The development would be built on 13 parcels currently owned by Cashiers Village LLC and Straight Eight Company LLC. Cashiers Village LLC is a company associated with South Carolina-based Raven Cliff Company, a real estate development and investment company owned by Stephen Zoukis. Straight Eight is an investment company that names William Barrs as its manger in its last annual filing. The project’s developer is named on county permit applications as Atlanta-based MaCauley Investments LLC.
The project would be built in two phases, the first of which would front N.C. 107 and serve as the development’s commercial and community hub. This first phase would be split into two parts — the town center, and the area north of the town center.
The town center portion would offer a 27,400-square-foot hotel, an open market and 28,975 square feet of retail buildings, as well as two mixed-use buildings featuring a combined seven commercial units for a total square footage of 54,550 square feet and 90 residential units totaling 102,031 square feet. Additionally, the area would include a four-story multi-family building with 121 units, a condominium with 18 units, a live-work two-story with two units and a live-work three-story with 10 units.
Outside the town center, the phase would include a 44,000-square-foot spa/hotel; a 40,000-square-foot building intended as office, event and restaurant space; and 298,492 square feet of family-oriented residential space comprising 173 units.
Phase two would be developed as a residential community featuring a variety of single-family options including townhomes, villas, cottages and multi-family units. The phase would also include low-impact commercial operations intended to support the residential community, including a wellness center, garden center, childcare and a restaurant/cooking school. The phase would total 37,000 square feet of commercial space and 465,524 square feet of residential space comprising 312 units.
The property’s average slope of 19 percent will not call the density standards contained in the county’s steep slope ordinance into action. However, standards surrounding stormwater, grading and the like, which are also contained in that ordinance, would apply.
Of the 55.52 acres, 11.44 would be kept as open space in compliance with the 20 percent open space requirement. While the current review process does not require the developer to submit detailed utility plans, a staff report from the Jackson County Planning Department states that staff have been told that some sewer service for the project would be provided by the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority and some would come from private, on-site treatment package systems. Potable water would be provided by private, on-site well systems.
If approved, the project would be the largest single development in Cashiers’ history. The unincorporated community is known for its strong rural character, with the high-dollar homes, resorts and country clubs that characterize the area often built with a private, low-density design. Though the plateau’s population swells up close to 30,000 residents during the summer months, prior to the pandemic it had only an estimated 1,500 year-round residents. Assuming an average of three people per residential unit, the development could add more than 2,000 people to the local population.
Two separate approvals will be required for the project to move forward. First, the Cashiers Area Community Planning Council will have to grant the developer a special-use permit. Under the Cashiers Community Area Ordinance, the special-use permit process is triggered anytime a proposed building project will exceed 1,500 square feet. The question will be decided following a court-like quasi-judicial hearing. A majority of council will have to agree that the proposal meets each of six standards: that it will not endanger public health or safety; is reasonably compatible with the site’s natural and topographic features; won’t substantially injure values of adjacent properties; will be in harmony with the community’s scale, bulk, coverage, density and character; is appropriately located with respect to transportation, water, fire, waste disposal and police resources; and will not cause a traffic hazard or undue congestion.
If the council grants approval, the Jackson County Planning Board will be asked to approve the plan under the county’s major subdivision ordinance, triggered for projects including more than eight lots. No public hearing is required prior to that vote, but there will be an opportunity for informal public comment.
The planning department’s staff report recommends approval on both counts.
The planning council was supposed to make its decision on the special-use permit during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, Nov. 16, but the board voted to delay the quasi-judicial hearing following a passionate appeal from adjacent property owners. They needed more time to adequately respond to the proposal and line up the subject matter experts they’d need to prove their point, they argued.
Several of the property owners banded together to retain Asheville attorney John Noor to represent them, and Noor started out the meeting by requesting a continuance, stating that his clients hadn’t retained him until 4 p.m. the previous Friday — they’d found out about the hearing 16 days prior to it, and it just took that much time for them to organize and find an attorney.
“This is through no fault of county staff, but it’s virtually impossible for my clients to be prepared for a hearing of this magnitude involving the issues that are going to be considered by council with that amount of time to prepare,” he said.
Adjacent property owners had some grave concerns about the project’s impact on their community, he said. Those concerns related to landslides, traffic, water quality and property values, for starters. The subject matter experts Noor wanted to testify to those concerns would not be available until after the holidays, he said.
The meeting was held at the Cashiers Village Green, and while members of council and representatives from the developer were physically present, Noor, as well as adjacent property owners with standing, attended via Zoom. The meeting was also livestreamed on YouTube, where the more than 200 virtual attendees made it clear on the chat that poor sound quality severely challenged their ability to understand the proceedings.
“If they are going to hold this remotely, then they need to get the appropriate audio equipment needed,” wrote Nicole Sloop.
“It’s not reasonable access,” said Jane Davis, with strings of similar comments preceding and following hers and Sloop’s.
Craig Justice, the attorney representing the developer, strongly objected to Noor’s request.
“With all due respect, we’re ready. We’ve been ready,” he said. “We would respectfully ask to move forward. None of these points in the objections actually matches what the state law or your county requires.”
Noor had asked for the hearing to be delayed until February to ensure that he’d be able to secure the experts he needed and build an adequate case. However, Justice said that the developer would incur a financial hardship if the hearing were delayed by more than a month — as a compromise between the two sides, the council rescheduled the hearing for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6.