Forest Hills Planning Board 3-19-01

Village of Forest Hills Planning Board


Date: March 19 2001


Members Present:


Chairman Larry Kolenbrander

Jim Davis

Dick Iobst

Sally James

Ian Pritchard

Jim Wallace


Guest Presenter: Geoff Willett of the North Carolina Institute of Government


Other guests: Elizabeth Worley and Howard Hill


Chairman Larry Kolenbrander called the meeting of the Forest Hills Planning Board, held at the University Inn in Forest Hills on March 19, 2001, to order at 7:00 p.m.


(1) Chairman Kolenbrander said that Elizabeth Worley and Howard Hill are part of a partnership that currently has a contract on the property in the center of the Valley.  They are interested in what kinds of things we are doing in terms of reconsidering making changes in zoning regulations and so on.  Our prime purpose tonight is to have a presentation by Geoffrey Willett based on what we asked him concerning our discussion at our earlier meetings.  Why don't we go ahead.  Has everyone received copies of the minutes from the last meeting?


(2) The minutes of the February 19, 2001 meeting were approved.


(3) The meeting was turned over to Geoff Willett.  Larry Kolenbrander said that over the last couple of meetings we had asked ourselves the question of what we would like to see the center of the Valley look like.  We had come up with a list of things, and had asked Geoff to put together some slides showing situations that encompass the types of things we were interested in- for instance, cluster housing, green ways, green space, etc.


Geoff Willett said that Forest Hills has become something of a second home to him.  “The slides that I am showing,” he said, “you should ask yourselves is this:  what would work here?  These things have worked somewhere else but might not necessarily work here.  A typical town is made up of lots of small communities: a business community, an industrial community, a commercial community, all kinds of things make up a typical community. A planned community is not like Sylva.  It is more like a mall, or a golf course community.  This is trying to protect values, to increase values, to create a situation that will give value to everyone.  This would not only be financially, but in other terms.  Just because something works somewhere else does not mean it will work here.  You will never be a typical town.”


After a number of additional comments Geoff showed a series of slides.


The first slide showed a regular development.  He discussed the roads and the speeds people drive on the roads.  This is a very typical subdivision.  The average price of a house in this subdivision is probably in the $150,000 to $180,000 price range.


A second slide showed a small development.  “The people,” he said, “wanted to place all of the houses closer to the road.  There is a lot of green on the other side of these properties.  The property lines run along the area in the middle that is green space.  Asheville allowed the developer to put an extra unit on the development.  The developer could then put a little more development here- but the development fits the concept of green space.” 


A third slide was of Biltmore Park on the Biltmore Estate.  “George Cecil put a shortness between house and sidewalk.  You can walk safely on the sidewalk.  This gives an opportunity for interaction.  Parking on the street is encouraged.  All of the streets are short.  All of the blocks are cut up.  Very short distances.  Whenever you add something like a sidewalk you are driving up the price.  Many of these houses sell for something like $300,000 and up.”


A fourth slide showed a development with short walks and parking on the street with sidewalks.  “Driving at 20 miles per hour or less is what you want to shoot for.”


A fifth slide showed a development by Dan Burton and Associates.  Geoff discussed the need to create the physical environment of what you want, including setting speed limits.  “Landscaping is very important in this.  You also might put in crosswalks.”  He showed two typical houses, one with landscaping, and another without landscaping.  “People pay significantly more for landscaped property than they would for property which is not landscaped.”  He made many other comments about landscaping.


A sixth slide showed another development:  compact with short streets.  “Here, they discourage parking on the street.  There is no place to walk your dog, and there is a danger from cars.  In this subdivision the builder recessed the garages back.  You can sit on your porch, but they shot themselves in the foot because they made it more difficult to walk.”


A seventh slide showed a development named "Cheshire."  He showed an example of a house- some are very small and some very large.  “This house is less than $200,000, but there are other houses in this subdivision which cost $400,000.  The developer mixed it all up.  You can have a business in some of this area.  Once everything is laid out you have to think of landscaping.  Also, what types of use can you put your house to?  Is it just a residence?  Are you all to have a home occupation?  There should be a civic space, a space for civic events- maybe a business area.”


Geoff then handed out a plan for a development in Black Mountain.  ‘This calls for a master plan.” He discussed the master plan in some detail.  “You lay out standards - and lay out a process where both the developer and the town get what they want.  The houses follow architectural standards.”  Geoff discussed these standards in great detail.  “It is very difficult to park a car here.”


An eighth slide showed Beaverdam Run in Asheville.  His comments were not kind about this development.  “There are two rows of buildings.”  He showed the garages in front and the porch recessed.  He showed the back side of this development which is just green space.  The average age of people in this subdivision is 72. 


A ninth slide showed a condominium complex.  “One option is for green space.  This town will actually prepare the green space, and the developers like this.  You allow the developers to put in more structures.  If this is done correctly they will get as much or more than they would have otherwise.  You have to have a staff that has to take care of it.  If this happens then a staff must be hired.  This has tax increase implications.”


A discussion followed concerning who would maintain the green space.  Geoff said it usually is the town's responsibility to maintain the green space.


Other slides showed the Reems Creek Golf Course community where they have four housing configurations:  a house on a block, a house in the middle of a block, houses between which trees could be planted.  Another configuration is where the houses are built very close together on small lots.  A third type of dwelling consists of duplexes.  Geoff showed another view of Cheshire.  This view included an outdoor amphitheater, a wellness center, townhouses, a pro shop, a pier, and interesting streets.  There is a square in the middle.  All of the streets are very short.  Wider streets are nearby.  In Biltmore Forest [on the Biltmore Estate] green ways run right by the houses with trails, but the system works.  At Cheshire the trail goes on top of a mountain.  The green way runs right through the entire subdivision.  You can walk on the green way and not on the road.  You also have commercial parts of the development. 


Geoff then addressed assisted living.  “We have two types of issues related to assisted living.  One of them has a house and the other has a sort of apartment.  Then there is another type like a nursing center.  There are two places in Asheville like that.  In order to make an assisted living community work, you have to have so much ground.  You need a lot more than that we have available here.  The other part of this is that the houses are placed around a perfect oval.  They need someone to check up on them.  They are on a large plot of land.”


Geoff then passed out another handout.


A good many questions followed concerning some of the slides that Geoff had shown.  These questions involved green ways, and streets (concerning transitioning them to state-maintenance).  Dick Iobst and Sally James raised objections to the maintenance of green ways (by the town).  Dick felt that our taxes would increase drastically to maintain the green ways.  Sally James noted, "I don't see any profit in this at all."


Ian Pritchard felt that in some cases the condominiums sustain roads, parking lots, and things of that sort.  The important thing is that if the development has made an effort that is viable, that is going to satisfy the market demands and that will be within the framework, that is o.k.


In coming back to the assisted living communities, that's a very appealing type of business.  Dick Iobst agreed and said that the nursing home or assisted living center would maintain their own green ways and roads.  Ian said that the people here do not want to pay a big tax.  “That is not what I foresee.  We want to see the open areas.  But there has to be an institutional structure that maintains them.  That is important.”


Larry Kolenbrander asked the question, "What are the institutional arrangements that exist between a town and a homeowners association within a development?  If you end up with a development in which the streets are put in by the developer is there a possibility that those streets are maintained by the homeowners association and that their maintenance does not become the responsibility of the town in which they are developed?"  Geoff Willett responded, "Absolutely."  There are any number of combinations,” he said, “that could be worked out.  In other words, all those green spaces could be the responsibility of the homeowners association and not the town.”  He discussed that the town might own the trail system, but the homeowners might be responsible for the rest.  Many other comments concerned the maintenance of streets in a possible subdivision in the center of the Valley.  Jim Davis stated, "It seems to me that it would be wise to have streets built with dimensions such that they could be taken over by the State.”  He felt that we might enjoy the landscaping if it were the responsibility of the homeowners.  If you have clustering, the organization could do it.  I don't see the town as having a garage or something to that extent that they would need a staff.  Dick Iobst reiterated that there is no money in the budget for a staff.


Another issue concerned how many more homes could be built within our boundaries?  Sally James responded to a question by Jim Davis:  "Sixteen”. 


In the matter of annexation, after Geoff Willett suggested that the Village Council annex property to increase the town's tax base, Dick Iobst noted that the people here are opposed to any type of zoning or annexation.  They want to live in their individual communities and not have any controls imposed on them by anyone.


Larry Kolenbrander said that we are interested in what the Valley will look like 30 years from now.  “We may end up annexing the area we are now talking about as an ETJ area.  We now have an assessed value of 11 million dollars.  You may be looking at an assessed value of closer to 150 million dollars.  At that point we could have a staff.”


In the matter of cars, it was pointed out (by Larry Kolenbrander) that the roads in this area are only utilized at 40 percent of their capacity.  “It would require another 60 percent before the State would have to do something about the roads.”


The subject of density was discussed.  One of the ways to increase the density of population in the Valley is to make the lot size smaller.  Geoff Willett said that there were two different ordinances here.  One of them is a subdivision ordinance; the other is a zoning ordinance.


Harold Hill said that he and Elizabeth Worley plan to put up 50 to 60 housing units.  Their plans included green spaces and green ways.  Elizabeth Worley said they were working with a couple of landscape architects.  “If you went from a two-acre to a one-acre standard, that's what you would have.  Again, more of the cluster development style.  There are a lot of different ways of increasing the density without increasing the footprint on the land.”


After much additional discussion it was decided to essentially review the information that Geoff handed out and come back to the next Planning Board meeting prepared to nail down some of these standards that we would like to see included.


Elizabeth Worley and Howard Hill asked if they could attend future meetings.  It was pointed out that these meetings are open to the public and they could certainly attend the meetings.


The next scheduled meeting is the third Monday in April.


Chairman Kolenbrander thanked Geoff Willett for his presentation and called for a motion to adjourn.


A motion to adjourn was made and the Board adjourned at 9:35 p.m.


Respectfully submitted by


Richard W. Iobst