Why I Oppose Parkside

My name is Jennifer, and I am a fairly ordinary Asheville citizen and 30-year WNC resident raving fan. if I could change my history and place of birth and be truly from here, I would.

Like most liberals (and most Americans) I am working-class. I am self-employed on a low five-figure income and am putting myself through college. My next big purchase will be a weed eater.

And I oppose the proposed Parkside condominium development in downtown Asheville.

Here are my concerns:

1. I oppose the Parkside development because it involves the sale of public parkland to a private developer, with no input from the public.

Low-profile sale of public property is a bad practice I will not support or ignore.

And the property in question holds a very old magnolia tree that many locals hold dear. As a gardener I am, frankly, not always sensitive about destroying plants. But I find it reckless and insensitive of county government to sell off/destroy a historic tree with strong local sentimental value — under its branches is the traditional site of Shindig on the Green, a summer bluegrass tradition more than four decades old. The big old magnolia, which is around 100 years old, would be cut down.

(Image of City Hall, magnolia and protesters by Bill of AshVillein)

2. I oppose the Parkside development because the public property in question was sold not only without significant public knowledge or input, but at a price below its market value.

Downtown public parkland was sold for a song — according to local liberal blog Scrutiny Hooligans, at $278,000 less than appraisal value. I understand that the sale was conducted according to the letter of the law, but this does not excuse point 1 or point 2 of my opposition to the project.

Why was this land sold so fast for so little? What was with the low-profile discount sale of half a million dollars’ worth of public parkland?

3. I oppose Parkside because putting condominium homes in a public park sounds like a lose-lose proposition for both condo residents and park visitors.

Downtown condo owners near Pritchard Park have complained about the noise of the Friday night drum circles, one of the city’s most beloved and classic summer events, to the point that the circles close down earlier so as not to disturb residents. In my opinion, Parkside condo owners and park visitors would likely be in for similar noise problems.

Each side, prospective Parkside residents and park visitors, has rights. Downtown condo owners deserve a peaceful home free from the intrusive noise of banjos, July 4th fireworks, drum circles and other Asheville noise. People gathering in a public park deserve the right to hoot, holler, play bluegrass and generally not have to worry much about the neighbors. These rights don’t mix.

The preexisting rights of the park visitors trump the rights of residents of a nine-story condo building in a public park in the heart of a vibrant, music-loving downtown.

4. I oppose Parkside because it disrespects the explicit will of George W. Pack, who deeded the parkland in question to the people of Asheville forever. *

* [added July 10] Looks like the question here isn’t selling off parkland, but whether or not the magnolia parcel is part of the land Pack deeded to the city in the first place. The Pack heirs are currently suing developer Stewart Coleman and the county over the sale. I stand by my other points.

I don’t know what’s up with the second deed that the county based the sale on. Nor am I clear how any instrument can legally trump George W. Pack’s explicit will that the parkland be deeded to the public in perpetuity. Americans have the right to dispose of their property as they wish according to the law, and Pack’s will is clear.

5. I oppose Parkside because developer Stewart Coleman has been offered money in a city buy-back deal and turned it down.

Coleman’s been offered the chance to sell the property back and refused despite a county commissioner characterizing the parkland sale to Coleman’s realty company as a failure and a screw-up, a 1,000-signature anti-Parkside petition and an ongoing daily protest conducted by all manner of locals from the fringe to the center. According to Scrutiny Hooligans, he was offered $1.5 million to sell back the property — and countered with $4.1 million. I won’t speculate on Coleman’s reasons for refusing a county buyout, but his refusal to sell back the land in the face of widespread public opposition and outcry does not bode well for his civic-mindedness in developing property downtown. Or anywhere.

And for purely personal reasons I don’t support Parkside because of Coleman’s recent bad behavior. He assaulted a photographer who may or may not have shoved a camera in his face. Grabbing and twisting a photographer’s hand is not behavior I support in response to being photographed. I wasn’t there to see if photographer Byron Belzak was being a camera-shoving ass or not. But regardless, I find Coleman’s response rude and inappropriate.

*******

I don’t discount profit. I really don’t. I am self-employed and I like having and making money. But there are other kinds of value than the money kind.

Assigning everything a value based only on its monetary impact means that to you, a person is only worth the amount of money they can generate over a lifetime, or the value of their organs on the black market. A person is worth more than that.

So is a place. A place is more than the profit it can generate or the buildings it can hold. I don’t oppose any and all development, but I do oppose development that eats away at the character of my city, replacing too many classic Asheville places with tourist-based high-dollar establishments that appeal to a transient population who represents only one segment of our city — and who may not even live here anymore in a decade or so, while the rest of us remain, supporting our city with our dollars year-round.

Fellow Asheville residents, it looks like keeping Asheville Asheville is a struggle now, like home ownership or physical fitness, a never-ending battle of maintenance. This is my advice to all of us, including and most particularly myself:

If you see a project in town that concerns you, read blogs, read the C-T, read Mountain Xpress and educate yourself. Get facts and information from all over and if the project bothers you, do something. Be heard. Go to a city meeting. Write a letter. Send an email. People have stopped bad development in this town, but not by leaving it up to the “activists,” whoever they are.

Your favorite places and sights in town should never be a memory, nor should you be unfairly hushed up, shut down or priced out of the people’s paradise we call Asheville. Be the person you are hoping someone else will be.

3 responses to “Why I Oppose Parkside

  1. Right on, sistah! You are just so eloquent and you are exactly in line with how i think about this whole mess. Thank you Jen for helping me place words on the way i already felt.

  2. Thank you, Zen, for your kind words and for the images that always inspire me.

  3. Jennifer…
    thank you… very well said. will add this link to stopparkside.org when I get it together

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