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COUNTY DELAYS ACTING ON 891-UNIT TAP ROOT FARMS DEVELOPMENT

Homeowners who live near Tap Root dairy farm oppose the development. Homeowners who live near Tap Root dairy farm oppose the development.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday delayed action on a rezoning application for the 900-unit Tap Root Farms subdivision in an effort to work out an agreement on conditions the county wants to impose.

The proposed development of 891 townhomes and single-family homes on the Tap Root dairy farm property on Butler Bridge Road had drawn strong opposition from neighboring homeowners and the Asheville Regional Airport. On Wednesday morning, Cindy Rice, of the airport board, and Lew Bleiweis, the airport's executive director, repeated the airport's opposition to the development based on the noise, the potential hazard caused by dozens of overflights per week and the likelihood that residents would eventually complain about the air traffic overhead.

Commissioner Bill Lapsley served as chair for the discussion. Grady Hawkins recused himself because his wife is the sister of one of the property owners.

Lapsley reminded the board of concerns that commissioners had raised. "The county attorney and I have met with the developer and their civil engineer on four occsions to review the items the commissioners raised at the last meeting," including design. The developer made "signficant changes" as a result, Lapsley said. Those included:

  • Removing townhouses that commissioners said were too close I-26.
  • Added more visitor parking in "strategic locations" in the townhome section.
  • Increased the size of single-family lots on the west side of the development by 10-15 percent.

Other changes:

  • The density is reduced to 3 units per acre.
  • The development would include 5-foot sidewalks separated by a 2-foot grass strip from the road.
  • The central boulevard would have a planted median and 14-foot lanes.
  • The developer must comply with all recommendations contained in a traffic impact analysis by the time the development reaches 50 percent buildout.
  • Parking: each unit must have at least two spaces. The developer agreed to add 204 more off-street spaces — 131 spaces more in the townhome section and 73 more at the clubhouse.
  • Stormwater drainage system must comply with NCDOT standards and may not contain any open storage ponds.
  • The developer agreed to grant a permanent greenway easement along the French Broad River, which borders the development. The easement would be 50 feet side except where topography prevented that.
  • The developer sets aside 121 acres for open space. When 50 percent of the units are finished, the developer must convey an as-yet unspecified number of acres to the county for use as athletic fields or passive recreation. Access to the recreation area would be by the central spine road.
  • The clubhouse facilities, also completed at 50 percent buildout, would include an Olympic size pool with smaller splash pool, main facility with meeting space and rest rooms, patio and deck, playground and pickleball courts. Other playgrounds would be scattered throughout the development.
  • Home buyers would have to accept an "exemplar airport disclosure" statement, "recognizing the existence of the airport and the possibility of a noise issue," Lapsley said.
  • The developer would put up street lighting, street trees and mailboxes in accordance with the relevant federal, state and local regulations and receive all appropriate water and sewer agreements, floodplain permits, driveway permits and building permits.
  • The county can suspend construction and deny further building permits if the developer violates any of the conditions imposed by the rezoning permit.
  • The developer agrees to submit all homeowners association agreements and amendments to the county attorney for review and approval.

The developer agrees with the conditions except for a larger setback requirement, Bob Oates, the developer's attorney, said. He asked the board to delay a decision to give the developer time to work out the details of the setback condition.

Commissioner Rebecca McCall recommended, because of the airport flight path, a maximum light pole height of 25-feet and to protect homeowners a light wattage that minimizes glare.

She said later she still has concerns about the size of the project.

"There's a lot of things that would have to change before I could commit for it," she said. She said she appreciated the developer's willingness to make concessions based on the board's concern. "But I continue to think it's still too large for the community."

Commissioner Michael Edney questioned the value of the property the developer would donate because it's in floodplain.

"It seems to me it's worthless for us to take this land because there's nothing we can do with it of value," he said. "It will cost a lot more to keep it up than anything we can do with it."

 The county's original land-use plan designated the property as residential. The Board of Commissioners then rezoned it "hoping to get some industrial or commercial out there,"  Commissioner Charlie Messer said. "Otherwise, this property probably would have been semi-developed now."

Messer praised the development team because it had made compromises, reduced the total number of units and agreed to numerous conditions.

"I think it's a resonable document," he said. The developer "has reached out and tried to accommodate Henderson County."

McCall said she wanted to see the density even lower and did not want to reduce  to any less than 20 feet.