Press

"A recent extensive report on housing and affordability for the region done by Bowen National Research that shows, among other things, that 7,892 Asheville renters are "cost burdened," meaning they pay over a third of their income on housing. Solutions, he said, include adjusting policies that promote apartment building along corridors such as Broadway, Merrimon and Biltmore where buses are readily available."


"Take a look at this list of city jobs incentives over the last 10 years. Jobs don’t cost the same amount per tax dollar in every deal. In fact, smaller companies like Hi-Wire Brewing, White Labs, and Tutco Farnam usually pay off better in jobs than the biggest deals (which come with a lot of real estate development.) The city needs to be careful whose taxes it’s cutting, while raising taxes on other property owners, and what it’s getting in return."


"His goals include growing the greenway system to connect underserved communities, taking back control of busy, dangerous roads, opening city-owned land for neighborhood uses (like trails and community gardens) and directing the hotel room-tax revenue to local needs. On the last point, Lee writes, “Tourism should pay for the impacts of tourism on the community.”


  • "Asheville Growth with Rich Lee," Asheville Grit Podcast (2/27/2016) - interview starts at 33-minute mark

"The sheer number of roads in the city controlled by the state DOT has prevented us from addressing some of the worst problems. We need to advocate better to the people in Raleigh and take more control of our own streets if we’re going to get long-standing problems on Merrimon, Tunnel, Patton, Leicester Highway, Interstate 240 and many others taken care of."


"Unequal access to jobs, housing and public amenities... really threatens the fabric of our community. City policy should serve everybody, but it doesn't -- not equally..."


"We have a good, well-intentioned government that has fallen behind on the planning and fallen behind on the growth that we are experiencing here."


"One of the things I feel like I can bring to city council that's unique to me is an ability, as a financial advisor... to bring good, solid financial arguments to these sort of progressive felt truths about why good policy that looks out for people is also good for the economy."


"Rich Lee, who has been active in the politics and in debates over development in his West Asheville neighborhood and the rest of the city, said people agree the city should grow carefully.

“I would want to say that it all comes down to our message resonating with the voters, our message of bringing thoughtfulness and planning to the direction Asheville’s going," Lee said."


"Half the rental units in Asheville are single houses, basements or small apartments with low margins. When taxes and fees go up, they raise their rents. That's an avenue we haven't explored yet as a city. A program helping small-time landlords, maybe with a tax discount, reduced fees, or assistance in building backyard and basement apartments, has a twofold effect: It helps the landlord afford to live here as well as the tenant."


"Our growth is outpacing our best efforts to steer it. And getting ahead of it is going to mean bringing the whole community together behind this idea that ... our diversity of people, our quality of life are our most valuable possessions," said Lee, who was active in the debate over New Belgium's impact on West Asheville and is a member of the city's Greenway Committee.

Taking care of different types of people in the community is "a measure of our fairness and our goodness as a society," he said. The city's diversity shows in the fact that "we're the home of Billy Graham and the drum circle. We're home to a historic black community," he said. "I believe that's how we've put forward so many entrepreneurs and so much creativity and so much art over the years."

"We talk a lot about what we want to do, but sometimes we don't talk about why. Why care about this being a city that has a place for everyone? Because it helps our bottom lines and makes us safer and better and more resilient. It makes us wiser."


"The purpose of the live online discussions, says Lee, meshes with the general goal of the 1,108-member Asheville Politics Facebook group. The hope behind both is to help people “overcome the steep learning curve of local government, a barrier to entry to people who aren’t dedicated observers, with constant steady conversation,” he explains. “Eventually you start to learn who the players are, what’s the history. And at the same time, it humanizes these influencers and decision-makers. They’re not this anonymous power over our lives, but our neighbors, people with day jobs and personalities. And they’re participating in the discussion too.”


"Riverview leads to French Broad River Park where Amboy crosses the French Broad, but it has no sidewalks and Lee says that traffic means that even though many residents live only a short distance from the park it is not safe for them to make the trip on foot."

 


"Lee is sharp and quick on his feet, has been active in discussions such as New Belgium’s impact on West Asheville and has “green’’ bona fides (he’s a member of the city’s Greenway Committee)."


“We believe it is premature to ask the city and county to endorse an alternative prior to the completion of the environmental impact statement and a full understanding of the relative benefits and drawbacks of each alternative,” said Rich Lee, speaking for the ConnectUs group that represents the neighborhoods most affected by the I-26 plans, including Burton Street, West Asheville and Montford. “Alternative 3C, as currently designed, does not represent the city’s long-range plans.” If the city does proceed forward, he added, it’s essential to include better pedestrian infrastructure and reduce the impact on neighborhoods.


 

"The specific state law written for Buncombe County puts the TDA in control of tax money. The law says the money must go toward promoting and increasing hotel business.... "I would ask you, however, to consider the sentiment of the public and to take it seriously," Lee said. "The perception is that Asheville's boom is not being shared."


"...He blamed city policies that Lee said give too much help to large corporations and big developers. Asheville's affordable housing policy "is not producing truly affordable housing." To change that, small landlords providing affordable rents should get the same help as large-scale builders..."


"...That support and buy-in has to come from the city. I learned recently, regarding a project we’ve discussed, that the city feels it’s under no obligation to devote public space to food-growing plants, despite that it’s in the Food Action Plan they adopted. There’s a long way to go to make food a city priority with teeth."