The Transylvania Times -

By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

Council Plans For Brevard's Future - Brevard NC

 


Editor’s Note: The City of Brevard is in the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan, a document that outlines historical development, analyzes local population trends, and determines guidelines for managing and guiding future growth and development.

The plan, when completed, will include a zoning map and policy statement from City Council in several areas, including transportation and infrastructure, housing, health and wellness, natural resources, cultural resources, economic development, energy, recreation and land use.

Brevard City Council is in “general agreement” with existing land use principles, including those in the adopted 2002 Land Use Plan for Brevard and those in the draft 2014 Comprehensive Plan.

Last month, council held a special meeting to discuss land use issues and reached consensus on several items (see below).

The goal is to have the new Comprehensive Plan adopted shortly after council’s retreat in late January.

Prior to reaching consensus, City Manager Joe Moore told council the economy is coming out of the recession, development is re-emerging in the state and Brevard is being “discovered.”

Council will be “challenged,” he said, on its land use goals that were established in 2002 and codified in 2006’s Unified Development Ordinance.

City planner Aaron Bland then went over the 2002 goals and rules, which are in place today, and those in the 2014 draft plan (see below).

Many of the same ideas and goals have been carried over from the 2002 plan to the draft 2014 edition.

City Planner Josh Freeman reiterated to council that Brevard’s development “principles” will be under “pressure” from developers and council members had to decide whether they wanted to change or stay the course in the 2014 plan.

These challenges are normal, Freeman said, who went on to use the city’s recent experience with Brevard Place, the development proposed for the former Rodeway Inn site off the Asheville Highway, as an example of the sort of challenges the city faces.

Council recently approved the project’s first phase, which includes the construction of a Bojangles restaurant and housing for Brevard College students.

The developers, however, were asked to make changes to plans for other portions of the site.

The proposed 2014 plan says the city wants highway corridors to “evolve” to something similar to downtown, with mixed uses — such as businesses and homes —parking to the side and back, greater density and efficient use of space, and more of a boulevard feel, with landscaping, sidewalks and greater connectivity on site.

Freeman said the only way to achieve that is to have developers incorporate these ideas into their plans.

Freeman said that the developments along the highways don’t have to “replicate downtown Brevard,” which makes the city “unique,” but the hope is that new development will be more representative of this uniqueness and more inviting for pedestrians.

Brevard Place developers had proposed a retail strip for the site, including a large parking area in the front.

Freeman said the question is whether the council believed Brevard Place was really meeting the city’s goals.

Councilman Mac Morrow said downtown was initially designed with the pedestrian in mind but the highway corridors were designed for the automobile.

He said today it’s a “new world” and the city is trying to take pedestrians and cyclists more into account.

Councilwoman Ann Hollingsworth agreed with the ideas of having a “distinct character,” connectivity and safety, but she had an issue with forcing the inclusion of residential housing on a development along the highway corridors, saying it would set developers up for “failure.”

No one wants to live on the Asheville Highway, she said.

Councilman Charlie Landreth said the city’s development “principles are valuable” and the city needs to be “clear” about them with developers and decide whether they are “negotiable or not.”

He said he “kind of agreed” with Hollingsworth about residential buildings but that the city also needs to be more efficient with land use.

The city won’t grow, he said, if it only allows one home per one-third of an acre.

Hollingsworth also believes the city needs to be more “reasonable” about parking and not force developments to have it located behind or to the side of buildings.

She said the Brevard Place developers had a “business concept” that worked for them.

Hollingsworth said there needs to be a “balance between text books and real life.”

Councilman Wes Dickson said he stands by the principles of the city having a distinct character, connectivity and being pedestrian friendly.

He said making developers have parking to the side or back is up for discussion, but if buildings are going to be built closer to the road, the city needs to “own” the concept.

The city, he said, also needs to more clearly define what mixed use is and better communicate to developers about connectivity.

Mayor Jimmy Harris doesn’t believe it would “work” to try and replicate downtown along the highways.

Freeman reiterated the desire is not for the highways to look exactly like downtown but should be a “model” for future development.

The “idea” behind not having parking in the front, Freeman said, is having a development designed were someone will drive to it, get out and feel they can walk about.

The parking lot at the Forest Gate Shopping Center, where Wal-Mart is located, it was suggested is not welcoming for pedestrians.

Harris said he would never consider walking from Taco Bell to Belk’s in the shopping center and he doesn’t believe many people park at his Ace Hardware store on West Main Street and then walk somewhere else to shop and come back.

There are some “habits” that won’t change, he said.

Landreth disagreed and said Harris was “completely devaluing what is valuable” about downtown.

Landreth said downtown is a “walkable community” and people want to walk around.

Harris said that “may work downtown,” but he doesn’t believe it would along the highway corridors.

Dickson cited Biltmore Village as a “functional” place to park, walk around, shop, see a movie and get something to eat.

Landreth suggested another factor for him is appearance.

“It matters to me what Asheville Highway looks like,” he said.

To have 200 parking spaces facing the highway is “painting Brevard with a big grey paint brush,” he added.

Hollingsworth talked about having landscaping buffers between the road and a parking lot and the need for things to “function,” as well as look “pretty.”

She also has issues with requiring developments to have second floors.

In upper floors, she said, “retail doesn’t work.”

Councilman Maurice Jones voiced concerns that the mountain views could be obscured if the city requires buildings to be more than one level high and close to the road.

On Dec. 1, the council is scheduled to hear a special presentation about land use from an outside expert.

Council is expected to continue its study of land use at a later meeting.

During an Oct. 6 special meeting, Brevard City Council reached consensus on several items related to land use that will eventually form part of the updated Comprehensive Plan:

• General agreement with existing land use principles, both in the adopted 2002 Land Use Plan and the Draft 2014 Comprehensive Plan.

• Land use principles need to be clearer and more plainly stated in policy documents, such as the Comprehensive Plan.

• Design and aesthetics are extremely important, especially on the highway corridors because they act as an entryway into Brevard.

• The corridors do not need to look like, nor try to replicate, downtown, but mixed uses are desirable if done in an attractive way.

• Certain requirement standards for open space, for example, need to be flexible and designed and based on the circumstances.

• Connectivity and walkability are important components of new development.

• Efficient use of land is important, but requirements on the types of land uses, such as second-floor residential, can put onerous pressure on developers.

Therefore, flexibility is important.

During a special council meeting on Oct. 6, City Planner Aaron Bland went over the 2002 Comprehensive Plan and the highlights in the 2014 draft plan.

The 2002 plan focuses on promoting managed economic growth, preserving the natural environment, diversifying the tax base and encouraging economic development in downtown.

The specific land use goals include maintaining water and air quality, managing floodplains, using land efficiently, protecting sensitive areas, such as steep slopes, and preserving open space.

Under community character, the 2002 plan calls for preserving a traditional rural character and small town atmosphere, being safe, accessible and physically appealing, and respecting the area’s heritage.

Under transportation, the plan supports minimizing curb cuts and having a network of paths and sidewalks that will allow residents to work and play.

Safe places for social interaction, multi-use paths, greenways and parks are among the goals for recreation, while housing goals include more affordable housing, higher density, in-fill and mixed uses.

The proposed 2014 goals, which are partly based on public input and council feedback, are essentially the same as those in 2002, including supporting walkability and connectivity, sidewalks and multi-use paths, protecting the natural environment and maintaining the small-town atmosphere.

New development should be aesthetically pleasing and sensitive to the surrounding built environment, encouraging density and walkability.

Because of topography limitations and restrictions on growing through annexation, the city wants to focus on infill development on vacant and underdeveloped parcels.

The 2014 plan also calls for a more proactive role in economic development. Mixed-use zoning will allow for a broad range of uses in key areas, such as the highway corridors and in the Railroad Avenue neighborhood.

These efforts will appeal to those who can work from anywhere and choose their location based on quality of life.

The 2002 and 2014 plans have similar land-use goals.

In 2002, it was recommended the city

embark on a new way of looking at street

design and the transport of people, goods and services along major roads, especially the Asheville and Rosman highways.

A mixed-use boulevard was one concept aimed at promoting better access management, landscaping, more efficient use of land, improved appearance, and encouraging buildings to be close to the road, with parking to the side or rear.

Development should be encouraged at main intersections, while standard strip commercial centers should be discouraged.

In 2014, the mixed-use boulevard calls for evolving from a suburban strip development to a denser, more compact, form of development; for an efficient use of land; and to be aesthetically pleasing, walkable and pedestrian oriented.

The character of developments will be enhanced through landscaping, buffers, parking to the side and rear.

Architectural standards will deemphasize cookie-cutter corporate designs in favor of those that complement the local character.

Discreet development projects will be connected by commercial service streets oriented parallel to boulevards.

Traffic flow will be improved through access management, including reduced curb cuts.

These changes to the highway corridors will take generations to achieve, Bland noted.

During his presentation, Bland also highlighted the book “An Explorer’s Guide: Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains” by Jim Hargan.

In the book, Hargan talks about Brevard: “Leaving the national forest, U.S. 276 immediately turns and follows four-lane U.S. 64 to Brevard, temporarily losing its charm but picking up a wide array of roadside services as partial compensation.

“After 3.4 miles of this, the highway reaches the middle of Brevard, turns and becomes Main Street through Brevard’s handsome old downtown.”

“The main approach to town on U.S. 64 doesn’t do it justice, passing through several miles of sprawling industry and commercial development before diving in and out of the town’s center.”

In his book, Hargan goes on to praise the look and feel of downtown, its shops and buildings and surrounding neighborhoods.

 
 

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