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orulz

Asheville UDO enforcement issues

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Today there was another article in the Citizen-Times about enforcement of the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance.) With the controversy over Greenlife Grocery, Staples, and Walgreen's, it seems most of the debate is centered around Merrimon Avenue..

I can't quite tell what to make of what the group "CAN" (Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods) is saying. Proper enforcement of the development ordinance could be helpful. Some say the loading dock at Greenlife is a violation, as is the sign and the wall at Staples, but buried in their message is a hint that they want to keep buildings away from the street and parking lots in front. In other words, business as usual on Merrimon. Auto-oriented, suburban, and ugly.

The Staples appeal, brought by neighborhood resident Heather Rayburn, says the department should not have allowed the building to be constructed less than 15 feet from the Staples property line and that the Staples signs are too large and too tall.
Buildings must be more than 15 feet from the property line? Do you mean the property line facing Merrimon? Is that really in the UDO? Too tall? For a single-story building, sure, but for a three-story structure? If these provisions really are in the UDO, they would place countless existing buildings in a state of non-compliance, and do a spectacular job at killing all Merrimon's potential for turning into a walkable, urban corridor.

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Here's the rub O...

I grew up in Beaverdam and Beaver Lake, and I work in Downtown Asheville. I currently use Merrimon to commute to work everyday. This is a problem that has troubled me for years.

If Merrimon became a walkable urban corridor, who would walk there? The surrounding neighborhoods are not dense enough to support walk up retail. If the commercial property on Merrimon were changed to mixed use with residential to support the urban corridor, then where would the low density residents of the surrounding neighborhoods shop?

Merrimon is the only commercial corridor on the north end of town. Town mountain and Outlook mountain dictate that. Merrimon is an auto oriented neighborhood services corridor. In my opinion that market niche is never going to go away. North Asheville commuters need a place to pull in and drop off their laundry, bank, pick up perscriptions, get a car wash, pick up a bite, etc.

Merrimon needs to concentrate more on making the streetscape pedestrian friendly, and aethetically improved. Trying to get the entire corridor to become urban is putting a square peg in a round hole.

I am with you on not limiting building height, and absolutely no parking in front... but a 15' setback might be exactly what is needed. Take the new CVS for example. I think that the UDO did a great job of forcing the store to face the street, include pedestrian amenities, and require storefront glazing on the primary facade. It is currently out ther by itself and ugly as sin, but there are no other buildings around it and if other buildings matched its scale and proximity the scale would not be too bad. I'll try and grab some shots of the street sometime next week.

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I grew up near Beaver Lake too, and walked (or jogged) along Merrimon quite often in my teenage years (mid-late 90s).

The reason I think more urban construction would do Merrimon well is this. Take, for example, this hypothetical trip: go to Blockbuster, Stein Mart, and Fresh Market. While the stores are certainly within easy walking distance of each other, right now you have basically no choice but to park your car three times.

North Asheville commuters need a place to pull in and drop off their laundry, bank, pick up perscriptions, get a car wash, pick up a bite, etc.

Wouldn't it be nice if these North Asheville commuters could do all this without having to park 5 times? Imagine dropping your car off at Classie Car Wash and WALKING to Swannanoa Cleaners, Lord's Drugs, and Back Yard Burgers. Seems absurd now, and indeed, you'd probably risk your life doing it. But I don't see how having buildings more friendly to this sort of activity gets in the way of commuters at all.

If the stores were closer to the street, and the streets more amenable to pedestrians, that would encourage people to walk between the stores rather than drive. Parking lots? Sure! Have 'em. The UDO parking requirements aren't going anywhere. But put the lots in BACK, not in front. The urban retail thing seems to work pretty well on Haywood Street; why not Merrimon?

Merrimon needs mixed use. Retail on the ground, facing the sidewalk, topped off with two or three stories of condos or apartments. Those things would sell like wildfire, as well as contribute to the density and walkability of Merrimon.

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The only thing that would make people happy would be for Staples to tear down their building completely. I don't see how anything else will satisfy the people who are complaining. You have to say... if you ever think that Asheville is going corporate, incidents like this can always reassure you that it's as hostile toward The Man as ever.

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