More houses headed for J Creek?

Aug. 30—A new housing development on the horizon for Jonathan Creek calls for 150 homes signaling the continued march of development through the pastoral valley.

The latest proposal follows in the footsteps of two other developments in the works with plans to add more — for a total build-out of 300 homes in the Jonathan Creek corridor. The recently proposed development would be located behind Smoky Mountain Farmers Co-Op off of U.S. 276.

Plans were unveiled to the Jonathan Creek community at a meeting this month held by the town of Maggie Valley. Around 20 members attended, and many weren't happy with the proposal.

The development is in the very preliminary stages with a master plan just coming to fruition. Currently, the plan calls for 158 lots on 42 acres.

The developer is seeking annexation into Maggie Valley town limits. While it is five miles out Jonathan Creek and well outside Maggie proper, the tract must be annexed into the town limits in order to get on town sewer — thus the development has landed on the town's plate.

If annexed, the property would also undergo zoning designation. Neither will come before the town board until October and would include a formal public hearing at that point.

If the property becomes part of Maggie Valley, it will be the 14th outlying town parcel that is considered within the town limits but not contiguous, commonly referred to as satellite annexations. It will also be the most distant satellite annexation from the central part of the town.

Warren Sugg representing Civil Design Concepts, the engineering firm doing the site plan, presented plans at the community meeting this month.

Nearby residents who farm expressed a concern that newcomers might not be aware of the agricultural practices and try to sue the farmers in the area for the smell of manure.

One resident asked if the town could put something in the selling papers saying that the buyers could not sue the locals for their farming and manure. Town Planner Sam Cullen said that requiring the sellers to put that in a contract would open the town up to a plethora of lawsuits themselves.

"I can't tell you how you can sell your house and the town can't tell someone they can't sue someone," Cullen said. "That's your right as a private property, just like it would be your right to sue one of these people in this development."

Haywood County has a Farmland Preservation Ordinance that allows farmers to conserve and register their property as part of a farmland district. The ordinance, designed to encourage the protection of farmland, requires that nearby property owners be notified during land transactions that farm activities take place in that district. This portion of the ordinance was designed to help protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits, though it is no guarantee that producers won't be sued.

Another concern was if three-story homes were built, that would create an issue for the Jonathan Creek Fire Department, which does not have a ladder truck.

"If this property is annexed and zoned a residential district, they are not allowed to build more than 35 foot high from grade to the peak of the roof," Cullen said.

Some residents were concerned about the property becoming mobile homes or apartments. The R3 zoning recommended by the planning board would not allow mobile homes. Cullen said they would also be held to whatever their plat approval would be at a future rate, meaning if they propose single-family homes and get approved for that, they can't switch at the last minute.

There was another concern about sewer and water usage, but Cullen said the town is good on water and he had been told that the sanitary district was only at 51 percent capacity in terms of sewer.

The land is currently split into two parcels, which will be merged at a later point and had previously been used for agricultural products, such as corn and hay. Currently, the land is still owned by the family of Jack Leatherwood, who is attempting to have the land voluntarily annexed, zoned and asking the town for sewer and water connections.

The next action will come in September, when the Board of Aldermen will set the hearing date for the annexation and zoning, which will likely come during their October meeting.