Parkside: City Tells County To Get The Land Back


Asheville City Council unanimously passed this tonight:

“1. The City Council objects to the sale by Buncombe County of the Subject Property as described above, and further objects to the conveyance by Buncombe County of any property located in the City-County Plaza / Pack Square Area without consultation with the City.

2. The City Council respectfully requests that the Board of Commissioners of Buncombe County undertake to re-acquire the Subject Property or otherwise ensure that it remains part of City-County Plaza and open to and available for the use and enjoyment of the public in perpetuity.”

Brownie Newman made it clear he sees this resolution as a first step for the City.

Carl Mumpower said of the proposed condominium, “We are not stopping the project. Human error and site complexities may stop the project.” He taciturnly faulted both sides of the controversy saying that the parties involved are “artificially vilifying” one another. “This is not a good guy, bad guy thing.”

Gordon Smith, a blogger on The Internet, thought loudly to himself – “Well what should I call it when my County government sells and a private developer keeps a piece of my public park land?”

Barry Summers spoke out regarding the less-publicized elements of the land deal itself. He, like all but two people at the meeting, spoke in favor of the resolution. The video will be available at some point. Here’s a paraphrase of his concluding remarks: “I would urge you to approve this resolution and then to move to the next step, which is stronger action. The developer is going around City Council and insulting the public and the process…As we applaud you for doing this, the developer is prepared to move forward.”

Architect John (Cork?) said that people ought to be able to build when they’ve spent a lot of money to build something.

Coleman associate, Tom Israel, rose to give a full-throated endorsement of Mr. Coleman’s project. After having cut the building height in order to dodge Council review as a Level III building, Israel had the cheek to tell the Council that they were considering a resolution without knowing the details of how the project would benefit the City.

(Note to Dr. Mumpower – That kind of thing is why they end up in the bad guy category. Displaying open contempt for the process and then taunting the Council over it? I’m not sure what else they’d have to do to cross the “bad” line.”)

Several participants urged Council to take up the idea of Conservation Easements for the park or a new zoning designation for public parks. Robin Cape voiced interest in looking at those ideas. Holly Jones underlined her intention to get the entire proceeding as public as possible from here on out.

And Richard (Curber?) pointed the way forward: “This issue is going to be taken up at a meeting with the County on June 24th.”

See you there.


  1. Way to go, Council! And Hooligans rock!!

  2. RHS586 says:

    Wow! Carl Mumpower supported a resolution critical of turning public land into private property? What a socialist!

    Of course some things never change — even when he votes with people he has this innate compulsion to lecture them.

  3. Gordon Smith says:

    Former Mayor Leni Sitnick in this week’s Mtn. Xpress:

    Regarding the Parkside condos, City Council and the county commissioners should consider the following:
    • Selling land donated to the public is bad precedent.
    • The sale process and vote are both highly suspect.
    • The folks who put the jail behind the Courthouse still rue that decision.
    • The UDO process has been tweaked in such a way that it removes City Council review from all but big-box structures and conditional-use permits—which is why Staples on Merrimon Avenue had no Council accountability and no public input. With two less levels and a parking reduction, Parkside’s developer has further insulted the city and the public he so arrogantly dismisses by circumventing the intent of the process.
    • The back of the Parkside building cuts off the connection to an historic church and the Eagle-Market Street Historic District, which the city has worked to help revive economically and culturally, and makes that wonderful neighborhood the backdrop for delivery trucks and parking for Parkside residents.
    • The building would be fine elsewhere, but all wrong where proposed, as it would close in and overshadow our lovely park, which isn’t nearly as wide as Central Park.

    Council and the commissioners should find it in their collective conscience to undo this mess and not have Parkside overshadow their individual legacies.

    — Leni Sitnick

  4. This is a very positive step, but as Barry warned, Coleman still intends to go ahead if he can find an opening.

    One way the county can throw logs under Coleman’s wheels at no expense is to deny permission for use of any county property for materials staging. Wanda Greene had previously, routinely, issued a permit, but that permit became invalid when Coleman cut the height (his permitting process starts over). If the city also denies him permission to close-off Marjorie Street or use the adjacent city land, it will render the project virtually impossible to construct. He may sue, but he’s already facing a legal battle with the Pack family heirs, and throwing good money after bad is not a business plan.

    Coleman is trying to extort money from the county now, having added about $3 million to his purchase price in his counter-offer for a buy-back. Coleman claims he has spent a lot of money on his misguided effort and needs to recoup it.

    Sorry, Charlie. People who speculate sometimes get burned. There are no guarantees in real estate investment and you knew exactly what you were purchasing, even if some of the county commissioners were left in the dark. (And I, for one, suspect less innocence than has been professed in that quarter.) Municipal governments here have a long ” of asking “how far?” when developers tell them to bend over.

    Times are changing.

    Coleman’s family is responsible for the Asheville Mall that all but killed downtown commerce for two decades. He is personally responsible for the Soviet-style obscenity that is 21 Battery Park. We, the people of this community, did not ask him to wreck our downtown and we don’t have to permit it to happen. Eminent domain? Fine and dandy. Whatever it takes.

    And, as for your lovely plan in which you have invested so much money? There’s nothing inherently wrong with the plan. Take it somewhere else. On private land. There is very little about the plan that is site specific other than the basement level (which has already, and rapidly, been altered to reduce parking for the new shorter building.)

  5. Low Key says:

    Carl Mumpower supported a resolution critical of turning public land into private property? What a socialist!

    This morning I saw him jog downtown with a Che Guevara t-shirt.

    jk. 🙂

    Mumpower’s support for the resolution illustrates that this controversy is not about development – it’s about a shady land deal that robs the citizens of Asheville of civic space.

  6. barry says:

    Watch out for the easy “solution” that some are floating around: Let’s give Stewart Coleman EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTS. The “swap” is still out there; Carol King tried to wedge that onto the Council resolution last night, but they decided to keep it one step at a time, thank god. David Gantt has also been talking about it, unfortunately. Remember that this is how this whole disaster started – in 2005-2006, Council was beginning the process of deciding how to put the Marjorie Street lot up for development bids. Coleman’s plan (and this is HIS story, on tape at the Conservancy) was to acquire the land in front of the Marjorie Street lot, and then propose a “square foot for square foot exchange”, which would allow him to set his building back approx. 30 feet. Unfortunately, that screws all the other priorities that Council was weighing for that land, so they said NO to the deal, in July of 2007. Now, they are dealing with the threat that Coleman’s building will obscure their “parkside” property, and make the park smaller in the process. He is still hoping to wedge this condo building onto public-owned land that no other developer has a shot at, and it’s just plain wrong to undermine the public process like this.

    Giving in to this type of tactic will send a terrible signal to other developers: if you want to screw the public process, make chumps out of City Council, and take over public land that you can’t get by playing fair, here’s how to do it.