I wanted to follow up regarding the proposed 296-unit Buncombe County apartment complex off of Aiken Road between Woodfin and Weaverville.
Although there was much opposition from neighbors at the Nov. 8 meeting related to safety and traffic, the Board of Adjustment moved ahead Dec. 13 and approved a conditional use permit for Hathaway Developers out of Atlanta to clear-cut the 29-acre forest (which is a bear and deer habitat) to build 296-plus apartments with a pool and clubhouse. [See Xpress Dec. 14 online post: http://avl.mx/4h7.] The county’s Board of Adjustment voted 5-0 in approval. This is a residential neighborhood with no commercial or industrial areas nearby, and the impact to Aiken Road and the surrounding intersections will be felt for years to come.
Hathaway did come to the meeting with a traffic study at the request of the BOA at the Nov. 8 meeting. However, after that meeting, our neighborhood raised over $5,000 in less than a week to hire an attorney who formally requested a continuance so we would have an opportunity to review their study. Unfortunately, after many requests, the study was not available to us until the morning of the Dec. 13 meeting, leaving us no time to review or conduct our own traffic study. And the BOA denied our continuance.
Drive down Aiken Road sometime and get a flavor of the road conditions as they are today. Then think what an additional 296-plus apartments squeezed in really would look like. Hathaway wins.
According to the Board of Adjustment, these developments by Hathaway Development, or really any developer, whether from WNC or Atlanta, will be approved over and over and over and over again until our elected officials change the zoning and density ordinances. The ordinances, as they stand today, are written in such a way that any developer can easily take advantage and get approved with guidelines that are shortsighted for today’s standards and sustainability plan.
This apparently is “just the reality of where we are,” according to one BOA member. In their closing remarks, a few BOA members determined the ordinances must be reviewed by the county [Board of Commissioners] and changed to reflect the times and the sustainability plan. Land-use requirements need to be changed. Bottom line. Developers like Hathaway know the current formula like a cake recipe etched to memory and come prepared to check off each item regardless of consequences to the environment or the safety of our citizens. They play a good game, and the BOA eats it up. And why not? There are millions of dollars on the table, and no one seems to have been paying attention. Drive around Buncombe County. We’re at a tipping point.
A few BOA members said out loud they were sorry, their hands are tied and it’s now time for us to go to our elected officials. So, it’s a sad day for those of us who live anywhere along Aiken Road, but maybe our county’s growth and density can be better planned down the road with community input and a [Board of Commissioners] that takes action sooner than later.
— Marilyn Ball