The City Council announced its new proposed hotel development policy in a public hearing at its Council Meeting on Tuesday, February 9th. At first glance, it might have seemed that the City was requiring hotel developers to ensure that their hotel projects have benefits for (and offset the negative impacts to) our communities. On closer review, it became evident that these requirements don’t do enough to advance racial equity, something the City has committed to, both as a goal to be achieved by 2036 and also in their July 2020 commitment to reparations for our Black communities. Despite an attempt to address community needs, the proposed policy as it was presented runs a high risk of continuing the oppressive practices of pitting public benefit programs in Asheville against one another. What’s more, it threatens to remove public input and accountability from the process of approving hotel development.
At the City Council meeting on February 9th, several Council members expressed some concerns about the way that the public benefit table was structured and the fact that this process would allow hotel developers to bypass a public hearing before Council.
It’s crucial that they hear from us before this item comes up for a vote on February 23rd. They can vote NO on this proposed policy and go back to evaluating hotel deals at City Council meetings as they used to, while staff reworks the policy and community benefit table so that it includes public accountability and ensures real community benefits. We’re calling for you to reach out to our City Council members to urge them to vote NO on the proposed Hotel Development Policy until they revise it to substantively reflect City Council’s stated goal of making equity their number one priority.
How to Email or Call our City Council Members Directly about this Issue:
Mayor Esther Manheimer – firstname.lastname@example.org; 828-259-5604
Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith – email@example.com; 704-401-9104
Sandra Kilgore – firstname.lastname@example.org; 954-540-5593
Antanette Mosley – email@example.com; phone number not provided
Kim Roney – firstname.lastname@example.org; 828-771-7265
Sage Turner – email@example.com; 828-423-0621
Gwen Wisler – firstname.lastname@example.org; 828-333-1767
To email all Council Members at once – AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov
Please fill out the “report back” form below so we know what action you have taken or are planning to take. There are some talking points and further information below.
More Information About This Call to Action regarding the February 9th Council Meeting:
You can read the agenda for the February 9th City Council Meeting in its entirety here.
A. Public hearing to amend the Unified Development Ordinance Articles II, III, V, VIII, IX and XVII in order to adopt new standards regulating hotels and associated changes.
- Relevant Documents
- The Community Benefit Table is on page 19 of the Draft Ordinance Hotel Regulation Standards
B. Public hearing to apply a new Hotel Overlay District to certain properties located within the City of Asheville corporate limits.
What you might say when you reach out to City Council Members:
- This policy is not acceptable in its current form. The City can do better than making political gestures that don’t amount to systems-level change.
- Ask that all new hotels must still go through a City Council approval process so the public may continue to have input and influence over Council’s approvals of new hotels.
- If City Council plans to continue to use this benefits table, then developers should be asked to earn MANY more points overall than the table currently requires in order to make a real impact on racial equity.
- The way the benefits table currently reads, it makes the inclusion of reparations a less desirable and easily ignored option for developers.
- Take this opportunity to mandate that hotels designate reparations funds as a separate and mandatory requirement for all new building projects. This can be a beginning of reparations for decades of harm caused by urban renewal.
- Add new categories to the public benefits table as advised by community outreach that primarily involves Black and Brown voices.
- There are many important needs in the community. However, the City declared that equity was its number one goal in its 2036 community goals declaration. The City passed a Reparations resolution in 2020. Despite these commitments, this proposed policy gives reparations and other elements that would work for racial justice a very low priority.
- The policy proposes a new process involving a brand new committee to review proposed hotels along aesthetic grounds, yet there is no mention of the Office of Equity and Inclusion. So what comes across loud and clear is that it’s critical that hotels look good; what impact they have on equity seems far less important under the current point system.
- One bright spot in the table as currently designed is that it would incentivize contributions to the Business Inclusion Office. This office does important work, and deserves significant support. However, the other community benefits that specifically address equity issues have insufficient incentives – the likely result is that developers will earn their points elsewhere, making equity in the community largely a false promise.
- When it comes to affordable housing, the lack of an equity lens is again readily apparent. Developers can earn a large number of points if they agree to build for-sale units that are 80% of market value. If you look at the cost of such units (the table suggests $240K) and the median income/wealth of Asheville’s Black population, it’s abundantly clear that this “affordable” housing won’t change the homeowner racial gap one bit.
- If the City is clearly committed to living up to its racial equity commitments, it should be insisting that hotel developers go through a rigorous community accountability process that evaluates their community impact and their proposal for addressing issues of equity and community benefit.