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New apartment complex in the works for Sylva

Plans are under way to build a new apartment complex near — but not in — the town of Sylva, an idea that seemed to meet favor from the planning board when it was presented earlier this month.

“We certainly have a need for housing in Sylva and we’re glad to see it filled,” said Sarah Thompson, board chair and former alderman on the Sylva town board. “I just wish it was in town limits, but that’s out of our control.”

Nearly four years ago, Tom Honeycutt, owner of the Troy-based developer Southern Properties & Development, had tried to build a 44-unit apartment complex for people over 55 on a tract inside Sylva’s town limits. In May 2012, the town board wound up preventing the development by refusing to relax the town’s housing density standards to accommodate Honeycutt’s plans. Now, he’s back with a different piece of property that’s along the same road but located just outside town limits, in the county’s jurisdiction. 

The development, to be called High Ridge Apartments, would be located off Connor Road and accessed from N.C. 107 at a turnoff just north of Wal-Mart. The complex, which will not be limited to elderly residents, would include two buildings containing a total 42 units with 82 bedrooms, with rent likely ranging from about $750 for a one-bedroom unit to $1,140 for a three-bedroom. The site would also include a fitness room, playground, gazebo and office building. 

“We’re ready to start as soon as we can get some approvals going,” Honeycutt told the board. “We submitted to everyone so far and we’re just working through that.”

If approvals come through in the next couple of months, the development could be finished as soon as November, Honeycutt said. 

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But while board members seemed overall willing to allow new housing in that location — a recently passed subdivision ordinance requires planning board approval of projects adding 60 bedrooms or more — they weren’t ready to rubber-stamp the plan. 

For one thing, they weren’t too sure about the assertion of Honeycutt’s contracted engineer, Benjy Thomas of West Consultants, that there’s no need for stormwater detention. Currently, water drains to the southwest corner of the property, where a pair of pipes carries it to an undeveloped area above Wal-Mart for discharge. 

“In our professional opinion, we don’t feel stormwater detention is needed to protect the outlet of those pipes downstream,” Thomas said. 

Board member Tom Rodgers wasn’t so sure. 

“I understand that what’s there is completely capable of handling the water, but the water’s going to go somewhere it didn’t go before,” he said, adding that, philosophically, adjacent landowners shouldn’t see any difference in stormwater flows before and after a development goes in — regardless of whether their property is developed or not. 

Board members also questioned what the traffic impact might be to the little road where the housing would go in and to that already-busy stretch of N.C. 107. At full capacity, the development would house 82 people with two cars each — a total of 164 cars making multiple trips in and out per day. 

The more likely scenario, Honeycutt said, would be more mild, with the average number of cars per household sitting closer to 1.5 and some number of apartments sitting empty at any one time. However, the board directed Honeycutt to talk with the N.C. Department of Transportation to work out access issues. They also pointed out the wild card of upcoming changes to 107, a project DOT has scheduled to begin in 2019. 

“It’s in the early stages of planning and development, like this, and the added traffic would certainly inform that planning process, but we don’t know how,” Thompson said. 

Aside from a stipulation to include more landscaping, the planning board didn’t give Honeycutt any specific changes to make to his proposal. Rather, they directed him to come back after he’d talked out access issues with the DOT and to address erosion control issues in a plan that would ultimately require county approval. 

“The need for water retention will be addressed in that process,” Green said. 

“I don’t see a place to put a retention pond here,” said board member Clark Lipkin. “We shall see. But if the erosion control plan says we don’t need one, I don’t want you to be shocked.”

“Staff know more than I do about that, but retention could be part of the implementation,” Rodgers said. 

Board members unanimously approved the direction for further study on water retention and road access, as well as the requirement that Honeycutt include native plant landscaping in his plans. 

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