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City pitches rezoning
 as catalyst for Seventh Avenue

Planning intern Dylan Powell describes the Central Mixed Use zone with city wants to apply to a five-block area between Seventh Avenue East and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Planning intern Dylan Powell describes the Central Mixed Use zone with city wants to apply to a five-block area between Seventh Avenue East and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

City officials made the case on Thursday that a new police station and a broad rezoning could stimulate redevelopment and raise property values in the Historic Seventh Street District. But they sought to assure residents that no property owner would be forced to sell, upgrade their property or move because of potential changes in a five-block area.

“This is not the Green Meadows project from back in the ‘70s,” City Manager John Connet told a gathering that filled the pews at the Agape Christian Fellowship on Cherry Street. “We want to do the sort of things that will allow you better opportunities to improve your property.”
The Hendersonville City Council staked an investment in tax dollars in the historic district when it decided earlier this year to build a new police station on Ashe Street. Considered a stabilizing influence in an area spotted with vacant lots, rental housing and blight, the police station is being designed now and scheduled to be under construction about a year from now.
Meanwhile, city planners have rolled out a rezoning that would give property owners greater flexibility in how buildings or land is used.

‘Not removing houses’

The Central Mixed Use zoning district is an urban-oriented designed to facilitate development in a pedestrian friendly way with attractive streetscapes and pockets of open space. Design requirements aim to “animate and enliven the streetscape” with such elements as changes in color or material, architectural lighting, works of art, fountains, pools, landscaping and gardens. Spelled out in 25 paragraphs of the zoning code, the streetscape requirements cover street trees and other landscaping (“replace dead vegetation with healthy living plantings”), urban open space and exterior facades of buildings.
Significantly, however, single-family homes and duplexes are exempt from the streetscape requirements. Instead, the central mixed use zoning relaxes many residential zoning requirements, allowing greater flexibility for new development like zero-lot line cluster housing. The minimum lot area, at 8,000 square feet, is less than a quarter acre.
Bounded by Barker, East Pace and Elm streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the overlay district contains 65 lots and includes 27 rental houses, 16 vacant lots, 10 owner-occupied homes and two non-residential uses. It’s currently zoned R-6 residential.

Property owners listen to a presentation about the proposed rezoning.Property owners listen to a presentation about the proposed rezoning.
“This change in zoning is not going to be removing houses,” Dylan Powell, a planning intern who presented the plan, told the property owners. “If you have a house here and want to keep it, you can. Property owners won’t be required to do anything different with their property if they don’t want to.”
Homeowners asked several times in several different ways whether the city planned to condemn property for redevelopment. City officials said no.
“This is a work in progress,” said Councilman Steve Caraker, who has been an advocate for Seventh Avenue revitalization for years. “What we’re talking about tonight is changing the ground rules to allow a lot more uses in here.”
Among the 47 uses the zone permits are single-family homes, multi-family developments, garage apartments, hotels, B&Bs, parking garages, churches, restaurants, nursing and adult care homes, public buildings and microbreweries.
While a new police station on Ashe Street would potentially spark development, Connet emphasizes that current landowners and private investors, not city taxpayers, will steer the future of Seventh Avenue.
“We will bring a public institution into the neighborhood and we wanted our initial involvement to be as small as possible,” he said. The city cobbled together the police station land from three lots it owned, three vacant lots, one lot containing a rental house and just one that was owner-occupied.
“We wanted to limit the purchase of houses that people were living in,” he said.
In an interview Monday, Connet said he was generally pleased with the how the reception the rezoning presentation got.
“I think we got good input,” he said. “We had people that had concerns but we had folks that were not so vocal come up to us and say they liked the idea. … The idea is we got in there first (with the police station), we rezone the property and let the market drive the change.”
The city-initiated rezoning request is scheduled to go to the Planning Board on July 9 and to the City Council on Aug. 2.