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Wednesday, 25 July 2007 00:00

Crowded field likely to ramp up election interest in Waynesville

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By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

Waynesville voters will have plenty of choices on their ballot for mayor and town board this fall in what is shaping up to be both an interesting and crowded race.

Competition for the Waynesville town board has ramped up significantly compared to the past two election cycles, which saw little opposition. There are a dozen candidates running for five seats. Candidates have come out of the woodwork to run for a variety of reasons.

 

 

Watershed

Two of the challengers for town board are fired up over the board’s handling of a conservation easement for the town’s 8,000-acre watershed. The town board placed the watershed — which supplies thousands with their drinking water — in a conservation easement three years ago. The easement will protect the watershed from ever being sold or developed, but allows limited forest management that could include some logging. Supporters claim forest management is about maintaining a healthy forest, not logging.

Critics claim otherwise. They want a hands-off, nature-knows-best approach. They want to amend the conservation easement to ban forest management. The watershed issue attracted large crowds at town meetings three years ago, with critics pledging to vote the town board out of office next election. The conservation easement was approved by a split 3-2 vote, and could easily be amended with a slightly new board make-up.

 

Land-use plan

Some candidates are talking about the town’s land-use plan. The revolutionary plan has garnered statewide attention, receiving various smart growth awards and causing other towns to emulate what Waynesville has done. It was passed four years ago following three years of public input.

But some candidates feel the plan puts a burden on new businesses. It has a strict sign height limit, requires trees and landscaping in parking lots and along the street, and imposes architectural standards that discourage the cookie-cutter chain store look. The plan also makes businesses position their building along the street with the parking lots in back so asphalt doesn’t dominate the streetscape. Some candidates feel these restrictions are unrealistic and need changing, including some of the incumbents who originally voted for them.

 

Mixed drinks

The third big issue in the race is whether Waynesville bars and restaurants should be allowed to sell liquor drinks. Waynesville is one of the last holdouts in the region that won’t allow mixed drinks — Maggie Valley, Canton, Sylva, Dillsboro, Franklin and Bryson City have all given up the restriction. The town board has two options if it chooses to address the issue: the town board can vote “yeah” or “nay” to allow liquor drinks or the decision can be put to the people with a townwide vote. To hold a townwide vote, the board has to sanction a ballot referendum or town residents have to produce a petition with 35 percent of the town’s registered voters — which would be 2,080 signatures.

 

Just because

In the mayor’s race, three candidates have emerged to challenge the sitting mayor, Henry Foy. Foy, 83, has been mayor for 16 years. His challengers have no major criticism with the job he’s done, but simply say he’s been mayor long enough and is time for someone new.

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