You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!
Join us online – we still want to see you, even if it’s only your head, neck and shoulders!
Each year, MountainTrue hosts a gathering of our members to recognize and honor outstanding volunteers, vote on new board members, and reflect on a year of hard work and – hopefully – some big wins! This October 21st, while we cannot gather in person, we hope you’ll join us online to celebrate another year of protecting the places we share.
With Each Other Even If We Can’t Hug Each Other:
MountainTrue’s 2020 Virtual Annual Gathering
October 21, 6-7 pm
RSVP through the form below to get the link to join.
If you are having any trouble accessing the meeting, please contact Adam Bowers at 828-680-0738 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check here to confirm that your membership is current, and if you are not a member you can join or renew when you RSVP using the form below!
Press Release: Buncombe County Commissioners Approve 40 Solar Projects for Public Buildings and Schools
Press Release: Buncombe County Commissioners Approve 40 Solar Projects for Public Buildings and Schools
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Eliza Stokes, MountainTrue
E: email@example.com P: 410-493-7284
July 21, 2020
Asheville, NC — At their July 21 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to greenlight a proposal for 40 new solar panel installations at county-owned buildings, Asheville City and Buncombe County public schools and A-B Tech Community College. Together, the 40 new solar sites will create approximately 6.7 MW of new solar energy each year – the equivalent of powering 767 homes entirely with solar energy.
The vote was celebrated by local residents, many of whom submitted public comments to voice their support for the solar projects and had advocated for Buncombe County to pass a resolution for 100% renewable energy in 2017. After that resolution passed, many community members had been frustrated with the lack of concrete progress on this commitment.
“I was thrilled and frankly relieved when I heard that it passed,” said Josh Draper, a rising senior at TC Roberson High School. “Until today our longstanding county resolution, like so many others, was just a vague, distant goal with no practical solution in sight. Now, instead of waiting idly by for the most urgently needed change, we can be productive and set an example for neighboring communities to follow.”
Buncombe County and the City of Asheville released a joint request for proposals, or rfp, for solar panels at feasible sites on their properties in the fall of 2019. The County and City invited other entities to join the bidding process with the hope of increasing the impact of the rfp on carbon emissions and reducing the overall cost. High school students spoke out in favor of this concept at Buncombe County and Asheville City school board meetings last October, leading both school boards to vote to join the solar exploration.
“This is the right thing to do for our children’s health and future,” said Beatrice Nathan, Co-Chair of the local chapter of Mom’s Out Front. “I hope the County Commission sees the value in taking steps toward a world with better air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”
While the City of Asheville was part of the joint solar rfp, it will fund its solar projects separately. As for the County and schools, the 40 projects will be funded by a $10.3 million bond taken out by the County and paid over the course of 15 years. Between the solar rebate from Duke Energy, utility savings and positive cash flow from selling excess solar energy, the solar projects are expected to be revenue positive every single year – often by millions of dollars.
“This shows that solar energy isn’t a luxury item or another headache to add on to a financial downturn,” says Eliza Stokes, renewable energy organizer at MountainTrue. “Instead, solar can be a buoy that helps keep our local economy afloat and creates resilience for the times ahead.”
The company selected to install the solar panels is MB Haynes, an employee-owned company based in Asheville. Before the vote, several Commissioners spoke to hiring a local company as a key aspect of their support.
“The idea of doing something bigger, trying to do it together, none of us really knew how it would turn out,” said Chairman Brownie Newman at the Commission meeting. “I really appreciate the schools being willing to go through this process with us, and I think it’s gonna achieve a lot more good for our community…The one challenge I would leave with us is that as exciting as this is, when we look at the need to move to renewable energy we’re still not moving fast enough. This is just the first of many such efforts we’re gonna need to take on to be a leader.”
Projected Financial Benefits Of 40 Solar Projects (Source: Buncombe County)
|Year||Solar Financial Benefit||Debt Payments||Cash flow positive?|
|1||$ 2,623,000||$ 684,000||$ 1,939,000|
|2||$ 638,000||$ 951,000||$ 1,626,000|
|3||$ 654,000||$ 933,000||$ 1,347,000|
|4||$ 670,000||$ 916,000||$ 1,101,000|
|5||$ 687,000||$ 898,000||$ 890,000|
|6||$ 704,000||$ 880,000||$ 714,000|
|7||$ 721,000||$ 863,000||$ 572,000|
|8||$ 739,000||$ 845,000||$ 466,000|
|9||$ 757,000||$ 827,000||$ 396,000|
|10||$ 795,000||$ 810,000||$ 381,000|
|11||$ 815,000||$ 792,000||$ 404,000|
|12||$ 835,000||$ 770,000||$ 469,000|
|13||$ 855,000||$ 752,000||$ 572,000|
|14||$ 876,000||$ 735,000||$ 713,000|
|15||$ 898,000||$ 717,000||$ 894,000|
|16||$ 920,450||$ –||$ 1,814,450|
|17||$ 943,461||$ –||$ 2,757,911|
|18||$ 967,048||$ –||$ 3,724,959|
|19||$ 991,224||$ –||$ 4,716,183|
|20||$ 1,016,005||$ –||$ 5,732,188|
|21||$ 1,041,405||$ –||$ 6,773,592|
|22||$ 1,067,440||$ –||$ 7,841,032|
|23||$ 1,094,126||$ –||$ 8,935,158|
|24||$ 1,121,479||$ –||$ 10,056,637|
|25||$ 1,149,516||$ –||$ 11,206,153|
|26||$ 1,178,254||$ –||$ 12,384,407|
|27||$ 1,207,710||$ –||$ 13,592,117|
|28||$ 1,237,903||$ –||$ 14,830,020|
|29||$ 1,268,850||$ –||$ 16,098,870|
|30||$ 1,300,572||$ –||$ 17,399,442|
Call On Buncombe County Commissioners To Vote YES To 40 Solar Projects!
On July 21, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether or not to install solar panels at 40 sites of county-owned buildings, Asheville City and Buncombe County public schools and A-B Tech Community College. Will you take action below to call on our Commissioners to vote YES on Tuesday?
Why We Support:
- This proposal would install about 6.7 MW of new solar energy in Buncombe County – the equivalent of powering 677 homes entirely with solar each year. Since these solar energy systems are expected to last 30–40 years, this is equal to taking 677 homes off the grid.
- The solar panels would be installed by an employee-owned solar company based right here in Buncombe County, showing that we can face the climate crisis and support local jobs at the same time.
- The prices offered to install these solar projects are significantly cheaper than what County staff first estimated, and the energy savings from the solar panels will save the county money on utility costs every single year.
- Buncombe County made a commitment in 2017 to move our county to 100% renewable energy. Voting yes to these projects is an important step to start making progress on this commitment.
The county’s vote on Tuesday will decide whether all 40 of these solar projects move forward. Will you take action by contacting the Board of Commissioners below?
Note: The “elected official” title will automatically fill in with the names of the Commissioners once sent. We highly encourage you to customize your message and add why this issue matters to you!
Submit a public comment to be read at Tuesday’s Commission meeting before the vote by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling and leaving a voicemail at 828-250-6500.
Asheville Design Center Helps Businesses Face Pandemic With Design Solutions
Asheville Design Center volunteers paint traffic barriers for Asheville’s first Shared Streets installation on Eagle and Market Streets, also known as “The Block,” on June 18.
June 29, 2020
As more and more Asheville businesses reopen, the COVID-19 pandemic has required them to need more breathing room – literally. To help businesses adapt to indoor capacity limits and social distancing guidelines, the City of Asheville has contracted with MountainTrue’s Asheville Design Center (ADC) to create design solutions that allow businesses to use more public outdoor space.
The first of these solutions, temporary parklets, provides overflow space for businesses by sectioning off adjacent parking spots. The City’s new temporary parklets program allows businesses to use up to three on-street public parking spaces on roads with speed limits of less than 25mph. ADC has designed these to be used for outdoor dining, selling merchandise, and additional space to allow for social distancing.
ADC is also taking leadership on the City’s new Shared Streets program, which extends the parklet design concept by prioritizing entire streets for pedestrians. “Wall Street provides a good model for what we’re trying to accomplish,” says Chris Joyell, Director of the Asheville Design Center. “The moment you step onto it, there are several design cues that make pedestrians feel comfortable walking in the street and cause cars to slow down and know they have second priority to pedestrians. We want more streets in Asheville to feel that way.”
True to ADC’s mission, staff and volunteers are designing signs and elements of the temporary parklets and Shared Streets by working hand in hand with community members. In the case of the first Shared Street area – launched on June 18 on Eagle and Market Streets, or “The Block”, downtown – this meant working with individual business owners, the Block Community Collaborative Business Group, and community elders to use culturally relevant signage and colors. “We went to the YMI Cultural Center with community elder Roy Harris to look at historical documents and art that represented Asheville’s historically Black community,” Chris says. “The community led the vision, and with their guidance, our graphic design intern used fonts, colors and patterns that would all say ‘The Block’ to the people who grew up there.”
Describing this effort, ADC intern Helen Kemper says, “I especially felt connected when walking through the streets with the business owners, gaining their perspective and connectedness to these public spaces. We hope these efforts will help them transform their spaces so that they may feel supported by the community and find success during such trying times.”
MountainTrue Co-Director Julie Mayfield carries a traffic barrier at the Shared Streets installation on Buxton and Banks Streets on the South Slope of Asheville.
The latest Shared Street installation happened at Banks and Buxton Streets last week, where ADC worked with City staff to redirect vehicles to narrow, slower lanes, and added signs to identify the space as a Pedestrian Priority Zone. Over the coming weeks, ADC staff and volunteers will help implement more Shared Street design elements on Wall Street, Church Street and portions of College Street downtown.
The temporary parklets and Shared Streets will be active until at least October 31. Chris anticipates that the effort will expand outside of downtown, and that it can help more businesses see the value of using shared space design concepts for the long term. “Since we’re providing the temporary design and engineering expertise, businesses can experiment with these parklets and other design concepts now with more support than they’d have if they were going it alone,” Chris says. “And if they work well, business owners are one step closer to making these innovations permanent. He cites Sovereign Remedies as one Asheville business using the parklet concept year-round for outdoor seating, with great success.
ADC volunteers are also working on a guide book to make implementation of the parklets as easy as possible for business owners, creating clear blueprints and lists of materials needed for construction. To get started on the process, register for your parklets here.
“The heart of the design process,” Chris says, “is to identify a problem, come up with a solution, design it, prototype it and get feedback. And by creating these concepts in conversation with the broader community, we can make sure they meet the needs of our local businesses and are a sustainable design concept for Asheville’s future.”
Call on Asheville City Council: Fund Climate and Affordability Initiatives in Next Year’s Budget!
Today, Asheville City Council will decide budget priorities for the next year at their annual retreat. Will you call on City Council to provide funding for renewable energy, public transit, affordability initiatives and protecting our urban forest in next year’s budget?
This time of year, you’re probably used to us asking you to advocate for something in the city budget. This year our advocacy is a little more complex – and we want to explain why.
As you may know, Asheville residents have called for major progress regarding environmental sustainability in recent years. But the ways Asheville can raise funds for these efforts are extremely limited due to state law – options like a food and beverage tax, city-wide sales tax, and local control of our hotel occupancy tax are restricted by the legislature in Raleigh, and are not available funding sources for Asheville in this year’s budget. This makes it hard for the city to prioritize funding for the things MountainTrue fights for – renewable energy, better public transit, a more livable urban community, and so much more. This is also made harder by the fact that as soon as next year, the City’s expenses are set to outpace its revenue.
Here’s what we do know: For such an environmentally-minded community, Asheville is behind the curve on things like renewable energy, public transit, and protecting our urban tree canopy. Year after year, Asheville residents have called for progress on these issues. We cannot wait several more years to take significant action on climate change, or to take further steps to address our affordability crisis – especially when our federal and state governments aren’t acting on these issues in ways that match the extent of the problems.
That’s why we are supporting a shift in what the City of Asheville can control: a modest 3-cent property tax increase in this year’s budget. Called 3 Cents For Our Future, this increase would fill the gap between our values and our revenue, generating $4.5 million per year to fund renewable energy, better public transit, affordability initiatives and protecting our urban forest canopy. We are also calling on the city to pair this initiative with a property tax assistance program for low-income homeowners, so that our city’s response to the climate crisis doesn’t displace people who call Asheville home.