Woodfin – For more than an hour and a half, Woodfin Town Commissioners listened to a pair of audio speakers at a public hearing period and received live comments from 34 persons via Zoom.
The public hearing attracted so many interested residents to the virtual meeting that it maxed the Zoom capacity at 100. The hearing was for the annexation of a 10-acre property near Richmond Hills in Asheville. However, many attendants thought it was for the approval of a large development that could increase the town’s population by 50%. All the speakers were against the development.
The proposed development is a half-billion-dollar project with 1,545 rental units on about a 90-acre tract of land already zoned Mountain Village by right of use with the 10-acre voluntary annexation land to become part of the project (see related story on page 1). The annexation decision is decided solely by the Board of Commissioners. The property’s zoning designation was first issued by the Planning & Zoning Board of Adjustment before the Board of Commissioners formally assigned zoning.
Those speaking against the development used words like “destroy” and “devastate” to describe what they believed the project would do to their community—many who spoke were not Woodfin residents but from the Richmond Hill neighborhood in Asheville. Recurring themes in the orators cited coming traffic, gridlock, environmental impact, runoff into the French Broad River, and that not all voices were being heard in this (Zoom) public meeting style. They also used phrases like “our backyard,” “my forest,” and “our woods” to describe the property in question.
Questions also surround a bridge that needs to be built for the project and who would pay for it. Woodfin Town Attorney Joe Ferikes said he believed the project’s developer would be responsible for the cost.
Carolyn Streit stated, “This is a quiet, peaceful neighborhood and we don’t want it destroyed by some gargantuan, vulgar display of greed like this developer wants to come in and do and destroy this landscape.”
After everyone had a chance to speak, town commissioners addressed other business until the annexation hearing came up on the agenda. At that time, the item was tabled until the planning and zoning department meets on the annexation.
After the meeting, Woodfin Town Administrator Eric Hardy told the Tribune in an email, “We notified the Planning & Zoning Board of Adjustment and those on the tentative Feb. 1 agenda that the meeting has been canceled. For this specific project, we are requiring the developer to provide more information to ensure that the project conforms to the Town’s zoning ordinances. There is not currently a specific date for the next meeting until we get past several hurdles associated with conducting business during a pandemic.”
In other business from the meeting, town commissioners accepted more than $35,000 in donations for the Greenway/Blueway Project from Garet Artz of RiverLink. He thanked the mayor, vice mayor and commissioners for their leadership in the projects. Then the board approved a 20-unit subdivision on the 17.5-acre property along Old Home Road.
An annexation agreement was approved by the Town of Weaverville last month describing which properties located between Weaverville and Woodfin would be annexed by which town was set for a public hearing for Feb 16 during the board’s monthly meeting. Currently, the only way a town can annex property is for the property owner to voluntarily ask for annexation.
A public hearing is scheduled on the 16th for voluntary annexation of the non-contiguous Sourwood property.
The board also set a new starting wage for sanitation workers at $15 per hour, an increase of $3.25 per hour. Hardy was also authorized to create a new position and hire a finance director. The board then heard department reports. Before ending the regular meeting and going into the executive session, Mayor Jerry VeHaun directed Town Attorney Joe Ferikes to look into what it would take to bring the Woodfin Water & Sanitation District under the town’s authority (see article on page 11)