Conservation group seeks to buy developer out of Coggins Farm property

Previous proposals for developing the property known as Coggins Farm have included as many as 320 housing units. Now, a conservation group hopes to develop with a small footprint that limits housing to roughly 20 percent of the tract.
Previous proposals for developing the property known as Coggins Farm have included as many as 320 housing units. Now, a conservation group hopes to develop with a small footprint that limits housing to roughly 20 percent of the tract. Image courtesy of Old Coggins Farm Project

The Coggins Conservation Project, a grassroots effort formed to oppose the development of 169 acres of farmland near Riceville Road, has announced plans to assume the current developer’s contract.

The East Asheville property known as Coggins Farm, currently owned by Copper Coggins, is under option by Coggins Farm LLC, formerly Case Enterprises LLC, branded with the project name Old Coggins Farm Project. Developers involved in the project include David Case and Andy Baker.

Ron Ainspan, Coggins’ life partner and member of the Coggins Conservation Project, has previously told Xpress that he and others have met with Case to discuss incorporating agriculture and land conservation into plans for the site, including a partial purchase of as much as 75 acres of the site by CCP. However, speaking with Xpress today, Ainspan said CCP is now pursuing a plan to purchase the entire tract. “We are open to negotiating and collaborating with [Case], but right now our plan is to take on the entire site,” Ainspan said. He added that the group is “vetting investors and partners,” but no specific funding sources have been set.

According to Ainspan, CCP would develop the site with a “small footprint,” leaving the majority of the acreage (roughly 80 percent) for agricultural use and open space. Ainspan said the group is influenced by the ideas of New Ruralism. “It’s part of a nationwide effort to preserve agriculture at the edges of cities,” Ainspan said. “We see what we’re doing as the launching place and foundation for preserving agricultural lands near urban areas, and that’s also part of an effort to preserve and encourage local food systems.”

According to the developer’s website, the community that Coggins Farm LLC/Case Enterprises have planned is a “micro-homestead,” focused on “agriculture and sustainable living within the old growth forests and rolling meadows of Western North Carolina.” The proposal also mentions environmental responsibility, neighborhood gardens and nature trails.

However, residents of Riceville Road and surrounding areas have resisted the development, citing a high density of housing units and potentially dangerous traffic and erosion. Further criticism of the development has pointed to the loss of historic farmland as well as threats to the secluded way of life that attracted many Riceville residents to the area.

Ainspan adds that while previous resistance to the project was largely centered around Riceville, he believes CCP’s focus on agriculture and land preservation is attracting support from the boarder Asheville area. “The community organizing on Riceville was strongest when the development was large in scale,” Ainspan noted. “But the rest of the community has become more interested because of our specific efforts to preserve and promote agriculture. We did a survey of people last fall and got something like 100 to 150 respondents [who expressed interest]. There was a very strong support for preserving open space, natural habitats and space for agriculture.”

Previous plans for the site have included as many as 382 units, though Baker and John Kinnaird, representing the development company, presented a revised plan calling for 99 units at a recent Buncombe County Planning Board meeting on Feb. 16. Ainspan said CCP’s proposal for the site would also include residential properties, but that the group would like to see those limited to 30 units, taking up 20-30 acres of the property.

Ainspan said he could not comment on the monetary amount that would be required for CCP to purchase the land.

CCP will give a formal presentation of its business model for the Coggins property tonight at 7 p.m. at 67 Biltmore Ave., the space formerly occupied by Laurey’s Cafe. The event was previously scheduled to be held in the space next to the French Broad Food Co-op. Ainspan said the group is anticipating 50-100 people to attend the presentation.

Here is the full release from CCP:

 

Coggins Conservation Project (CCP) announces its new ruralism business model as an alternate exit strategy for retiring farmers. The CCP is attempting to assume the current developer’s contract on the Coggins Farm property in East Asheville and aims to establish a center for sustainable agriculture and farmland preservation. Currently in the region, career farmers have had few retirement options. In the past 10 years, open land and farms in Western NC have given way to suburban sprawl. As a result, an increasing number of rural communities on the edges of cities have lost their biodiverse habitats and land used for local food production. The co-founders of CCP have developed a business model to incorporate some suburban-rural population growth while maintaining necessary space for sustainable agriculture and conservation of natural habitat. The goal is to establish a model site on Coggins Farm just outside of Asheville, NC and then aid other communities throughout Southern Appalachia and beyond.

“Conserving open space in perpetuity has been a driving mission for the CCP,” says Nesta Kennedy, co-founder. “The project was born from our desire to preserve one of the last large pieces of open farmland on the outskirts of the city. As we’ve seen support rally around this concept, it’s grown into something more: we want Asheville to be a mecca for new, sustainable ways of living. What better way than to create a solid, thriving model for alternative growth in our rural communities?”

The CCP new ruralism model aims to recognize the needs of the individual farmer while maintaining dynamic agri-diversity in the region and support for active farms that contribute to the growth of the economy.

As Ron Ainspan, owner of Mountain Food Products, puts it, “Our region has been instrumental in developing and nurturing local food chains. We see the conservation initiative for the Coggins property as further inspiration for that effort. At the same time, we live in an area experiencing population growth. An approach which integrates a small residential component accommodates the population demand while not crowding out the agricultural contribution or the rural character”.

Coggins Conservation Project will provide a formal presentation of its business model to the community at large on May 7, 2015, 7pm at 76 Biltmore Avenue next to the French Broad Food Coop in downtown Asheville. This event is free and open to the public. Also, please visit our website at http://cogginsconservation.org.

 

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About Carrie Eidson
Multimedia journalist and Green Scene editor at Mountain Xpress. Part-time Twitterer @mxenv but also reachable at ceidson@mountainx.com. Follow me @carrieeidson

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