Carthage OKs Big Plans for Little River
Before a rare joint session of the Carthage Planning Board and town commissioners, seven partners presented plats and colorful pictures showing a future Little River. The room was packed, with chairs set up in the hall to accommodate an overflow crowd.
Images showed a more upscale, higher value Little River with fewer residences, down from an initial proposed planned unit development some years ago that would have put 1,600 residential units -- condominiums, town homes and single-family homes) on the former horse farm. The new plan shows 1,150.
"Little River is a spectacular, magnificent, beautiful place," partner Fran Mullan said in the presentation. "We have brought you a plan that has reduced the proposed density. This will be the lowest density proposed for Little River that Carthage has seen thus far."
The plan backs away from draining wetlands, and instead seeks to keep the natural, unspoiled look since the time when thoroughbreds trained for Triple Crowns on rolling pastures between Sandhills and Foothills, Mullan said.
"We think we have designed communities and building footprints that will ease into the natural settings," he said. "They will not encroach into existing wetlands, as previous plans did. We are not proposing to fill wetlands. We developed a plan that provides more green areas and fewer homes."
A mix of residential units is intended to blend with the existing golf course as well as natural topography and vegetation, partner Ben Minton said. He displayed drawings of golf villas ringing the driving range, town home developments, and two communities of separate houses.
"We think we have developed subdivision layouts, town home layouts, that will create spectacular communities," he said. "They will include condominiums, single-car garage town homes, luxury town homes or golf villas with two-car garage homes."
Virtually all homes -- whether condominiums, town homes or single-family home -- will have fairway views or views of Little River woodlands. Town homes, houses with common walls between residences, have varying setbacks and differing facings and don't look like row houses.
"There will be no 'barracks look' at Little River," Minton said, showing drawings of town homes. "Our smallest -- 1,900 to 2,400 square feet -- will have nine-foot ceilings on both first and second floors. Of course, these are not exact plans. They are just to give you a view of what we are planning. There will also be two areas with detached single family homes, one larger than the other."
Just by the main entrance to Little River, "Rockingham Park" will feature 2,700 to 3,200 square foot homes with ten-foot ceiling on ground floors, and nine-foot ceiling above. Off McCaskill Road on the other side of Little River, "Remington Park" will offer larger lots and home sizes ranging from 3,200 to 3,800 square feet.
People who live at Little River won't have far to go to buy groceries, see a movie or shop.
Across N.C. 22, on an 80-acre site that rises from wetlands up a sloping hillside toward Whispering Pines, the partners intend to build a shopping mall, medical center and assisted living facility. There is interest from supermarket chains such as Harris Teeter and Fresh Market, developer Blaine East said, displaying drawings of "The Commons at Little River."
East is a well-known, established mall developer.
"We build a new shopping center every 30 days," he said. "The Commons will be a place of theater, culture, and the arts. People can do their banking, shopping, all an easy walk from an assisted living center, all near a medical facility. They won't have to drive to FirstHealth."
The center is to be carefully placed on smaller tracts within the 80 acres.
"We've left a lot of open space," East said. "This will become a true, regional destination. We are in need of a great grocery. We have had great conversations with Harris Teeter and Fresh Market. Where (on the ground level) we have a salon and a bistro, then there will be a cinema on top. It will be a six- or seven-screen theater showing first-run and art films. These are to show and give some sense of the destination we want to create."
A great emphasis will be placed on the arts, East said, with some type of performing arts center.
"It will have art galleries, possibly a work space," he said. "We will build an amphitheater where we might have jazz festivals, symphony concerts. There will be a nice lake."
East and his family now live in Cary. When Little River is developed, he plans to move there.
One of the first additions to Little River will be a five-story hotel -- an exception to the current height limit -- to rise on land just beyond the current clubhouse and its swimming pool. Just past it will be linked residences.
"This is a preliminary site plan," Mullan said. "The hotel will be tucked in right beside our existing condo buildings, with town homes placed throughout the wooded area. It will be a top shelf hotel, a national brand like Hilton or Sheraton."
The picture he displayed showed a white hotel bearing the name Sheraton.
"It will be complementary to the clubhouse," he said. "There will be 159 hotel rooms, but no restaurant, no pub or lounge. Hotel guests will use the restaurant and pub in the clubhouse."
One of the first questions commissioners asked had to do with how prominently that hotel would be tfor people passing by on adjacent highways.
Commissioner Sherwood Lap-ping asked how much of this hilltop hotel would be visible from twin highways that bracket the resort -- U.S. 15-501 on the southern side, and N.C. 22 to the north. Partners promised to check that carefully, though they had no immediate answer that was accurate.
"I think the hotel will be blocked by trees," Fred Hobbs (whose firm, Hobbs & Upchurch is doing much of the engineering work) said. "They have tried to leave as much vegetation as possible."
After the planning board retired to discuss the proposal separately, it returned with an enthusiastic endorsement.
There was some discussion of a previous agreement on an improvement to the town water system. Little River partners are also to cover $400,000 matching requirements of an existing $800,000 grant to build a new water tower. It will serve Little River as well as other parts of Carthage. The partners offered land for the tower if engineers agree that is the best site. Discussion of details about the tank, its placement, appearance, and matters such as telemetry and second-party antennas will continue.
Commissioner Ronnie Fields moved Little River's new plans be approved as to layout and plots, with the exclusion of details in the wording of the final agreement for subsequent clarification. It and a second motion to approve the hotel and town home plats passed without dissent.
John Chappell can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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