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For over a year and a half we have watched the terrible tale of Parkside.  Today it appears the condominium side of the story has come to an end.  If the court rules in favor of the Pack family, then the land will revert to the public, and this story will finally be over.  We’ll all have a toast in Mr. Coleman’s Tavern to public lands and local brews.


A letter dated Thursday from an official with S.B. Coleman Construction Co. asks the city to withdraw the company’s application to put a nine-story, mixed-use building on a site just west of City Hall so that plans for a restaurant and bar on part of the property can proceed.

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It appears that, no matter what the judge rules in Mr. Coleman’s appeal of the Parkside ruling, any future condo will have to go through the entire process again.  It appears this story is coming to a close.

Assistant Planning Director Shannon Tuch said Tuesday that the city’s approval of the pub means the approval of the nine-story condo building was dead.

“We can only entertain one development application for a piece of property at a time,” Tuch said. “So he would have to reapply and start all over.”

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Parkside: Pack Tavern

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We’re still waiting for the ruling regarding the sale of public parkland to a private developer, but Stewart Coleman is moving ahead with a new plan to turn the historic Hayes and Hopson building into a tavern featuring dozens of local brews. It’s a bit ironic that the pub will be called Pack Tavern, since George Pack’s gift of the parkland to the “public forever” was the pivotal fact in the Parkside controversy.

It sounds like a great idea to have a pub on the park, and I congratulate Mr. Coleman for making lemonade out of the lemons he grew.


“The Pack Tavern, as the new restaurant will be called, will open later this year and would add another chapter to the building’s colorful history.

The space would be named for George Pack, one of Asheville’s great benefactors, whose 1901 donation of downtown parkland played a role in a controversy more than a century later involving Coleman and his plans to erect a nine-story building next to City Hall.

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Parkside: Appeals Court To Hear Case May 19

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get-off-my-lawnHere’s a great chance for the multiple civic organizations who opposed the Parkside boondoggle to come together one more time.


The state Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments May 19 in a lawsuit over Buncombe County’s 2006 sale of property just west of City Hall to developer Stewart Coleman.

A Superior Court judge ruled last September that the sale, which included the site of a large magnolia tree, was invalid because the county had agreed that the land would be for public use when it accepted a donation of the property in 1901.

Coleman appealed. He wants to combine the property with the site of the Hayes & Hopson Building and build residential condominiums and retail space on the property.

Arguments will be heard at 9:30 a.m. May 19 in the court’s temporary quarters at 227 Fayetteville St., said Joe Ferikes, an Asheville attorney who challenged the sale.

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Parkside: I Remain Agog

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Asheville City Council last night unanimously voted to table Stewart Coleman’s request for a road in Pack Square. The road would service his proposed Parkside building, which has been roundly opposed from every corner of the community and has been shot down by a circuit court. Mr. Coleman’s appeal is expected to be heard this summer. In response to Council’s decision, Mr. Coleman continued with his famous public relations tactics.

If the road can’t be built, Coleman said he would widen Marjorie Street to the south of the property and push the building farther north and in front of iconic City Hall.

“I think it affects the view corridor in … ways we have tried to avoid,” he said.

Stewart Coleman remains willing to build a condominium high rise on our public parkland in front of our City Hall? After all of this?

There are no words.

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{Picture of a fallen Santa, taken a couple of years ago in Raleigh}

Of all the reasons to put the brakes on global warming, the ability to grow and chop down fir trees for the late December Christian festival hadn’t occurred to me. Heath Shuler and the Christmas tree growers have been giving it a lot of thought. The congressman, the growers, and some climatologists will come together today for a press conference to urge Congress to take up significant legislation to slow climate change.

Google Street View captured Asheville.  Very cool.  Very strange.  A little scary.

Regarding Parkside – County Commissioners went into closed session Tuesday to discuss various ways forward on reacquiring the land.  Word on the street is that while Jones and Gantt were strongly in favor of getting it back, Stanley, Peterson, and Bailey wanted to just let Coleman’s lawsuit play out in the court of appeal.  Stanley and Peterson haven’t altered their positions a bit, and they’re not going to.  K. Ray Bailey on the other hand is the swingin’ vote.  This zombie issue isn’t going away.

If you’re into urban development and economics, check out this site – New Geography.  Thanks to Clark Mackey for the heads up.

Barack Obama’s choice of Republican Ray LaHood to head up the Department of Transportation is going to get the disaffected folks all panties-bunched again.  I think Obama is about to bring some incredible changes, and a lot of that’s going to happen at the Transportation level.  Putting a Republican in charge of instituting that change gives Obama lots of political cover.  The same is true of Gates at Defense.  

As to Rick Warren giving the invocation at the inaugural?  Who knows what that’s about.  Warren openly advocated taking civil rights away from Californians with Proposition 8, and he lied to do it.  I think he’s a despicably impious man cloaked in the robes of the evangelical establishment.  Warren’s presence is a nod to the evangelical population in America, but it’s a finger in the eye of everyone else.

As I mentioned earlier this week, the general assembly last year gave counties the option to impose a transfer tax of up to four tenths of a percent on all real estate sales provided voters approve the tax in a referendum.

The idea is that since sales of real estate drive demand for infrastructure, it’s only fair that those involved in those sales should pay a modest amount toward building the things – schools, streets, sewers, etc. – needed to make your average subdivision livable.

So that got me to thinking. Stewart Coleman says that if the county wants to buy him out, they’ll have to pay $4.5 million for the Hayes-Hobson building and the slice of Pack Square immediately adjoining. The commissioners are balking at this for at least two reasons: first, because that’s an astronomical price for what he’s selling, and second, because they’re already looking ahead to tough budgetary times.

So what to do? Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce the Coleman Tax. Based on my very rough estimate of $1.4 billion in real estate sales in Buncombe this year, we’d only have to impose a transfer tax of 0.1% – and that for only three years – in order to make up for the hole that Stewart Coleman seems intent on creating in our county budget.

And that’s my proposal. Across the state, developers, builders, and realtors have spent millions defeating this tax in county referenda. So far, 20 counties have tried to pass it, and industry groups have managed to defeat it every time. But if the commissioners were to go to the people of Buncombe and say, “hey, this is the lowest we could charge, we’re only going to do it for three years, and we’re only doing it because developer, builder, and realtor Stewart Coleman refuses to come to his senses” – well, how could it fail?

After all, it’s hard to come up with a clearer example of the public costs of private enterprise.

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Here I was thinking this story would go quietly into the annals of Asheville history.  Stewart Coleman, however, intends to put his behemoth on public parkland in front of Asheville’s City Hall.  From Mountain X:

Asheville developer Stewart Coleman’s proposal to demolish the Hayes & Hopson Building is making its way through the city’s approval process, and Coleman says the 1905 structure could be torn down before the lawsuit that’s tying up his development proposal for the site is resolved.

“We are trying to get our ducks in a row so that when the lawsuit is overturned — and it will be — we can get to work,” he told Xpress. “Demolition of that building is something that could happen before the hearing of that lawsuit.”

It’s like the man has never been told no in his entire life. A dozen civic organizations, two governmental bodies, a district court judge, a major newspaper, and over 7,000 petitioners told him that his Parkside condominium project was not welcome on our public parkland. Coleman doesn’t care. This guy is giving every developer in town a bad name, and I hope that the development community will talk Coleman down off the ledge.

Regardless of how Coleman proceeds, it is time for the newly seated Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to take a stand to halt any possible future construction on our public square.  Either buy it back or invoke condemnation, Commissioners.  It’s time to correct the error that allowed this arrogant man to defy the town he claims to care about.

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WLOS just reported that Judge Hyatt signed the order written by Pack family lawyer, Joe Ferikes. The order disallows any development on the contested parcel. If Coleman breaks the rules, he’d be in contempt. While that would have a certain poetic irony to it, I don’t think he’ll do anything to violate the order. An appeal may be on the way, but that’s a lot of time and money for an unlikely victory.

My guess is we’ll see a deal before election day between the County and Coleman on buying the park land as well as the Hayes and Hopson.

UPDATE: Mountain Xpress wins the ‘linkiditfirst” award.

Have a look –

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Gantt and Ramsey on Parkside

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Chairman Nathan Ramsey in an email to Elaine Lite:

We’ve been consistently told by very smart lawyers that the sale was legal.  Although I haven’t seen the order from Judge, apparently she disagreed.  If that is the case, we repay Black Dog LLC $322K and the county retains title to the property.

Best wishes,

David Gantt in an email to me:

“Gordon- Thanks for the email. Last week, Judge Hyatt announced her decision that the Pack heirs have won their lawsuit against Mr. Coleman and Buncombe County. Attorney Joe Ferikes will draw up the Order that will probably send it to Judge Hyatt for signature sometime next week. The wording of that Order will be critical. If the Order negates the sale of the property the County sold Mr. Coleman, I anticipate that the County will ask our title insurance company to reimburse Mr. Coleman for the $322k sales price and regain title to this property. If the Order validates the sale, but restricts the development rights of the property, Mr. Coleman will likely make the first move on his significantly less valuable piece of land. Either way, Mr. Coleman has to go back to the drawing board on his construction plans. He could potentially build on the Hayes & Hobson (H & H) building footprint, but he would likely have to go in front of a hostile City Council for final approval of any new plan. Mr. Coleman would be wise to try and sell both parcel (if he still owns this piece of land) and H & H to government and cut his losses. He can appeal, but any appeal will be tied up in Court for years. I will not support any County appeal of the decision, since we shouldn’t have sold the property in the first place. I can’t help but think that Mr. Coleman’s arrogant pre-construction actions on the parcel helped the Judge make her decision. I am thrilled at Judge Hyatt’s ruling and have never been so happy to be on the “losing” side of a lawsuit.

All parties have a second chance to start over and work together to make a world class park. I intend to make a MOTION to put the land in a conservation easement when I discuss the matter with the other Commissioners at the earliest time possible. The public has spoken loud and clear that the County needs to honor our commitments and support the partnership we entered into with Asheville City and Pack Square Conservancy for this Park. The decisions we make in the next few weeks will speak loudly to our commitment to Pack Square Park, the Conservancy’s efforts to put this project on the fast track, and how well we listened to the public outcry. I appreciate your thorough coverage of this regrettable situation.

David Gantt

Which man would you rather have in charge of the Commission for the next four years?  The one who clung to the advice of his “smart lawyers” despite the outcry of his constituents, or the one who recognized his mistake and worked hard to rectify it?

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