Say no to Montford apartment proposal

July 28

The proposed two 11-unit apartments (23/25 Elizabeth Place) will set precedent for future development. Since 1981 I have owned 28 Elizabeth Place. Several proposed features violate the Montford Historic Guidelines which state requirement to preserve Montford’s character.  The Historic Resources Commission is to uphold the guidelines.


I went to the HRC meetings and witnessed guideline violations brought forth but not being addressed by the board. The 19-foot retaining wall and the destruction of 25 mature trees are the most blatant ones. Other concerns: increased Broadway flooding and shortage of on-stree parking.


On the same block 20 townhouses have been approved. Across Broadway is the Pioneer Building whose website boasts the nearby Reed Creek Greenway “will provide a neighborhood link to historic Montford.


There are ways of allowing development to enhance its surroundings. If top dollar is blind to this and the HRC doesn’t follow the guidelines, city/county residents and infrastructure systems will be impacted by grave consequences.


Website: “The Historic Resources Commission (HRC)…strives to foster Asheville’s unique sense of place through its preservation efforts.” The HRC is poised to vote on this project on August 14 at 4 p.m., Asheville City Building.

—Meredith McIntosh, Asheville

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Ordinances governing HRC review/Elizabeth Place 

Those of you interested in weighing in on the upcoming Historic Resources

Commission review of the proposed Elizabeth Place development (August 14) might find useful these online ordinances describing the HRC’s role in the city’s process for granting development permits:


Chapter 7, Article III, Section 4 lays out the duties of HRC

(10) To review and act upon proposals for alterations, demolitions, or *new construction within historic districts*, or for the alteration or
demolition of designated landmarks;

(12) To adopt and amend guidelines for alterations, *demolitions*, and new construction within historic districts* and for the alteration or
demolition of designated landmarks.


Chapter 7, Article V, Section 11, lays out the procedures for obtaining a
“certificate of appropriateness. See under 7-5-11-b (1), “Major Works,”
this statement:

Article XII Procedures for Decisions on Certificates of appropriateness:

Purpose. A major works certificate of appropriateness is required for those
projects which involve new construction; .... *Buildings, structures and
grounds located within local historic districts require certificates of
appropriateness, which certify that the proposed changes are not
incongruous with the historic character of the local historic district*.
The procedures for applying for and receiving a certificate of
appropriateness for a major work are set forth in this section. *[The
procedures for applying for this certificate are then laid out]*
--Carol Polsgrove
Watauga St.

Three Points

Neighbors, I very much appreciate the open exchange of ideas and concerns re: this project.  I won't reiterate the main objections to this project (although I agree with most), but will share a few points of from a property rights perspective:

1.  This lot, and much of Montford -- including large swaths of Cumberland, Montford, and Pearson, numerous cross streets -- are zoned RM-8, or medium density multi-family residential.  The number of units is constrained by lot size, hence, 22 units on this 25,700 lot is within City of Asheville zoning regulations.  So, this development is not "over-sized" in the eyes of the City.  Given the need for more housing, and the desire for close-in living, and the positive aspects of infill, one can conclude this is just the first of several such projects. 


2.  Many of us bought into Montford because we appreciated the quiet, historic, treed, and neighborly feel.  As an established Historic District, we have the HRC Guidelines to preserve and protect the "neighborhood setting".  As homeowners, we all agree to abide by the HRC guidelines to the most practical extent, and in turn, we have the reasonable expectation that the HRC will guard us from development or modifications that will substantively change the look and feel of our neighborhood.  It's a social contract of sorts. This contract needs to be applied to developers who buy into the neighborhood as well.  Just because they are making an expensive investment, and supporting city infill objectives, doesn't mean a free pass.

3.  The only leverage we, as a neighborhood, have to maintain the Montford aesthetic, is through the HRC Guidelines. There are several areas where this project appears non-compliant, including the massive retaining wall, excessive grading, tree removal, curb cuts, parking areas (per corner lot provisions), and the overall "size and scale".   However, each of these items individually will not drive a downsizing of this project, and many of these restrictions have been waived in past circumstances. 


Only taken together, and with a groundswell of neighborhood support, is it conceivable that the HRC will place restrictions that will improve the fit of this project with our established neighborhood setting. 

--Zoe Schumaker on Cumberland