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Rugby resort with restaurant, taproom and yurts advances

Developer Kevin High describes plans for the Skylaranna resort on North Rugby Road at a meeting of the Henderson County Planning Board on Jan. 16, 2020. Developer Kevin High describes plans for the Skylaranna resort on North Rugby Road at a meeting of the Henderson County Planning Board on Jan. 16, 2020.

A vacation resort on North Rugby Road with a boutique hotel, restaurant, spa, taproom and 20 yurts moved a step closer to reality after winning the unanimous endorsement from the Henderson County Planning Board on Thursday.

Property owner Kevin High, whose company manages vacation rentals in Charleston, is seeking a rezoning from single-family residential to conditional mixed-use zoning to convert the former girls school and surrounding 50 acres into a high-end resort. The Planning Board gave the rezoning its blessing after hearing from High and from a neighbor who strongly opposes the land-use change.
High plans to convert the 16,500-square-foot house into 12 hotel rooms and a 25-person restaurant, convert a patio into a day spa, convert a basketball court for tennis and add a bakery for the restaurant. Named Skylaranna, after his wife and daughter, the resort would also include a taproom in a 4,300-square-foot stone barn, which would be open to the public, plus an outdoor pool, hot tub and fireplace. Twenty yurts — small domed vacation huts — would be served by four bathhouses, each with six showers and six toilets. Paved cart paths would connect the various amenities.
“The yurts kind of add a new twist on the thing,” High said. “It’s high-end camping. It’s got real furniture, electricity and water."
In a neighborhood compatibility meeting last Friday, “The biggest concerns we heard from some of the neighbors was privacy,” he said. While there is now a fence at the property line, “we’re going to be planting 500 trees along that fence line to create a barrier for not only sound but for privacy.”

Dennis Hobbie, whose home on Pait Drive adjoins High’s property, said he and his wife had lived for 40 years in a “quiet dignified neighborhood where many of us have enjoyed raising our children.” Hobbie ticked off a litany of objections, including light, noise and water runoff.
“The proposed zoning change will allow the applicant to host events on the lawn of the property, the noise from which (will spread) to the entire neighborhood and beyond," he said. "In a late night wedding, the noise will be unbearable. This is intolerable.”
He mocked the yurts as primitive dwellings for nomads.
“The people in our neighborhood are not nomads,” he said. “They’re families whose homes are the center of their life. … Neither the applicant or the Planning Board has given sufficient consideration to the impact on the adjoining neighborhood as well as all of the North Rugby neighborhood. If this application is approved, who will benefit other than Highway LLC?”
Responding to Hobbie’s remarks, High said he plans no activities outdoors and noted that the neighborhood, directly under the Asheville Regional Airport flight path, gets more noise from jets than vacationers will ever make.
“This school when it was a school was probably a lot noisier and a lot more disruptive than what we’re trying to go,” he said. The yurts “are highly insulated and they’re actually pretty quiet. There’s a couple of yurt places in Mills River and nobody has been complaining about the noise there.”
The taproom “is actually not outdoors,” he added. “The airplanes are significantly louder than we’ll ever be.” Most parties, weddings, music performances and other events would be in the taproom, “which is highly insulated. The building is made of stone and when you’re inside the building you don’t hear the airplanes overhead so I don’t think you’ll hear any noise outside the building at all.”

During the neighborhood compatibility meeting on Jan. 10, High described the small lodges as "five-star yurts, upscale with olive colored tents" that would blend into the background. The developer told neighbors he plans to relocate to the Rugby property and gave his cellphone to the 25 people who attended the meeting.

Among the improvements that should help surrounding homeowners, he said, is a pump to aerate the pond.
“The pond is a stagnant pond and as you know that’s lots of mosquitos and whether we’re approved or not we’re going to make that pond not stagnant,” he said. At the suggestion of Planning Board member Jim Miller, a grading contractor, High agreed to plant the 500 cypress trees on a two-foot berm that would protect the neighboring property from runoff from the vacation resort. The Planning Board also added the condition that events end at 11 p.m.

Existing on-site septic is large enough to serve the proposed new use and the property is served by Hendersonville city water, County Planner Matt Champion told the Planning Board. (The existing septic system's 5,550-gallon/day capacity is just over the projected use of 5,450 gallons/day.)  The flood-prone part of the property on the French Broad River is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, although High said he has no plans to encroach on the low-lying area.
The rezoning application goes next to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, which would hold a public hearing before voting. The board will likely take it up in March, Planning Director Autumn Radcliff said.

"Obviously, we can't start construction on any of this until we get approved," High said. "The bed and breakfast will be open in March because we're going to go ahead and do that but the restaurant and pool and taproom — none of that is going to start construction unitl probably April" if county commissioners OK the rezoning. Opening of the resort with all the amenities would probably be at the end of the year, he said.