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Etowah homeowners fight RV park on two fronts

Etowah homeowners overflowed the Lions Club hall during a meeting in May. [LIGHTNING FILE PHOTO]

Etowah Valley homeowners have launched a double-barreled legal assault in their effort to block a developer’s plans for a 343-unit RV park in the middle of the community’s 27-golf course.

Tribute Investment & Development Inc. is expected to open its case before the Henderson County Zoning Board of Adjustment next week for a special use permit for development on 174 acres that would include a 6,500-square-foot two-story leasing office, new 45,000-square-foot two-story clubhouse and a 30,000-square-foot two-story sewer treatment facility behind Salty Landing restaurant. A site plan filed by the developer shows the 343 RV spaces plus 725 parking spaces and 2½ miles of new roads. The developer wants to reconfigure the golf course layout to create 18 holes from the current 27.
Residents opposed to the zoning permit have organized a nonprofit, the Etowah Valley Preservation Society, raised more than $70,000 and hired two law firms to oppose the RV park. A Chapel Hill-based law firm will represent the homeowners before the Zoning Board of Adjustment when it takes up the request at 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, at Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College. Meanwhile, the Asheville-based firm of Deutsch & Gottschalk has filed a lawsuit in Henderson County Superior Court that asks the court to permanently block any development that removes or alters the golf course.

Golf course must remain ‘in perpetuity’

Developed by Bruce Drysdale and the Todd family, Etowah Valley opened in 1967 and has operated since then “for the use and benefit” of the surrounding residential developments, including Golf Mountain Estates and Etowah Golf Villas, the lawsuit says. Recorded deeds, maps, covenants and agreements creating the two residential developments “show a common scheme of development to create golf communities” around the homesites. The course must remain “in perpetuity, to provide golfing amenities, picturesque views, greenspace and other benefits,” the attorneys said.
Plaintiffs in the complaint are the homeowners associations of Golf Mountain Estates and Etowah Golf Villas and homeowners Ward Seguin, Julie A. Brandt and Lois J. Vermillion — all residents of Fairway View Drive. Defendants are the current property owner, WNC Resort Properties LLC, and Tribute, the Wilmington, N.C.-based developer that has a contract to buy the golf course.
The lawsuit is based, attorney Tikkun A.S. Gottschalk said in an interview last week, on what he described as a settled element of the law. “In general, when a developer designates a particular use within the community it has to stay that use,” he said.
Official land records that recorded the creation of the golf course “are binding on any future owner,” he said. “The legal theory I just summarized is not controversial” and has been upheld in numerous previous land-use cases. “That has been the law ever since developers developed land” and recorded planned residential communities.

Aggressive campaign


Dozens if not hundreds of homeowners have joined the fight to defeat the RV park. The Etowah Valley Preservation Society has mounted an aggressive public relations campaign, created a robust website and raised almost three-quarters of a $100,000 goal to pay attorneys, hire expert witnesses and raise awareness about what residents regard as a threat to their community’s quality of life.
Homeowners held a Zoom meeting with the Chapel Hill lawyers representing them in the zoning case on June 29 to learn more about “standing,” or the ability to be deemed a party to the ZBA case because of their proximity to the proposed development and inherent interest in it. In a newsletter, the preservation society warned that the ZBA was unlikely to allow multiple homeowners with the same argument to be a party in the hearing.
“Because of this, we are suggesting that neighborhoods (e.g., Greenwood Forest, the Greens, the Golf Villas etc.) band together, seek a spokesperson, and draft a strong reason(s) as to why your group feels you, as individuals, will be damaged if the proposed RV Park and sewage treatment plant is approved,” the organization told members.
Tribute President Matt Maynard did not immediately respond to the Lightning’s request for comment. In its zoning application, Tribute said the development would be “strategically placed in the center of the existing development” so neighbors maintain “their existing views and scenery. This use will remain in harmony with the surrounding area by keeping the existing perimeter of the golf course the same while providing the area the opportunity to bring in more tourists, which will provide additional revenue.”
In order to approve the application, the zoning board must find that the development will:
• Not materially endanger the public health, safety or welfare of the surrounding area;
• Not substantially injure the value of property or improvements in the area;
• Be in harmony with the surrounding area.