Historic preservation commission denies Trestle Crossing application

Fred McCormick

The Black Mountain Historic Preservation Commission on Aug. 16 ruled the proposed - and controversial - Trestle Crossing development is not appropriate for the town's downtown historic district.

That gives the developer - Joe Cordell, a part-time resident of Black Mountain - two options. He may appeal the commission's decision to the town board of adjustment. Or he can revise his plans and resubmit them to the commission for consideration. Cordell is working with a team of local architects and spokespeople.

Despite hostile comments by some local residents during the three-hour hearing, Cordell said afterward that he planned to exercise one of the two options.

At issue during the quasi-judicial meeting was whether his plans to renovate the historic ice house building (former Gingko Tree) at 128 Broadway Ave., and build a three-story structure on the adjacent lot (currently home to Dobra Tea) met the historic district's development guidelines. The commission ruled that Cordell's plans did not meet those guidelines.

The proposed development, which has roiled many Black Mountain residents since it was proposed last month, packed the Historic Preservation Commission's meeting in Town Hall. People filled the board room where the meeting was held, as well as an overflow room across the hall. A small crowd stood outside Town Hall throughout the meeting, many watching a television feed through a window looking into the overflow room.

The five members of the historic preservation commission discuss the proposed Trestle Crossing project during a three-hour hearing on Aug. 16.

People in the audience were allowed three minutes each for comment. Cordell, co-founder of St. Louis-based law firm Cordell & Cordell and owner of two homes in Black Mountain, addressed the commission after two other people on his development team spoke first.

Developer Joe Cordell, addressing the historic preservation commission Aug. 16, must now decide between revising his proposal or appealing the commission's denial to the board of adjustment.

"I'm excited about Trestle Crossing because it promises not only to be successful as an investment, but as importantly from our standpoint, (as) something that would be special for Black Mountain," he said. "At every turn as we've looked at decisions in this design and development, we've highlighted the question of 'what impact will this have on the community?'"

The project had to be a three-story structure to make sense financially, he said. But its size would provide "more economic opportunity for downtown," he added.

"It's just critical that it have a third level," he said. "I've been talking to a number of people in the area to get a feel for what the priorities were and what was important to people in Black Mountain. I've talked to (alderman) Don Collins and others, so I was aware that the third floor was an issue that some opposed. But the bottom line is I think it will make this development a more attractive place, rather than less (attractive)."

Andrew Snavely, the owner of Dobra Tea, disagreed. He said the size and scale of the building were inappropriate. And its construction would come at his expense - the building his business is in would be demolished as part of the construction.

"This project has impacted my family 100 percent," he said. "We're losing our business, the building we have built out, as well as our devoted customers who have supported our business for years."

Joe Tyson, owner of Tyson Furniture which sits within 100 feet of the development, praised Maury Hurt, the local architect of the project and one of the development team members. Tyson spoke in support of Trestle Crossing.

"This is the most exciting thing to me in Black Mountain since the 1970s when we did a town loop program and the town put brick sidewalks on Cherry Street and brought that street back from the dead," he said. "Before that Cherry Street was nothing but a bunch of derelict buildings with rats in them. I've lived here long enough to see how important economic development is and how exciting it can be."

Joel Osgood, another development team member and the principal architect for Asheville-based Osgood Landscape Architecture, presented a rendering of how the building would look from the perspective of the intersection of Broadway Avenue and State Street. Osgood contended that the slope of Broadway Avenue's southern end allows the three-story structure to remain in scale with the other buildings along the street.

"This is an accurate depiction of the building as it fits the site," he said, alluding to the rendering. "We took the precise elevations that we received from (Hurt), and we also had a local surveyor survey both the street elevations going up Broadway and also the elevations at the base of Town Hardware. We also had them pick up the elevation at the uppermost point of Town Hardware just above the sign. If we were to draw a straight line from that elevation down to the highest point of our proposed Trestle Crossing building, our building - because of the elevation change - is only five-and-a-half inches above that point."

Osgood's presentation did little to quell the concerns of the audience, many members of which showed up to express their disapproval of the project. More than a dozen dissenters spoke, expressing concerns about size, scale, the loss of the grassy area on the site and lack of parking in the area. Some accused Cordell of dividing the town with the proposed project. Others expressed fears that the building would alter the character of Black Mountain.

At the end of the comments, Debra Wooton made a motion to approve Cordell's application for a certificate of appropriateness, but the motion died without a second. Shanda Richardson moved to deny Cordell's request and was supported by Monica Hayden and Shannon-Heather Wall. Wooton and Lauronda Teeple voted against the motion to deny. The motion to deny carried by a vote of 3-2.

Richardson said she believed the height and proportion of the building did not fit the street. Wall said the design was "fabulous," but denied the application based on a planned addition to the ice house building that was taller than the original structure.

Hayden said the development did not fit the scale of the street. She also said the proposed design was too similar to existing buildings in the district.

Following the meeting Cordell said he was "not shocked" by the decision.

"I realized there was a lot of opposition, so I was prepared for this possibility," he said. "I'm a little disappointed, but I'm not discouraged." He said he intended to "exhaust all avenues."