Fate of proposed Cashiers Hillside development still undecided

Discussions continued on Wednesday to determine the fate of Cashiers Hillside, the proposed 57-acre multiuse development planned for the southeastern corner of the Crossroads, the intersection of Hwy 64 and Hwy 107.

The project’s future currently rests on the shoulders of the Cashiers Area Community Planning Council who are tasked with deciding whether to approve a Special Use Permit application from the project’s developer, Macauley Investments.

However, the Council did not discuss how the development would impact the community at Wednesday’s hearing, that discussion is set to begin on Jan 25.

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.

Wednesday’s hearing was spent discussing applications by property owners surrounding the development’s proposed location, who have concerns about the development and would like to be deemed as a party “with standing” in the hearings moving forward.

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. Read full description of project HERE.

A petition opposing the development has circulated throughout the community and as of Dec. 20 had 7,770 signatures. Read full article HERE.

Plans for the Cashiers Hillside development extend along Highway 64 to Monte Vista Road, pictured above.

This is the second time the Council has discussed the Cashiers Hillside project after a continuance was granted at quasi-judicial hearing on Nov. 16 to give parties who are opposed to the project time to hire experts and gauge the impact a development of this size would have on their property.

Jackson County Planning Director Mike Poston said the Cashiers Planning Council is the only municipal body that will hear the Special Use Permit application for the Cashiers Hillside project.

If the Council approves the special use permit, the applicant will also need to seek a major subdivision approval from the Jackson County Planning Board.

If the Special Use Permit is denied, the applicant can appeal the decision all the way to Superior Court.

What does it mean “with standing”

Jackson County Attorney Heather Baker said parties determined to have standing can testify, question experts, and object during hearings as the process moves forward.

Plans for Cashiers Hillside extend just beyond Frank Allen Road along Highway 107, pictured above.

Macauley Investments is being represented by Attorney Craig Justus, who pointed out parties determined to have standing can also be named in future lawsuits.

Baker said a party with standing is an aggrieved party, a person with a legal interest in the property (owner, tenant), a person who will suffer special damages as a result of the decision, or an association connected to the decision with at least one member of the association determined to have standing.

Baker said Jackson County is required to notify all adjacent property owners of the proposed development, but that does not mean they have standing, that is only one factor. Other factors are proximity or how the decision influences their property value. If they allege an effect on their property value, they will have to be able to show proof.

The first phase of construction planned is outlined in blue.

Special Damages

Baker said property owners may allege they will suffer from secondary damages, such as noise and light pollution, or traffic issues specific to their property and not the community as a whole, that can be considered special damages.

“One of the best ways to look at a party with standing is to say are this person’s potential damages different from someone in the community as a whole,” said Baker. “If anyone in the Cashiers area could say, yeah I can say the same thing, it’s probably not special damages. Whereas, if this person can say my driveway will intersect and I will not personally be able to get out of my driveway, or I will have light directly on here or noise, those are your secondary damages you can look at when considering this.”

The Council, chaired by Michael Cox, discussed each application individually opting for consistency over expediency, hence the lengthy hearing. Approx. 25 applicants were discussed and many were found to have sufficient reason to have standing.

Those found not to have enough evidence of special damages were determined to be “participating witnesses without standing,” who Baker said are still allowed to testify and question experts in future hearings.

During the hearing, applicant Yvonne Johnson was making her case about the effects the project would have on her property and mentioned the traffic problems it would cause. Justus asked if she had consulted a traffic expert on the matter and she said she hadn’t. Justus said traffic impact studies from an expert are required when alleging traffic related damages.

Several property owners who are opposed to the development are represented by Attorney John Noor who told the Council that Wednesday’s hearing was about alleging damages, and not showing proof.

“We do have a legal difference of opinion for standing as to whether or not you have to prove in addition to allege,” said Justus. “I will say that a number of the statements that Ms. Johnson made appear to be without grounding in fact, statements about traffic, as you probably have been coached, requires a traffic expert.”

Noor said there was no obligation of proof at Wednesday’s hearing.

“At this stage in the proceedings what an applicant has to do is allege the damages,” said Noor. “They’re saying, I’ve looked at this and these are the problems that are going to affect my property. At the next hearing we will get into the substance of the case, which is now I’ve got to prove for you what I alleged.”

Baker said she agreed with Justus, that applicants need to show a little more than just alleging dasmages.

Stephen Macauley, principal of Macauley Investments, said he believes the process to determine parties with standing was transparent and reasonable, and he looks forward to further discussion on Jan. 25.

“From adding to the economic vitality to improving infrastructure to addressing the need for housing diversity, there are many community benefits to Cashiers Hillside,” said Macauley. “Specifically, our expert team has created strategies in the development plan to responsibly address the Small Area Plan’s goals.”

Read more about Cashiers Small Area Plan HERE.

Macauley said those goals include:

  • Cashiers Hillside will be a true village center in Cashiers as envisioned by the description of the Village Core character area, providing a mix of uses ranging from retail businesses, to housing to public plazas.
  • Businesses who lease within the project will be curated to complement existing Cashiers businesses, not compete with them.
  • The community plan includes multiple public parking structures that will serve not only the project itself, but also the civic spaces and business in the village.
  • The project is designed to attract all age groups, including the younger demographic currently under-represented in the present market.
  • Cashiers Hillside will add to the economic vitality of the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau and to Jackson County revenues through its significant focus on year-round programming.
  • Gardens located throughout the development will be a defining feature of Cashiers Hillside, and the plazas, gardens and open spaces will be accessible to all. Connections to The Ramble will enable all Cashiers residents and visitors to access the amenities within the development.
  • The infrastructure that will be created in the development of Cashiers Hillside will serve the greater Cashiers community, including improved automobile and pedestrian connectivity and efficiency, sewage treatment, water and fire protection, and enhanced broadband connectivity.
  • The Cashiers Hillside Foundation, generated through real estate transfer fees and Property Owners Association fees, will address community needs including offering housing diversity for teachers, healthcare workers and more as well as ongoing financial support for the arts in the community.

Pictured at the top of the article is the southeastern corner of the Crossroads, the planned location for the proposed Cashiers Hillside development.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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