Water for 234-unit project conditionally approved

By Clint Parker

Weaverville – Approval of a water application request from a new proposed 234-unit apartment complex just outside the town limits took up most of the Weaverville Town Council’s nearly two-hour meeting on Monday (Aug. 20). While the council finally said yes to the development it was not without conditions.

The sticking point was the reluctance of the developer, Hawthorne (the same builder who did the Hawthorne at Monticello), to build under the town’s ordinances and not the county’s ordinance. Hawthorne at Garrison Branch is a proposed development and they are requesting 66,000 gallons per day for the project. The project is slated to run along 25/70 at Garrison Branch Road on approximately 25 acres.

Doug Theroux, chairman of the town’s planning and zoning board, voiced his concerns over the proof that there are actually 25 acres of land to be built on, and that the developer was wanting the approval for water without having the property annexed first. “I would not like to see the Town of Weaverville get into another situation of approving water allocation and then having the applicant go to the county, because the property is still in the county, and getting vested rights and come back and build everything according to county standards,” Theroux said as he addressed the board just before the request was presented.

As members of the town staff, the developer’s engineer and members of Hawthorne presented the plan, town board members were unconvinced that the developer would follow through with all they were promising to do including staying within the town’s 12 units per acre development ordinance, submit to voluntary annexation into the town, and stay within the height restriction.

The members of the board wondered why the developer just didn’t go ahead with the annexation before the water request. Hawthorne officials explained the property was not currently owned by Hawthorne. They only had options on the properties which would, if the plan moved forward, cost them over $1.5 million.

After the lengthy discussion Councilman Patrick Fitzsimmons made a motion to grant the request with the conditions that the developer submit to voluntary annexation of the land, provide proof of land size and build within the town’s standards. His motion got the second of Councilman Andrew Nagle. The mayor then called for a five-minute recess requested by Town Manager Selena Coffey,

After the recess Root called on Coffey where she pointed out that approving the water request “…in no way puts them [the developers] in the position of thinking that the project is completely approved.”

Nagle was still concerned that without conditions attached to the approval of the request, the developer could end up building to the county’s ordinances instead of the town’s. “It’s more than committing to water in my mind. It’s committing to the project,” said Nagle. Councilman Doug Jackson agreed.

“I see your point completely,” said Coffey, “but we’ve got to get away from being in the position of approving a development at the same time we do water.” Coffey’s words did not seem to alleviate the council members’ concerns as, after further discussion and a vote was taken, the motion failed by a four to one margin.

Mayor Al Root called for any further motions on the matter. A motion was outlined by Town Attorney Jennifer Jones very much like that of Fitzsimmons’ which had just been voted down. Nagle made the motion and Fitzsimmons seconded. Nagle called for another reading of the motion to which Fitzsimmons commented, “It’s the same thing that was in the first motion.” This second motion passed unanimously.

Under the consent agenda the board approved several items including appointing Town Clerk Derek Huninghake to the position of tax collector to replace the current and long-time Tax Collector Debbie Bruce, who will be retiring this fall. Bruce was appointed to assistant tax collector. Huninghake was immediately sworn into the office.

In other business, the board approved moving forward with Phase 1 of the town’s Water System Capital Improvement Project which will cost approximately $3 million. It was also learned that the project had been set back a few weeks because of a federal change in a deadline.

Also approved under the consent agenda were several board appointments, including reappointing Roney Hilliard, Cynthia Wright and appointing Sylvia Valois to the ABC Board. Former Councilman Gene Knoefel was appointed to be an alternate in the Board of Adjustment. Gary Burge and Catherine Cordell were reappointed along with Steve Warren’s appointment to the Planning and Zoning Board. Councilman Jeff McKenna was also appointed to represent the town on the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization and Transportation Advisory Committee, replacing Councilwoman Dottie Sherrill who asked to be replaced.

They also accepted a water line into the town system constructed by Bulls Bay, LLC for a development on Central Avenue, approved a subdivision of Lot 55 of Reems Creek Village. The town also voted to close Main Street and North Buncombe School Road on September 28 from 4 pm to 5:30 pm and close a portion of Main Street between Church Street and Brown Street from 5 am until 8 pm on September 15.

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