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City to mull purchase of Batey Farm

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City leaders could decide to purchase the Batey property for preservation. TENA LEE

The owners of a 35-acre piece of property at the center of a controversial rezoning request earlier this year have offered to sell the land to the city for $3 million.

City leaders will consider the proposal during a Board of Mayor and Aldermen workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

"After much reflection on the best use of the property, Destiny believes that it was in the best interest of the city of Hendersonville that the property continue to be preserved as a greenway as opposed to being developed," reads a Sept. 27 letter to city leaders from attorney Andrea Perry. Perry is representing Destiny Real Estate Ventures, a limited liability company that owns the land known as the Batey Farm at the corner of Indian Lake Road and East Drive.

Tax records show that Destiny purchased the land, as well as 38 acres less than a mile away, in 2016 for $2.7 million.

In the spring, nationally known home builder D.R. Horton, who had a contract to purchase the land, requested that the city rezone the property from SR-1 to a SR-1 PD to allow for 105 homes with lot sizes of between 7,800 to 13,000 square feet. The current zoning allows for 85 to 90 homes with a minimum lot size of 12,500 square feet.

At its July 10 meeting, members of the Hendersonville Regional Planning Commission unanimously denied recommending the rezoning to the city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen when area residents opposed the project citing traffic and drainage concerns.

D.R. Horton didn't take the rezoning request to BOMA, a necessary next step for passage.

Ward 4 Alderman Andy Gilley said that the home builders submitted a plan to the city under the allowed zoning, but have withdrawn those plans.

Several of his constituents have expressed concerns about building more homes on the property and asked if there was any way the city could buy it for a park or greenway, he added.

Gilley said he brought those concerns to Destiny representative Mike Isaacson who agreed to give the city 30 days to discuss the issue. Isaacson declined to comment on the proposal.

The city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen will discuss the issue on Monday following a special Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. The board, that usually meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month, cancelled its Oct. 10 meeting because several aldermen would be out of town for fall break, according to Mayor Jamie Clary.

The board will hold a regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 followed by a workshop in which several issues, including the land purchase, will be discussed.

"I look forward to the discussion and hearing the ideas of the aldermen on how we would pay for this," said Clary. "I think during the budget process my frustration was evident whenever an idea was presented without the means to pay for it. Three million dollars is essentially what we have in savings and we should have twice that."

Gilley said he doesn't know yet how the city would pay for the land, but believes the city would benefit from having a passive park on the Indian Lake peninsula.

"There's been nobody I've talked to who has said that it's a bad idea," said Gilley. "I just felt like it was incumbent on us to at least say that we tried."

Gilley also noted that it's been more than 12 years since the city purchased park land under then-Mayor Jim Fuqua's administration.

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