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Council rejects denser housing on Third Avenue

The Hendersonville City Council turned down a rezoning request for higher density housing on Third Avenue West. The Hendersonville City Council turned down a rezoning request for higher density housing on Third Avenue West.

Siding with neighbors over the property owner, the Hendersonville City Council unanimously rejected a rezoning request to allow higher density housing on the Third Avenue West property the Interfaith Assistance Ministry is selling.

IAM, which plans to move to new offices on Freeman Street next to the Blue Ridge Mall by the end of this year, asked for the rezoning of its current three-acre parcel to alleviate the community’s affordable housing shortage and to boost the land's market value.
The council said no, persuaded by neighbors that a jump from 12 units under the current R-15 zoning to 27 units under the requested R-6 would be too radical a change.
“All of those homes are still single-family homes,” Yallana McGee told the council. “I don’t think rezoning this to R-6 is the only option. If you have 24 people in my backyard I’m going to be much more concerned walking in my back yard. I just think it would be too much of a shock. I think that’s why you’re getting the kind of feedback you’re getting from the people that live there now.”
The feedback from neighbors was one-sided and often emotional. One neighbor implored the council to reject a “density explosion” that would increase the value of the IAM property at the expense of middle-class homeowners.
Although current IAM chair Lynn Pope and three other IAM board members stood to speak in favor of the rezoning, the City Council came down in favor of neighbors.
“What I’m hearing is everybody that’s for it doesn’t live there,” Councilman Jeff Miller said. “Everybody that spoke against it does. I look at this map and it just doesn’t fit to me. It’s not our job to increase somebody’s property value. In this particular case I don’t feel good about changing this from what’s surrounding this. They can still build 12 or more” units.
Council members said there were too many unknowns if the city rezones the land to R-6; they suggested a prospective new owner could draw up a proposal for a Planned Residential Development that would trigger a public site plan review.

“We’re talking 12 vs. 27,” Councilman Jerry Smith. “It seems to me everybody in here is happy with R-15. The angst created by adding 12 or 14 units on top of that is just not worth turning the neighborhood into a hornet’s nest. When I ran for office one of my points was to preserve neighborhoods while promoting business.”
Mayor Barbara Volk agreed that the higher density zoning did not fit.
“I hate to carve out that little section that’s surrounded by R-15,” she said. “I have a feeling whoever purchases it will be coming back for a Planned Residential Development. … I would rather see a proposal with specifics and how they would lay it out. I think it would ease the minds of the neighbors if that is the case.”
Councilman Steve Caraker admonished the residents — who are also his neighbors — about some of the comments he said were based on fear. But he also opposed the rezoning.
“I’m not in favor of this rezoning because I’d like to have a little more control over what goes there,” he said. “Vagueness is a bad thing.”
The council’s decision came despite City Manager John Connet’s appeal to the council and the public to recognize the city’s affordable housing shortage.
“There’s a conversation going on regarding affordable housing in Hendersonville relating to nurses, firefighters, teachers, technicians at the hospital,” he said. Working people making 80 to 120 percent of the average income — $37,000 to $43,000 a year — “have a hard time finding homes in our community. … I have police officers and firefighters who cannot live in our community because they cannot afford to. The only way to address that issue is to increase density.”