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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Divided City Council does the right thing

The Hendersonville City Council sided with the long-term vision and the greater good when it voted in favor of rezonings that would allow a 52-unit senior housing building on Sixth Avenue West at North Oak Street and permit a 70-unit apartment building between South Church and Israel streets behind the Fresh Market.

As we pointed out in this space two weeks ago, the City Council needed to overrule two short-sighted decisions by its appointed Planning Board in order to authorize the two developments. Hail to Mayor Barbara Volk and council members Jennifer Hensley and Lyndsey Simpson for doing the right thing on May 5 despite the usual opposition from the “no change to anything, no matter what, ever” cacophony that is ascendant these days.
The senior apartments, proposed to be constructed by a large Ohio-based developer of affordable housing projects, would be across Sixth Avenue from a hospital, medical offices and cancer center and across Oak Street from a fitness center and pool, and near a pharmacy, supermarket, restaurants and shops. When the Planning Board voted 7-1 to recommend denial of the zoning application, only Chairman Jim Robertson dissented, warning his colleagues that the need for affordable housing outweighs neighborhood opposition to the project.
Across town and also close-in, Southgate Shopping Center owner David W. Royster III plans to build a four-story gated upscale apartment community with a garden and other amenities within a stone’s throw of the Ecusta Trail. Among the many concessions Royster agreed to was building a path from the Fresh Market shopping center to the greenway and dedicating it to the city. For council member Jerry Smith, such concessions are never enough. He tried to bully the developer into more concessions, including abandoning fencing and a gate around the apartments, donating 10 parking spaces to the city for use by trail visitors and reducing the height from four to three stories.
Calmly reasoning through the pros and cons, Mayor Volk in these two cases and others has come down in favor of the broader benefits for the city, which include the need for more housing inventory, the desperate need for affordable housing and the desirability of in-fill development. In other words, instead of accepting at face value exaggerated claims about the “harm” these proposals would cause, Volk has weighed what’s best long term for the city and its residents, including low-income seniors and new arrivals seeking a dwelling. Along with Hensley and Simpson, the mayor has led, not followed.
As the demands of growth increase and the move-ins inexorably stream toward us on I-26, we need more of that clear-headed leadership, not less.