TIEC zoning amendments, new development agreement approved

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2018

TIEC allowed 60-foot buildings, lodging units limited to 1,900 total

COLUMBUS — Tryon International Equestrian Center will get 60-foot hotels, but the county is  limiting the total number of lodging units to 1,900 on the property.

Polk County Commissioners met Monday and approved zoning amendments and a new development agreement for TIEC, by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Ray Gasperson was the sole vote against both approvals.

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The commissioners held a public hearing on the development agreement prior to the vote. Everyone who spoke opposed the county approving the changes.

Grey Lancaster

Edward Chapman said he has reviewed the initial development agreement, and his major concern is the increase in density.

The previous development agreement limited motel and hotel units to 450.

The commissioners postponed a decision last month to approve rezoning for TIEC, with one of the issues being an unlimited amount of hotel and motel rooms allowed in the Equestrian Village District. Commissioners went back to the development agreement in order to place a limit on how many lodging rooms can be located on the development.

Chapman also asked commissioners what is to prevent TIEC from selling the property one day and allow something like Disney or Dollywood to come into the facility. He said when they sell it, the entitlements go with the land.

Mary Dill

“Slow the train down a little bit,” Chapman said. “Pull into the station.”

Chapman said the county needs to look five, 10 and 20 years down the road. The county’s approval Monday night will not only affect the people of Polk County, but everyone who travels U.S. 74, along with the regional district.

“The red carpet has been rolled out in Polk County,” Chapman said.

Chapman said he is suggesting commissioners sit back and look at the impact on multiple generations. He also mentioned complaints about property value increases during the last revaluation.

“The next time property values are reassessed, it will be more detrimental to people that have spent generations in this county,” Chapman said.

Floyd Suave

Polk County Attorney Jana Berg clarified that the new development agreement provides for 1,900 lodging units be developed on the property. She defined lodging units as transient units, or units where people do not stay a length of time, generally overnight.

Mary Dill said if the county exhausts its natural resources, there will be nothing left for our children.

“If you can honestly say that 1,900 more units won’t hurt anything. I would simply ask, have you lost your minds?” Dill said.

Dill also said while she appreciates the county working to get the speed limit lowered on Moore Road there are still trucks carrying heavy horse trailers that are speeding.

D’Lee Worden said she wanted to voice her opposition for any additions or changes that TIEC is asking.

“I think you gave them enough in 2015,” Worden said.

Francine Gillam thanked the county for getting the speed limit lowered. She said she and her husband came four years ago from Florida, and the owner of Derbyshire informed them of the passion the county had for no billboards and no Walmarts.

“So we decided to leave Florida and come here,” Gillam said. “Lo and behold if it wasn’t right off Moore Road.”

She said commissioners are voting on approving 1,900 transients nesting here. She said it seems to her that vote belongs in the hands of the all Polk County citizens, not just a few.

Floyd Suave asked what TIEC has done for the county.

“The Pea Ridge area is not the Pea Ridge area I knew growing up,” Suave said.

He said TIEC has brought some tax dollars and some jobs, but really not that many. He spoke of the increase in property values, saying if you are selling, “that’s great. If not, not so good.”

He said people are paying ungodly sums for pieces of property near where they want to be and it is pricing young people out of starting families here.

Suave also said the North Carolina Department of Transportation is finally paying some attention to Polk County, and that is pretty cool.

“At Pea Ridge Road, we’re getting an overpass over 74, or a tunnel under 74, or both,” Suave said. “I’m still confused on that.”

He asked how long-term residents are supposed to deal with this and 500,000 people coming to Polk County, a figure he still cannot believe.

On the 1,900 lodging units, Suave said, as Polk County commissioners, the board should have some problems with that.

“It’s time to put some limits or controls on this project,” Suave said. “So how about it, commissioners?”

Grey Lancaster referred to the Equestrian Village District zoning as “evil village,” and presented “fun facts” to commissioners.

“Some have mentioned in the past they are not doing what they promised,” Lancaster said.

He said five years ago, TIEC said 75 lots and promised a public safety facility, and they are “zero close” to the public safety facility.

“I’m afraid this whole horse park thing is like drugs,” Lancaster said. “It’s enticing at first, but once you get involved, it’s not all it’s up to be.”

Lancaster also said five years ago there were 450 hotel rooms allowed, so, with the 1,900, that is a 422 percent increase. With that increase, by year 2023, there will be 8,000 hotel rooms.

On building heights, Lancaster said the limit for all other Polk County citizens is 40-feet. Lancaster said he thinks all TIEC wants can be accomplished with 50-foot structures.

Gasperson said he thinks commissioners need to be careful on these decisions and not rush.

“If we approve tonight, it will be a decision for decades to come,” Gasperson said.

Gasperson said TIEC was initially gong to be a $90 million investment.

“Here we are five years later, and I keep hearing the number $200 million has been invested.”

He said if you add another 20 years, it could be a billion dollars or more.

“You could say it’s the Disney World of the equestrian world,” Gasperson said.

The rezoning approval for TIEC included rezoning 27.36 acres of Equestrian District to Equestrian Village District; 5.92 acres from Multiple Use District to Equestrian Village District and 9.57 acres from Multiple Use District to Equestrian District. The rezoning decision also added new uses to the permitted use table for both Equestrian and Equestrian Village Districts for veterinarian clinics, church, synagogue, temple or other religious building, quarantine facility, schools, public or private and schools, vocational schools, business schools and special schools.