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Stoots Mountain primed for development

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

There’s a mountain full of residential development going on in northern Carroll County.

Plans have been submitted to the county to turn more than 481 wooded acres around Stoots Mountain into three recreational subdivisions with more than 280 lots.

Preliminary plats have been submitted to the county planning commission for the Stoots Mountain, Stoots Ridge and Stoots Valley subdivisions in the Austinville section, south of Wythe County.

Pillar Engineering & Surveying of Wytheville is developing the plans for subdivision owners Creekwood Land Co. and Flashover Group, both of Piney Creek, N.C., and Stoots Mountain LLC of Coral Gables, Fla.

Stoots Valley by the Flashover Group appears to be the largest of the three phases. Required paperwork submitted to the county shows development of about 233 acres of wooded land on Little Mountain into a 150-lot recreational subdivision.

Stoots Mountain has a proposed 78 lots on 128 acres, and Stoots Ridge 69 lots on about 120 acres. All would be on Stoots Mountain Road, south of the community of Austinville.

These subdivisions, in the words of engineer Mark Boenke, will go down one side of a mountain, into a valley and up the side of another hill.

The owners/developers chose Stoots Mountain because they like the area, it has good views and it’s off the beaten path.

“There aren’t as many requirements as some of the surrounding counties,” Boenke added.

Sites will be marketed to out-of-state people for vacation homes or second homes.

Many of the lots appear to start at about two-thirds of an acre in size, though that may change depending on what soil evaluations show.

Plans for three subdivisions are taking shape together, though they have three different owners.

The developments will have a mountainous character in keeping with their location and numerous restrictions for those who choose to live there.

“Most likely each lot owner will have a choice of six to eight home styles to choose from,” according to an accompanying booklet submitted with the plat to the planning commission in November.

“All homes are to have or resemble mountainous living and will most likely have some element of log siding or timber framing.”

The planners expect local contractors to do the work.

Those who choose to live there will be living off of an 18-foot-wide gravel road with a 40-foot right of way they will use, and septic systems.

The planning document notes there is no public water system to this area — yet.

Embarq and American Electric Power agreed to provide utilities to the subdivisions. Cable television is something of an unknown.

Natural gas will not be available, however.

“We have also contacted ATMOS Energy, who has informed us that for a minimum of $500,000 they would tap into their closest line at Exit 19 off I-77,” the plans state. “At this point, my client has ruled out installing natural gas line service to the subdivision.”

Throughout the document, the challenge of building is either explicitly stated or implied.

It described how the engineers and owners “walked the land” to lay out the best possible road locations.

Planners selected places for roads based on “constructability and existing grade.”

Entrances will go where at least 300 feet of sight distance can be obtained.

Traffic impacts need to be studied, and the engineers planned to do so with representatives of Virginia Department of Transportation.

“As Stoots Mountain Road does not have a posted speed limit, it is assumed to be 55 mph, which requires a 600-foot sight distance,” the planning document said.

“Common sense and existing conditions will tell any driver that they will not be able to drive 55 mph on Stoots Mountain Road. In fact, 35 mph will be hard to achieve because of the sharp curves.”

Planners expected a request for speed limits from VDOT to be placed for the developments.

Boenke said the firm is still getting the contours of the land, so the road grades are still unknown. The road will be private, so he didn’t expect a need to get vehicles like school buses on it.

All three owners/developers want to make sure the roads are wide enough so two cars can pass, the engineer said.

At the time of the plan’s submission to the county, no soil evaluations had been performed because of, in part, time constraints from the clients to meet deadlines. So neither percolation rates for septic systems nor soil classification for drainfields were available.

Engineers expected that the three subdivisions would share storm water detention facilities in the valley below, or at least common drainage easements.

An erosion and sediment control plan will be required before final approval of the subdivisions.

“Given the slope of the existing terrain, [erosion and sediment control] will be challenging,” the planning document stated. “Therefore, it is going to be a goal to disturb as little as possible for construction and perform construction in such a manner so as not to cause excessive potential erosion areas.”

Along with the planning document, engineers submitted a five-page draft of proposed restrictions for the subdivisions.

The proposed covenants would control outbuildings and unlicensed vehicles on the properties, require clean lots, stipulate easements, exclude animals for breeding, and require that all water and septic comply with Virginia Department of Health regulations. An architectural control committee would be established.

Boenke wasn’t sure what the developers’ total investment in the project would be, or a timeline for the work.

“They’re not in a big hurry to get it done, but they don’t want to drag it out for years and years,” he said. “It’s not for the faint of heart to try and do something like this.”

The proposed development is sizeable, county officials say.

“I would say it’s very close to being one of the biggest,” noted Sam Dickson, new chairman of the Carroll County Supervisors who has also spent time on the planning commission.

A lot of people want beautiful views, and Dickson believes that would be the attraction of Stoots Mountain.

Recreational subdivisions have caused concerns in the past in Carroll County because of their narrow roads and steep grades that make it difficult for fire engines and ambulances to respond to emergencies.

From what Dickson knows about the proposals, that doesn’t seem to be an issue.

“From the preliminary plans, it looks like it’ll be done right,” Dickson said. “I see it as good growth.”