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Developer to extend water and sewer access in Cullowhee

Developer to extend water and sewer access in Cullowhee

The Jackson County Commissioners have unanimously approved an easement through county land that will allow plans for a 72-bedroom development adjacent to Cullowhee’s Speedwell Acres Road to move forward.

The developer, J.R. Johnson of Gainesville, Florida, will pay the county $2,500 for an easement to run an 8-inch water pipe and 8-inch sewer pipe from a manhole at the Jackson County Recreation Complex to the planned development, to be located on the opposite side of N.C. 107. By extending the water and sewer, Johnson will give other residents living on that side of 107 — where access to the Tuckasegee Water and Sewer Authority system is not currently available — the chance to tap on. Extending the pipes will cost him $150,000, and he’ll also pay a $45,000 impact fee. 

“I think probably the investment they’re making in the community of $150,000 and the tap-in fee at $45,000 and making it available to that community is probably worth a lot more than the $2,500 they’re putting on the table,” said Jay Coward, a Sylva attorney representing Johnson, at the commissioners’ May 1 meeting. 

The proposed development, called The Highlands at Cullowhee, will be right next to Speedwell Acres, a quiet little single-family development. With the water and sewer extension, those residents will have easier, cheaper access to TWSA hookups should they so desire. 

“We were very appreciative of being able to put in a sewer line, utility lines across the road to access that Speedwell Acres area, so that was a positive that the developers will pay for,” said Commission Chairman Brian McMahan. 

However, so far Speedwell Acres residents haven’t been feeling so kindly toward the planned development. The proposal came before the Jackson County Planning Board at its Feb. 9 meeting, and residents showed up en masse to demonstrate their opposition to the project. A total of 11 people gave public comment — all of them nearby residents, and all of them opposed to the development. They expressed concerns about increased traffic, a change in community character due to partying college students, and potential for crime and vandalism. 

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However, the proposal met all the requirements of the Cullowhee Community Planning Ordinance, and the planning board just had to review it for compliance with the county’s subdivision ordinance — it met those standards as well, so planning board members passed it unanimously. 

The easement from commissioners was pretty much the last hurdle for Johnson to clear before moving forward with development. Now all that remains is to secure the proper permits and start building. 

McMahan said he certainly understands why some residents might not be in favor of the development but reiterated that it does meet the zoning standards that Cullowhee residents and county workers spent two years crafting.  And where the water and sewer easement is concerned, he said, things are pretty positive. 

“It made sense because it benefitted the whole community,” McMahan said, “not just that development.”

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