Monday, September 12, 2005

My Take on Merrimon Avenue Rezoning

Here’s the issue: developer Greg Edney wants to put a bank and office space on the former Burger King property on the corner of Fenner and Merrimon. According to neighborhood activists Mike Lewis and Sarai Rightmeyer, this would be a good use of the property. I agree. The problem is that Edney, and his agent, Gerald Green, want to put two drive-throughs in, and that part of Merrimon is not zoned for additional drive-throughs. So, these guys are petitioning the P&Z for a rezoning, despite having already had a variance bid rebuffed by the Board of Adjustment.

Supposedly, drive-throughs generate higher volumes of traffic, and if you’ve driven down Merrimon between about 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., you’ve realized that the street is a big, gnarly traffic mess. Particularly between Weaver Blvd and Gracelyn Ave. Which is where the old BK property sits.

Merrimon is one of those roads, that, although it runs through the city, has a number (25), and therefore, is designated a state highway. Which means that, although the property on either side is controlled by the city, the road is owned by the state. So it’s like moving heaven and earth to get a light put up, a crosswalk drawn, a bit of sidewalk added or repaired. And I’ve never figured out the need for those magnetic telephone poles—one at Fenner and one at Coleman—that seem to pull a car into their force fields weekly. In fact, whenever our electricity goes out, we know the Fenner t-pole has bitten the dust—again.

I’ve lived off Merrimon for almost eight years, first on the West side, now on the East. In that short time, I’ve seen, in addition to the magnetic T-pole phenomena, a dramatic increase in traffic and the advent of big-box retailers, many crushing local businesses in their quest for hegemony. How ‘bout that humongous Staples that’s in the process of being erected on the corner of Merrimon and Orange? It’s going to block out the fricking sunlight for a number of renovated Victorian/Craftsman cottages on both streets.

So, while I don’t want to be a “not in my backyarder,” I’m feeling a bit protective of my backyard. And my quality of life. The Toy Box moved, and was ultimately, replaced by a Subway, which shines neon up the hill into my kids’ bedroom windows—all night long. Daily driving on Merrimon feels like, and probably is, the most dangerous thing I do. So, what’s the answer?

If you’re interested, there will be a Neighborhood Meeting, hosted by Edney, at Port City Java at 7:00 p.m. on September 19th. Good contentious fun. You can visit www.ourasheville.com for more information on who to contact and how to contact them. The P & Z Commission meeting will be at 5:00 on October 4 at the Woolcott City Building on South Charlotte. Oh, and the ‘hood just had some bumper stickers printed up that read: “Merrimon sAve. www.ourasheville.org.” If you want one, e-mail me: janusatannefittenglenndotcom. And I’ll get in touch with the proper people, who will get in touch with you, and if you fork over $2 and a box of doughnuts…just kidding. It’s not that complicated. Thanks for listening.

6 comments:

Future Daddy said...

As a new Merrimon Ave. area resident, I was not aware of the rezoning attempt! Thanks for the awesome posting included the link to Our Asheville!

ash said...

EM, a couple of questions - do you know why the developer's first request was denied? was it based on projections of increased traffic?

i'm assuming that when BK was there, it had a drive-thru. how much difference would adding one more to the area really make? like you said, Merrimon is already crazy busy - i don't see a big impact.

also, isn't the proposed development better than an empty shell of a building tatooed with graffiti? the place looks horrible.

Edgy Mama said...

That's our Ash, teddy bear one moment, laser incisive guy the next.

Good points. And yet. One of the reasons BK went out of business is because it did not attract much traffic--too many competing burger joints within a few hundred feet. And the issue, for me, is not whether or not one more drive-through is going to make that much of a difference, but if there is a precedent for shooting down the UDO, it only becomes easier in the future.

An inability to plan, to think long-term is, in my opinion, one of the banes of human existence. It's how cities with the infrastructures of Atlanta and LA are born. It's how cities like New Orleans are decimated. Because people don't want to spend the time or the money upfront to plan for future growth and change.

As I said, a bank and office space sounds great for the spot--much better than the current shell. However, one drive-through just leads to another...unless we look at the big picture...the future...how we want Merrimon Ave. to be in 20 years.

Screwy Hoolie said...

Merrimon is a deathtrap.

I don't know anything about the city's zoning laws, but I do know that I drive Merrimon as little as possible due to the narrow lanes and high volume of traffic.

Haywood Road is undergoing a change as West Asheville looks forward to continuing growth. They're going from four lanes to three lanes. Counterintuitive, eh? The center lane will be a turn lane, and this prevents stoppages as folks try to turn left. Merrimon can't expand to more lanes, so this seems a possible solution there, too.

Edgy Mama said...

Just received this...interesting site:
Anne,
I linked your Merrimon Ave rezoning spiel from BlogAsheville on my website, There's Nothing To Do Here!.
We pick up stories from the Asheville/Knoxville/Roanoke tri-cities area. Just wanted to give you an FYI.
The link to my entry linking yours is here:
http://www.theresnothingtodohere.com/?p=304
Thanks!
...Mason Adams

I've been getting lots of intense e-mail about this issue--I'll post some of the drama later.

r s thompson said...

i lived in asheville in the late 1990s. i would guess that many office supply product users are concentrated in the downtown area. the office depot and office max seem to be kind of a pain to get to on a lunch hour from downtown. whereas scooting up to liberty street back into downtown would save time and distance getting office items.