More than 100 Wolfe Cove residents turned out Aug. 1 to get the lowdown on a proposed gated community in the sparsely populated area off Beaverdam Road, just outside the city limits.
Bartram’s Walk envisions 114 homes on a 160 acre wooded parcel fronting on Town Mountain Road and linked to Beaverdam via Wolfe Cove Road. The project is one of two dozen proposals submitted to the Buncombe County Planning and Development Department before a stricter ordinance governing development on steep slopes took effect July 1. Bartram’s Walk does not conform to the new standards.
Plans for the development include stringent regulation of house styles, building materials and colors, vegetation, setbacks and wooded buffers. But area residents are alarmed about the prospect of greatly increased traffic on the narrow, winding roads and about the dramatic increase in impervious surfaces, which could lead to flooding in areas already impacted by gully-washers.
Beaverdam residents Bobbie Burdett and Cindy Byron hosted the community meeting, held at Grace Episcopal Church in Asheville. The fledgling neighborhood group, said Burdett, has hired an attorney; she urged those willing to help defray the costs to contact her at Bobbie@authenticoach.com or talk to Byron after the meeting.
“The [revised] master plan for the development has been submitted to the county and is up for review with the Planning Board,” Burdett said. (Subdivisions involving more than 10 lots must be approved by the Planning Board; the Planning Department handles those with up to 10 lots.) She encouraged everyone to attend the board’s Aug. 21 meeting.
Burdett also urged residents to contact the county commissioners. “There was real concern at the meeting today from a couple of commissioners,” she said. “Bill Stanley and David Gantt seemed unsettled about the way this has happened.” (See “Uphill Battles” elsewhere in this issue.)
Tom Daniel, a registered landscape architect representing Omni Consulting Services of Peachtree City, Ga., which designed the development, gave an overview. The plan already approved by the county includes 121 lots, he said; a revised plan calling for 114 lots has since been submitted. This latest version, said Daniel, has “reduced the number of lots as much as the partners would allow, hoping to save the existing house [on the property].” Making it a gated community was intended to prevent cut-through traffic, he said, and the number and varied size of the proposed lots is because “we prefer to have a more logical mix, not all high-priced parcels.”
Responding to previously voiced concerns about possible construction traffic on Wolfe Cove Road, a narrow thoroughfare with a substandard right of way, Daniel said, “Town Mountain Road will be the construction entrance for development work and construction of homes.” He added: “We are going to leave the area as natural as possible along roads. We are not going to clear much more, although we will have to rework the entrance, and there will be a small gate. Our current plan is to leave the existing house and field alone.” Contractors working on the site will not be given the keypad code for the Wolfe Cove gate, he said, and all construction contracts will specify that only the Town Mountain entrance may be used.
Daniel emphasized that the project has an “extremely strict homeowners-association guideline book, and we have a town architect. All plans must conform to those guidelines, and nothing will be approved without the architect’s signature.” Daniel also stated: “We build roads right; we cut roads so as to leave as many trees as possible. There will be three stone bridges, and we’ll leave existing culvert pipes in place and not disturb the creek.”
What about the bears?
Daniel then fielded questions from his uniformly skeptical audience.
Questioner: Will developers seek voluntary annexation by the city of Asheville?
Tom Daniel: No, but they will use the city water-and-sewer system.
Q: How much will lots cost?
TD: They will average $225,000 per lot or about $195,000 per half acre (the smallest lots).
Q: What will you do about runoff down Wolfe Cove, where homes are built on the branch and hard rains already cause flooding?
TD: We will build three holding ponds, which will actually lessen the effect of runoff.
Q: What if they don’t work?
TD: It utimately falls to the homeowners’ responsibility. But I want to create permanent detention ponds, not rain-retention ponds, because people tend to maintain permanent ponds better.
Q: Do you have a schedule in mind for clear-cutting?
TD: No. We would probably commence by late September. We will do minimum clearing on roads and will clear about half of each half-acre lot. The remainder will be untouched.
Q: Will the property still look green?
TD: We are not clearing any of the large lots at all, but the lot owners can clear up to 45 percent of each lot. At some points you will see some clearing.
Q: Do you have a completion forecast?
TD: We would love to be able to get in and out of roads and clearing in four months. There is no time frame on homebuilding, since we are not tract builders and it will be up to the individual owners.
Q: What will be the impact on children and schooling, due to the number of families? Is the school bus going to use Town Mountain [Road]?
TD: We have petitioned the school board for an answer and have heard nothing.
Q: What about lower-density development? Would you be willing to go that way?
TD: Our financial partners will not allow any lower density.
During the discussion, Asheville City Council member Robin Cape said, “The prices for these lots are high, and I don’t believe the people who will buy them would balk at being part of the town and paying town taxes for town services.”
Following a round of applause, Daniel responded, “We looked at annexing into Asheville, and our time frame didn’t work with our selling partners and lending partners for getting our due diligence done in time.”
Chris Pelly, president of the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods, said: “There is a rush on because of changing slope standards. Given the impact and increased traffic this will bring, what are you giving back to the community?”
Daniel’s reply, “We hope we’re creating a quality development,” was greeted with groans and muttering.
Ornithogist Simon Thompson asked if a biological survey had been done. No, said Daniel.
“I’ve walked the property, and there is a fairly significant wildlife population, including two bear families,” noted Thompson. What wildlife needs most is corridors of contiguous habitat, he said, asking whether that had been considered.
It hadn’t, Daniel replied.
After the meeting, a man in the audience told Xpress: “The most terrible thing about the development is the name. William Bartram held these mountains in almost religious awe, and using his name for a development that destroys what he loved is almost blasphemous.”
The next Planning Board meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, in the County Training Room (199 College St.).