Nonprofit partnership makes gains on 20/20 vision for housing

Published 11:18 am Friday, November 10, 2017

The Polk County 20/20 Vision Comprehensive Plan adopted by the Polk County Board of Commissioners in 2010, and again as updated in 2017, states, “Housing conditions and affordability are a significant concern for Polk County. Affordable housing is an issue which should focus on increasing the supply of housing which can be afforded by people/families who work or grew up in Polk County.” 

Conserving Carolina (formerly Pacolet Area Conservancy and Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) created the opportunity to fulfill part of this community need through land conservation. In December 2016, your local land trust purchased 1,068 acres on the southeast-facing slope of Little White Oak Mountain, an area that was named Foster Creek Preserve. The acreage had been approved for the development of nearly 700 upper-income residential units. Partnering with Housing Assistance Corporation of Hendersonville, a portion of the conserved acreage will be provided for affordable workforce housing.

On the lower 30-60 acre flatland portion of the property, which was already cleared for development,  approximately 40-60 cottage-style homes will be built on half acre lots. Some of the homes will be built through the Self-Help Housing program, which allows participants to save money and apply “sweat equity” toward their new homes by completing 65 percent of the labor. The program also offers participants a variety of support services including financial and credit counseling. Construction is planned to begin in early 2019. Younger families and middle-income individuals will get a start with homeownership. 

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Conservation of the Little White Oak Mountain property gives Polk County several benefits in addition to housing. More than 13 miles of streams and 21 rare and uncommon species, including the state and federal endangered White Irisette (Sisyrinchium dichotomum) are being preserved. To ensure the long-term protection of the watershed and these rare species, approximately 600 acres will be transferred to the N.C. Game Lands and 300 acres will be added to the Polk County Parks and Recreation Department’s Recreation Complex near Polk County Middle School — both enhancing recreational opportunities and protecting our mountain landscape for public enjoyment.

Polk County residents are invited to join Conserving Carolina to complete the financing of this mountain purchase. A legacy gift to the Little White Oak Mountain Polk Challenge $400K will be matched dollar-for-dollar and will complete the investment made in Polk County for the benefit of all. $127,000 of the $400,000 to be raised from Polk County residents remains. Together, we will leave a legacy and preserve our Little White Oak Mountain – dramatic views, rare species, clean water, wildlife habitats, outdoor recreation opportunities and housing for young families.

Tax-deductible donations, of any amount, can be made to the Conserving Carolina’s “Little White Oak Mountain Polk Challenge $400K” by mail to Conserving Carolina at 2060 Lynn Road, Suite 1, Columbus, NC 28722, by calling 828-859-5060, or online at  Thank you for investing in your community.

– submitted by Pam Torlina