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THE BIG BOOM: Laurel Park sees most growth since the 1980s

Ecusta Crossing is the largest subdivision to be approved in Laurel Park in many years. Ecusta Crossing is the largest subdivision to be approved in Laurel Park in many years.

LAUREL PARK — Despite development in Laurel Park being limited to mostly single-family homes on steep slopes, the small town on the edge of Hendersonville is seeing rapid growth.

“You know, on the mountain itself, we’ve had more development in the last couple of years than in the last couple of decades,” Laurel Park Mayor J. Carey O’Cain said.
One larger development not on a steep slope and underway along U.S. 64 was first approved in 2018. Known first as the Cottages at Arcadia Views, it was later renamed Ecusta Crossing to reflect its proximity to the Ecusta Trail.
The development at the base of Davis Mountain is planned in five phases with the initial phase to include 28 duplex buildings that will consist of 56 single-level homes. The proposal was met with opposition from some Laurel Park residents and many more living in Hunters Crossing and Hawthorn Hills across U.S. 64, who are outside Laurel Park’s borders. Opponents cited concerns about high traffic, lighting and lack of proper safety for residents.
The housing growth including the development along U.S. 64 now under way is significant, O’Cain said, but not the most in the town’s history.
“There have been some large tracts in previous decades,” O’Cain said, noting the Timber Creek subdivision and mountaintop Fleetwood condos built years ago.
Still, O’Cain said the recent development has been the most in his tenure on the town council. O’Cain was elected to the council in 2009 and elected mayor in 2011.
The climate, environment, mountain views and low taxes draw many people from other parts of country to Laurel Park and Western North Carolina in general, O’Cain said.
“It’s amazing the sunrises and sunsets we have here,” he said.
And all those people looking for homes is driving a real estate market that makes it increasingly difficult find an affordable place to live.
“The real estate inventory is very small. I’ve been surprised at the prices people are able to sell property for,” O’Cain said. “Yes, we need more options for low-cost housing. It is certainly doable. It can be done in a nice aesthetic.”

Construction puts strain on roads

Laurel Park’s involvement in construction in town is limited. It does not charge an initial development fee and only provides zoning regulations. The town’s involvement in development is mostly limited to making sure setbacks are followed.
Laurel Park likely will not need to increase staff to address growth, but O’Cain said it might consider adding a zoning administrator if its staff deems it appropriate.
“We don’t make money off development,” O’Cain said. “We are not looking to make money.”
The Town Council has bought property for a new town hall at its eastern gateway on U.S. 64.
“It doesn’t function very well for the police department or for citizens to come enjoy meetings,” O’Cain said of the current town government space.
Increased construction associated with growth has contributed to the poor condition of roads in Laurel Park, with storm runoff from development on the town’s steep slopes leading to erosion and heavy construction equipment damaging roadways. The town has pledged to set aside $1.7 million for the upkeep of roads in town, O’Cain said recently. The town increased its property tax by three cents to provide for road maintenance
Laurel Park has 35 miles of roads in the town and 32 of those miles are the town’s responsibility.
O’Cain said he is looking forward to N.C. Department of Transportation improvements to U.S. 64 in town. The improvements will include roundabouts, widening and bike lanes and flattening a slope.
As he looks forward to the town’s centennial in 2025, the mayor said he hopes work on U.S. 64, a new town hall and the Ecusta Trail will all be completed by then.
“That is a great opportunity for town,” he said.