Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: It’s been over almost a year since we’ve heard anything new regarding the Ferry Road project owned by Buncombe County. I’d be curious if you could find out more details regarding this mystery? What’s going on with this project? When will it be done?
My answer: Remember how Deschutes Brewery from Oregon was seriously looking at this property about a decade ago but ultimately decided not to locate here? Man, that hurt my soul. I mean, we really could use another brewery around here.
Real answer: The Ferry Road property is quite the saga. Located off Brevard Road in the southwestern side of Buncombe, the 137-acre site was slated for a Henderson County sewage treatment facility a couple of decades ago, part of a complex water deal between Asheville and Henderson.
It wasn’t a suitable site for the treatment plant. Henderson was not amused.
About a decade ago, rumors started swirling about the property again, and a mystery company looking to locate there, possibly a large brewer. It turned out the aforementioned Deschutes Brewery was scouting locations for its eastern United States production facility, and the Ferry Road property was on the table as part of an inducement package to bring in the craft brewer.
That deal never came to fruition. Deschutes committed to Roanoke, Virginia, in 2016, but they haven’t built there, either.
In fact, the company also decided in 2021 to close its Tasting Room in Roanoke after four years of operations, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a company news release.
Back here in Buncombe, the county does own the Ferry Road site, and it’s gotten a lot of community input on what to do with it.
In 2021, the county created an in-depth PDF about the site, called the “Ferry Road Land Use Plan,” which you can find here. In part, it states the Ferry Road site “will be home to an inclusive and affordable live, work, and play community which is surrounded and inspired by nature, has thoughtful connectivity and equitable access to transportation, has diverse recreational opportunities for health and wellness, and is a contributor to a vibrant economy by supporting industries that pay living wages.”
That plan floated multiple ideas for housing, while leaving a sizable chunk of the property undeveloped. The property, bordered by the French Broad River and I-26, is mostly wooded.
In April 2022, the commissioners said they still wanted to preserve a lot of the forestland, while engaging in a phase development that contributes to affordable housing goals, with at least two-thirds of new construction priced for affordable or workforce housing. That’s according to a Citizen Times news article written by Andrew R. Jones, now a Watchdog reporter.
Most recently, Buncombe has partnered with the Development Finance Initiative at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government to work on plans for the site.
“DFI is currently narrowing down proposals based on community feedback,” Buncombe County spokeswoman Lillian Govus said via email. “In August and September, we’ll go back to the community to help us refine those proposals.”
Additionally, feasibility assessments are ongoing.
“With a project that carries this level of importance, it’s imperative that we take the time in the process to make (sure) the final product best meets our community’s needs and is reflective of their input throughout the process,” Govus said. “Inclusive processes like that help us get to the best outcome, but may make it seem delayed to the general public.”
That 2021 Ferry Road plan details multiple ideas, but that report is two years old now. So, stay tuned for the DFI’s fresh recommendations.
DFI partners with communities to attract private investment for projects by providing specialized finance and real estate development expertise, according to Buncombe County.
Question: I saw this sign attached to a cart at the Ingles supermarket in West Waynesville (The sign reads: Caution! This cart will stop at the exit if not taken through the check-out lane). I haven’t seen it at any other Ingles store. I assume it’s to prevent someone from shoplifting groceries or stealing a cart. My questions: Is this a pilot program for Ingles? Is shoplifting a large problem at grocery stores? Is stealing carts a problem? What is the technology that makes this system work?
My answer: I think it’s safe to say shoplifting is a large problem everywhere in America. Apparently, we are not shy about the old five-finger discount.
Real answer: Ingles Chief Financial Officer Pat Jackson responded to this query, but she did not go into great detail about the Black Mountain-based company’s plans.
“Ingles uses technology that helps us deliver a good customer experience,” Jackson said. “Shopping carts are a necessity, and we wish to ensure we have proper inventory for our customers.”
Ingles operates more than 200 stores in six Southeastern states.
I will note that I fielded a similar question a couple of years back about the Ingles store on Tunnel Road near downtown, so the chain has employed the devices before.
Most stores don’t like talking about theft, but shoplifting plagues just about every retail operation in America. Often called “shrinkage,” as in “our inventory is shrinking and people aren’t paying us for it,” retail theft in 2021 represented $94.5 billion in losses, up from $90.8 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation.
“While retail shrink encompasses many types of loss, it is primarily driven by external theft, including theft attributed to organized retail crime,” the federation reported in its 2022 Retail Security Survey. “In fact, retailers, on average, saw a 26.5 percent increase in ORC incidents in 2021.”
I’m not sure what brand of device Ingles is using, but the picture looks similar to the devices sold throughout Europe and the United States by Rocateq. On its website, Rocateq states, “Without the shop manager being aware of it, it often happens that customers leave the shop with a full shopping trolley without paying.”
The Rocateq technology causes the wheel to lock when thieves try to leave the store.
As far as how this works, the Science Channel had a really cool two-minute video about it. The device they detail is more a part of the wheel itself, but the concept appears to be the same.
The narrator explained how these gizmos work: “As a cart crosses the shop perimeter, a cable hidden underground wirelessly activates a motor in the wheel. Smaller than a matchbox, it cranks a set of gears that force out special teeth which lock the outer wheel in place. The teeth prevent the wheel from turning and stop thieves in their tracks.”
Shopping carts can easily cost $200 to $300 each, according to online sales sites, so stores have an incentive to prevent them from disappearing too.
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.