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Buncombe Commissioners Approve Conservation Goals, Get Update on Homelessness, Plot Next Steps for Comprehensive Plan, & More

Looking to conserve 20 percent of Buncombe County by 2030, Commissioners unanimously approved moving forward with a land conservation strategy during their meeting on May 19. The County is made up of  nearly 420,500 acres, and currently has 76,637 acres protected. That totals 18% of all County land with another 1,423 acres currently in the process of being protected. Ultimately, that leaves the need to conserve some 6,000 additional acres of land to hit the target.

County staff projects the effort will cost about $9.5 million (in addition to a recurring $750,000 annual budget commitment) over the next eight years. You can see a brief presentation on the land conservation effort here.

Comprehensive Plan upcoming phases

Work on the Comprehensive Plan 2043 continues to move along, and Planning staff updated Commissioners on the work so far. After multiple virtual and in-person feedback sessions with the public, staff have started the process of identifying goals and an overall vision for the plan. Some themes that have emerged are a desire for more sidewalks, trails, and greenways; support for affordable housing; and a focus on conservation, especially trees and waterways.

As the Comprehensive Plan enters its next phase, there will be an opportunity for more public input. The County will put information about these public input sessions on its website, social media channels, and alert media organizations when dates are confirmed. You can see Planning staff’s presentation here, and for more information about Buncombe County’s Comprehensive Plan, click here.

Homelessness services consultant

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for increased homelessness in Buncombe County, according to County staff. A point-in-time count earlier this year identified 637 people experiencing homelessness, an increase of 21% from the previous year. Of those unhoused, 405 were counted in shelters and 232 or 36% were unsheltered, which represents a 25-percentage point increase in unshelterered people experiencing homelessness over the last five years.

In an effort to combat this trend and homelessness overall, the County is working with the City of Asheville and Dogwood Health Trust to utilize the services of the National Alliance to End Homelessness as a consultant on this issue. The consultant is in the process of creating a needs assessment and present those findings in September with the goal of later presenting recommended actions by the end of the year. You can view staff’s presentation to Commissioners here.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month proclamation

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Commissioners are honoring it with an official proclamation. In part, it reads: “The population of people who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander  (AAPI) in Buncombe County is just shy of two percent, but the artistic, culinary, and educational contributions are immeasurable. We are also aware of and deeply concerned about the dramatic increase in the violent and hateful crimes and incidents targeting AAPI communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Read the entire proclamation here.

Fleet building complex life cycle cost analysis

County policy requires staff to brief Commissioners on the potential construction and operating costs for the 25-year life cycle of new construction. The current budget year has funding for a new fleet facility, and Commissioners were presented with four options regarding building options utilizing varying degrees of solar and electric power.

“I appreciate this analysis. It’s such a thoughtful way to approach a project… being able to look at the technology options for it,” exclaimed Chairman Brownie Newman, noting he’s excited about “enabling our new facilities to be powered by renewables.”

Commissioners have directed staff to move forward with full electrification supplemented with 142-kilowatt solar power capabilities. You can view the four options and associated costs here.

Approval of FY23 ART Leicester Highway transit extension and Route 170 funding

Commissioners continued their commitment to help with public transportation by approving $160,731 to support two Asheville Ride Transit (ART) routes. The WE1 and Route 170 bus lines help improve transportation options outside of Asheville city limits, in particular to Swannanoa, Black Mountain, and the Old County Home, Mt. Carmel, and New Leicester Highway portions of the County. You can learn more about these routes at ART’s website.

Personnel ordinance update

In an effort to evolve and simplify the County’s Personnel Ordinance (PO), Commissioners approved a set of changes recommended by staff. The move does not affect employee benefits. It will modify how staff can sell annual leave, amend funeral leave criteria, provides standard on-call pay for employees, and modifies the drug screening policy. These changes help eliminate conflicting language, shorten the PO, increase transparency, and help create a more consistent approach to personnel management. You can see more about the changes here, and read the County’s updated PO here.

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Updated Dec 07, 2022 12:46 PM
Published May 19, 2022 07:00 PM