Asheville Citizen-Times: Asheville Flatiron hotel plan: Owner’s criminal past, other questions should delay vote, Haynes says (24 June 2019)

Longtime owner Russell Thomas has been the voice and face of the building through the contentious process.

Recent research by Andrew Fletcher, an Asheville Downtown Commission member and opponent of the development plan, revealed Kanner had a past riddled with problems, including federal drug charges for which he served prison time.

Fletcher said he was curious about the owners after a statement by the mayor saying early downtown investors should be thanked.

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The Citizen Times also detailed how a condominium built by Kanner’s company on Beaucatcher Mountain started to collapse in 1988. He and associates were subsequently sued for fraud, negligence and deceptive trade practices by the owner. The case was dismissed in 1991.

“In the face of such history, the public should feel confident that our council has diligently checked the financial claims that the applicants are making as they attempt to justify their request for a hotel,” Fletcher said.

Kanner could not be reached for comment on June 24.

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Thomas and other owners say they want to convert the building, known for its triangular footprint, into a boutique hotel to increase revenue and make needed updates and repairs. But the rezoning request has met stiff opposition.

Thomas criticized Fletcher, saying he should not sit on a City Council-appointed board and at the same time he plays the role of activist. The Downtown Commission voted in favor of the streetscape portion of the project, though Fletcher was one of three board members voting no.

“It’s fine if he wants to do that, but then don’t be a member of the commission,” he said.

Fletcher said by being on the commission he serves on an “advisory role” to the council. “My voice as a citizen concerned with the future of our city neither begins nor ends there.”