The Buncombe County Board of Adjustment gave the go-ahead to a contentious residential project Wednesday, June 8. It also approved plans for a new hotel and sided with residents on a residential variance request.
A controversial development that failed to meet requirements for a variance is moving forward with a conditional use permit. The development, known as County Walk, is at 223 Williams Road in Fletcher and encompasses about 16.52 acres.
In April, developer Ken Jackson requested a variance that would allow him to build 29 homes, exceeding the density allowed for the parcel’s R-2 zoning designation. During that meeting, it wasn’t clear that proof of hardship, needed to grant a variance, was evident, and the board continued the hearing. Since that meeting, Jackson abandoned his original request for a variance and submitted plans that fall under a conditional use permit.
The permit allows the project to be labeled as a residential planned unit development and gives it a lower density threshold. According to the county’s zoning ordinance, an RPUD includes “a subdivision of more than ten (10) lots where building envelopes are defined, areas are set aside for open space and/or amenities, and a decrease in minimum lot size and/or interior setbacks is desired. An RPUD must include residential uses and may not be solely commercial and/or industrial development.”
According to the zoning ordinance, RPUDs can have the “normal minimum lot size and requirements for interior setbacks” waived as long as it meets requirements concerning: height limitations; distance between buildings; privacy (visual and acoustic); setbacks for homes on the perimeter of the development; parking; conveyance and maintenance of open space, recreational areas and/or communally owned facilities.”
The development will consist of 25 homes with a minimum lot size of a half-acre and will feature about 1.2 acres of green space, including a half-mile walking trail.
About 20 people residing near the development showed up to protest the project. Main concerns include erosion, stormwater runoff, increased traffic, loss of trees and potential well water contamination. County Walk will not have sewer lines, and many residents are concerned the lot sizes won’t be able to accommodate septic and could leach into their well water.
However, County Planner Debbie Truempy says despite approval from the Board of Adjustment, there will have to be a number of permits secured by the developer, including stormwater, erosion control, septic and a major subdivision approval from the county’s Planning Board.
Jackson also tried to reassure neighboring residents his goal isn’t to completely change the appearance of the area. “We do not clear-cut at all. I’m one of the few developers that doesn’t do that. Sometimes we protect trees to a fault,” he said.
While county staff and developers did their best to assure concerned citizens that septic and stormwater runoff would not be an issue, some still had their doubts.
Terry Burt, who owns a pond downstream from County Walk, said past developments have had a negative effect on his property and showed board members pictures of failed mitigation efforts put in place by a previous, nearby development. “I shudder when I hear developers say they have a plan to keep mud and erosion from coming in my direction,” he said.
Board member Randy Flack said ultimately the board has to trust people involved with development know what they’re doing. “I know people always have concerns. I’m a native of Western North Carolina, and since people started moving here, we have concerns about these things. But, everybody’s licensed to do this, and they’re supposed to know what they’re talking about, and they have given us all the information. We respect that you have water running into your pond, but professionals say there are no major problems,” he said.
The Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the conditional use permit for County Walk’s designation as an RPUD. You can view the project’s footprint here.
Hotel and a no-go
In other agenda items, the Board of Adjustment heard the case for a conditional use permit for a hotel at 9 Brian Blvd., off Airport Road. The Holiday Inn will be 77,650 square feet and have 111 rooms. Nobody spoke against the initiative, and the Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the permit. You can view the hotel’s site plan here.
Another issue brought before the Board of Adjustment was a request for a variance to subdivide a quarter-acre lot off Old Home Road so the developer could place two houses on the parcel.
About five nearby residents spoke out against the plan citing concerns with erosion, traffic, parking and flooding.
The developer, Dan Arrowood, stated the hardship validating a variance was “just to have some more of what is considered affordable home these days in the North Asheville area.” He purchased the land two weeks ago.
However, the board didn’t believe that met the threshold, noting that variances are granted more often when zoning changes occur after developers have bought the land. Board member Keith Levi also said zoning serves not only to regulate new development but “also gives a degree of certainty to neighbors and existing properties. I don’t see a hardship issue.”
The variance request was unanimously denied and can be viewed here.