Silhouetted by the lights from his fire truck, Asheville firefighter Jeremy Lloyd works to extinguish the last of a blaze that destroyed the Penland Auction House and damaged other buildings in the River Arts District Friday night (Photo by Max Cooper)
The cause of the structure fire that started in the River Arts District late April 5 evening remains as opaque as the smoke that billowed from it. The flames overtook two buildings at the future New Belgium site on Craven Street. The buildings had been set for demolition to make way for the brewery construction.
“I would say that it’s very suspicious. Two buildings, the same location [and] a significant distance apart were on fire at the same time,” said Asheville Fire Department Battalion Chief Carlo Marzello. When asked whether arson could be responsible for the fire, Marzello told Xpress, “The cause is under investigation with our fire marshal, so he’ll make that determination.” He expects AFD will release further details within a few days. No injuries were reported.
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Equal status: Blue Ridge Pride organizer Yvonne Cook-Riley speaks with Executive Director for the Campaign for Southern Equality, the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, after commissioners voted 4-3 to add protections for the county’s LGBT employees. (Photo by Caitlin Byrd)
As members of the community stood before Buncombe County commissioners with Bibles in hand, legal statutes in folders and opinions in mind, public comment took a personal turn before the vote on a resolution to expand nondiscrimination language within the county’s personnel ordinance.
“This is not a civil rights situation. The Bible is the bottom line,” contended the Rev. Wendell Runion.
“This is more than a fairness issue: It is a moral issue,” arguedYvonne Cook-Riley, who spoke on behalf of Blue Ridge Pride.
Swannanoa resident Chris Oaks told commissioners, “If you do [vote for this ordinance], the blood will be on your hands for sending these people to hell.”
In total, 15 people spoke during the public comment session, which took place before county commissioners voted 4-3 to approve the resolution that expands Buncombe’s existing nondiscrimination clause. Currently, county workers are protected from discrimination based on age, color, race, sex and religion, along with a bevy of additional protected classes. The new resolution adds an extra layer of protection, safeguarding workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Less than a year ago, the proposal came before commissioners but failed with a 3-2 vote.
This time, the final vote split the other way: Democrats David Gantt, Ellen Frost, Holly Jones and Brownie Newman supported the expanded policy, and Republicans Joe Belcher, Mike Fryar and David King voted against it.
What do hospital consolidations, affiliations and mergers really mean? In my latest article for Xpress (You can read it in full here), I looked at what defines these hospital agreements and how the story of hospital mergers, affiliations and consolidations has become a common tale across the state and the country…
Keever campaign memos shed light on her primary victory over Bellamy: Thanks to an internal Keever campaign memo that was recently shared with Xpress, staff reporter Jake Frankel takes us behind the scenes of Rep. Patsy Keever’s successful Democratic primary campaign over her main rival, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy. Jake Frankel reports:
Despite Bellamy’s head start and fundraising advantages (which led some commenters to dub her “the frontrunner”), Keever garnered 58 percent of the vote to Bellamy’s 27 percent. Rutherfordton resident and political newcomer Timothy Murphy received almost 16 percent of the total. Keever’s margin was even bigger in her home turf of Buncombe County, where she got about 67 percent of the vote to Bellamy’s 28 percent and Murphy’s 5 percent.
Among some observers, the results have raised doubts over Bellamy’s political career. Meanwhile, the Keever campaign credits the strength of its candidate, as well as smart strategy – two things it’s eager to highlight as it gears up to try to unseat powerful Republican incumbent Patrick McHenry in the fall.
Beer buzz: It’s official, New Belgium announced yesterday that it has chosen Asheville, N.C. for the home of its second brewery. Anne-Fitten Glenn reports:
The rumors were true. New Belgium Brewing Company has chosen Asheville to be the home of their second brewery and distribution center.
At a press conference today at Asheville’s Chamber of Commerce, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue and Kim Jordan, New Belgium’s CEO and co-founder, announced to a crowd of officials, media and exuberant beer lovers that the company will build a brewery on the site of the former Western Carolina Livestock Market on Craven Street near downtown. The brewery will invest more than $175 million over seven years and create more than 150 new jobs.
Asheville Community Yoga expands: Thanks to a few grants and a growing demand, Asheville Community Yoga has expanded its space to include a new studio, two bathrooms, a kitchenette and a child care area. I report:
Before cutting the ribbon on Asheville Community Yoga’s expansion, Director Michael Greenfield bowed his head and said, “Namaste.” In yoga, this respectful expression is typically intoned at the end of each class. But for the Woodfin-based nonprofit, notes Greenfield, this is just the beginning.
“We’re really able to offer more to the community in such a bigger way now,” he explains. “We’re going to be able to bring more awareness to yoga of all kinds.”
The expansion includes an additional studio, two bathrooms, a kitchenette and a child care area.
“We really wanted to be able to give specialized attention to all the students and do emotional and physical practices. We also wanted to bring in more yoga at prime-time hours like 6 p.m., and more beginner classes too,” he explains.
Water, water everywhere: The Asheville Downtown Association has released a video of the presentation Joe Minicozzi gave at the Feb. 20 Mountain Voices Alliance water system forum. The Metropolitan Sewerage/Water System Committee will meet tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. in Raleigh. Check out the full post from Mountain Xpress here.
The selection committee has spoken: UNCA will play Syracuse on Thursday in Pittsburgh. The bulldogs are the No. 16 seed in the East Region. Go Bulldogs! Photo by Dustin Stuart of The Blue Banner, UNCA’s student newspaper.