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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: City Planning Board obstructs worthy projects

Proximity to medical offices, a fitness center, supermarkets and other shops, a flat piece of property on a major thoroughfare and affordable rent would be a good start if we were listing the right assets for a senior housing development in Hendersonville.

All of those features could come to pass if the Hendersonville City Council approves a rezoning for the Hawkins Pointe development of 52 apartments on Sixth Avenue West at North Oak Street on Thursday night.

To do so, the council will have to overrule the poorly reasoned decision by its appointed Planning Board, which voted 7-1 to recommend denial of the rezoning request. Only Planning Board chair Jim Robertson dissented, making the very valid point that the need for affordable housing is so great that the city should do everything in its power to find a way to accommodate projects like this.

Unfortunately, the current city Planning Board is not of a mind, collectively, to look at the larger picture. If a handful of neighbors object — or sometimes just one or two — if traffic would increase or if the new development would “change the character” of the city, this board usually says no.

Never mind that the proposed apartment building is on a busy road, across from Pardee UNC Health and across from the YMCA and less than a mile from supermarkets, drugstores, restaurants and shops — and is urgently needed.

“I’m not sure we can come up with enough conditions to protect the neighborhood,” said board member Neil Brown, who along with Barbara Cromar is a reliable no vote on almost any development more intense than large single-family lots.

Later in the same meeting, the Planning Board voted to recommend approval of a four-story 78-unit senior housing development at 2620 Chimney Rock Road. By doing so, the Planning Board was choosing winners and losers among the projects seeking state authority to use tax credit financing for affordable housing developments. It has recommended that the council approve rezonings for two of them but not Hawkins Pointe, which is the only one that satisfies the city’s land development code goal of in-fill development and is the only one within a stone’s throw of a hospital, swimming pool and gym.

Also at its  regular meeting last month, the Planning Board deadlocked, 4-4, on another desirable development in the middle of the city. David W. Royster III, owner of the Southgate Shopping Center, is seeking a rezoning to allow a four-story apartment building behind the Fresh Market. This one would be upscale, not “affordable,” but there’s a robust market for that, too, especially close-in.

The City Council has the opportunity to make a course correction on two short-sighted calls. It should overrule its anti-growth Planning Board and approve both rezonings. It’s not just property rights that are at stake here. By saying yes, the council would be addressing the growing housing crisis and clearing the way for two quality assets that are badly needed.