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Skeptical Planning Board tables action on 300-unit Etowah development

ETOWAH — Henderson County Planning Board members tabled an application for a big new residential development in Etowah on Thursday, saying unanswered questions about traffic, density, wastewater treatment and neighborhood compatibility made it impossible to move forward.

A Miami developer whose proposed development of Horse Shoe Farm was denied by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners is seeking the county's OK for a similar development on McKinney Road in Etowah. John Turchin has submitted a master plan that includes a 299-unit development, including 173 single-family homes, 70 duplexes, 56 apartments, 16 guest rooms and 24 RV spaces on a 232-acre parcel on the French Broad River.

The development, called The Farm at Eagles Nest, would include a restaurant, clubhouse, art center, wellness center, pavilion, art studios and dairy barn. It would include 598 parking spaces, 109 retail-commercial spaces and 10 RV/boat storage spaces and would cover 44 acres, leaving 180 acres of open space. The development would be served by the city of Hendersonville water system and Etowah Sewer Co. The privately owned sewer company sent Turchin letter saying its system had the capacity to serve the first phase of the project but would need an upgrade to serve later phases. Barring that, the developer would have to add an on-site sewage treatment plant.

After the Board of Commissioners shot down his plan for the Horse Shoe Farm property, “we reconsidered and found this property,” Turchin told the Planning Board Thursday night. “It gave us a better campus, a bigger piece of property. We were able to spread out, using 44 acres, leaving a tremendous amount of green space. … We think we’ve put together a very comprehensive well-thought-out plan. From a marketing standpoint our marketing group really thinks we’re onto something that will be well accepted in the community.”

Neighboring property owners spoke against the development.

“How tall are these going to be — three stories, four stories? They’re going to be huge,” Bob Edwards said. “When Biltmore was adopted, they changed theirs until that was just single-family homes. Is this one of these places where people can just move in and live, in a camper?”

Turchin said the apartment buildings would be two stories high and be no larger than a single-home family.

“We didn’t move down here to look at apartment buildings and parking lots,” another resident said. “We can hear horses and cows mooing up the road now and roosters crowing. I can just imagine what we’re going to hear with this.”

County Commissioner Grady Hawkins, an ex officio member of the Planning Board, pointed out that commissioners had recently heard about the probems with Etowah Sewer Co. The privately owned sewer company needs a half million dollars worth of repairs now, he said, and is unlikely to have the capacity to take on a 300-unit residential development.

“I just don’t see that happening in phase 1, much less in two more phases,” Hawkins said. “I know of nowhere in this county you could put 300 units and not have a road problem. These roads were made in the 1920s, farm-to-market roads, little two-lane roads, and they have a tough time with the traffic they already have on them. To me this is incompatible with the land development code. To try to put this kind of density in it in my opinion is not what the land development code is about and is not what we told people was in the land development code … I just have a lot of concerns about this project.”

Planning Board members Jim Miller and Chairman Steve Dozier said they could not vote in favor of the project without more information.

The next step for Turchin Development is an Aug. 30 meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which will take up special-use permit applications for the seven eight-unit apartment buildings and the RV park.

Turchin, a Miami developer who has built the Lodges at Eagles Nest in Banner Elk, told the Board of Commissioners last December that he is interested in building cluster-style communities for baby boomers. His first application for development of the former horse farm would have resulted in rental cottages that he said would be a good alternative to apartment style developments for seniors. Commissioners denied his rezoning request based on concerns about traffic and other factors.
The McKinney Road property, owned by the John Thomas Hammond, James William Hammond and Annette Hammond trust, was also the site of a proposed development by Biltmore Farms in 2007 for a 652-unit development of single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes with a clubhouse, walking trails and open space.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the location of the new proposed development as Horse Shoe Farm. The new development is on the Hammond tract in Etowah.