Woodfin – The developer of a half-billion-dollar project in Woodfin says there are still misconceptions surrounding the development he and his investors are proposing.
The Tribune met with John Holdsworth’s development team members on Monday, February 1, to hear more details on one of the largest developments to come to Western North Carolina. The developers hope to bring 1,500 apartments and a new bridge across the French Broad River.
Holdsworth said that the first misconception is, “a lot of people have the idea that this land will be impervious when we get done with it. I heard on the radio someone said 70 out of the 82 acres, leaving 12 acres of land open. That’s absolutely incorrect.”
When asked what the acreages would be, his team said that it depends on whether the planning and zoning grant a variation of five stories instead of three stories. The three stories would be 45% bigger and take more of the open land.
Holdsworth’s team said that the three-story structures would require the cutting down of more trees and more excavation. The five-story building has the support of the fire marshall the Tribune was told.
Another misconception the team discussed was that the project would pollute the river.
“Which is totally false,” said a member of the development team. “There are regulations in place to make sure we’re not doing that.” He also pointed out a railroad between the project and the river that has to be protected too.
Traffic is another big misunderstanding the team brought up. “We’ve already done traffic studies… and we’ve already got approval from the state of North Carolina.”
Holdsworth said this will be a multi-generational project, serving seniors to singles to young couples. “There will be buildings that are [for] 55 and older…What you see before you are approved.”
The development goes before the planning and zoning board in March for the height variance; otherwise, the project is “moving forward,” the team said. The location of the meeting will be announced at a later date.
The team made it clear these are not condominiums for sale but apartments for rent.
“The entire project is in an Opportunity Zone which was designated four years ago by the federal government for growth and investment.”
The team said the last misconception is how the property drains.
“This property, everything drains within.” They also added, “We will comply with state codes” on drainage.
“I do think a development that size with that many creeks and wetlands next to the river would be really bad news for water quality,” said Hartwell Carson, the French Broad River Keeper, “The scale makes it incredibly difficult. The scale and location.”
Asked what he believes the environmental problem with the project was, Carson said, “Our biggest contributor to pollution is stormwater runoff. Sounds benign, but you’re talking about runoff that includes heavy metals and E.coli, settlement and chemicals, fertilizers and gas…the amount of pollution dramatically increases.”
Carson had heard the number of 70 acres, which Holdsworth said would not be that much.
“My guess it’s going to be 70, 80, 90 percent of it, just because of what they are proposing,” Carson said.
Asked if he was familiar with the plan, Carson said, “Yes and no – their plan is pretty generic.” A statement that runs contrary to what Holdsworth and his team told the Tribune, which was a lot of thought went into the project.
“I’m sure it will be a high-quality building, but there’s no indication that there is any extra attention paid to stormwater or other environmental considerations,” Carson said.
Asked if it would surprise him to learn the developer had been a part of an environmental clean-up effort, Carson said, “I don’t know anything about the developer, so I don’t know his motives or his environmental credentials at all. All I know is what they’re proposing at this site doesn’t fit for the site and doesn’t fit for protecting the environment.”
Developer lead environment effort
Holdsworth says he knows what it’s like to be concerned about the environment, as he helped lead the effort to clean up Sarasota Bay when raw sewage was dumped into it.
“In 1971, I was director of Save our Bays,” said Holdsworth. “And that was a time when nobody knew what environment was.” He said the county and city were putting raw sewage into the bay.”
He said he and his group took deformed fish and a sample of the sand in the bay, and the commissioners “were shocked… and that was the beginning of cleaning up the bay.”
His team believes living closer to Asheville will save on fuel and that the apartments will consume less power than living in urban areas. The project will also connect into the greenway with a pedestrian/bike path. “So the idea is to have a pedestrian lane for bike and people and have it come down and access the greenway. Residents and people up on Richmond Hill can come down and access the greenway rather easily.”
Holdsworth invites those with concerns or questions to call him (813) 361-0710 or email him (firstname.lastname@example.org).