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Boutique hotel, spa, 5-star restaurant proposed on North Rugby Road

A Charleston businessman is seeking county approval to convert the former Talisman Academy into a high-end resort with 15 hotel rooms, a spa and five-star restaurant. A Charleston businessman is seeking county approval to convert the former Talisman Academy into a high-end resort with 15 hotel rooms, a spa and five-star restaurant.

A Charleston vacation rentals entrepreneur plans a boutique hotel with a spa and “five-star restaurant” plus 25 small vacation huts on the site of a former boarding school on North Rugby Road.

Property owner Kevin High is seeking a rezoning from single-family residential to conditional mixed-use zoning. Conditional zoning allows the county to impose conditions on a new use, such as buffering, noise and lighting limits and hours or operation.
The county Technical Review Committee took up the request for a second time on Tuesday. The committee, made up of officials from the planning department, NCDOT, health department, engineering and zoning enforcement, had no major recommended changes.
If he can get approval from the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, High has plans to a 15-room boutique hotel, spa and a restaurant open to the public in the 11,771-square-foot home. Built in 1956 and remodeled in 1986, the residential property was last in use as the home of the Talisman Academy, which served teenagers with non-verbal learning disorders. Called Skylaranna, the resort would also a pool and 25 yurts, small domed cabins that would be used as vacation rentals.
“We believe this will be one of the most unique experiences in the area,” High said in a “Coming Soon” announcement on Facebook. Located on the French Broad River seven minutes from the Asheville Airport and 15 minutes from downtown Asheville or Hendersonville, the hotel, spa and restaurant development "is just the beginning of this 50-acre resort,” the announcement said. On his LinkedIn page, High promoted the site as a venue for corporate events and weddings.

The 176-square-foot yurts would be 15-feet in diameter and erected on 2-foot platforms, and served by four bathhouses, each with six toilets and six showers, according to a site plan High submitted for county zoning approval. The house would be renovated to add 12 hotel rooms and a 25-person restaurant. The resort would also include a new day spa in place of an existing patio, a 4,320-square-foot barn with a taproom open to the public, a new outdoor pool with a hot tub and fireplace, the site plan said. The developer plans to convert an existing basketball court into a tennis court.
High’s Charleston company, Walk Away Stays, says that it managed hundreds of short-term rental properties for more than 10 years. He also is currently founder and CEO of VroomRes in Charleston and has also led a private hedge fund and a technology incubator specializing in website development, his LinkedIn bio says. High bought the North Rugby Road property in October for $1.1 million, tax records show.

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County planners will hold a neighborhood compatibility meeting on the Skylaranna rezoning application at 1 p.m. Friday in the county building at 100 N. King St. The request is scheduled to go before the Planning Board on Jan. 16 and could go the Board of Commissioners as early as February.