It is difficult to believe, but that radical, left-wing Asheville City Council is showing restraint and maturity. Whereas before, one would expect city councilpeople to fall for any hair-brained idea with a big price tag, tonight, they decided they did not wish to convert the old Ice House into a museum. The facility is dilapidated, missing exterior walls, needing a roof, and according to Councilman Gordon Smith, “dark, dingy, and cobwebby.” Furthermore, it has become a mixed-use development, housing people who can’t afford rent and serving as a backdrop for graffiti and a magnet for trouble. The final straw that caused the city to purchase the unkempt property was a murder.
In spite of requests that the building be preserved as an emblem of the historic district, and requests leadership take a longer-term perspective to when dollar signs are dripping out of everybody’s eyeballs, members of council put their collective foot down. In a 5-1 vote, they favored public safety and welfare, and called for the building’s demolition. Councilman Jan Davis said the building was not worth repairing. Moneyed interests in the private sector had three years to invest in a rehabilitation project, but because nobody came forward, the city felt compelled to purchase what was once a structure. Mayor Terry Bellamy, talking more like a taxpayer than an office holder, asked her peers what greenway or sidewalk they wished to defund to pay for the securing and upkeep of the derelict building if they chose to delay its sad end.
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