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Jackson appears set to OK development plan

jacksonAfter holding a public hearing last week, at its next meeting Jackson County Commissioners will likely approve an agreement allowing the Chinquapin housing development near Cashiers to expand the capacity of its planned 200-home neighborhood to 400.

“They have done everything they need to do to comply with the requirements for modifying the development agreement,” said Commission Chairman Brian McMahan. “I didn’t hear anything last week that would say we shouldn’t move forward and approve the agreement.”  

That’s not to say that nobody at the Dec. 10 hearing voiced opposition to the development. It simply means that, as far as county ordinances go, Chinquapin has met all the requirements it needs to in order to get the go-ahead to expand. Because the development predates the 2012 county ordinance regulating subdivisions, the only regulations it must meet are those set by the state. 

Cashiers has been burned by developers before during the pre-recession building frenzy, so some residents advocated caution when it comes to believing that Waterfront Group, the new owners of the development, will do what they say they will. 

“People paid good money for these properties, and now they don’t have water, they don’t have roads, they don’t have a decent homeowners association,” said resident Ray Trine of the predicament some area property owners have found themselves in since the recession. “I would ask that the Waterfront people supply the information necessary for the county to know that promises will be fulfilled and the buyers for this property will have access, they will have septic, they will have adequate drinking water.” 

B. K. Jones, who has lived on property adjacent to Chinquapin for the past 18 years, had similar concerns, asking whether the water system currently installed on the property would be capable of supplying the 400 planned homes. 

“The springs since we been there are slowly deteriorating down to a point now where on a drought they’re almost nonexistent on that mountain,” he said. “Everybody who lives on our side depends on the springs for some part of their water. If you’re going to build that many houses, you need to plan ahead to make sure your infrastructure’s in place before you approve it.” 

When Jones directed a question at him, county code compliance officer John Jeleniewski said that water system requirements are set by the state, that Chinquapin’s system meets all state requirements and that the system is more than capable of serving the community, with the potential to be expanded. 

“They have an onsite system built, and it’s state-approved,” he said. 

Other speakers lent their support to Chinquapin and to the Carlton family, who had owned the property before selling to Waterfront. 

“The water is there, and just from an economic standpoint I can tell you that neither the Carltons nor this company would engage in this transaction if all these infrastructure issues were not resolved,” said Sam Lupas, a Cashiers Realtor.

“Their (the Carlton family’s) integrity is impeccable and unquestionable,” said Cashiers resident Mark Zachary, who identified himself as a friend of the Carlton family. “I think it would be outside the possibilities of their mores to not provide everything the people need.” 

Though he’d voiced concern about the infrastructure aspect and possibility of broken promises, Trine also said that he supported the idea of the development. Construction has stagnated in Cashiers, and an expanded development like Chinquapin might be instrumental in increasing the tax base and livening up the development scene, he said.

“I think it would be a good asset for the community,” he said. “I think it would be good for the tax base, and I just think that overall it would be a positive thing for the community and the county.” 

The development agreement is on the agenda for the Jackson County Commissioners meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Jackson County Administration Building.

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