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Commissioners move to clear J-Creek dirt delays

Five months into the economic development partnership between the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, there appears to be some progress being made.

“I think that the partnership has gone very well,” said CeCe Hipps, president of the Haywood Chamber. 

Since the deal was inked last winter, it’s been a busy first few months of meetings, according to Hipps, who has been out discussing the partnership with commercial realtors and town officials. 

An industrial site and building inventory list have been completed, and nearly a dozen companies have already inquired about relocation to or expansion within Haywood County.

One of the places they’re eyeing is the 22-acre Jonathan Creek parcel, where progress became bogged down this past spring due to poor quality soils that were supposed to elevate portions of the parcel above the floodplain, making the site more attractive to developers. 

But Haywood County Commissioners voted unanimously June 4 to move forward with the purchase of additional dirt to replace the unusable soil purchased at bargain-basement rates from excavations at the new Publix site on Russ Avenue.

Although a site for the new dirt has not yet been identified, commissioners authorized county administration to begin negotiations to purchase up to 43,000 cubic yards, which is enough dirt to raise up 12 acres out of danger, at a cost of roughly $475,000.

“We need to do something to get it up out of the floodplain,” said Haywood County Project Administrator David Francis. 

Republican Commissioner Brandon Rogers asked Francis during the meeting what the cost of the Publix dirt would have been had it been usable.

“If we had stayed with them, it would have cost about the same, is that correct?” 

No, Francis said, it would have been cheaper — about $240,000 for 25,000 cubic yards. 

“We’d done yeoman’s work getting that negotiated down to a dollar per cubic yard, including the haul,” Francis said. 

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