Woodfin – The Woodfin Planning Board meeting’s ministerial review of a nearly 17-acre development on Robinhood Road on Tuesday night (Nov. 1) brought out the neighboring residents who oppose the project. The almost two and a half-hour meeting saw no conclusion to the matter, as it was continued until the December meeting. However, the continuance sparked the possibility of a lawsuit by the developers of the project, HS Robinhood Owers, LLC, of Atlanta, Georgia.
Kimberly Hunter, vice chair of the planning board, opened the meeting and called for the approval of the agenda. The town’s lawyer, John Henning, explained to the board that this was not a public hearing on the project, only a ministerial review of the plan by the developer to see if all “boxes have been checked” and it complies with the town’s ordinances. “You cannot take public comment into whether or not you approve a ministerial decision.”
A board member made the motion for the board not to act on the matter until an appeal before the board of adjustment has been heard and a decision has been made.
This step spurred the developer’s attorney, Robert Carpenter, to speak up, which caused an uproar among residents. After order was restored, Hunter asked that Carpenter wait until the board made a decision before speaking.
The original motion-making board member moved to continue the review until February 7th, 2023. The notion got a second, which led Carpenter to object, which was ignored. Hunter asked if she needed to combine the vote with the approval of the agenda. Henning clarified, and the motion to continue was approved, followed by the modified agenda.
The plan for the development
The proposed 110-condominium development, known as Robinhood Residential, would be located on two parcels totaling 16.93 acres. The property is located off Beaverbrook Road. “An application for development was originally submitted on May 17, 2021, and has gone through a number of revisions over the last 18 months, the most recent of which was submitted on October 14, 2022, and which shows a proposed multi-family residential development consisting of a single, multi-story building along with 165 surface parking spaces and other site features commonly found in association with multi-family development. Access to the property is via a single entrance on Beaverbrook Rd., and the average natural slope of the property is 43.12% and includes elevations ranging from 2580 to 2850 feet in elevation,” according to the staff’s report.
“Per the North Carolina Permit Choice Act (now NCGS 160D-108), a developer with an active application may choose to apply the standards in place at the time of application or any subsequent alternative version of the standards that may have come into effect after the application was submitted. The original application date pre-dates a number of code amendments that the applicant has chosen not to apply to this project, including: steep slope development, conditional zoning, and retaining wall standards,” said the report.
The staff report states the development meets all the ordinances and recommends “approval with minor corrections.”
“I’m up here to encourage the board to change their decision made a few minutes ago, the motion to continue,” stated Carpenter, who spoke during public comment. He explained that his clients had been “jumping through hoops since May of 2021 to get to the ministerial review meeting. “This board has no authority, no legal authority, to stay this matter… State law is clear that only the board of adjustment has the power to stay the matter, and you did not let us have any say at all in continuing the matter.”
Carpenter then brought up the possibility of a lawsuit to move the matter forward. “You’re giving us no choice but to go to court now to seek the overturning of your decision to continue it.” He went on to say, “I believe you made a mistake tonight. It’s not too late to change your mind… If you don’t reverse it, we have no other choice but to go to court. We don’t want to do that.”
Also speaking in favor of the project was Hatteras Sky Manager Amy Kelly, whose company is developing it. Kelly said she considers the area as much her home as Atlanta, and that they are looking to not be known as “outsiders” but as “insiders.” She said when her company purchased the property in 2018, it purchased about 120 acres, of which 100 acres were donated to a conservation easement.
“When we talk about the environment and nature and the preservation of that, some people may not know, understandably so, that we actually conserved that forever.”
No resident spoke in favor of the project, and they offered concerns centered around erosion and what speakers called a “negative impact on the community.”