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Commissioners reapprove two treehouses, one ‘hobbit house’ at Cherry Treesort; additional units denied

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — County commissioners on Monday reauthorized two treehouses and the construction of a “hobbit house” at the Cherry Treesort, but denied owner Trent Cherry’s request to build seven additional treehouse units.

Cherry’s request for the reauthorization of two treehouse units and the addition of eight more would have totaled 15 units at the Cherry Treesort, located at 1920 Flat Rock Rd. in China Grove.

Three of the additional units would be built in a “hobbit house” style, which would be partially underground. Currently, there are a total of five treehouse units on-site used for rental purposes, which are considered “cabins” under the Rowan County Zoning Ordinance. Since conditional use permits are only valid for two years, the ability for Cherry to build additional units has expired.

The main concern regarding additional units included potential noise complaints from residents who live close to the property. Commissioner and Vice Chairman Jim Greene said he was concerned with Cherry occasionally receiving calls of “people enjoying themselves a little too much” and wanted to know how he handles those complaints.

Cherry said most of the complaints likely came from the property’s Winterfest that took place in December and lasted until 8 p.m. At the fest, the treehouse units are open to the public to view. There was a bounce house and movie available for children to enjoy. He added that “where we live, guns go off everyday,” referring to local residents who shoot guns nearby.

Additionally, Greene wanted to know how close Cherry lives to the resort. Cherry said he lives about two miles away.

Cherry said in the last four and half years he’s had the property, no service calls have been made to law enforcement. At the property, no ATVs or weapons are allowed, and 90% of his clientele includes families who seek “to get away from the Nintendos and PlayStations.”

During the quasi-judicial hearing, Donna Hampton — who lives on Beaver Road, a road that adjoins the Cherry Treesort — spoke in opposition to the additional units due to the noise level of tenants at the resort and lack of privacy. Hampton said only some woods separate her property from the resort, and she moved away from the city for the purpose of it being quiet in the woods.

“I don’t want to see any further development,” Hampton said. “I’m tired of the noise because I live just due east. And wind travels from west to east. I hear it when the garbage disposal truck comes in. So it’s not all peace and quiet back there.”

Cherry said Hampton has never talked with him about her concerns. He noted that South Rowan High School is also nearby, which creates loud noises every Friday night in the fall, particularly with the band. He also cited at least 100 feet of trees that create a buffer between the rental property and other residents’ properties.

Hampton also said she’s seen 20-30 cars at the resort at one time. Cherry said only two cars are allowed per unit.

“Not speaking for the other commissioners, but I think we’re all huge fans of private property rights until it starts infringing on other folks’ private property rights,” said Chairman Greg Edds.

Commissioner Mike Caskey recommended that Hampton reach out to Cherry when she has a complaint so that the developer can be made aware of concerns and work to address them.

“If y’all can communicate a little bit more, maybe some of the issues can be handled,” Caskey said.

Hampton said she’s been trying to “be tolerant, patient and a good neighbor,” but she can give him a call in the future if the resort is too loud.

In an effort to make his request successful, Cherry used the county’s motto of “Be Original” on the commissioners, citing the originality of his treehouse property and how it’s been a top tourist attraction for Americans and international travelers.

“We have people who come in and they think China Grove is off a Hallmark movie,” Cherry said. “It’s funny to us, but I have people coming from all over the world. I’ve made a big priority to make my stuff the nicest stuff in the state.”

But in an effort to “take a ‘see how it goes’ approach,” Edds said, the board ultimately voted to reauthorize two units and allow Cherry to construct a “hobbit house.” The board also voted to approve a 5-year vested rights request, which would give Cherry five years to make the units operable.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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