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In split votes, council OKs senior housing, upscale apartments

Proposals for 43 units of affordable senior housing on Sixth Avenue West and an upscale, gated apartment building behind the Fresh Market won approval from the Hendersonville City Council last week in a pair of 3-2 votes.

The council vote on the senior housing request across from Pardee UNC Health and the YMCA came after a long public hearing and presentation by the developer, Ohio-based Woda Cooper. The developer made numerous concessions in response to concerns raised by the Planning Board and neighboring homeowners. The Hawkins Pointe project would be three stories, which was reduced from four stories, itself a revision from the original request for a five-story building.

Nieghbors argued that the project would put too much traffic on narrow neighborhood streets, especially Florida Avenue directly behind the building, and said the plan for 47 parking spaces would be too few.

Clay Cooper, a vice president of Woda Cooper, said that a large office building permitted by right under the current zoning would add much more traffic and would be more imposing than the apartments.

Mayor Barbara Volk, Lyndsey Simpson and Jennifer Hensley voted in favor of the rezoning. Voting no were council members Jerry Smith and Debbie Roundtree.

Hawkins Pointe is one of three affordable housing developments seeking authority from the N.C. Housing Finance Agency to use tax credit financing to attract investors. Others are the proposed Apple Ridge work force housing development of apartments and single-family homes on Sugarloaf Road and White Pine Villas on Chimney Rock Road. It's expected that only one project in the county will win state approval of tax credit financing. The City Council previously approved rezoning for Apple Ridge. Later Thursday night, the council also authorized rezoning for White Pine Villas.

Also following a lengthy public hearing, the council granted a rezoning request from Southgate Shopping Center owner David W. Royster III to allow a 70-unit apartment building along Wash Creek between the Fresh Market and Israel Street. Although the developer is seeking to fill part of the floodplain, its engineer said that runoff would be contained on the property and would not result in worse downstream flooding.

Both the planning staff and council member Smith objected to the fact that the community would be gated. The developer declined to agree to forgo the gate, citing as factors the privacy and security of tenants and concerns about inviting cut-through traffic.

Royster and the development team, represented by attorney Craig Justus, also declined Smith's request to dedicate 10 parking spots on the property for use by Ecusta Trail visitors. The developer did agree to constructing a path linking the Southgate Shopping Center and the trail.

In his review of the rezoning request, the city's stormwater administrator noted that the development was likely to overburden an undersized culvert where Wash Creek and Mud Creek come together.

"That culvert is by far the smallest diameter culvert on the whole reach of Mud Creek from Laurel Park to the confluence," the report said. "Every other crossing is either a bridge, double or triple box culvert w/ 6’x4’ boxes, and the culvert at Fresh Market is a single 72” round pipe, 30 percent of which is filled w/ sediment. The current stream crossing on Wash Creek at the eastern entrance to the development is not designed to convey the 25-year storm event without overtopping."

"Based on past storm events this entrance is likely to be inundated at least twice a year, limiting the development to the single entrance onto Israel Street. ... While this development is not responsible for causing flooding in this area, it will contribute to the peak flow in Wash Creek upstream of the culvert, further increasing the possibility of the eastern entrance becoming inaccessible during severe rain events."

The applicant agreed to clean out the Wash Creek culvert, which is not its property, but not to replace it with a larger one. The city planning report also said the development addresses a much needed shortage of housing in the city and would be built at a priority in-fill development location near retail, offices and recreational amenities.