By Dave Russell
The word “dramatic” rarely comes into play when describing a meeting of any kind, but the adjective fit the meeting Sylva held last week.
To make it from plan to reality, one major step for the Canyon Chase apartments would be approval of four tenets by the Sylva Board of Adjustment on Thursday, April 1.
The application from KRP Investments originally called for a single four-story building containing 84 units (44 one-bedroom units; 40 two-bedroom units) for 124 total bedrooms on Skyland Drive near the intersection of Chipper Curve Road. The developer, Karen Perry, told the crowd gathered at Bridge Park on the 40-degree, windy day that to make the project more amenable to the community, she would lower it by one story.
Each tenet required a majority vote from the board. With board member Greg McPherson absent, Mayor Lynda Sossamon not only led the meeting but was called on to cast tie-breaking votes.
Three times Sossamon asked if the project met the tenet. Three times board members Mary Gelbaugh and Barbara Hamilton voted against, and three times David Nestler and Ben Guiney voted in favor.
Sossamon had broken the first three ties with a vote in favor of the project.
She read the fourth tenet, “The location and the character of the proposed use will be in harmony with the area in which it is to be located and in general conformity with the development of the town and its environs.”
Again, it was two for, two against.
Sossamon paused as she considered her tie-breaking vote and the fate of Canyon Chase.
The pregnant pause lasted 47 seconds.
“I vote against on this one,” she finally said. “So this will not pass.”
Many of the remaining attendees – about 30 – clapped and cheered.
Eight of them had earlier spoken against the project.
The meeting was originally set to be an online meeting streamed on the town’s YouTube channel, but opponents of Canyon Chase requested town leaders hold the meeting at the Bridge Park Pavilion to allow for more attendance and public comment. Just over 50 people had shown up at 5 p.m. for the meeting.
The Bluffs approved
The first of two developments to come before the bundled-up board was The Bluffs. It was approved in much less dramatic fashion.
Plans consist of three buildings of three stories, 133 parking spaces, a playground, covered patio, clubhouse and more amenities. The development would sit on a 6.83-acre plot on Savannah Drive, about one-fifth of a mile from West Main Street near the Sylva/Dillsboro town limits. While not in town limits, it is in Sylva’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.
Three neighbors of the property signed up; two spoke.
“A group of about 20 or 30 of us who live in the Savannah Drive and Yellowbird Branch area have been talking recently and they asked me to come up and request another hearing or another opportunity for a group of us to come and present our concerns to you,” Buddy Sanders said from the podium.
Sanders cited the Easter holiday and people traveling and the weather as impediments to more neighbors speaking out.
“Unfortunately, there won’t be another Board of Adjustment meeting on this,” Sossamon said.
Sanders questioned the impact of the development on traffic.
“If anybody has ever been on Savannah Drive going up to Harold’s (Supermarket), that twisty, curvy road, this is going to dramatically increase the traffic there,” he said.
Within a half-mile area, Sanders counted over 10 different apartment developments already, he said.
“We’re not saying ‘Not in our back yard,’ we’re saying ‘We’ve done enough in our back yard in terms of apartment complexes there,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ wife, Donna, addressed the board as well. She echoed her husband’s concerns about the traffic.
The board voted unanimously on all four tenets. From here, The Bluffs goes into a competitive process to receive tax credits from the N.C. Housing Finance agency. About 25 percent of those projects are successful.