NC casino: Homes planned by Catawba Indian Nation developer

The developer of the Catawba Indian Nation’s planned Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain wants to build nearly 600 homes and luxury apartments nearby.

Developer Wallace Cheves of Greenville, S.C., has requested a rezoning through one of his limited liability corporations to allow for the housing on nearly 83 acres on the opposite side of Interstate 85 from the planned $273 million casino.

At a Dec. 15 public hearing on his rezoning request, Cheves said his proposed Catawba Village housing development would attract not only casino workers but people priced out of the Charlotte-Gastonia market.

The development will include “a lot of green space,” including parks and trails, Cheves said, according to an audio recording of the hearing on the city’s website.

Cheves said he’s “in discussions with worldwide branded charter schools” for the development.

“We want a good place for people to live and be proud of,” he said.

Cheves told the City Council he didn’t have a price range for the homes, but that homes would resemble those at The Cliffs in Asheville, which he developed.

Cheves also didn’t say at the hearing the size of the homes he intends to build in Catawba Village.

At a continuation of the public hearing on Dec. 18, Cheves’ engineer Leonard Fletcher of Shelby said Catawba Village homes would cost $300,000 or $400,000, and apartments would rent for about $1,500.

Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler touted the proposed development at the hearing.

“Revenues will be significant, and we’ve got to grow,” Neisler said, according to a recording of the hearing on the city’s website.

Kings Mountain is a city of about 10,300 people 35 miles west of Charlotte.

Some City Council members said they wanted more details about the proposed development and voted to continue the hearing at their regular meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 26.

Council would have been “acting a little hastily” by approving the rezoning, council member Jimmy West said on the recording. “We seem to be chasing the first carrot that dangles out in front of us.

’We’ve got to be really careful about what we’re doing down there,” West said. “… If we put the wrong peg in the wrong hole, we’re going to shut down everything else that we anticipate coming. We don’t need to be in a hurry to do anything. We need to sit back and evaluate this.”

Council members said delaying a vote also would give Cheves time to meet with neighbors concerned about traffic and other safety issues. Cheves didn’t reply to three requests for comment by The Charlotte Observer this week.

Homes will ‘be the nicest’ in Shelby or Kings Mountain

Catawba Village “is not intended to be just for casino workers,” Tom Register of Raleigh, another engineer for Cheves, said at the Dec. 18 hearing.

Wallace Cheves, the developer of the Catawba Indian Nation’s planned Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain, wants to build nearly 600 homes and luxury apartments near the $273 million casino.

The development also would target young professionals who work in South Carolina, Gastonia and Charlotte and would prefer commuting to their jobs, Register said. They earn $50,000 to $125,000, he said.

Such a community of “high-quality, luxury-type apartments has been missing in this area,” Register said.

“It’ll be the nicest place in Shelby or Kings Mountain, I can tell you that, because he’s had to pay a lot for the land,” Fletcher said on the recording, referring to Cheves.

The first of three Catawba Village phases would include about 200 units, according to Register and Fletcher. No time frame for the project has been announced.

The Catawba Indian Nation intends to open the first part of its planned $273 million Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain by next fall, Tribal Administrator Elizabeth Harris told the Observer recently.

“After clearing is complete, we will begin building an introductory facility,” Harris said in an email.

The 60,000-square-foot facility off Dixon School Road near Interstate 85 will include at least 1,300 slot machines, a restaurant and other “basic amenities,” Harris said.

The first phase will require an investment of between $80 million and $100 million, and would include money for road improvements to handle the added traffic, she said.

Residents concerned about housing project

Several residents who either spoke at the Dec. 18 hearing or emailed in comments urged the council to deny or at least delay voting on the rezoning.

“Where is the impact study for this casino?” resident Dale Greene asked on the recording. “You’re not discussing what the impact will be to the community.”

Greene questioned the council’s transparency in deciding on the rezoning request. “If you don’t think this is being rushed, 5 o’clock on a Friday?” he said.

Residents also cited traffic and other safety concerns and said they doubted the development would end up being anything more than low-rent housing.

Cheves’ engineers disputed those claims at the Dec. 18 hearing.

Catawba Village traffic studies have been completed, and the developer will continue to work with the state Department of Transportation on road improvements, Register said on the hearing tape.

Fletcher, the engineer for Cheves, said on the recording that he received a call from someone questioning Cheves’ character, “that they’d heard he’s a liar and a cheat and doesn’t do what he says.”

“He’s paid me every month, and he’s done everything he said he’d do,” Fletcher said at the hearing in defense of the developer.

Liens against the developer

A graduate of Wofford College, Cheves began in the video poker business and later branched into riverboat gambling and other gaming ventures, the Observer previously reported.

He is now managing partner of Skyboat Gaming, described on its website as “a Native American venture.”

In a 2014 Observer interview, Cheves said he has broad gaming experience and had worked with other tribes.

Court records showed two of his companies paid large judgments, the Observer reported. In 2007, his First Class Games satisfied a $5 million judgment. In 2013, real estate firm Adams Mill Associates faced a $1.3 million judgment the Observer reported in 2014.

It was not immediately known on Wednesday what the judgments were over.

“We live in a litigious society,” Cheves said at the time, adding that the two cases were settled.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.

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