There are a lot unknowns involved in the proposed Cashiers Hillside development project planned at the southeast corner of the intersection of Highways 64 and 107, better known as the Crossroads.
Plans to build the Cashiers Hillside development on the southeastern corner of the Crossroads include 57 acres that stretch just beyond Frank Allen Road along Highway 107, and to Monte Vista Road along Highway 64, pictured below. Share your thoughts with the developer on Facebook HERE, or on Instagram @cashiershillside.
The large-scale project was proposed by Macauley Investments and plans entail developing residential, hospitality, retail, entertainment, and other amenities over 57 acres that extend from the Crossroads to just beyond Frank Allen Road along Hwy 107, and Monte Vista Road along Hwy 64.
Construction is planned in two phases. The first phase includes building over 123,000 sq. ft. of commercial/retail space, a 188-room hotel, and a mixture of 414 single and multi-family residential units.
The second phase will add another 35,000 sq. ft. of commercial/retail space, and 312 more residential units, making a total of 726 residential units in the plan.
Construction is scheduled to begin during the second quarter of 2021. Phase 1, which includes the completion of the first round of buildings, is expected to be complete by the summer of 2022. Phase 2 is expected to take 7-10 years to finish.
Planning Council grants continuance
The project went before the Cashiers Community Planning Council at a quasi-judicial hearing on Nov. 16 where it could have been approved, but Council members voted unanimously to grant a continuance until Jan. 6.
The decision to table the project was made after attorney John Noor filed a motion to grant a continuance to give people-affected by the proposed development, time to hire experts to gauge what kind of impact a project of this magnitude would have on the area.
Noor represents multiple clients in the motion, many concerned about the project’s impact on traffic, public safety, property values, land stability issues, and stormwater/sewer management, to name a few. Noor said experts in these areas could not be retained within the approx. two weeks notice he had of the Council’s meeting to discuss the Cashiers Hillside proposal.
“These and other issues generally require expert testimony be provided,” Noor told the Council. “My clients have the right to be able to produce that evidence through expert witnesses and they could not retain those experts with the amount of time they were given by notice of this meeting.”
Principal of Macauley Investments, Stephen Macauley, said after the Council’s vote to grant a continuance that issues raised by Noor and his clients are important concerns for a project of this size and its effect on the community.
“The plans for this project were guided by a two-year effort that the community created with Jackson County, which entailed what the residents wanted and envisioned Cashiers to be in the future,” said Macauley. “A big part of that includes infrastructure, including walkability, traffic, and sewer. We will be creating our own Cashiers Hillside water system and onsite sewage treatment facility, not just for the project, but for other businesses and homes in Cashiers. The plan includes spending millions to upgrade the traffic infrastructure in Cashiers. There will be gardens and thoughtfully planned landscaping surrounding pedestrian pathways.”
Macauley said they have hired multiple experts and conducted numerous tests throughout the planning process in order to design a sustainable community in Cashiers. One example being a traffic study that showed congestion at the Crossroads could be alleviated by extending Frank Allen Road, which is included in the development’s plans.
“We have done many studies and hired the best experts of their respective fields in the market, from traffic to sewer to land planning, etc.,” said Macauley. “These studies have given us direction on what is needed to do in order to help the Village of Cashiers in these areas.”
Too many unknowns, more information needed
With so many unknowns involved in such a large-scale development that would change the face of Cashiers forever, many in the community are undecided in terms of their support for the project.
The Village Green is a 13-acre public park located on the southeast corner of the Crossroads, directly across the street from the proposed development site. TVG Executive Director Ann Self said it’s too early to tell how this project could impact the area.
“What this recent proposal has demonstrated to me is that development is coming to Cashiers,” said Self. “That’s not necessarily a negative thing, but it needs to be planned and managed. The Council made a wise decision to give people a chance to give their input.”
She added that real estate and tourism are record setting at this point and it takes planning to provide for this increase, and it needs to be done right.
“Resources are so important to a community’s vitality,” said Self. “We exist as a park for the people and conservation is a huge part of our identity. The goal with everything we do is to enhance the community’s lifestyle. I’ve met with the developers and they’ve shared their vision, but there are a lot of unknowns. We need to hear more.”
There are several businesses located within the proposed development site and Macauley said they will be torn down to make room for the project.
“The existing structures will be demo’d, but we have been meeting with those business owners and some have chosen to relocate within the new community,” said Macauley.
Carla Sanders Gates owns Bombshell Hair Boutique located outside of the project’s proposed footprint, but less than a mile from the Crossroads in the Cashiers Commons along Hwy 107. She said more information is needed to gauge what the impact of this project could be.
“Like many Cashiers residents and business owners, I have concerns about the impact that a development such as this will have on the local infrastructure,” said Gates. “I look forward to the developer discussing these issues publicly.”
Macauley said he would gladly speak with those concerned about the project and encourages people to share their concerns via social media (FB and Insta, @cashiershillside).
However, virtual discussions like the arrangement for the Nov. 16 Council meeting didn’t resonate well with many who watched via Zoom or YouTube, including long-time area resident Carl Hyde.
“I think the vote for a continuance was the right move,” said Hyde. “Hopefully, the attorney and experts will have the answers they need by the next meeting. Although the idea of a Zoom meeting was necessary due to our pandemic environment, the meeting was not effective for the community members on Zoom. While masks were required, it was impossible to hear the Council members and staff. I could hear only one or two words at best from each presenter.”
Hyde added there are too many variables at this time to accurately gauge the impact this development could have on the area.