This Looks Like A Great Idea!
Anybody that read our opinion of the food truck debate might have picked up some clues that I am a rabid capitalist. I firmly believe that America became a great nation through innovation, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit. In general I am a solid supporter of the “let’s build it bigger” mentality that our country has always embraced.

The caveat here is that I also feel that development and certain advancements should have some natural boundaries. I like to think of these boundaries as simple things like “common sense”, “human decency”, and “respect for your neighbors”. This is why I feel that one Greenville resident’s proposal to build a five story condominium project near the top of Paris Mountain is completely absurd. 

Paris Mountain is a true gem of the Upstate. Only five miles from downtown Greenville, Paris Mountain State Park offers hiking, mountain biking and camping opportunities closer to most any city center that I am aware of.  The 1,500 acre state park serves as a fantastic outdoor retreat for Greenville residents without the travel time required by other Upstate destinations. We may plan an entire Saturday or Sunday adventure for Table Rock or Jones Gap State Parks but Paris Mountain provides us without the opportunity for an after-school hike without being late for dinner. 

Paris Mountain is also an emblem of the Upstate’s history. It was home to Cherokee Indians prior to the settlement of Greenville in the 1700’s. Several of the lakes on Paris Mountain were also used for Greenville’s water supply before the Table Rock Reservoir was established in 1928. The original dams, channels and old valve house are still standing and can be viewed from many of the trails in the state park.

North Lake At Paris Mountain State Park
Naturally, Paris Mountain is also a prime location for real estate. Many Greenville residents enjoy homes on Paris Mountain that offer fantastic views of the Upstate. Despite their proximity to downtown, these residents must be committed to mountain living as they contend with the narrow, winding treachery of Altamont Road traveling to and from their home. In inclement weather these residents must accept that even a little bit of icy conditions may keep them from leaving (or returning to) their homes until the event runs its course. 

Even for those that do not reside there or have the opportunity to play in the woods as often as they would like, Paris Mountain is the closest reminder that we live insanely close to the mountains. A simple trip to Lowe’s or one of the many restaurants around Cherrydale Point occurs in the shadow of Paris Mountain and reminds us of the beauty of the area we call home.

For now Paris Mountain maintains a delicate balance between residential development and outdoor enjoyment.  The park is easily accessible from a few different directions and offers plenty of space to retreat from city life. The homes are primarily located along one road that travels across the top of the mountain and sprawl across the mountainside is relatively limited.

If one Greenville developer has his way, however, things are about to change drastically.  Greenfields Consortium LLC is proposing the construction of a five-story condominium on a 48-acre piece of property near the top of Paris Mountain.  They are currently requesting that Greenville County rezone the property from an Environmentally Sensitive District to a Flexible Review District to allow for this development. Greenfields Consortium argues that this development would be an improvement over the 74-home development they had originally planned to build on the property.  

Our question is this – be it homes or condominiums, why does Greenfields feel the need to build anything this expansive at the top of Paris Mountain? Obviously the answer is “money” but it would be nice if they could find a way to profit from their prime piece of real estate without completely changing the landscape of Greenville’s closest mountain retreat.  Further, their tactic of “let us build something crappy or we will build something even crappier” is more than just a little off-putting. 

Sugar Top Resort... or,  How To Ruin A Mountain Ridge In 10 Easy Floors
I remember being a college student at Appalachian State University visiting Sugar Mountain for the first time.  It is there that someone thought it was a good idea to erect a 10-story condominium at the top of a mountain creating one of the most out-of-place and obnoxious structures I have ever seen in my life. The building’s website brags about the “exclusivity” of the condominium (as it is the last such structure built before the passing of North Carolina’s State Ridge Law) but all I see is a total disregard for the people that come to the mountains to enjoy the serenity, not the development.

Such is the case for Paris Mountain.  With the development of Falls Park, Liberty Bridge, The Swamp Rabbit Trail, and countless other greenspaces in the area, the Upstate community has proven that it not only values but celebrates development that highlights the natural beauty of the region.  Sticking a five-story wart at the top of our tallest local landmark does not seem to embrace this mindset.  

Like I said from the onset, I applaud capitalism and entrepreneurial spirit. However, the best innovation comes from minds that respect all the factors and interests the market presents.  The market here has proven itself to support things that are uniquely Greenville. Why then does Greenfields Consortium see the need to thumb their nose at the community in the interest of 74 potential condominium owners? Are there not better ways to utilize 48 acres of prime real estate while embracing the community instead of offending it?

Marketing 101 will teach you that a successful product must carry a certain amount of demand.  Greenfields Consortium obviously did just enough market research to determine that they can attract 74 potential buyers to their development. I suppose we can give them an “A” for simple market research but how about a more creative analysis that might combine the wants and needs of the community while still resulting in a profitable enterprise for the property owners?

Forty-eight acres might seem miniscule to the 1,500 that Paris Mountain State Park offers but it also might be enough to build an attraction for a subset of Greenville’s outdoor enthusiasts. A smaller, privately owned park could feature unique more intimate opportunities that the larger park may not offer. The property features the mountain top views that are not available from the state park further down the mountain.  It also has plenty of space to build mountain biking trails that might offer greater challenges or at least a new perspective for the growing biking community in the Upstate. Access could be limited through memberships or entry fees that would create a sense of exclusivity and offer increased rewards for both the users and the property owners.

Alternatively, if Greenfields Consortium just has to satisfy their need to build, how about some mountain top cabin rentals? The summit of Paris Mountain is currently dominated by homeowners and I am sure that plenty of Upstate residents would leap at the opportunity to have a mountaintop getaway opportunity right here in their own backyard.  

Obviously these are just ideas that would require much research and planning to accurately determine their viability. Ultimately though, they are simple examples of things that maybe Greenfields Consortium should consider if they really want to make a significant contribution to the Upstate community.  They might not be as financially lucrative as a condominium development but they could produce a long-term attraction that both the users and the property owners could profit from for a long time.  I would bet that Greenville’s outdoor enthusiasts and fans of Paris Mountain would rally behind these types of efforts and work with the developers to create something that would be mutually beneficial to all parties involved.  

In the interest of capitalism that might actually be pretty good for their bank accounts in the long run, wouldn't it?

<For more info, WYFF has done a great job keeping up with the story and how the Greenville County Council is handling the issue. Check it out here. Also, I do not know if signing an online petition has any impact on a zoning issue like this, but signing one certainly cannot hurt. Do that here. >