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Neighbors poised to fight 1,224-home development

Laid out on a network of streets named for North Carolina waterways — Catawba, Yadkin, Pamlico, Hiawassee and others — River Stone is filled with nice homes with one- and two-car garages, playgrounds out back and basketball hoops in front.

With 553 homes, the Windsor-Autry development on Butler Bridge Road is one of the largest subdivisions in Henderson County. Now a developer has proposed a subdivision across the road that would dwarf River Stone. The development of 1,224 homes on the 286-acre Tap Root Dairy Farm property — made up of 314 apartments, 361 townhomes and 545 single-family homes — would be 2½ times the size of River Stone
And River Stone residents are poised to fight it.
The county notified adjoining property owners last week of the application for the development. Applicant Ken Jackson, a third generation builder from Asheville, is seeking a change to conditional zoning from Regional Commercial, which allows multi-family units but not single family homes, said county planner Allen McNeill. The Planning Department set a neighborhood compatibility meeting for 3 p.m. Monday at the county building, 100 N. King St. Residents will be able to hear from the developer, ask questions and raise concerns.

“We have a huge concern. We’d be crazy if we weren’t concerned,” said Roy Whitaker, who moved to River Stone with his family two years ago.
Among the concerns: traffic, a huge potential enrollment growth in the school district and wastewater treatment.
“We all are concerned about the traffic pattern and the increased traffic, we’re also concerned about the management of the wastewater and how that’s going to be handled,” he said. “We’re also concerned with the fact that, Who is going to be paying for all that? Right now on the docket they have 1224 homes, of that 314 are going to be an apartment complex. That’s not a good thing.” Apartment dwellers “will not be paying property taxes. It all comes from the owner of the building so there’s no skin in the game for those individuals.”
If the development averaged one child per household, he said, that would add hundreds of new students at Glenn Marlow Elementary School and at Rugby Middle School and West Henderson High School.
“Rugby and West may be able to accommodate the growth, not sure,” said Whitaker, who has a child at Glenn Marlow and one at Rugby. He’s spoken to school officials and learned that they plan to attend Monday’s neighborhood compatibility meeting. “Our biggest concern is right down the street at Marlow. Marlow Elementary is an awesome school, it’s an A-plus. It’s 550 students down there. If half (of the children in the development) are elementary age students you’re looking at a whole nother school coming in and asking to be part of the Marlow community. Where we going to put these kids?”

Monday's meeting, which is not a pubic hearing, is designed to let homeowners learn more about the project.

"It's the first time we've held a neighborhood compatibility meeting," said John Mitchell, the county's business and community development director. County commissioners put the neighborhood compatibility requirement in place "after some of the other large proposed developments" in Horse Shoe and Etowah, which provoked large neighborhood uprisings. "Its purpose is to give the neighbors an opportunity to visit and ask questions of the applicant."

The plans also must go before the county Technical Review Committee, the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners.
Because Jackson’s plans call for the apartments to be built first, River Stone residents fear the stress on schools, roads and utilities would come before any fixes could be approved and completed.
“It’s 314 apartment homes. There’s people that want to get into this school district,” Whitaker, who is vice president of the River Stone Homeowners Association, said. “Now you’re opening that up to another group of individuals that may not be able to afford to purchase a home but could rent an apartment. Now you’re putting all that strain on the educational system and there’s no one that can handle that.”
The 300 apartments “theoretically could be done in 18 months,” he said. Even if the state and county moved to widen Butler Bridge Road and enlarge Glenn Marlow school “none of this will be done in 18 months … so you’re all behind the 8-ball. There’s no way you could accommodate that large influx. It’s not possible.”

River Stone is served by Cane Creek Sewer District, a Henderson County-owned utility that covers northern Henderson County, and Asheville city water. The Tap Root developer plans to access the same utilities, McNeill said.
Traffic also concerns River Stone residents.
When flooding of the French Broad closes Butler Bridge Road, “now you have 2,000 cars only able to go out one way,” Whitaker said. “But of course being right across from River Stone, guess what’s going to happen? They’re going to come right through River Stone and go all the way out to Rugby. They’re going to be driving as fast as they want and endangering the residents and children in River Stone, especially when Butler Bridge is closed.”
A large number of homeowners plan to attend Monday’s meeting.
“We’re first going to look at, let’s hear what this person has to say, the developer — hear them out and then at that point as a board we’ll meet and we’ll discuss what our next steps are to see if we pursue legal action. If that is the case, then by all means we’ve already got a referral from an attorney who’s dealt with something similar to this.”
Whitaker said the density early on is the biggest concern.
“The apartments being on a small piece of the property, it’s a small footprint with a large population,” he said. “We think the development needs to be right-sized, to be able to have the schools accommodate the student population. It’s unrealistic to be able to support that many children.”