incentive Grant policy.  I would support exploration of both of these concepts.

Kim Roney: While we continue to make amendments to our Unified Development Ordinance, community benefits tables and system changes designed to operationalize equity and sustainability analyses can move us towards effective incentives with measurable outcomes. I would be grateful to hear more about what the Preservation Society has in mind, and appreciate the work of our Historic Resources Commission in this work.