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Seven Falls Q&A

What is a development agreement?

 State law allows counties to enter into development agreements for projects of more than 25 acres, recognizing that "large-scale development projects often occur in multiple phases extending over a period of years."

Because of their scale and duration, the state law says, the projects "involve substantial commitment of private capital by developers," which the developer is "usually unwilling to risk without sufficient assurances that development standards will remain stable through the extended period of development." Seven Falls LLC and Henderson County signed the development agreement in May 2008.

What was the original plan?

Seven Falls Golf & River Club on 1,398 acres in Etowah was the largest subdivision ever permitted in Henderson County. In April 2007 the Planning Board reviewed a master plan that included 700 single-family homes, 164 townhomes, 24 lodge and inn rooms, 36 condominiums. The Planning Board approved phase 1 of the development plan, 176 units, in June 2007.

What else did Seven Falls propose?

Club services included clubhouse and dining room, wellness center, swim club, tennis club and golf academy. Retail and accommodations included a general store, chapel, bike shop, sports bar, 24-room inn, nature center, river outfitter, kids activity center and sales center.

What kind of homes did Seven Falls propose?

A variety. Estate lots of 1 to 3 acres would have homes from 2,500 to 10,000 square feet. Townhouses on one-fifth acre lots would be 1,400 to 3,000 square feet. Second-floor condos above the stores would be 1,200 to 3,000 square feet.

What was the projected value?

The development agreement says the county "recognizes that Developer has invested a substantial amount of money in the development of the property (in excess of $30 million to date with an anticipated total investment in excess of $180 million)." The anticipated tax base of the completed subdivision "will exceed $1.25 billion," the agreement said.

What did the developer get?

Seven Falls won the assurance that it could develop the land under the county's "open-use" zoning, a less restrictive form of zoning that was in place before the county adopted a comprehensive land-use plan (which county planners and the Board of Commissioners were crafting).

What was Seven Falls required to do?

It agreed to donate land for and build the shell of a fire station, leave at least 20 percent of the land as open space, survey, preserve and maintain "all known cemeteries" within the property, build 4 miles of sidewalk or walking trails, and comply with a host of local and state regulations pertaining to bridges and culverts, right of way, ridge protection, stormwater, erosion and sediment control, wastewater treatment and DOT roads.