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City forms advisory board for Seventh Avenue

The Hendersonville City Council is moving the management of the Historic Seventh Avenue District under the authority of City Hall, a change that council members say will result in a sharper focus on revitalizing the area.

The council voted unanimously to form the Seventh Avenue Advisory Board to help guide potential development of area.
The change is similar to the restructuring of the Historic Downtown Hendersonville three years ago from an independent nonprofit organization to a department of the city.
Under plans the council is expected to put into place by July 1, the city will move the activities of the Historic Seventh Avenue District office under Downtown Economic Development Director Lew Holloway. Council members discussed during a retreat last week the idea of bringing Seventh Avenue executive director Tara Ledbetter on board as a public information officer.
Council member Steve Caraker said he spent an hour and a half explaining the restructuring and answering questions during a meeting of the Seventh Avenue board, which may dissolve once the new advisory board is appointed. The City Council authorized a board of seven members — five of whom must be property owners of the taxing district and two at large.
"I think it's a move forward that will enable Historic Seventh Avenue to have more resources, it will benefit the district as a whole and I think it will help Seventh Avenue and Main Street to basically become the downtown historic district and not be separated," Ledbetter said. "I really think it's very positive really for the city as a whole."
The council is expected to appoint the new advisory board at its March meeting after soliciting volunteers for the seats.
"My opinion is I've worked on Seventh Avenue for so long that we've come as far as we could go without the city taking a bigger step and I think this was a great move," said Sandra Walker, a Seventh Avenue board member who says she probably will apply for the new board. "I think it puts it more of a priority level for the city of Hendersonville. I think it will make it much more a part of Main Street and part of the greenway that they're doing. That's what we're expecting."
During the Seventh Avenue board meeting last week, board members heard from Caraker and City Manager John Connet.
"We were all asking questions wondering how it would work but I don't think there was any friction," said Walker, who has owned a flower shop on Seventh Avenue for 17 years. "We didn't understand it exactly how it would work and we still don't understand all of it. John Connet impressed me as really wanting to get Seventh Avenue revitalized."
Caraker, who is the council liaison to the Seventh Avenue board, said some board members resisted the change.
"We put it in place so we can share resources with Lew Holloway's department," he said. "We are not telling them to dissolve. They have to make that decision on their own. There's a couple of members that don't like it. Change is difficult for a lot of people. I explained to the full board in detail for an hour and a half and let them ask questions."
The Historic Seventh Avenue District has an overlay tax district with a tax rate of 12 cents per $100 valuation, compared with the downtown historic district rate of 28 cents. The Seventh Avenue tax raises $10,900 a year. Last month the City Council authorized a $24,000 study through the Institute of Government at UNC to identify redevelopment possibilities for the district and potentially connect developers and the city.
Council members say now is the time to push ahead on Seventh Avenue, which has struggled to come back as a strong commercial area overall despite bright spots like the Southern Appalachian Brewery, the Underground Bakery and other startups.
"The study we're having done on Seventh Avenue I think is a very positive thing, and now that Main Street is finished we can really focus on Seventh Avenue," said Councilman Ron Stephens. "I think that's one issue that all the council agrees on, that we should proceed and do what we can for Seventh Avenue."

To apply for appointment to the Seventh Avenue Advisory Board contact City Clerk Tammie Drake at (828) 697-3000.