Developer withdraws Cashiers Hillside application
When it was first scheduled, the Feb. 22 meeting of the Cashiers Area Community Planning Council was expected to be a full day of tedious testimony and detailed cross examination as the body conducted a quasi-judicial hearing to determine the fate of a massive development proposed for Cashiers.
However, the meeting ended almost as soon as it began after Jackson County Planning Director Michael Poston introduced a letter from the developer’s attorney Craig Justus, asking to withdraw the application.
“On behalf of my client, I am authorized to inform you and the County that Macauley Investments LLC has decided to withdraw its current application for a special use permit for the above referenced project, which is scheduled to be presented for continued hearing on Feb. 22, 2021, before the Cashier Community Planning Council,” Justus wrote in the letter, dated Feb. 9. “We look forward to renewing our request for development approval in the very near future.”
The withdrawal came following an all-day quasi-judicial hearing session Jan. 25 in which, after hours of testimony and cross-examination based on the application submitted last fall, developer Stephen Macauley took the stand toward the end of the afternoon and told the council that in response to community concerns he would offer a revised plan featuring a reduction in housing density.
Council voted to accept the amended plan, pending a technical review by county staff, but the move elicited vigorous opposition from John Noor, the Asheville-based attorney representing property owners who oppose the proposed development. Noor said that Macauley was essentially offering an entirely new plan that would require an entirely new review from the experts his clients had retained, placing undue financial burden on people who were already paying thousands of dollars out of pocket to keep the proposed development at bay. Noor also criticized Macauley’s decision to delay announcing the new plan until the very end of the day.
Justus’ Feb. 9 letter means that the Cashiers Hillside project won’t get approval anytime in the immediate future, but it also makes clear that the company intends to return with a revised proposal. The issue is far from dead.
“Thanks to the efforts of Develop Cashiers Responsibly and the support of the Cashiers community, we were able to hold the developer accountable to the rules,” reads a statement on the website for Develop Cashiers Responsibly, an organization that formed to oppose the development. “After having submitted a revised but no-less-problematic plan to the county, the developer temporarily withdrew its special use permit application on Feb. 9. But in its withdrawal letter, it said that it planned to submit a new application in the ‘very near future.’ So, it would appear that this developer with his strong inclination for super-sized development is not gone or going away.”
The proposed development would be constructed on a 55.5-acre area located in the southeast corner of the U.S. 64/N.C. 107 crossroads. The original plan called for a total of 726 residential units, while the amended plan Macauley floated Jan. 25 would contain 581. Cashiers is currently estimated to have only about 1,500 full-time residents, though that population swells up toward 30,000 during the summertime.
A public hearing on a text amendment dealing with the maximum building size allowed in the Cashiers area will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, March 22, via Zoom.
The issue emerged during the quasi-judicial hearing session Jan. 25 when John Noor, attorney for property owners opposed to the Cashiers Hillside Development, argued that the application should be denied because many buildings proposed in the plan exceeded the 5,000-square-foot limit stated in the Cashiers Small Area Plan.
However, said Planning Director Michael Poston, no such limit was found in the ordinance text, nor had one been intended. The limit appeared only as part of an explanatory graphic embedded with the text and had been errantly included in the updated ordinance. He proposed that the council hold a public hearing on the matter and then consider a text amendment to clarify the issue.
However, the hearing is likely to gather more participation than the typical semantic ordinance change. Many residents following the Cashiers hillside proposal feel that the ordinance should include some kind of upper limit on building size.
“We can’t simply delete and have no limit on building sizes in Cashiers,” Paul Anderson, spokesperson for Develop Cashiers Responsibly, told the council Feb. 22. “We need a planning process that will address this and come up with some specific guidance on that.”