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Etowah Valley responds to 'Nimby Nation' editorial

The Sept. 28 editorial  "NIMBY NATION: No more dwellings after we move in," deserves a response from the residents of Etowah because we have been singled out for criticism.

First let us say, we are not opposed to all development in Etowah, we only ask that it be supported by infrastructure and be reasonable during the time infrastructure is developed.

Unlike the development approved for Greenville Highway, Etowah does not have the infrastructure that Hendersonville has.  There is no local government-owned sewer system in Etowah.  Yes, there is a privately owned, over 50-year-old sewer system but it is operating at capacity and with frequent operational issues.  What the applicant for this subdivision on the south course of the Etowah Valley Golf and Resort is proposing, is a package plant on the south course right next to highway 64 and right in downtown Etowah.  How many local governments would approve a downtown, on main street sewer system for their communities?   The odors would drive out successful businesses.

Etowah does not have the road infrastructure that Hendersonville has.  Most working families of Etowah must drive to other communities, some as far away as Asheville.  Some of the roads leading out of Etowah are two lanes, very narrow, curvy, and without shoulders.  The local Etowah fire chief has asked his team to avoid portions of Brickyard Road after one of the fire trucks recently drove into a ditch on a narrow, no shoulder portion of the road causing $80,000 in damage.

The center of the south golf course, where this subdivision is proposed, is a flood plain.  On either side of the flood plain are wetlands.  The soil of the south course is clay.  Clear cutting the south course for dense housing and subdivision roads can raise the water table, render water retention pools useless, and increase the chances of serious flooding at a time when official weather data show record rainfalls can occur.  Long time residents of Etowah remember the flash flood that caused golfers on the south course to scramble to the roof of the restrooms just 30 feet from highway 64.   We believe in paying attention to environmental changes and ensuring we develop adaptation and mitigation strategies.  As one of the County Commissioners noted recently, the County has not always planned for future expansion needs.

For homeowners who overlook the golf course, studies show their property values can decrease by 10-20 percent.  This can mean a property loss of up to $100,000.  For many retired homeowners this will be devastating because it represents a significant portion of their life savings, the money they are hoping to have when they are forced to move into assisted living later in life.  Some of the current homes surrounding the golf course could have a new home built as close as 20 feet from their back door. 

The citizens of Etowah are also concerned about the track record of this applicant.  Their proposed development on the South Slope in Asheville has been all but abandoned because of shifting soil.  Could this happen on the golf course’s clay soil?   Even after multiple updates, the applicant’s proposed plans for both the RV Park, and now the subdivision has often been incomplete. The Etowah Valley Preservation Society carefully studied the master plan and found numerous violations of the County’s Land Development Code, which the County did not acknowledge during the Technical Review of the plan.

We are concerned citizens doing what people should do to help mold and define the future of their communities.  Labeling a group as a NIMBY group is not what should be happening in these divisive times.   We should be encouraging citizens to work with their local governments, organizations, and private companies to define the best possible solutions.  If editorial boards of media outlets don’t realize this, then they are part of today’s problem, not the solution.

We are not opposed to development, in fact, homes are being built around us all the time.  We are not even opposed to affordable housing communities.  We realize they are necessary, but local Governments need to work with communities to ensure they are supported by proper infrastructure such as water, sewer, schools, roads, etc.  Not doing this and kicking the can down the road only leads to the need for much more expensive solutions later.

Etowah Valley Preservation Society