For 12 years, Nancy Nehls Nelson and her husband Curtis have lived in their home on Parker Cove Road in rural Weaverville, making pottery in their studio and caring for their two dogs, Willy and Gus.
Behind their home lies a 20-foot-wide forest path, where wildlife lives and walks about. The corridor is the dividing line between their home and the 65-acre property where Windsor Aughtry Company has proposed a 140-unit subdivision called Maple Trace — a development that’s left neighbors like Nancy and Curtis extremely concerned.
Nancy, who previously served on the Weaverville Planning Board, says her community was formerly governed by the town of Weaverville under its extraterritorial jurisdiction. In fact, as recently as 2012 in the Weaverville Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the area was classified as rural, having “constraints that would impede development.” That same document notes a preference for infill development that would strengthen “the developed core of the town while maintaining a rural transitional area at the edges of its jurisdiction.” However, in June 2014, Weaverville transferred jurisdiction of the area to Buncombe County — leaving the door open for developments like Maple Trace.
“Development is fine — we need to build homes for people who want to live here,” Nancy says. “But we have to be careful about what line we cross in terms of supply and demand, and also [consider], ‘When do we hurt our region so much by building too much, building wrong or unwisely?’”
The Buncombe County Planning Board initially approved the plans for Maple Trace in November 2014. At that time, the design called for 140 household units and had two exit paths that utilized Parker Cove and Pleasant Grove roads. However, at a Weaverville Town Council meeting, also in 2014, Windsor Aughtry chairman Drew Norwood stated that creating the second entrance on Pleasant Grove Road would require relocating a homeowner and would add an additional $120,000 to the cost of the project. A few months later at a May 18 county Planning Board meeting, Norwood submitted a revised plan for Maple Trace with a single entrance and exit route via Parker Cove Road.
This solitary point of entry has created great concern among Parker Cove residents. According to Nancy, the North Carolina Department of Transportation determined that the proposed 140 households of the subdivision would create an estimated 1,300 car trips per day. Nancy adds that, currently, only 36 households use that road.
Eager to voice their concerns about traffic safety, several residents spoke at the county’s most recent Planning Board meeting on Monday, June 1.
Resident Eileen Poulos said that the added burden of the 140 new units using the single-lane bridge would result in a buildup of traffic and be an “inconvenience of life.” She added that many residents fear a lack of visibility, caused by the curve and rise from Parker Cove Road near the intersection of Reems Creek Road, could cause collisions.
Resident Jim Young told the board that while Parker Cove residents have the maturity and familiarity in handling their road’s low visibility, the newer Maple Trace residents may not. “You’ve got an older group with very experienced drivers,” he said. “You put these young parents with these young kids in these cars— I’m telling you, something [bad] is going to happen.”
Nancy ended the public comment period by noting that the development company has met several times with its neighbors, and though agreements were not reached, she stated that the developer is in compliance with the ordinances of the county. However, as she pointed out to Xpress, those ordinances are not without flaws.
“I want the county to recognize that high density and continued ‘sprawl’ development is not healthy for the future of the county,” Nancy said in an email to Xpress. “This rural area needs to maintain the low-density residential countryside. People come here for the open spaces, the water and the unencumbered mountain views. Our very economy depends on clean water and natural beauty. Don’t kill the golden goose.”
At the June 1 meeting, the Buncombe County Planning Board tabled its consideration of Windsor Aughtry’s revised plan for the Maple Trace subdivision at the request of project engineer William Buie, who represented the development. The Planning Board will hear more on the Maple Trace subdivision at its June 15 meeting.