Leicester’s eco-saboteurs

According to the sales literature, residents of Rose Hill Plantation—a gated community slated for a 58-acre tract of land just off the Leicester Highway—will enjoy a one-of-a-kind, resort-style amenities package including a fitness center, library, clubhouse, fishing lake, tennis court and community gardens. In addition, the 103 clustered homes will be surrounded by some 40 acres of pristine green space overlooking the countryside. “It’s going to be beautiful out there when we’re done,” says Jim Mease, a real-estate agent with Beverly-Hanks & Associates who’s the project’s sales director.

Home sweet home: The construction site for Rose Hill Plantation, where a grassy slope was flattened and graded. Neighbors aren’t happy with the new view. photo by Jonathan Welch

Signs detailing the coming amenities depict the four different house styles planned, under a banner that reads “Welcome Home.” At the moment, however, the construction site is just a vast, barren tract of dirt, dotted with heaps of felled trees. When construction began at the site, the slope was leveled, stripping away the grass.

“I think they destroyed a lot of beautiful property,” says Matthew Mashburn, who works at the Leicester General Store, just around the corner from Rose Hill Plantation. “They made a beautiful mountain into an eyesore.” Many local folks are upset about the site, he notes.

Asked about the situation, Mease urges patience, saying, “If they would just wait and see, they would understand.” But some angry neighbors remain unconvinced, and in the meantime, vandals have targeted the site. In late June, unknown saboteurs attacked construction equipment at Rose Hill, causing some $200,000 worth of damage, according to Mease. The expense fell to the company that had been contracted to do the grading.

Meanwhile, a phone call placed by a concerned neighbor earned Rose Hill Plantation a notice of violation from Buncombe County concerning sedimentation problems.

A local Monkey Wrench Gang?

Sandy Mush resident Eva Scruggs, who drives by the site every day, says she can’t help but look at it and remember the cow pasture that used to be there. “It’s completely scraped,” she says. Scruggs, who has had two letters protesting the project published in Xpress, has been beating a drum of opposition since the grading began earlier this summer. “There’s a lot of public resistance to this,” she reports.

Vandals, says Scruggs, have knocked over the fence, stuck crosses in dirt mounds dotting the hillside to make them look like graves, and repeatedly scrawled graffiti on the signs.

But all that is small potatoes compared with the June incident. Anonymous vandals sneaked onto the property and took a knife to the track hoes, bulldozers and other vehicles parked atop the dirt mounds. “They slashed six $6,000 tires, cut all hydraulic lines, cut brake lines, cut injector lines and poured sand in the transmission block,” says Mease. “It was malicious.”

Anderson & Son, the Weaverville construction company hired to do the grading, bore the financial burden, as they had to send equipment to Charlotte for repair. “We did have quite a bit of damage,” says Brian Anderson, the son mentioned in the company’s name. “It’s not the developers that are hurting—it’s the average guys.” No arrests have been made, says Anderson, and as far as he’s concerned, the matter is in the hands of the Sheriff’s Department. Since the incident, Anderson & Son has maintained 24-hour, on-site security at its own expense.

Tree-hugging dirt worshipper

“It’s all permitted, very carefully engineered, and we’ve spent over a year in the planning and engineering,” says Mease, who fielded Xpress’ inquiries. The three principals of Rose Hill Plantation LLC, the Atlanta-based development company, have a combined 76 years of experience in Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida, he adds.

But Norma Murray, a lifelong Leicester resident who lives in a mobile home nearby, maintains that the development has violated sediment-control laws. Murray, who sometimes works the graveyard shift at the Kmart on Patton Avenue and spends many afternoons looking after her grandson, says she walks in the woods whenever she can. A bumper sticker on her car proclaims, “Tree Hugging Dirt Worshipper.”

When Murray found red silt clogging up a spring during one of her walks through the woods, she was furious. And when she saw that the sediment was flowing from the grading site, says Murray, she began making phone calls.

“We had a swimming hole there when I was growing up, and real clean water,” Murray told Xpress. “My daddy used to catch fish out of the creek for food. But they’ve polluted it so bad no fish are going to live there anymore.”

The creek, says Murray, became clogged with silt once the grading began. “Before [the erosion-control office] got into it, there was no silt nets,” she says. “Now I don’t know much about construction, but I said, ‘Now, I think nets are supposed to be up, you know, especially on a hillside.’ But they didn’t have any. And they had already started grading.”

Todd Moses, an erosion technician in the county’s erosion-control office, responded to Murray’s complaint, inspecting the site on May 25, June 22, June 26 and Aug. 1, according to county records. After his first visit, Moses discovered that Rose Hill Plantation had failed to mention the spring on the property in its original permit application, so he asked them to submit a revised plan. The developer had also failed to maintain proper erosion-control measures around the water source, Moses found. “A silt fence was asked to be installed by June 13,” Moses wrote on a June 14 inspection form. “After reviewing the site yesterday, I found the fence has not yet been installed. If proper measures are not taken by [June 22], a Notice of Violation will be issued.” By June 26, the fences were up, but an Aug. 1 inspection revealed that there were still problems with inadequate buffer zones around the spring—and the fences were inadequate for keeping dirt out of the water.

County records show that Marshall Kanner, a principal in Rose Hill Plantation LLC, as the primary contact for the project. When Xpress contacted him at the Miami phone number listed in the records, Kanner declined to comment.

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3 thoughts on “Leicester’s eco-saboteurs

  1. lokel

    Why in the world is the County relying on the developers to list/include the “features” such as the spring mentioned here.

    Shouldn’t the County have INSPECTORS who go to the property BEFORE it is raped and detail the terrain PRIOR To it going before the “County Planning Board”, my God is the Fox in charge of the Hen House or what.

    How long before folks in these expensive subdivisions start complaining about trailers in “their view”, and then attempt to remove those living in the only affordable housing in the County.

    It is time to get serious people and elect County Commissioners who give a crap about the area not the almighty dollar.

    See the article about Kenilworth …..

    oh the times they are a changing!

  2. chuck

    how about a law that says no out-of-town developers are allowed to build in buncombe county? they have to have maintained a residence in the county for at least 5 years before they are allowed to set up shop?

  3. Mary Herron

    Any housing developement in Leicester sould be limited to affordable housing for the people who already live in Buncombe Co. that can’t afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a place to live. Think of the ones who have lived here all thier lives.

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