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June 17, 2016

Decision Set for June 28th Council Meeting; Current Resident Thoughts on Project

City Council is scheduled to decide the fate of the proposed apartment complex at the intersection of Sweeten Creek and Mills Gap Roads at its June 28, 2016 meeting. The meeting will take place at 5pm in City Council chambers (2nd floor of City Hall). We encourage everyone to attend.

Throughout this process, we have tried to objectively analyze the proposal and to represent the many South Asheville area resident views to City Council and the developer. The project has changed significantly since it was first proposed in October 2015. The developer agreed to drop his request for commercial outparcels which substantially reduced expected traffic and has proposed delaying construction until 2018. For the developer’s most current proposal, and the recommended conditions by the Planning & Zoning Commission agreed to by the developer, please see our post at March 14th Update.

Over 400 individuals signed on to a letter expressing concerns about the project at some point during this process. Because the project has changed since it was initially proposed, we held a residents-only town hall meeting on May 23rd to discuss the current proposal. Based on feedback we received from the town hall meeting as well as conversations we have had with residents, it seems that most residents fall into the following three categories:

1. No Apartments Until Sweeten Creek Road is Widened. Some residents oppose the project because they do not believe that the current infrastructure can support another apartment complex. They point to the fact that South Asheville is in the midst of a significant apartment boom and that this intersection is already over capacity. They also note that a lot of undeveloped land along Sweeten Creek and Mills Gap Road can be developed by right with several parcels already for sale. Most residents in this group do not appear to be opposed to apartments at that site per se, but do not believe that this is the right time for this project.

2. Use Site for a Community Center or Park. Another group of residents shares similar concerns to the first group, but would like to see the City acquire this parcel and place either a community center or a park on it. They note that while the City overall has 54 parks and 11 community centers, South Asheville only has 2 parks and 1 community center. Most would likely agree with the individual who wrote this letter to the Citizen-Times South Asheville Parks Article.

3. Permit Approval of Current Proposal With Additional Road Improvement Conditions. While not excited about more development, a third group of residents feels that this site will not sit vacant and that a residential apartment complex would have the least impact on traffic of any other likely use. Developers not affiliated with this project have told us that this site could be used for a shopping center or other retail/commercial uses which would undoubtably create more traffic. These residents would like to keep this corridor mostly residential given all the commercial activity on Hendersonville Road. This group, however, has concerns that the developer’s proposed improvements do not fully mitigate the increased traffic from the site and want the following two changes to the current proposal:

A. The developer has proposed creating a 100 foot right turn lane from eastbound Mills Gap Road (driving away from Ingles) onto Sweeten Creek Road. Duke Energy owns the property and plans to build a substation on it (which is its own issue), but we understand is willing to give a part of it for the turn lane. This group would like to see the turn lane extended to as close as the railroad tracks as possible which would make it approximately 230 feet. (We are told that 100 feet would likely fit 5 to 6 cars, so 230 feet would likely fit 13 to 14 cars). Extending the turn lane could also permit the NCDOT to re-stripe that portion of the intersection to allow more capacity in the left turn lane so that traffic does not end up backing onto Hendersonville Road. This improvement would give the group greater comfort that the additional traffic from the apartment complex would be mitigated when the traffic signals are optimized.

B. As a sign of good faith that the traffic and pedestrian improvements will be implemented, the group is also asking that the developer complete them at the beginning of project construction. This would simply allow the agreed-upon improvements to occur earlier.

We thank everyone for all of their constructive participation in this issue. We hope that we can build on our efforts here to work on ensuring South Asheville’s voice is heard on other quality of life issues affecting our neighborhoods. If anyone has any questions or comments, please email Vijay Kapoor at vkapoor@kapoorco.com.