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Asheville realtor seeks franchisees for second-home property management company

Press release from media representative on behalf of Eye On Your Home:

ASHEVILLE, NC, FEBRUARY 2017 – A chance to turn adversity into opportunity inspired realtor Melissa Rulli to create the innovative franchise opportunity, Eye On Your Home.

Eye On Your Home is a leader in the second home property management business, specializing in watching over and caring for second homes for absentee owners. With thousands of second homes across the nation, Eye On Your Home offers a unique opportunity to tap into and profit from this huge industry.

Melissa Rulli, founder and owner, has more than seven years experience in this niche business, operating Eye On Your Home since 2010. Prior to starting the business, she worked as a North Carolina real estate broker. When the real estate market took a tumble during the later years of the last decade, Melissa created this opportunity for success, first for herself, and now for others with the Eye On Your Home franchise opportunity.

“This is a Blue Ocean opportunity not filled,” Melissa said. “There are thousands of second homes across the nation that do not have any support when their owners are not present. Owners are looking for a company with consistent service, systems, and core values that support their valuable investment. Now with Eye On Your Home territories available nationally, absentee owners can have that kind of support.”

Eye On Your Home is the FIRST second home property management company that is a trademarked brand for the industry. Western North Carolina, where Eye On Your Home was born and currently operates in Fletcher, has at least 15 territories available in the mountains alone. These include Boone, Banner Elk, Linville, Wolf Laurel, Weaverville, Black Mountain, Asheville, Arden/Fletcher, Highlands, Cashiers, Hendersonville, Flat Rock, Brevard, Lake Lure, Saluda, and Waynesville/Sylva. Other territories will be opening soon.

Eye On Your Home franchises are sold by territory, based on miles or demographics, which are evaluated and determined.

“This niche market has very little support,” Melissa said. “The few mom and pop operations that try to serve the market do not have the same broad support for emergencies, maintenance, concierge and even remodels. There is nothing that Eye On Your Home cannot facilitate for a client. Our Motto is ‘What can we do to make your life easier?’ We take the stress and burden of owning a second home off the owners’ shoulders, so they can show up, turn the key, and enjoy.”

Eye On Your Home has expanded operations to support all home ownership, from vacant for sale, homes in trust, local owners, builders and VRBOs. For franchisees, Eye On Your Home is a proven, successful company that will train, mentor, and support a franchisee with knowledge, systems, training and experience.

“A mentor/protégé relationship is what buying an Eye On Your Home franchise all is about.” Melissa said. “We’ll get your business up and running faster, smoother and more efficiently than starting from scratch. You will always have a mentor who cares and is invested in your success.”

Melissa’s goal is for each and every franchisee to feel like family and for them to know she is 100% invested in her vision to provide a consistent, trained and supported model to the clients out there that need an “Eye.”

“An Eye On Your Home franchise is a modest investment, home based, flexible, community integrated business that has grateful clients, untapped income potential, and little or no overhead,” Melissa said.

A great fit for an Eye On Your Home franchisee is someone who has the following skillsets: task management abilities, macro vision, networking strengths, business know-how, strong communication skills, creativity, tenacity, innovation and a can-do mentality. You do not need a real estate license to do this work, since it does not handle sales or tenancy.

To learn more about this exciting opportunity to be a part of the FIRST Second home property management company available, getting in on the ground floor please contact Melissa Rulli at [email protected] or visit the website at

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Feb 2017: Buncombe County breaking homes sales, price records

The real estate market in Asheville and Buncombe County is setting records with home prices and sales.

RealSearch, a market analysis firm run by Don Davies, closely tracks area real estate. Data shows 2016 was a record-breaking year for real estate in Asheville. The average asking price for a home was $591,207. The old record high was in 2015 with $524,015. And 2016 also saw a record high for the number of homes sold with 4,234. The previous record was set was in 2006 with 4,120 homes sold.

Davies also reports 2016 saw a record for average home sale price at $309,443. The old record, set in 2007, was $293,508.

Beverly Hanks agent Tara Irby sold a Haw Creek home in two days after listing it for $299,000. The price for the four-bed three-bath home resonated with a market that has a tight inventory for homes that size and in that price range. Last Thursday, calls immediately came in to see the home.

“Between 4 and 5 p.m., the house hit the Multiple Listing Service. And immediately I started receiving calls to show it the next day,” Irby said. “On Friday, this house showed six times, and out of those six showings we received two offers.”

“The market’s incredibly hot,” Laura Dyer, with Dwell Realty/Keller Williams, said.

Dyer said she has been extremely busy for months, and showings did not slow down during the holidays.

“We’re thrilled in the real estate market to see prices rise. People are having to compromise where they’re looking just to get into the area because they know they want to be here.”

via by Kimberly King

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Home values up 35% from 2013 (AVL); taxes could increase

The last countywide appraisal was done in 2013, when the market had bottomed out but stabilized, according to Keith Miller, real estate manager at the Buncombe County Real Estate Assessment Office. Miller said actual property taxes and the bills don’t go out until June and are not calculated yet. But he said Asheville homeowners will likely see their property taxes go up, although it’s not clear by how much.

Miller said the county tax rate is being adjusted, which will prevent drastic increases.

“I think some will have sticker shock,” Miller said. “I think many of our citizens don’t keep up with the real estate market.”

The office has released maps that indicate specific neighborhoods have seen significant increases in home values from 2013. Montford home values on average have risen 38 percent, while home values in North and West Asheville have had an average increase of 40 percent.

Oakley has posted increases of 31 percent. And a pocket of downtown Asheville has seen condo sale prices rise by 40 percent.

Alternatively, some areas in the county could see property taxes go down because the overall tax rate will be adjusted countywide for property owners. Fairview homeowners have seen home prices rise by 15 percent, but Sandy Mush homes have increased overall by 3 percent.

Jeff Greiner has owned a home in South Asheville for more than 15 years. He’s using equity in his home for his business.

“I certainly have seen our property value go up in a recent appraisal that we had on our property,” Greiner said.

“It’s inevitable that our taxes our going to go up,” said Terry Tincher, real estate manager at Sotheby’s in Biltmore Village. But Tincher hopes property taxes won’t increase so much that it discourages buyers.

“A lot of people coming into this area, say ‘I’m coming from New Jersey and I want to come into the Asheville market because I don’t want to pay those rates,’” Tincher said.

Miller said the new interactive map goes live online on Thursday. The site will show parcels and recent sales of homes and lots and commercial properties. Home appraisals will go out next week in the mail. Tax bills will go out this June. Homeowners are welcome to appeal tax bills but must present convincing evidence to show the value is incorrect. The website will also have information on the appraisal process.

Property Appraisal Information:

  • Home Appraisal website (goes live Thursday 1/26/17)
  • Buncombe County Real Estate Office: 828-250-4940
  • Address: 94 Cox Avenue Downtown walk-in customers welcome (park in lot across the street)

via by Kimberly King Wednesday, January 25th 2017

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Current Tax Foreclosures – Asheville NC

A list of the tax foreclosures in Asheville NC:

Name, PIN and Case # Location & Bid Information Date and Time

______________________ ___________________________ _____________________

KENNETH RAY DUKES, LEICESTER Beck Drive PIN#: 9710-73-2178-0000 2.16 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 3372 (JE) REDEEMED RALPH SMITH, individually and as FRENCH BROAD Executor and Trustee under the 2292 Old Marshall Hwy Will of CARL F. FELTS, JR., PIN#: 9722-69-6659-0000 .15 acres, more or less Current Bid: $21,051.57 185 Old Marshall Hwy PIN#: 9722-69-5882-0000 .34 acres, more or less Current Bid: $24,370.63 2312 Old Marshall Hwy PIN#: 9722-69-5947-0000 .24 acres, more or less Case#: 15 CVD 2678 (SC) EXPIRED ______________________________________________________________________________

LORI S. EMORY, IVY Charcoal Road PIN#: 9765-28-1977-00000 9.89 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 2294 (JE) Current Bid: $48,636.00 Bid Expires: 1/30/17 @ 5:00pm ______________________________________________________________________________

PETER GOULART, FAIRVIEW 17 Laurel Brook Drive PIN#: 9696-89-9899-0000 1.01 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 3025 (SC) Current Bid: $47,825.00 Bid Expires: 1/23/17 @ 5:00pm ______________________________________________________________________________

CHARIS & COMPANY, LLC, FAIRVIEW Mission Lane PIN#: 9685-86-6165-0000 4.13 acres, more or less Mission Lane PIN#: 9685-85-5779-0000 .06 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 1511 (JF) Current Bid: $30,000.00 Bid Expires: 1/23/17 @ 5:00pm ______________________________________________________________________________

THE HEIRS OF J.B. DAVIS, FAIRVIEW 169 Laurel Haven Road PIN#: 9696-85-8965-0000 2.91 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 3370 (JE) Current Bid: $23,517.89 Bid Expires: 1/23/17 @ 5:00pm ______________________________________________________________________________

THE HEIRS OF ELEANOR SUE BROWN, SWANNANOA 17 New Salem Road PIN#: 9678-89-8295-0000 .45 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 3787 (JE) Current Bid: $50,000.00 Bid Expires: 1/30/17 @ 5:00pm ______________________________________________________________________________

ALAN BRYAN EDMONDS, FLAT CREEK Edmonds Road PIN#: 9744-12-0703-0000 1.12 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 3714 (JE) Current Bid: $8,475.72 Bid Expires: 1/27/17 @ 5:00pm ______________________________________________________________________________

MARIE ANTONIENTTE FREEMAN CANDLER, LEICESTER AND CHARLES M. CANDLER 33 Wesley Drive PIN#: 8792-79-3598-0000 3.05 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 4742 (MB) Opening Bid: $3,980.46 January 24, 2017 @ 11:30am ______________________________________________________________________________

JOSEPH PINNER, JR., LIMESTONE Surrey Run PIN#: 9655-71-4017-0000 .64 acres, more or less Case#: 16 CVD 2587 (SC) Opening Bid: 3,750.00 January 26, 2017 @ 11:45am

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(Sorry, to late). Dave Chappelle adds second show in Asheville; both sell out!

Tickets to see comedian and actor Dave Chappelle in Asheville went on sale at noon on Friday and demand was so high, a second show had to be added.

RELATED | Dave Chappelle to perform in Asheville

By 10 a.m., a line of fans waiting to purchase tickets stretched down the sidewalk onto Flint Street.

The first show sold out in under 30 minutes. US Cellular Center’s box office confirmed the second show has sold out, as well.

News 13 spoke with the first customers in line who arrived before 7 a.m.

“Big fan of Dave Chappelle all the way back to Nutty Professor and the way back to his show,” Michael Danner said. “And I love all his work, and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m just glad to be up here to see him.”

Chapelle is performing two shows on the night of Monday, February 6 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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Rental unit supply increases, easing Asheville-area housing crisis

Finding a place to live in Buncombe County has gotten slightly easier in the past two years as a result of some 1,500 new rental units coming available. But monthly rents continue to rise, despite these new residences and the promise of thousands more currently under construction.

A growing vacancy rate highlights, one expert notes, the possibility of the Asheville housing market becoming saturated with available units.

Those are some of the findings of a report conducted by Bowen National Research, released by Asheville city officials at the end of December.

The report “makes clear that new affordable housing remains a dire need in Asheville and Buncombe County,” said Jeff Staudinger, Asheville assistant director of community and economic development. “It also provides evidence that, despite a small increase in the availability of market-rate apartments, the strong demand continues to push rents higher,” Staudinger said in an email.

The report’s conclusions roughly tracked third-quarter Asheville metro area data released earlier by two other real estate research firms.

Two years ago, Bowen, an Ohio-based real estate market consulting firm, pegged the rental vacancy rates for Asheville and Buncombe County, respectively, at less than 1 percent.

The new Bowen assessment found the county rental vacancy rate had risen to 2.7 percent, or 337 units in October and November of this year, from 99 during the same period in 2014.

Those figures include market-rate housing and “affordable rentals” such as tax-credit and government-subsidized housing.

The occupancy rate in the latter category remained about 100 percent, Bowen researchers concluded. But the market-rate component eased a bit to 96.4 percent this year, down from from 98.8 percent in 2014.

Both figures are above the national average of 95.1 percent, wrote Patrick Bowen, the firm’s president and report’s chief author in a Dec. 20 letter to Staudinger.

Apples to apples?

“Healthy and well-balanced rental housing markets have overall occupancy levels of around 95 percent,” Bowen wrote.

Rental-unit data from Reis, a New York-based company, paint a rosier picture for the Asheville metro area. The federally designated metro area, which comprises Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties, shows a 6.8 percent vacancy rate during this year’s second and third quarters and 7 percent for 2016’s first three quarters combined.

However, Axiometrics of Dallas reports lower metro vacancy rates during this year’s first three quarters. According to Axiometrics, the rate dropped to 4.1 percent in the third quarter from 4.5 percent in the second. It stood at 4.8 percent during the first. The company’s report did not provide a percentage for 2016’s first three quarters combined.

Bowen researchers surveyed 105 multifamily rental properties to produce its report.

City officials paid Bowen $4,500 for the new report and $29,750 for the 2014 assessment, which examined Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties.

No date had been set, as of Dec. 28, for Asheville City Council to discuss the findings of the new Bowen report, Staudinger said. Although the city’s Housing and Community Development committee is scheduled to review the updated data on Jan. 17. Asheville city staff will prepare a report for that review, he said.

An influx of new rental-units did not prevent rents from increasing, the Bowen survey found. But Bowen emphasized in a phone interview last week that this year’s large increase in median asking-rents in some categories occurred due to new upscale rental units that did not exist in 2014.

“So it is not an apples-to-apples comparison,” Bowen said.

Effective rental rates include any discounts or concessions landlords provide tenants. Asking-rental rates do not.

Median asking-rents in market-rate units, regardless of total number of bathrooms were, according to the Bowen report were:


  • 2016: $875
  • 2014: $667

One bedroom

  • 2016: $930
  • 2014: $830

Two bedrooms

  • 2016: $1,061
  • 2014: $916

Three bedrooms

  • 2016: $1,127
  • 2014: $1,021

Slowing the climb

“Market-rate rents have increased at an annual rate of 4.4 percent over the past year, while tax-credit rents have increased at 0.9 percent during this time,” Bowen wrote.

The national rate of increase during that period was 3 percent, he wrote.

Asheville’s higher rate of increase indicates that “demand for market-rate rental housing remains strong despite the large amount of new inventory added to the market during the past two years,” Bowen wrote.

The report also found that county renters “will likely live in lower quality product as long as rents are affordable.” Higher-quality units had higher vacancy rates than lower-quality units, according to Bowen.

Metro asking monthly rental-rate increases dipped to 0.5 percent during this year’s third quarter, from 2 percent during the second quarter, Reis reported.

The median asking-rent in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties rose to $1,044 in the third quarter, from $1,016 in the previous quarter, Reis researchers found.

Reis surveyed the units — from studio to multi-bedroom apartments — in 58 multifamily developments to determine its figures.

Using a different methodology, Axiometrics researchers also found rent inflation dropped in this year’s third quarter from the previous quarter.

The effective monthly rent increase fell slightly to 3 percent, from 3.1 percent between the two quarters, Axiometrics found. The metro’s average effective monthly rent climbed to $1,097 during the third quarter, from $1,080 in the second quarter.

Axiometrics did not provide a median figure. Its conclusions are based on a survey of 26 multifamily developments in the metro area.

The Bowen report concludes that 1,563 new rental units were built between January 2015 and October 2016, Bowen said.

Multifamily rental units currently under construction total 2,265, according to the report. Another 2,507 are “planned or proposed.”

The large majority of those units – 3,924, or 82.2 percent – will be market-rate rentals.

Though community leaders have described the lack of affordable housing in the Asheville area as a “crisis” for more than two years, Bowen cautioned that could change, with the Buncombe market becoming “saturated” due to new rental units coming available.

“Such indicators of a saturated market would be an increase in vacancies, with the market occupancy rate dropping below 95 percent,” Bowen wrote in his concluding remarks.

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Watch out: Old pipes, big problems: More than 20 sinkholes in Asheville

ASHEVILLE – It’s a terrifying prospect: the Earth opens and swallows the road, or your yard, or even worse, your house.

While the chance of being directly affected by a sizable sinkhole is low, the occurrence, also known as a ground collapse, happens on average at least once a year in Asheville.

In the last two decades, more than 20 major sinkholes have appeared on roads, in parking lots, yards and under homes. That frequency is greater than in the state’s largest city and speaks to Asheville’s unique terrain and aging underground pipes, which were responsible for almost all collapses.

While no one was hurt, many of the holes caused traffic disruptions, loss of business income and property damage at times exceeding $100,000.

An additional 20 sinkholes in other areas of Western North Carolina have also gotten media attention since 1996. Naturally occurring sinkholes have opened farther west in places such as Tennessee, where one played a role in a bizarre murder involving a Graham County man.

The issue has come to light most recently with the slow collapse of two East Asheville homes into a failing culvert along London Road. A duplex and neighboring house have become unlivable and the owner of one fears he might have to absorb the cost of the loss alone.

“The real issue is that most of our infrastructure is 100-150 years old and it needs to be replaced,” said Leslie Klingner, who in 2012 watched a sinkhole form under her North Asheville home.

“We have the benefit of being in this old town with all the beautiful old buildings, but we also have a lot of old pipes,” said Klingner, who does art and historic preservation for a private company.

City officials have said they are working on fixes. A $5.6 million stormwater utility fund paid for annually by Asheville property owners is slated to install or replace 2,500 feet of pipes by this spring to drain away rain water. But those repairs won’t necessarily save home and business owners from situations like those experienced by Klingner or by owners of the London Road homes.

What’s a ‘sinkhole’?

The term sinkhole brings to mind naturally occurring pits in places such as Florida or east Tennessee with an abundance of limestone or other soluble rock. In those areas underground water sources eat away the rock, sometimes over millions of years, causing holes that can appear slowly  – or very suddenly.

A sinkhole in 2014 opened in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in the middle of the National Corvette museum, swallowing eight vintage cars.

And near the Tennessee community of Mount Vernon a sinkhole in 2011 gained a macabre notoriety after the body of David Shannon Sawyer, of Robbinsville was found in a barrel in the 25-foot-deep pit.

Ground collapses caused by human or “anthroprogenic” action can also be called sinkholes, said Daniel Doctor, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia. The ground material in those cases is not limestone whose “dissolution happens over geologic time,” Doctor said, but instead easily moved sediment or quick-dissolving gypsum or salt-based rock.

In and around Asheville the cause has almost always been human activity, specifically failed pipes.

The city does not track sinkholes, though it does keep records of repairs to public streets and utilities. Asheville Stormwater Services Manager McCray Coates said the number found by the Citizen-Times through media accounts is likely on the low end.

“There have been many sinkholes within the city’s rights of way over the past years. I would think it has been more than 20,” Coates said.

Of the 22 found by the Citizen-Times, 16 were from failed culverts or storm drain pipes, some belonging to the city, some belonging to property owners. Four happened after water lines failed.

The cause of a sinkhole that opened this summer at the White Labs beer yeast facility construction site was unclear. President and CEO Chris White in August he had expected the nearly $10 million facility at 172 S. Charlotte St. to already be opened. But the sinkhole had developed on the site, which includes a 100-year-old former tobacco warehouse last used by the city as a public works building. This month White didn’t respond to two messages seeking more details about the pit.

Another incident featured a dramatic June 17 building collapse at 290 Haywood St. in West Asheville. The 1949 structure once used as a small engine repair shop was being remodeled for a bakery and restaurant when it crashed to the ground. Emergency workers said at the time the cause was a sinkhole, but this month owner Loren Linck of California said that was incorrect. He declined to talk about what he thought caused the collapse, saying it was under litigation. Rubble from the building remains at the site.

‘Big enough to swallow a car’

Most of the sinkholes in Asheville, 15, appeared in roadways or parking lots. Four happened in yards or under homes and one happened in a public square.

A broken water valve in October 2006 shot a geyser of water into a building at 830 Hendersonville Road and opened a sinkhole “big enough to swallow a car,” according to a report from that time. The incident closed two lanes for most of the day on the busy highway near South Forest Shopping Center.


Officials told business owners in February 2000 of their intent to dig up part of Pack Square to fix a sinkhole they suspected was caused by a leaking fountain and possibly an underground stream.

A commercial area in North Asheville was particularly plagued by the strange pits. Starting in 2003, at least five holes opened up on properties on the west side of Merrimon Avenue just south of Beaver Lake.

A hole in July 2007 opened in the parking lot of the Asheville AAA office at 1000 Merrimon Ave. and stretched as wide as three parking spaces. It appeared to be more than six feet deep. Another hole during that time period was as deep as 35 feet.

Following a 2013 storm, debris washed from one of the sinkholes into an eco-filtration pond on the edge of Beaver Lake, forcing a state-mandated cleanup.

Craig Friedrich, owner of Ski Country Sports, spent more than $210,000 trying to fix two holes. The cause was believed to be large drain pipes installed around 1978 by a previous property owner. The pipes channel a creek that flows into the lake with other pipes from adjoining properties apparently linked to it.

Friedrich sued the city, claiming the local government should be held liable for “an unreasonable volume” of water going through the private pipes. The courts, however, sided with the municipality. Friedrich did not respond to a phone call this month seeking comment.

A truck-sized hole appeared in October 2014 in the parking lot of the Buncombe County permits and inspection building following heavy rains. Builders constructing the four-story City Centre office building at the corner of College and South Charlotte streets found a manhole leading to an underground stream. The 1922 four-foot wide pipe was channeling the Town Branch stream under an urbanized part of the city, but part had collapsed, causing the sinkhole on the neighboring site.

Rusty Pulliam, developer of the $20 million project, said they had failed to find the pipe despite doing about 50 soil borings and a title search looking back at 50 years of property records. Moving the pipe would cost almost $500,000. They felt stuck, Pulliam said.

“We were pregnant with a project and couldn’t turn around and go back,” he said.

In a compromise, the developer and the city each contributed $200,000 and the property owner added $100,000 to pay for relocation, allowing construction to move forward.

Sinking homes

Some of the worst sinkhole incidents have happened under homes, something that has occurred at least twice in 20 years.

Klingner in April 2012 found residue from a small flood in her basement and a 10-foot hole under her Blair Street home near Charlotte Street. A 16-inch terra cotta stormwater drainage line had given way, making her house unsafe. The historical curator and her boyfriend stayed in an apartment while she continued to pay the mortgage on the 1,100-square-foot bungalow she bought in 2007 at the peak of the housing boom for $242,000.

“The storm drain pipe had been put in before that house was ever built, so I was unaware of it. And when it collapsed there was imminent danger not just to my house but to other houses on the block,” she said.

The city’s initial reaction was that the pipe was Klingner’s responsibility since it was on private property and there was no recorded easement — a piece of private property through which the government has a right to run a pipe or other utilities. But eventually she and three other property owners reached an agreement with the city to split the nearly $156,000 cost to move the line. The municipality picked up 75 percent, leaving the four property owners to pay the rest.

Klingner said her insurance company agreed pretty quickly to help pay but disagreed over how much, leading to protracted negotiations. Klingner declined to say how much the company paid in the end or how much she spent out of pocket, but described the total as “significant.”

A lot of the cost came from her insistence on maintaining “historic integrity” of the 1924 home, she acknowledged, and “wanting to do everything the right way.” Last year, the restored home won a Griffin Award from the Asheville and Buncombe County Preservation Society. Klingner still owns the home but lives in a house she bought nearby on Sunset Drive.


The other incident involving homes started in December 2015 when Terry Simmons first noticed a hole at his rental duplex at 225 London Road. When he bought the home for $107,000 in 2007 he was not told about the culvert, Simmons said. Now the house has a cracked foundation and is clearly sinking into the Earth.

Next door another home is sinking at 221 London Road. It belongs to a woman who bought it from Western North Carolina Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that helps poor people build and buy homes. Habitat officials said they could not comment because of a confidentiality agreement and because the nonprofit is in a dispute over one of the properties. Tax records show that home valued at $137,900.

The city has told Simmons the pipe is not a public responsibility since it is on private property. His insurance company has said damage from the sinkhole is not covered.

Meanwhile, he is continuing to pay mortgage and insurance on the house which has no renters. Moving it would cost $40,000 and demolition would be about $20,000, he said. Simmons, who owns more than 30 rental homes in and around Asheville, said he’s afraid the situation could destroy his credit and eventually his business.

“In my opinion, the pipe is still not my responsibility. I didn’t put it there. I didn’t know it was there.”

Where are the pipes?

Part of the sinkhole problem in Asheville comes down to records. Notations on pipes from more than a century ago may have been lost or never written down since their location was deemed unimportant. In other cases, private pipes may have been joined to other private pipes and eventually became part of a public system by default.

That’s not uncommon in older towns, said Dan Pliszka, the risk manager for Charlotte-Mecklenberg.

“We try to map through GIS the new stuff that goes in, but we don’t know where a lot of the old stuff is — and especially once it’s been abandoned,” he said.

But that metropolitan area, with a footprint more than six times the size of Asheville, may have less of a problem. Pliszka estimates the area experiences one or fewer sinkholes a year.

That may be because of the high number of old pipes in Asheville, a remnant of austerity following the Great Depression. The city was hit particularly hard from that historic downturn because of widespread real estate speculation and borrowing for public projects that amounted to some of the greatest per capita debt in the country. Unlike other local governments, the city didn’t default on its loans but insisted on paying them, inhibiting infrastructure repair for decades.

Former Asheville risk manager John Miall said old pipes, relatively unregulated private stormwater systems and steep terrain has led to sinkholes and other problems. During his 1990-2005 tenure Miall said it was “not unusual to have one or two such events in a year.”

Often private property owners would install a culvert to reduce flooding from a stream. Decades later as more development occurred uphill that culvert would eventually be overwhelmed.

“Property developers historically looked to make properties usable, and I think over time with greater runoff, those systems weren’t designed to carry the loads that are happening in today’s world,” Miall said.

He questions whether the city has used the stormwater fund effectively. The $5.6 million fund derided by some as the “rain tax,” includes a $250,000 increase this year paid for by a 5 percent rate hike charged to property owners.

Coates, the stormwater services director, said in addition to planned line improvements, the fund is used to respond to unexpected failures.

“The city’s goal is to make the repairs as quickly as possible,” he said.

How to protect yourself

Avoiding sinkhole-prone places in the first place is naturally the best course of action, experts and experienced homeowners say.

When buying a home, a title search is typically done for the last 30 years, said Charles Worley, a real estate attorney and former Asheville mayor.

Those searches should pick up storm drain easements that date back further than three decades because each new record should note the right of way. But sometimes they don’t carry forward. For that reason, it may be a good idea when building or buying in an old area of the city to go back as far as 100 years, Worley said. Additional costs to the homeowner will depend on the time it takes, he said.

“It depends on the chain of title. Sometimes it’s real quick. You could probably do it in less than 30 minutes.”

It’s also good to check existing city maps that can be found online at mapAsheville. The map doesn’t include what the city considers private lines, so to locate those or any unrecorded public lines a good survey should be done, say Coates and Klingner. That’s something the historic curator said she did when buying her second North Asheville home.

With insurance, a homeowner could ask specifically for coverage. The additional cost would have to be weighed against a buyer’s comfort level with risk.

If a property owner is already dealing with the unlikely but expensive situation of a sinkhole there are some avenues to try.

In the case of responsibility, a homeowner could do an expanded title search looking for public easements. With the City Centre project, the city did find an easement that the developer’s 50-year search didn’t locate, something that led to the compromise over relocating the line.

Even if a written easement can’t be found, it might still be possible to prove a pipe is part of a public system if other connections can be located. That is essentially what happened with Klingner, she said.

Coates said the city evaluates each situation on “a case-by-case basis.”

“Consideration would include potential impact to city infrastructure. In the case with the Blair Street project, the failure of the system would have impacted Charlotte Street,” the stormwater services manager said.

Worley said the city is not likely to quickly volunteer to pay for the problem. In theory, a homeowner could take the situation “to an extreme,” the attorney and former mayor said.

“A homeowner can stop up that easement at the point it enters his property and then it backs up the system. That is extreme, but it will certainly get the attention of whoever is putting that water in the drain up above the owner’s property line.”

If, however, a culvert is truly only on private property and has few or no connections, the owner may be solely responsible.

With insurance, it is unlikely that sink holes are specifically mentioned in a policy, said Sam Craig, one of the few local attorneys who practice “bad faith” insurance law. But the companies will often point to broad language in a policy to say they are not covered.

“They will exclude as many things as they possibly can in their language,” Craig said.

Coverage in this situation is rarely clear-cut and it is likely worth the time of the insurance policy holder to try to negotiate as Klingner did, he said.

When it comes to hiring an insurance attorney, only the biggest cases involving hundreds of thousands of dollars are worth it, Craig said. The worst thing an insurance company can face is a judgement showing they failed to honor the contract. Such “bad faith” judgments can give triple damages, but even at that level, “much can be eaten up by my fees,” he said. Generally, cases don’t end in bad faith judgments but are instead settled for less money.

Doing the research

The location of stormwater pipes in Asheville can be found online at mapAsheville: 
Choose stormwater pipes in the layer list. The map doesn’t include what the city considers private lines, so to locate those or any unrecorded public lines a good survey should be done.


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NC races for Senate, governor to have national impact

ASHEVILLE, NC — After one of the most raucous and ugliest campaign seasons in recent memory, voters on Tuesday may be tempted to stab holes in their paper ballots instead of calmly filling in the little ovals next to their preferred candidates’ names.

However you cast your ballot — it probably won’t count if you punch holes in it — here is a look at what the candidates in North Carolina’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races have been arguing about and what Tuesday’s results might mean for the rest of us.

See Also: North Carolina Voter’s Guide


The candidates had plenty of disagreements before HB2 came along. Then passage of the law in March to regulate who uses which restroom in public buildings and keep local governments from banning discrimination against LGBT people added still more intensity to what was already one of the nation’s most closely watched gubernatorial contests.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic nominee, says he would make public schools a priority, stop tax changes he says have hurt middle class and low-income residents and keep reasonable environmental rules in place.


He has noted complaints about a lack of money for classroom supplies, the state’s low ranking for teacher pay and other moves seen as hostile to public schools during the tenure of his Republican opponent, Gov. Pat McCrory.

“I’ve never seen the morale this low among our teachers, principals, educators who serve the public across our state,” he said during an April speech here. Cooper said he wants to see teacher pay raised to the national average.

In 2014-15, average teacher pay in the state was $47,792, 42nd in the nation. A progressive group says preliminary state data indicate the average so far this school year is $49,744, a little less than the $50,000 McCrory had projected.

Changes in the state tax code that McCrory signed off on have mostly benefited the wealthy, Cooper says. He says growth in the state’s economy mostly reflects the improving economy nationwide and many people have yet to see a real change in their situation.

Under McCrory, the state shifted some of the tax burden from the income tax to sales taxes, adding services like auto repair to the list of things subject to taxation. Higher income tax rates for the wealthy were eliminated, but all taxpayers saw lower rates.

Cooper says McCrory has not been tough enough on Duke Energy after its 2014 Dan River coal ash spill and, when he visits the mountains, reminds audiences of the lawsuit his Department of Justice brought in 2006 to force Tennessee Valley Authority to reduce emissions from coal burning power plants that polluted air in Western North Carolina.


McCrory said he took over a state with an economy at low ebb and a state government that wasn’t working well.

He likes to tell the story of noticing fountains on the grounds of the state Capitol were not working around the time of his January 2013 inauguration. He had them fixed.

He also eliminated a $2.6 billion debt owed by the state’s unemployment insurance system, won passage of a $2 billion bond issue to improve state facilities and advanced an effort to reduce the impact of politics on decisions on road construction and other transportation issues.

Changes to the tax code, McCrory said in October, were “level-headed tax reform” that reduced North Carolina’s dependence on the income tax and made it more competitive with other southeastern states for new businesses. He says his policies played a big role in improvements in the state’s economy that saw the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fall from 8.8 percent for the month McCrory took office to 4.7 percent in September.

McCrory notes significant pay raises for teachers approved in each of the past two state budgets. He says because his administration’s policies are helping grow the economy and producing budget surpluses, “We will be able to make the necessary investments in our education system to help our kids succeed.”

McCrory says coal ash issues were neglected when Democrats were in power and laws passed since the Duke spill are forcing cleanups where needed. He says Cooper has failed to fix problems with the state crime lab. Cooper disagrees.


Then there’s HB2.

The law “writes discrimination into our law and it is wrong, period,” Cooper says, adding that it is a significant handicap when the state is recruiting businesses or events like NCAA basketball tournament games.

McCrory says he and the General Assembly were only responding to a Charlotte ordinance when they passed the law and the courts will ultimately sort out the issue.

“The left brought this issue up, not the right,”  he said in a recent debate.

Impact: The race’s outcome will be seen nationally as a referendum on HB2 and will affect government officials’ decisions on similar issues around the country. It will also affect how the rest of the nation views North Carolina.

But a governor has a lot more to do than defend or attack HB2. State government has taken a more conservative tack on a number of issues since Republicans gained control of Raleigh in 2013. Most prognosticators think the GOP will keep majorities in the state House and Senate regardless of who wins the gubernatorial race.

A McCrory victory would allow the move to the right to continue and would be seen as a vote of confidence in the direction already taken. It would also keep state government in Republican hands for another four years.

Cooper might have limited ability to block significant Republican initiatives from the General Assembly if he’s elected, depending on whether Democrats pick up enough legislative seats to allow them to uphold a Cooper veto. Either way, the prominence of the governor’s job would allow him to give the legislature some resistance and possibly push through some of his plans.

U.S. Senate

For much of this year, the race between Republican incumbent Richard Burr and Democratic nominee Deborah Ross stayed in the background while spotlights focused on the governor’s race and the contest over North Carolina’s 15 Electoral College votes for president.

Burr, who is nearing the end of his second term in the Senate, has had a lower profile in office than some senators. Pundits initially gave Ross little chance of unseating him. Recent polls, however, say it’s a real contest and North Carolinians and others are paying attention.

The race has featured a heavy dose of accusations by the campaigns against the opposition and wandered into areas like the presidential contest and HB2.


Ross, an attorney and former state legislator from Raleigh, has criticized Burr for a large increase in his personal wealth since he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994 and for being one of only three senators to vote against a bill to make it illegal for senators and House members to make stock trades based on inside information they get through their jobs.

Burr responds that his wife’s successful real estate business is responsible for most of the increase and says the conduct the stock trading bill was aimed at was already illegal, making the bill redundant.

Burr says Ross opposed a bill in the General Assembly to establish a sex offender registry and her record as past head of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union shows she is too liberal for North Carolina.

Ross calls the accusation “politics” and said during a debate between the two she “voted 18 times to strengthen and update the sex offender registry.” The sponsor of the bill to set up the registry has recorded a TV ad rejecting Burr’s charges.

The candidates are divided on a high-profile issue likely to come before Congress next year, what to do about rising premiums for health insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act.


Burr voted against the ACA and has since voted to repeal it. He has offered a plan that would do away with the requirement that individuals get health insurance and provide tax credits to some low-income people who do buy it.

“Government-run health care is already here and it’s called Obamacare,” he said during a debate.

Ross said she would have voted in favor of the ACA. “The Affordable Care Act clearly needs to be fixed, but it is much better than what we had before,” she said. “We simply can’t go backward.”

Comments Burr made about Hillary Clinton and the Supreme Court during a secretly recorded Oct. 29 meeting with supporters have been a big focus during the last few days of the campaign.

Burr said early this year that the next president should fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, not outgoing President Barack Obama. But he said in the meeting that,  “If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that four years from now we’ve still got an opening on the Supreme Court.”

Burr later softened his stance. His campaign released a statement Tuesday in which Burr said, “I will assess the record of any Supreme Court nominee, but clearly Hillary Clinton has a long history of backing liberal judges.”


He also joked Oct. 29 that when he saw a photo of Clinton on the cover of the National Rifle Association magazine, “I was a little bit shocked that it didn’t have a bull’s-eye on it.” He apologized Monday, calling the comment “inappropriate.”

Ross responded that Burr “is putting politics ahead of his duty and ahead of the Constitution,” which says presidents will appoint Supreme Court justices with the “advice and consent” of the Senate. “He’s applying for a job by saying he’s not going to do his job,” she said.

She also criticized Burr’s “bulls-eye” comment, saying, “We should be able to have a civil discussion, and a civil society, and a civil election without talking about violence.”

Impact: The Burr-Ross race is one of a handful that will determine which political party will control the Senate for 2017 and 2018. That will have repercussions on the process of filling vacancies on the Supreme Court — some of the sitting justices are getting a bit long in the tooth — and confirming the new president’s picks for other jobs.

Burr is one of three Republican senators to raise the possibility of blocking a Clinton nominee to the Supreme Court. Regardless of what happens to the party balance in the Senate, a Burr victory could encourage other Republican senators to dig in their heels on the issue. A Burr loss might make them more pliable.

Republicans are almost universally expected to retain control of the U.S. House. A Democrat-controlled Senate would give a President Clinton much more leverage in the legislative process even though she would not have a free hand. A Republican Senate would give the GOP considerably more power to block Clinton’s agenda.

A President Trump would be much more free to enact his proposals on trade, taxes, immigration and other issues if Republicans rule both houses of Congress. A Democratic Senate would be the biggest check on Trump’s power.


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Asheville gentrification: When Pearson’s Store was lost

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She came home for work one day and it was gone. Everything, even the foundation. As if it had never been.

This is how we were told about the destruction of Pearson’s Store, of how the city came that day without warning and demolished the small grocery store that E.W. Pearson had opened in the Burton Street neighborhood in the early 20th century.

While telling us the story, Vivian Conley’s demeanor remained calm and endearing, but she warned us that she couldn’t speak too much about the community’s experiences without the pain and sadness rising.

I am with eight other people on a tour of the Burton Street neighborhood in West Asheville. The tour began at the Burton Street Community Center — once the segregated Burton Street School — made a stop at the site where the store once stood and concluded in the Peace Garden behind the school.

To place the loss of the store into some sort of perspective, we might consider the importance of Pearson to the history of Burton Street, to the history of Asheville as a whole and, in fact, to the history of the nation.

As a young man, E.W. Pearson was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers, the segregated 9th Cavalry unit of the U.S. Army that fought alongside Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. When he moved to Asheville in 1906, he used his real estate training from his studies in Chicago to create subdivisions for African-Americans in West Asheville, including in 1912 the Burton Street neighborhood.

In 1914, he organized the Buncombe County and District Agricultural Fair, which ran for 33 years, coming to an end the year after his death in 1946. Thousands of people attended this fair, Ms. Conley told us on the tour. Blacks and whites together, she said.

Two years after establishing the fair, he organized the first African-American semi-professional baseball team in Asheville, the Royal Giants. He had loved to watch baseball but wasn’t allowed into whites-only games in the city. In 1921, he helped to found the Blue Ridge Colored Baseball League and became its first president. The league brought together teams from North and South Carolina: Charlotte, Asheville, Spartanburg, Greenville, Gastonia, Concord, Winston-Salem, Rock Hill and Anderson.

Then, in 1933, he established the Asheville branch of the NAACP and became its first president as well. E.W. Pearson, in other words, was a leading force in the community, along with his wife Annis Bradshaw Pearson, who often joined in his efforts and was herself involved in various community and civic organizations.

I think about the store, about this man who ran it, photographed again and again in his three-piece suits and fedoras, the man who was known for the catchy phrases he created for the fair. I think of the store that sat across the street from the Burton Street School and a stone’s throw from the 1890 Wilson Chapel A.M.E. Church, two other monuments to African-American leadership and community.

I imagine the people who entered the store on a daily basis, maybe to buy a cool drink, maybe just to say hello to neighbors, maybe to see what Pearson was up to that morning, this man was who had done so much to create community in his world, the sort of man who had brought fair rides and baseball and penny candy into the neighborhood, even as he addressed the pressing social justice issues of his day.

I think of Pearson’s son, the man known as Professor Bop, who in the early 1950s became the first African-American disc jockey at WLOS Radio and who later turned the store into the Blue Note Casino, a music hall established in that historical moment when rock ‘n’ roll, with its deep and rich African-American roots, was about to explode on the national scene.

And I think of Vivian Conley, an activist who has worked diligently to hold together her neighborhood. I think of the shock she must have felt on that day she returned home from work to find the store not only demolished but missing, carried away by some rapid and unfeeling, if not hostile, force.

The day after our tour, I returned to the vacant lot. I walked up the remnants of a driveway, now broken asphalt that turns to cracked red dirt. Black walnuts litter the dry grass. A hemlock tree covered in vines attempts to survive at the edge of the lot. Off to the left, someone has nailed a sign to an old telephone pole. The sign is faded, horribly weather beaten, but you can still make out the name Jesus.

The calls of the tree frogs compete with traffic noise from the increasingly encroaching highway. The city has chosen an aggressive plan for widening Interstate 26, a plan that will roll over the old Wilson AME church, now known as Community Baptist. It will also take out Ms. Conley’s home. When this plan is implemented, it will be the third time the neighborhood has been devastated by highway construction.

I walked to the back of the lot, where someone had dumped a truckload of trash, including a broken white-picket fence. The day before, when our second tour guide — artist and poet DeWayne Barton — saw the trash, he broke into sad and solemn song. As the rest of us listened and watched, he raised his closed eyes to the heavens and voiced both lament and hope.

As it turned out, that lament represented one of the ways that community lives on in Burton Street. And I don’t mean that the community survives only in the vibration of song and broken dreams. I mean that DeWayne and his wife Safi Mahaba have created a peace garden behind the school, one they made from trash left at the site.

When our group visited, we were viewing the garden in the cool shadows of evening, and some of what makes the garden remarkable was lost on me. I laughed at the paintings of Fat Albert and Fred Sanford. I felt awed by the paintings of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X and other leaders in the civil rights movement.

Still, it wasn’t until I returned the next day, in the harsh afternoon light, that I looked closely at the images, at the meaning being conveyed by this garden. It overwhelms the senses — and the imagination — and the mythological stories wrapped into the history of the United States. It is sophisticated art in the genre of junkyard.

Though the artists’ final message is one of hope, peace and love, not for one moment do they shy away from presenting truths about racism, environmental degradation, the despair of war or the inequities of capitalism. Plastic Santa Clauses are mixed with skulls and gas masks, with crosses and tattered currency.

One particular scene in the garden took my breath away. At the base of a tree, you see a bomb half-buried in the dirt. Leaning dead against the tree is the bloodied representation of the body of an African-American woman dressed in white. Long strands of pearls hang around her neck. An Army helmet lies crooked on her bent head. An African-African child lies under her.

Yet overseeing these scenes are the icons of African-American leadership, those portraits of Tubman and King and Parks that give order to the chaos and violence. They stand in peaceful contrast to the images of Reagan and Nixon scattered among those places of the garden where wasteland is paramount.

As I was leaving, I passed a smaller exhibit. This one warned of the impact of drugs, but it also connected the loss of black life to the process of gentrification. And it’s here that I find myself at a loss, knowing that I am a part of the gentrification process of Asheville — in my case, of the African-American community of Shiloh in South Asheville, a community originally displaced by George Vanderbilt when he built Biltmore Estate.

I don’t yet know how to react to my role in gentrification, but I’m glad I took the Hood Huggers Tour of Burton Street. I hope it will make me a better neighbor.

Dr. Darlene O’Dell has published three books, including the most recent “The Story of the Philadelphia Eleven” (Seabury Books, 2014). She has appeared on NPR and has taught at Clemson University and the College of William and Mary. Contact her at [email protected] or visit


Hood Tours offers driving and walking tours of 90 minutes to 2 hours. Learn more at or call 828-275-5305. 

Driving tours run at 1 p.m. most Thursdays and at noon or 3 p.m. Saturdays, or by appointment for groups of 5-9 people. Driving tours typically begin at the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center, 30 George Washington Carver Ave., Asheville. The cost is $25/person.

Walking tours of  the Burton Street Community (West Asheville), East End Valley Street (downtown) and Shiloh (South Asheville) are available for groups of 5-25 people. The cost for a walking tour is $20/person.

Tours incorporate history, art, poetry, music, community green spaces, local voices and more to relate the past, present and future of African-Americans in Asheville. Tours are led by artist, poet and community activist DeWayne Barton.

According to its website, “Hood Tours is a social enterprise that provides opportunities for young people while helping to spark more grassroots economic development in these resilient communities.”


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