Woodfin – The Town of Woodfin continues to encounter problems with their zoning ordinance as a designer became frustrated during a public hearing at the regular monthly meeting Tuesday (Jan. 19).
The board first handled a preliminary plat for Serenity West, LLC. The applicant requested a seven-lot subdivision at the top of the current “treehouse” subdivision known as Serenity. The property has transferred to a new owner and that owner has requested an amendment to their previous plat.
Jeremiah Wiggins, with a development firm owned by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, told the board that the project was part of the tribe’s effort to diversify the “economy of the tribe.” The 1.4-acre tract was previously selected for eight homes, but they are now asking for only seven and they are happy to be in Woodfin. Commissioner Eric Edgerton wondered whether the development planned to ask the town to accept the roads into the town’s system. The applicant answered, ‘no.’ The board approved it and moved on to a second public hearing where things were not so simple.
The owner of 819 Elk Mountain Scenic Highway asked the board for a rezoning of R43-Conditional Use. Edgerton said there was not a site plan for the property and therefore, he moved to approve the change with two conditions: that the hotel currently on the property be allowed to continue and that when there is a site plan, it comes back for a full conditional review per the ordinance. Commissioner Ronnie Ledford asked, ‘why require a full site plan without knowing if it would be approved?’ Edgerton explained that that’s the way the ordinance is currently written.
Mayor Jerry VeHaun then opened the public hearing. At that time, Robert Dull of Sitework Studios said the comment he heard right before the hearing is “completely different from anything we’ve heard over the six months we’ve been trying to do this. This has been presented and approved already and in the time lost, we could have done a full site plan and no one ever even considered even mentioning that was going to be required.”
He then addressed Town Planner Adriene Isenhower, who attended the meeting via phone because of the weather.
“I asked you yesterday if you foresee any issues or this should go just like last time…We’re utterly confused with what is happening here tonight and what has happened over the last couple of months,” he said, shaking his head.
He then showed the board a site plan approved by the fire marshall and a plan that he had shown to Isenhower with plans of expanding the hotel and further development. “So again, I’m a bit confused as to why we are where we are right now”, Dull added.
Edgerton said Dull was welcome to submit a site plan now but because of the new changes to the town’s ordinance, it would be at least the February meeting before the plan could be voted on. He added that the site plan does not have enough details for a 100-acre site.
Time is Money
Dull complained that the developer was losing time and money because of Woodfin’s issues. Isenhower said she was not sure the direction the board was going to take with the new ordinance. Dull asked if his company and the developer had to bear the brunt of this even though the town had possessed the fire marshall approved plan since the first of December. Edgerton said Dull was welcome to come back and submit the more detailed plan. Dull said he was still confused, but, “I guess that’s the process we’ll have to go through.” Edgerton apologized that Dull had been caught in the process. Commissioner Jim McAllister also apologized, “We feel your pain…without that [the site plan], we can’t approve you.” Dull said it was submitted. “Did it get left out of your packets?” No one had an answer. The hearing was closed and Edgerton made his motion with Commissioner Theresa Stoker seconding with an apology to the developer. The motion passed.
In Other Actions
The board also received an update on replacing Commissioner Jim Angel, who resigned last month due to health issues. Only two people had applied for the position. The town was seeking more applicants with an interview process before the next regular meeting where a committee of two commissioners and the mayor would present their top three candidates.
The town is also planning to amend its charter to move from a town administrator-commissioners system to a town manager-commissioners system. The board then heard a report on COVID plans for meetings where the commissioners would continue to meet in person for at least another month, but other town boards would be only online. After hearing reports, the board went into an executive session before dismissing for the night.