“We want to ensure there is a place where our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren can enjoy the natural and preserved elements of nature,” said Pat Carlton. “We are following closely in the footsteps of my father, Albert Carlton, who had an adamant belief to preserve not only the land, but our heritage as well.”
The Carlton family bought 2,000 acres in Cashiers some 40 years ago.
“My mom and dad were running away from Hurricane Donna in Florida and came up here and fell in love with it,” Pat Carlton said. “Everybody told my dad he was nuts for buying that stuff in the middle of nowhere.”
The Carltons were in the citrus and cattle business in Florida. While Cashiers was a second home, the family has been civic leaders and philanthropists in the community. The family made the construction of the Albert Carlton library in Cashiers possible and is a major contributor to its proposed expansion.
The family recently sold 175 of its 2,000 acres to Trillium for a high-end development, but they did not take the sale lightly. Carlton said he went through a vetting process to find a developer with the right philosophy — not one who would cram houses on the land to get the biggest bang for the their buck.
“I spoke to several developers for about four or five years, big guys all over the southeast,” Carlton said. Trillium seemed to understand the family’s values and desires and were already working in the area, indicating the company was vested in the community.
Carlton moved to Cashiers full-time last year to oversee the development process.
“I wanted to see the project come together in a way we would be proud of. Even though we aren’t the developer we wanted to keep our eye on it,” Pat Carlton said. The tract being developed by Trillium abuts the family’s land — including the tract recently placed in a conservation easement — and Carlton said that’s another reason he wanted to remain involved. The family has an agreement with Trillium to make additional tracts available when the first phase of the development is finished.
The 700-acre tract placed in a conservation easement is adjacent to the Panthertown Valley area of the Nantahala National Forest. Carlton said the family conducted a biological survey of the land before selling it to identify the most ecologically important areas that needed conserving, and then decided which to develop.
“Other developers told us that we had it all backwards,” Carlton said of the family’s approach. “We believe, instead, that you have only one chance to get it right. Regardless, this is a win for the land and the environment for a change.”
Over the past two generations the Carlton family has placed more than 10,000 acres in perpetual state-maintained control or easement in Florida.
— By Becky Johnson