Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

County OKs 699-unit Tap Root development

Henderson County commissioners on Wednesday approved a rezoning change to permit 699 townhomes and single-family homes on 297 acres on Butler Bridge Road at the French Broad River, ending a long and contentious effort by the Tap Root dairy farm owners to develop the land for residential use. The unanimous approval came with nearly 70 conditions that the developer is required to meet.

Commissioner Bill Lapsley chaired the meeting in place of Grady Hawkins, who had recused himself from the case because his wife's sister is married to one of the owners. County Attorney Russ Burrell drafted an agreement that requires the developer to meet 67 different conditions, and during the meeting commissioners added two or three more. Lapsley, Rebecca McCall, Michael Edney and Daniel Andreotta all voted yes.

Lapsley and other commissioners said that, although they still had some misgivings, the conditions protected the public, the interests of the Asheville Regional Airport and prospective homeowners. A longtime leader of industrial recruiting in the county over many years, he was intimately familiar with repeated efforts over many years to land an industry for the property.

"For a variety of reasons, nothing clicked," he said. "If I had my druthers, that's what I would like to see on this property but I don't think it's fair to hold the landowner  to continue to go down that road when clearly it has not worked."

The rezoning "is a big deal," he said. "It is a very significant concentration of people in one area of our community and we take this decision very seriously and we've gone in great depths agonizing over whether this is the right thing to do."

Among the conditions Lapsley considered most important were requirements for:

  • Approval of a master plan for the building of 472 single-family homes and 227 townhomes.
  • Minimal lot size of 7,100 square feet for at least 75 percent of the homes.
  • At least 20 feet separation between all  buildings.
  • 5-foot sidewalks on one side of internal streets.
  • The homeowners association to maintain streets, which will be private and not part of the NCDOT system.
  • The roadways at 27 feet wide, including 2-foot valley curb.
  • The parking lot for the townhomes includes 114 spaces.
  • A permanent easement on the banks of the French Broad River for a future greenway.
  • 121 acres of open space for use by the homeowners and the public.
  • A disclosure statement, called an avigation agreement, that home buyers would sign. The agreement would say that buyers understand the proximity to the Asheville Regional Airport approach and that they accept the risk.
  • Public water would be provided by the city of Hendersonville and sewer by MSD, which now serves northern Henderson County in place of the old Cane Creek sewer district.
  • Fletcher Fire and Rescue be directly invovled in placement of fire hydrants in the subdivision and on adjacent property.

McCall said: "We've had a year to try to find an industrial use and we've reached a time where it's time to move forward. This will be a cost of $250,000 if it's completely developed, for the county," which she said would offset new property taxes.

"I was also concerned about this being a bedroom community for Buncombe County because it's so close to the county line," she said. But she came down on the side of people moving from surrounding counties to Henderson County. "We need to be able to provide housing for people that are wanting to live and be residents of Henderson County."

Andreotta has a daughter who lives in River Stone across the road from the Tap Root land. She expressed concern about the development months before he was appointed to the Board of Commissioners. He said he told her there were numerous factors, including the potential for a use like "a Vienna sausage plant" that residents might find offensive. His biggest disappointment, he said, was that the developer, national homebuilder D.R. Horton, had resisted a condition that it hire local contractors for the construction work. He estimated the value of the work at around $200 million if the development is fully built out.

"I just think that would be a positive thing to come into this county," he said.

Bill Alexander, attorney for the sellers, the Johnston family, responded that most of the work will likely go to local contractors and trades people.

"Norton is committed to using as many Henderson County residents as possible," he said. He has identified 16 local vendors that could work on the construction.

"When they start the first phase there are sometimes trade specialties that are not available," Alexander said. "It's the intention to put all their specialty trades out for bid locally. Even if they hire for instance a statewide specialty trade contractor, usually 80 percent or more of the actual labor used for those statewide contracts is local labor."

Hawkins thanked Lapsley, a civil engineer, for his work in negotiating an agreement on the conditions commissioners, the airport and neighboring homeowners had demanded.