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AVL 'strongly opposes' Tap Root development

The county Technical Review Committee met Tuesday to review proposed Tap Root dairy development. The county Technical Review Committee met Tuesday to review proposed Tap Root dairy development.

Asheville Regional Airport officials are raising the alarm about the impact of a 1,200-home development at the Tap Root Dairy property, saying FAA regulations require an evaluation of the proposed development's potential to compromise air space safety.

During a meeting of technical staff on Tuesday and again before the Henderson County Planning Board Thursday evening, the top two executive of the airport warned about safety concerns, noise and the county's potential exposures to lawsuits if it approves a 1,200-home development on the former dairy farm. The Planning Board heard the concerns from the airport and from residents before agreeing to table a conditional rezoning request needed for the project.

By federal regulation, any construction within 20,000 feet radius of an airport, the airport's executive director, Lew Bleiweis, told county officials who got their first look at plans for the development of homes, apartments and townhomes on 286 acres bordered by Butler Bridge Road, the French Broad River and Cane Creek.
Developer Ken Jackson of Asheville, has filed a zoning application for permission to transform the former dairy farm into the largest subdivision in Henderson County — made up in 10 phases of 545 single-family homes, 312 apartments and 361 townhomes.
“The land compatibility is more what we’re concerned about it,” he said. “They don’t deny it or say you can’t do it. What would happen is they would limit the length of the runway or they could close the whole airport down because of the effects on air space.”
“We look at more commercial development,” he added. “We look at high rise development, cell phone towers and larger scale type construction more than we look at ground construction.”
Bleiweis said the airport would want assurances that buyers or renters would be told that the development is close to the airport.
“Our biggest concern was the townhomes and apartments that are not fee-simple owned,” he said. If those sales are not subject to the same disclosure rules that apply to single-family home sales, the buyers “may not know they’re near an airport.”
Michael Reisman, AVL’s deputy executive director, underscored the point.
“We’re not really overly concerned about the air space hazard,” Reisman said. “Our concern is zoning compatibility and the perception of 1,200 homeowners living directly under a flight path less than a mile from our runway and the issues that are going to come with that.”

On Thursday night, Bleiweis and Reisman repeated their concerns, telling the Planning Board that the Asheville Regional Airport Authority "strongly opposes" the Tap Root development.

The airport handles 70,000 takeoffs and landings a year, Reisman said. "Every single landing and takeoff will impact this property and impact most if not all of the residents an average of 200 times a day," he said.

A 1,200-home development 4,500 from the end of the runway and directly under the path of approaching and departing jets is just too close, the airport officials said. Jets would pass over the neighborhood at around 500 feet. "That puts these aircraft at less than 200 feet over the rooftop of these homes," he said. But the height of the structures, the tallest of which would be three-story apartment buildings, is not the airport's main concern.

"The height is not what we're worried about here," Reisman said. "What we're worried about is incompatible zoning in close proximity to one of the busiest runways in the state of North Carolina."

Bleiweis pointed out that when the N.C. Legislature reconstituted the Asheville Regional Airport Authority in 2012, it deliberately gave Henderson County two seats and a stake in the airport governance. As a partner in the airport, he said, the county has an interest in keeping the facility strong.

“Any type of incompatible land use will have a detrimental effect on growth of the airport," Bleiweis said.

Jesse Gardner, the chief engineer for the developer, asked for the opportunity to respond.

"They're so busy bringing all these tourist in that want to live here and we've got to build homes" for them, he said. "I heard less about safety. It’s more about nuisance" and potential litigation. "I get it. Nobody wants to be sued. I think there’s some mechanism to work with the airport on. We’re not trying to sneak up on anybody and sell a house. Everybody is going to know there’s an airport."

The Planning Board voted to table the request while the developer completes a traffic impact analysis and while the FAA completes the air space safety evaluation.

Earlier this week, the Technical Review Committee, made up of officials from the county planning office, code enforcement, water and sewer systems, the NCDOT, the department of public health and other agencies, reviews major development plans to make sure they meet land-use, environmental, safety and highway requirements. The committee flagged several factors needed to be addressed.

The committee told the developer that the project would need to complete a traffic impact analysis, which is under way; exclude a parcel that contains an existing single-family home from the rezoning request (the lot is not a part of the acreage the developer would buy); secure agreements from the city of Hendersonville for water and from the Cane Creek Sewer District for sewer service; make sure roads are designed to state standards if the developer wants to turn them over to the NCDOT for maintenance; and make sure the development gets the OK from the FAA air space review.

In discussions with county industry recruiters that pre-date the proposed residential development, the city of Hendersonville has agreed to extend a large water line under I-26, City Manager John Connet said. The work is scheduled to be done as part of the I-26 widening, a huge multi-year job that is expected to go out for bids in June.