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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Questions remain on Seventh Avenue

The Hendersonville City Council has got plenty of listening to do before it decides how to proceed with Seventh Avenue redevelopment.


Consultants from the UNC School of Government last month reported their findings about the district and made recommendations for how to spark rebuilding.
The consultants, Rory Dowling, of the Development Finance Initiative based at the UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill, and Will Lambe, director of Community Economic Development at the school, focused on the existing Seventh Avenue District as currently defined by a special taxing district and added property bordering the district.
The area encompasses 76 acres and has an assessed value of $23 million, 80 percent of it commercial.
At the moment there are a lot moving parts and new structures for the city and Seventh Avenue stakeholders to sort out. The new Seventh Advisory Committee replaces the old Historic Seventh Avenue District Committee in some functions but does not put it out of business. City Manager John Connet told the new committee last week that the city wants to keep the nonprofit organization in business in part because it can move with greater agility on spending money. The nonprofit board, for instance, could make façade grants quicker than the city could and with less red tape.
Property owners and merchants on Seventh Avenue have heard enough about light pole banners, hanging baskets and new garbage cans. They are looking for a tangible sign that this time the city is serious about redevelopment.
"I think the key is going to be for us and the city to look at the real big picture," said Carson Calton, owner of City Tire, the chair of the advisory committee and one of the longest serving veterans of Seventh Avenue revitalization talks. "We can't afford with this opportunity in front of us to go small. We've got to look at big ideas. Some are going to be controversial, some are going to be outside the box."
The consultants recommended that the city double the size of the taxing district by valuation, adding 36 properties. For all the squawking a 12-cent tax increase will set off, the council members ought to look very closely at how much noise they want to endure for just $9,636 in new revenue.
There is a feeling that Connet and the City Council are ready to get serious about Seventh Avenue redevelopment, and that's good. The city does not have an unlimited budget to fund public works. To the contrary, the council just raised taxes by 3 cents because it was starting to spend its fund balance on debt service. What the council can do is listen to Seventh Avenue property owners, business owners and residents, explore the urban redevelopment programs that apply and move forward steadily to turn a vision into a plan and a plan into action.