Development concerns took center stage during the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment meeting on Wednesday, April 13. At issue is a variance request that would allow construction of homes on parcels smaller than the existing R-2 Residential zoning allows.
The land in question is at 223 Williams Road in Fletcher and is about 16.52 acres. Ken Jackson, the developer, has said it is not feasible to extend Metropolitan Sewerage District lines to the proposed development. R-2 zoning allows for a minimum lot size of 30,000 square feet, or roughly 0.68 of an acre if there is no public sewer. However, Jackson wants an exception that would allow him to build a total of 29 residential units. If the variance were to be approved, lot sizes would range from 0.38 to 0.68 acres.
Ron Hill, president of Sterling Heights Property Association, is worried the septic tanks won’t have nearly enough room in the proposed lot sizes. “When we start getting variances and start changing the laws to suit what we like, as far as developing, we get into a problem. Having been on a septic system most my life, .3 [acres], you’re going to have problems.”
Laurie Rudis, a resident of White Oak Plantation, expressed concerns that 29 additional units will change the character of the area by increasing traffic and is worried about the septic threshold. “When you start looking at homes going down to a third of an acre … to have a septic system you’ve got to have a backup area. If that septic fails, you’ve got to be able to build another septic system. And when you put a home for three or four kids on a third of an acre with septic, and you put 29 in that area, you’re just asking for trouble.”
After six members of the public spoke out against the variance, three representing various homeowner associations, the Board of Adjustment closed public comments as other members of the public conceded they were there to oppose the issue but did not have any new concerns to raise.
At that point representatives for the developer asked for a continuance in hopes of working with the neighbors to address concerns. The Board of Adjustment unanimously approved a continuance of the variance to its May 11 meeting, a move that audibly upset many of the opponents as they complained about having to take time off work in the middle of the day again.
To those concerns board member George Lycan said, “I’m sorry about the dislocation of work, but that’s how it goes.”
After the meeting, Quint Ouellette, who lives near the proposed development said, “I think it’s just a stall. That’s all it is. What can they possibly come up with?”
Another opponent of the variance and nearby resident John Welty said, “To me, to have a continuance there has to be a reason. I didn’t see any reason demonstrated for a continuance. If you can’t demonstrate a hardship, then you don’t have a hardship. You don’t demonstrate a hardship you can’t get a variance.”
After the continuation was approved, Jackson told Xpress the septic issue is regulated by government agencies and he would be required to build a septic field and a repair field that would act as a backup septic area. “All those requirements and regulations are in place, and the people have a lot of concerns about the drain field; that’s not their worry. That’s the state of North Carolina’s worry.”
Jackson said he needs the variance to make money on the development. “If I develop lots that are meeting the .69 acre minimum then, based on what it costs to develop the land, when I take the purchase price of the land and development cost, then I don’t hit my target range if I have 19 lots.” Jackson conceded he could loose one or two lots and still make a profit.
He also said the sizes of the parcels are larger than opponents of the project claim. “The lots are not three-tenth of an acre, they’re not a one-third of an acre; the average lot size is 45/100th of an acre,” he said.
When asked if he will bring a new plan to the table at the continuance meeting on May 11, he said, “I don’t know. I got a lot of homework to do.”
The Buncombe County Board of Adjustment will consider the variance request at its next meeting on Wednesday, May 11, at noon.