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New application seeks county OK for Tap Root development

A proposal for hundreds of homes on the Tap Root dairy farm property may soon be back on the table for the Henderson County Board of Commissioners.

The Johnston family members who own the 320-acre former dairy farm filed a new application on Friday that seeks a rezoning to allow 699 units on the land bordered by Butler Bridge Road and the French Broad River. The development would set aside 121 acres of open space and it would grant a permanent easement to the county for a public greenway along the French Broad River.

The Johnston family and Asheville developer Ken Jackson failed in their effort last year to win county approval for a development of 1,224 units, later narrowed to 891 units. County commissioners rejected the rezoning in a 2-2 vote in July, citing concerns about density and traffic. County Commission Chair Grady Hawkins had recused himself because his wife's sister is one of the owners. 

Homeowners from River Stone across the road and other subdivisions opposed the development because they said it would create traffic problems and overburden schools. Asheville Regional Airport officials opposed the high-density development on the grounds that noise from jets landing and taking off nearby would inevitably lead to nuisance complaints from the homeowners.

"The main thing that should be noted about it at this point is the previous application that was filed by Ken Jackson originally had well over 1,100 homes and by the time it went to county commissioners for a vote it was reduced to 899," said attorney Bill Alexander, who represents the Johnstons, the farm family that had milked dairy cows on the land since the 1970s. "Most of the comments (against the rezoning) seemed to be about getting the density down a little bit further and at least one of the commissioners had the same thought. The Johnson family attempted to respond to those concerns and adjusted their application."

A proposed master plan submitted with the rezoning application shows a total of 472 single-family homes and 227 townhomes in four phases, at an overall density of 2.4 units per acres. In the first phase, the developer would build 109 single-family homes and 51 townhomes. The plans were drawn by Civil Design Concepts, the same Asheville-based engineering firm that created the plans for Jackson last year.

According to the master plan:

  • Seventy-five percent of the single-family lots would be at least 7,100 square feet, or a little less than a fifth-acre.
  • All buildings would be separated by at least 20 feet, with 10-foot side setbacks for each lot.
  • Homes and townhomes bordering I-26 would have 50-foot setbacks from the interstate highway right of way.
  • Roads would be built to Henderson County subdivision standards — 27 feet wide including 2-foot curb and gutter. The developer would build sidewalks at least 5 feet wide on at least one side of the road.
  • A central spine road would have a 60-foot right of way with 14-foot travel lanes separated by a landsaped median.
  • The developer would agree to make all road improvements required by the NCDOT.
  • Each residential unit would have enough off-street parking for at least two vehicles and the subdivision would provide 114 additional off-street spaces. Street parking in the single-family residential sections would be allowed on one side only. No boats, campers, RVs or other trailered equipment would be allowed to park on the street.
  • The easement along the French Broad River would be 50 feet wide except where limited by topography or lot ownership but always at least 20 feet. Homeowners with lots that abut "the future public greenway" would be required to sign a disclosure statement.

 

"We’ll be supplementing some of the information," Alexander said. "There will be much more to come."

Family members are talking with a potential buyer/developer, he added, but have nothing to announce yet.

"The ultimate developer has not been determined," he said. "We are in negotiations to sell the property. My folks are farmers, not developers."

The rezoning application seeks to change the land-use category from regional commercial to conditional district. County planners have recommended that the county's Technical Review Committee conduct a preliminary review of the application on Feb. 18 and another review on March 3 to make a formal recommendation. A neighborhood compatibility meeting is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 21. The Henderson County Planning Board could take up the request on March 26 and send it to the Board of Commissioners, which could take it up in April. Conditional zoning allows commissioners to place conditions on the development to address community concerns and ensure compatibility with surrounding land use.