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City Council deals setback to senior housing

City Council vote on a comp plan amendment means owners of an eight-acre parcel on U.S. 64 must look at other options. City Council vote on a comp plan amendment means owners of an eight-acre parcel on U.S. 64 must look at other options.

Landowners are looking at other options after the Hendersonville City Council unanimously rejected a land-use change needed for a 129-unit senior living development on U.S. 64 between Hendersonville and Laurel Park.

JEA Senior Living, based in Vancouver, Wash., asked the city to rezone eight acres on the north side of the highway for the facility, which also was to include a a café, movie theater, restaurant, library and hair salon.
The Planning Board turned down the zoning last month and instead decided that the city should look at a broader land-use change for a much larger 47-acre area around Blythe Street. The city planning office, called the Development Assistance Department, made the application based on a perceived need for more higher-density acreage and on the fact that 56 out of 76 homes are technically out of compliance with the R-20 zoning, which requires half-acre lots.
The proposed amendment to the 2030 comprehensive plan would have changed the land-use designation to medium-intensity neighborhood from low-intensity — allowing more residential units per acre and some commercial uses. The proposed change set off an uprising among neighboring homeowners. Thirty opponents showed up at the Hendersonville City Council meeting last week to oppose the comp plan amendment.
Glen Englram, of Millers Gate Drive, presented the council with a petition signed by 98 neighbors opposed to the higher density designation.
“When we went door to door there were two sentiments we heard,” he said. “One was the traffic on 64 and what’s going to happen there. The other thing that came out over and over again is (the feeling that) ‘we are living in the country in the city.’”
Alan Bly, of 749 Blythe Street, said his family had been in the area for seven generations. He urged the council to reject the change. The development would require the clear-cutting of 200 trees, he said.
“It makes absolutely no sense if you live there,” he said. “To us it doesn’t make any sense. To me it kills the character of Hendersonville. It was Mayberry. That’s what they used to call Hendersonville, maybe they still do.”
Council members agreed with the opponents.
The land is in the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction beyond the city limits. (It would have been annexed had the development gone forward in order to receive city sewer service.)
“I have several problems with it — the big one being the ETJ,” Councilman Jeff Miller said. “I just don’t like the fact that you can’t vote us out but I can mess with your property with the long-range plan. I don’t like ETJ. I make no secret about not liking ETJ. I’m not touching it with my vote. I don’t like this and I won’t do this.”
Other council members said they’re in favor of extra-territorial planning in order to control what goes on the city’s borders. But they weren’t ready to vote for changing the land-use future for almost 50 acres.
“If there were a specific project here that required us to change this first to approve that project that would be a lot different,” Jerry Smith said. “I don’t see a reason that we need to change anything at this point.”
After the council voted against the comp plan amendment, Miller warned the neighboring homeowners that there’s only one way to make sure the eight-acre parcel is not developed in a way they oppose.
“Go out there and buy the property,” he said.
Gary Jones, who sold the property to the senior apartments developer and kept a minor stake, told the Planning Board last month that the eight-acre site is in transitional area that would be suitable for senior housing. The Planning Board voted 5-2 to recommend against a rezoning for the development. The planning staff, meanwhile, pursued the comp plan change to better reflect what was out there now.
Jones said on Tuesday the JEA Living executives plan to visit Hendersonville later this month and look at their options.
“The funny thing is the city council went against the city staff,’ Jones said. “We just asked to rezone that one parcel.” City planners favored a broader comp plan amendment, reasoning that “we know the future’s going that way and this is the direction we want to go.”