Residents of the Lakeview Park neighborhood in North Asheville are scrambling to learn more about a proposed new development that would run along the Elk Mountain ridgeline off Robinhood and Beaverbrook roads. Though the 196-unit residential development would be accessed by streets maintained by the City of Asheville, the development parcel itself lies within the Town of Woodfin.
On March 28, a small number of property owners in North Asheville received a letter notifying them of a hearing on the proposed development at the Planning & Zoning Board of Adjustment of Woodfin on Monday, April 4 at 6:30 p.m.
Jason Young, Woodfin Town Administrator (and interim town planner) says that neither Buncombe County zoning rules (such as steep slope and ridgeline protection ordinances) nor Asheville city guidelines apply to the proposed development. The 114-acre parcel sits above 2,600 feet in elevation. 49% of the property has a grade of 50% or greater.
According to tax records, Tom Israel represents the registered owner of the parcel, Sherwood Heights, Inc.
Project documents on file with the town of Woodfin indicate that the developer of the project is Asheville Builders, LLC, based in Lake Mary, Florida. When Xpress called the listed project contact at the telephone number on the documents, Ralph Spano, however, a person in Spano’s office claimed he had nothing to do with the project and said, “I wish you people would quit calling us about this.”
Mark Brooks of Brooks Engineering is listed as the Civil Engineer for the project. Brooks, who is based in Asheville, did not return a phone call by press time. The listed landscape architect is Robert M. Grasso of Land Planning Collaborative of Asheville. The telephone number for Land Planning Collaborative was not functioning on Friday.
Tammy and Ian Leino moved into their home on Beaverbrook Road in December last year. According to plans submitted by the developer, Tammy says, housing units would be built ten feet from her property line and 60 feet from her home. Along with three other property owners on Beaverbrook Road, the Leinos are part-owners of a private portion of the road. Developers plan to use that road to access 40 of the proposed 196 units.
The road, Tammy Leino continues, “is in really terrible condition.” Runoff from the steep slopes above, she explains, results in icing when temperatures fall below zero, which has created potholes. The road is narrow, too; Leino says there are two blind hairpin curves. Neighbors had been meeting to discuss options for the road’s maintenance over the past few months, she says, and Israel attended those meetings. He gave no indication then of the big plans afoot for the Sherwood Heights property.
As stated in a petition started by neighbors to oppose the development, other access points include:
Access to an additional 32 units will be made by extending Beaverbrook Court, which is maintained by the City of Woodfin. The remaining 124 units will be accessed from a single point off Robinhood Road, which is owned by the City of Asheville.
“Nobody could ever imagine that any builder would have either the audacity or the legal right to build something of this nature on that property,” says Tammy Leino. “We are very concerned about the traffic, road wear, noise, light pollution, erosion and impact on wildlife that this project will bring.”
Leino and her neighbors aren’t saying the property should never be developed, she clarifies. They see the proposed plans, though, as “greedy and reckless in terms of environmental impact.”
Lakeview Park residents Pat and Junay Hickey sent an email to neighbors sharing similar concerns:
We are concerned about increased traffic on neighborhood streets, particularly Beaverbrook, Robinhood, Windsor, and other area streets affected by traffic heading to Merrimon Ave. With increased use of neighborhood streets, city costs for maintenance and infrastructure are affected as well. In addition to traffic concerns, we’re also worried about erosion and runoff, as much of the development involves steep terrain. If approved, the town of Woodfin would have a windfall of tax dollars while the city of Asheville is stuck with street and infrastructure costs.
Though project documents describe the zoning for the development as “Urban Village,” Woodfin Administrator Young says the zoning designation is actually “Mountain Village.” The introduction to the code for that district states:
The Mountain Village (MV) Residential District is established as a district to permit a range of mixed high density single family and multi-family housing types along with limited office, public, civic, and retail uses appropriate within higher density residential areas. It is intended that this district be located near employment centers, shopping facilities, roads and other urban infrastructure capable of handling the demand generated by higher density residential development and/or capable of being upgraded to handle the demands.
City of Asheville spokeswoman Joey Robison responded to a request for information about the city’s position in an email: “The City of Asheville is aware of the project and we have been gathering information on it so that we can provide Woodfin with feedback if we have any.” Robison also wrote that it hasn’t been determined whether any representatives from the city will attend Monday’s Woodfin planning board meeting.
Sunday, April 3 Updates from the City of Asheville:
City Public Works Director Greg Shuler wrote in an email to other members of city staff on Wednesday, March 30:
As far as our drainage concerns, it’s a little hard to say based on what was shared. The topography of the area alone causes some concern. More specifically, this development is above Robinhood Rd, Brookwood Rd and Brookwood Ct. so I would be interested to see their drainage plans to keep from inundating these streets and downstream properties. There are several cross pipes on Robinhood Rd and they currently do a pretty good job of carrying the current rain fall flows but if this increases because of the development these pipes may no longer be adequate. There would need to be some very well designed stormwater retention systems put on the site since there is some very steep property in this area.
These concerns may already be accounted for in their design, but the plans were not detailed enough to clarify.
City Director of Planning and Urban Design Todd Okolichany responded:
Also, I spoke with the Woodfin Town Administrator and he explained that their code does not require a traffic impact study; therefore, no study has been prepared. Though it’s possible that the Woodfin Planning & Zoning Board will ask for one to be prepared.
Finally, Woodfin does not have any steep slope requirements. But as Greg mentioned, the topography of the area could raise some concerns. Planning staff will touch base with the County to determine if their Protected Ridge Overlay District may apply, or if NC General Statutes regarding Mountain Ridge Protection may apply.
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer forwarded to Xpress an email she wrote to an Asheville resident who had contacted her office with concerns about the project:
The City of Asheville found out about this project on March 29 from one of the neighbors that received the notice from the Town of Woodfin. While Asheville can’t require the developer or Woodfin to meet Asheville’s requirements since this project is in Woodfin, our city manager, Gary Jackson, copied here, and our Planning Director, Todd Okolichany, also copied here, are going to meet with the Woodfin Town manager on Monday to discuss Asheville’s concerns regarding traffic, erosion, storm water and steep slope development.