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City OKs 332-home Clear Creek development

A development of 332 homes on Clear Creek Road near I-26 could be under construction about a year from now after the Hendersonville City Council authorized the project on Tuesday night.

The council voted unanimously to grant a request from the developer, Clear Creek Investment Group, to rezone 72 acres on either side of Clear Creek Road from business to planned residential. The property is surrounded by Henderson County residential and industrial zoning, city highway business, medium intensity and low intensity residential. Its closest neighbors are Cumberland Village, a senior residential neighborhood off Balfour Road; Carolina Village and a rock quarry.

Plans call for 142 townhomes on the east side of Clear Creek Road and 190 single-family dwellings on the west side. Clear Creek Investment Group partners are Ken Jackson, the Asheville developer involved in the unsuccessful Tap Root Farms, and Bob Grimsley, a childhood friend of Jackson’s who is a commercial developer in Pennsylvania.

Will Buie, the engineer for the project, said the city's future land-use map designates the property for development.

"This is an area that was targeted for future devlopment and growth in our area," he said. The city's 2030 comprehensive plan talks about 2 to 8 units per acre with 60% open space. The Clear Creek development will average 4.6 units per acre with 68% open space, he said. The city's 2030 comprehensive plan envisions walkable neighborhoods. "It also talks about mixture of housing types and a mixture of price points. We believe this addresses and achieves that," Buie said.

"We tried to listen to folks that talked to us about this project," he said. After neighboring homeowners expressed concern about density, the developer reduced the total by 43 units. "Traffic and speed on Clear Creek Road, we heard that from a lot of people." The developer has committed to safety and access improvements recommended in a traffic impact analysis or required by the NCDOT.

Buie assured council members that a landscape buffer encircling the entire project would be completed as construction gets under way. "We're comfortable agreeing that we would do that perimeter buffering early on in the first phase of the project," he said.

Realtor Steve Dozier endorsed the proposal.

"We have a critical shortage of workforce housing in our area," he said. "We're basically looking at a one- to two-month  supply in workforce housing. I support the kind of housing we're looking at here."

Single-family homes would be 1,600 to 1,900 square feet, priced in the mid-300,000 dollar range, while townhomes of 1,600 to 1,800 square feet would be marketed in the low to mid-200,000 range. Single-family lots will be about 6,000-square-feet, or .137 acre. A rough timeline of the work, said Jared DeRidder, another engineer for the project, is site work in the spring, construction starting next fall and the first homes ready for occupancy in the spring of 2021. At buildout "the taxable value of this development is somewhere over $100 million," Buie said, or 100 times the current taxable value of $1.12 million.

One resident said the price range did not seem affordable.

"I don't hear anybody say anything about low income housing," said Bob Frank, a Windsor Hills homeowner. "How are they going to afford a $300,000 home? You've got to give people housing they can afford."

Council members said they didn't agree the pricetag at $300,000 and up qualifies as the kind of housing a teacher or police officer could afford. Steve Caraker said the affordable housing being built now is most likely subsidized by the government.

"I don't this board is supposed to dictate what price range" a developer should charge, said Council member Jeff Miller. "The demand is there. I don't think this council should dictate who can build what when they're not asking for any government help."

The $300,000 price range, Jackson said, is realistically as low as he can get on the price, considering land costs, labor availability site preparation costs. "Buncombe and Henderson County is the most expensive place to build in the southeastern United States," he said.