Updated: 196-unit development proposed for Elk Mountain ridgeline

Residents close to the proposed development are worried about the impact on wildlife, including a family of black bears. Photo courtesy of Michael Ruiz

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.

Cornerstone Master PlanJason 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.

Resident concerns

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.

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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14 thoughts on “Updated: 196-unit development proposed for Elk Mountain ridgeline

  1. ST

    Keep selling Asheville to everyone. Bring more people and businesses to the area. We have plenty of acreage, expansive roads, and lots of high-paying jobs. Idiots.

    • JL Jones

      DON’T let them do it. Contrary to ST’s comment, the Asheville area does NOT have plenty of acreage, expansive roads, and lots of high-paying jobs. We have some. But if developers are allowed to have their way, we will have none. What we’ll have is environmental degradation, more strain on infrastructure and resources, and a continued loss of the qualities that make Asheville attractive. Can you put a price tag on the loss of quiet neighborhoods, views and wildlife? No one is an idiot for being about the rate of development here. I just moved back to AVL after 10 years in Atlanta, and I’ve seen what’s happening there, same as here. They are allowing developers to build on any greenspaces they can buy. They don’t care about congestion or quality of life, it’s all about making their $$$ and leaving. Do you want to live with this nonsense? Speak out.

    • SMS

      I moved here from Hilton Head Island, SC and watched the development there, depressing! I have watched Asheville steadily become a busier town but at some point the progress should let up. I think it will be bad for the community and wildlife to keep expanding. Pretty soon you’ll have all kinds of undesirables here complaining about wildlife and wanting to start culling this or that species! Just watch!

      • Hauntedheadnc

        The development will let up when people from Hilton Head and Atlanta stop moving here.

        • SMS

          Good point Hauntedheadnc but I swear I come in peace! I moved into an apt in a house that was already built and I do my best to go along with what was already established here in this community. I’m just a southerner looking for a nice, quiet life with lots of nature:)

      • NFB

        So, it was OK for you to move here but it is not OK for others to do so? What was it about you that made Asheville so perfect on your arrival that it is now time to shut the door?

  2. NFB

    ” I moved into an apt in a house that was already built and I do my best to go along with what was already established here in this community.”

    Which meant that there is now one less apt in a house that was already built. There are only so much of those to go around so are you saying that once they are full no one else should be allowed to do what you did and move here? What will that do to already way too high housing costs?

    • SMS

      I guess I don’t have the right answer. Housing is pretty tight here. And expensive. Build on! It doesn’t really matter what I think anyway.

      • Hauntedheadnc

        People aren’t going to stop moving here. You’re living proof. Therefore, any attempt to stop or slow growth is idiocy because it’s only going to turn a housing crisis into a housing catastrophe.

        Therefore, the right answer is to grow in the sort of dense, mixed-use, mixed-income, gridded patterns that gave us downtown and neighborhoods like it. The problem is, though, that because almost nothing but suburban crap has been built in the country since the 1950’s, people literally cannot imagine a good neighborhood like West Asheville being built fom the ground up. They can only imagine subdivisions and sprawl strips like West Patton, and therefore it can seem downright resonable to demand that nothing more be built when that’s all you can imagine getting built.

  3. Yep

    Wow, sounds like a great project to help Woodfin come into its own as an extension of Ashevil! Good for them! With anticipated
    density expansions in the City of AVL, maybe they can squeeze even MORE AFFORDABLE units in there for good measure, you
    know for the working class Woodfin folks…right ?

    • Tammy Leino

      The cost of the units is estimated at 750k – 1.5m per Developer Bob Grasso.

  4. DBA

    All of the previous comments are right on. If we don’t build it people won’t come up. If we keep up our current increasing of density and only focus on urban infill it will continue to make housing less affordable, put strains on the environment and our infrastructure. We need actual city planning with mixed use to create more neighborhoods like downtown and west Asheville with a mix of businesses like shops, restaurants and housing. There’s Facebook pages like Asheville Exchange and Asheville Politics, I encourage you to make yourself heard so others might wake up and demand better from their city government. Those lease interested in proper city planning are probably those who are profiting most from the current status quo.

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