Community

One Man’s Concerns over 1,500-unit Project

Joey Werner and his daughter, Nolah.

Woodfin

A resident of a Woodfin neighborhood voices his concerns about the proposed Richmond Hill development.

When Ohio native Joey Werner moved to Richmond Hills with his wife, Katie, ten years ago, he believed they were moving to a quiet community.

Over the years, things have picked up. More people, and a popular park at the end of his road, meant more traffic. A proposed 1,500-unit apartment development with a new bridge crossing the French Broad River in Woodfin, known as The Bluffs, with access from the Richmond Hills Road, has the Werner family worried.

Werner is part of a group of people from the community unsettled by the new project and its size. 100 concerned citizens packed a Zoom call at the Town of Woodfin’s January meeting over the issue, with over 30 addressing the board. Most of them were non-Woodfin residents, but that didn’t stop them from letting the commissioners known what they thought of the project.

What concerns Werner about the project?

Werner told the Tribune that traffic and safety was his biggest concern about the project.

“There’s about one hundred homes in our neighborhood, and what is being proposed is 1,500 new units,” Werner says.

Werner, who’s not depending on a bridge being built, said that instead of a car every few minutes, it would be more like a car every six seconds. He goes on to say his daughter, Nolah, age five, bikes as they walk their dog along the road.

“There’s no sidewalks…It’s no longer a neighborhood; it’s a thoroughfare,” Werner says.

He goes on to say a bridge takes “years and years and years.” Asked if there was a bridge, would it eliminate some of his concerns, Werner said, “I think people would still use our road even if there were a bridge…Maybe it wouldn’t be as busy, but it would still be a huge impact.”

Werner also cited a new pavilion that had been built at Richmond Hill Park where there is also a bike trail and frisbee golf course, (none of which would be affected by the new development) that already attracts a lot of traffic. There is also an Army National Guard center located at the end of Richmond Hill Road and a couple of care facilities.

Werner is also worried about how the development would impact the park with runoff water.

“I think water running off surfaces would create much more water coming through.”

When told developer John Holdsworth had told the Tribune that if a variance for five stores was granted, that Holdsworth said he could leave 40 acres of the 82-acre tract in trees, Werner commented, “Which is great!”

Still, he is concerned about wildlife like turkeys, which already walk the yards and roads of the area as if they own it. “I think that would have an impact on their territory and where they live. I don’t care too much about turkeys, but they’re wild animals, and they roam freely.”

Asked if they would not also roam the new development, Werner said, “That’s a good question. Turkeys will be in the road here, but we’re slow enough to where  people are going to slow down…with 1,500 new homes, is that the same case, I don’t know.”

Werner also mentioned a need to protect the railroad from runoff and not damage their infrastructure, a point Holdsworth already stated was something his team would have to do. Werner would also like to have sidewalks and speedbumps in his neighborhood, but that would be up to Asheville’s City and not up the Holdsworth.

Asked about Holdsworth’s plan to connect the Richmond Hills community to the greenway via the new development, Werner said, “That’s a great idea…I just want it done in a way we can protect the environment as much as possible.”

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