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Wednesday, 29 November 2006 00:00

Legal wrangling could slow decision on high-rise condos

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By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

A lawsuit over deed restrictions that could prevent a controversial high-rise condominium near Highlands from being built is past due for mediation.

 

The suit between former condominium site landowners Kenton and Linda David and current landowners Old Hemlock Cove Development was slated to be mediated by mid-November, court officials say.

Old Hemlock Cove purchased the property from the Davids in 2003 with restrictions on the 19-acre tract limiting its development to single-family homes. Those restrictions were not listed on the deed; however, the suit alleges it was to the Davids’ understanding that the restrictions would remain in place.

A judge denied Old Hemlock Cove’s motion for a dismissal in October, and the litigating parties were given 21 days to pick a mediator from a court-approved list and attempt to settle the matter. As of Nov. 22, the orders had not been followed through.

“That’s not anything unusual,” said Marylin Jones, an assistant to in Judge James Downs’ office.

If the litigating parties do not choose a mediator, one will be chosen for them. However, it remains to be seen whether the case is one that can be resolved outside the court, as it’s money that’s at stake.

The developer hoping to buy the land reportedly has plans to build a 10-story condo just off U.S. 64 near the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. Although no official plans have been filed, it has been speculated that the high-rise will hold eight to 10 condos per story with price tags around the $1 million mark.

The condo site is outside Highland’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) — a special area beyond town limits that is subject to town zoning laws but not town taxes.

The county has no ordinances regulating this type of development. Consequently, the public asked the Macon County Planning Board to present commissioners with a recommendation to enact a moratorium on any construction over 38 feet in height, allowing time to consider adding such buildings to the county’s high-impact use ordinance.

If the dispute between the Davids and Old Hemlock Cove cannot be resolved through mediation, the court case is not scheduled to be heard until May 14. That gives county commissioners six months until a potential ruling.

That ruling, however, would only pertain to this land dispute and proposed high-rise project. It would not address the public’s concerns raised in regard to keeping such development in line with mountain aesthetics.

A computer simulated illustration of the 10-story high-rise created by Bob Wright, a Macon County Watershed Council member and president of the Cold Springs Property Owners Association, shows the condos towering above the tree line. But due to the high-rise’s proposed location, it is not subject to the state’s ridgeline development law, which prevents such construction on mountaintops.

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