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Wednesday, 06 March 2013 15:23

Joining Waynesville right move for Junaluska

Written by 

To the Editor:

From my perspective, much of the discussion of whether or not to allow annexation of Lake Junaluska by Waynesville is a result of the deep felt emotional attachment many of the residents have to Lake Junaluska and a perceived loss of identity. In truth, I see the driving factor and the underlying focus of the Municipal Study Task Force as necessarily being the more realistic financial sustainability of the Lake Junaluska community and the Lake Junaluska Conference Center and Retreat. The Municipal Study Task Force has fairly, thoughtfully and expansively reviewed the issue of what is in the best interest of sustaining Lake Junaluska and of preserving the quality of life and sense of community for its residents. Both the minutes of their meetings (and the other governing committees) as well as the infrastructure studies and costs have been made accessible on the Lake Junaluska website for those persons who could not attend the public meetings.

Many of the public meetings were indeed held during the spring, summer and early fall months of 2012 when most people visit their homes at Lake Junaluska. Claims that there was not enough notice, or that no meetings were held during the summer months, or that enough time has not been taken, simply overlook the need to step forward and make a deliberate but forward-looking decision on what truly is in the overall best interests of everyone —both for Junaluskans and, just as importantly, for the residents of Waynesville.

Without question, Waynesville is one of  (if not the best) more well-run and progressive cities in Western North Carolina in terms of economic stability, governance and quality of life. Gaining Waynesville’s resources, expertise in governance and professional leadership is a bonus for the future of Lake Junaluska that should not be overlooked or even taken lightly. The recent articles contained in the Feb. 20-26 print edition of the SMN on “Junaluka’s Crossroads” clearly lay out the longstanding support that Waynesville has provided to Lake Junaluska with much shared goodwill and economic advantages given in return.

But, this is now, and Waynesville, with care and due diligence, is making Lake Junaluska an offer that may not be available or attractive or politically feasible in an additional two years time. Preliminary talks between Lake Junaluska and Waynesville have, I believe, shown that there are far more positive aspects to annexation and relatively few, if any, serious distractions. The 11th hour suggestion that Lake Junaluska should consider incorporation and self-governance itself does not rise to the same level of fiscal sustainability, expansion of resources, and level of professional governance that annexation affords. Go back and read the Task Force minutes on why they became more conceptually aligned with the idea of annexation and why they found much more questionable the idea of incorporation.  

A major consequence of keeping the status quo is that, in my understanding, it immediately puts the Lake Junaluska community on the hook for the initial $3 million dollars of necessary infrastructure repair. While I have the greatest sympathy and respect for continuing the unique sense of community that Lake Junaluska offers, I believe that annexation still allows for that sense of community to continue — literally unchanged in spirit. And, more importantly, Lake Junaluska decidedly and urgently needs to move in a direction of sustainability and growth. Keeping the status quo or waiting only delays an inevitable time when this community will reach a tipping point where it cannot sustain itself. Then what?

The answer would first have to be additionally increased service fees and/or possible assessments — at this point there would be no time left to find a way to effectively spread the risk. Politically, there may not be a time when annexation would be in as potentially a favorable position as it appears to be now at both the state and local level.

Am I concerned about political representation of Lake Junaluska’s interests by the Waynesville’s Board of Aldermen? Yes, to an extent, but I trust that Lake Junaluska’s interests will be treated in the equitable and fair manner, comment attributed to the town manager on this issue. Realistically and practically the time to act is now — annexation will allow Lake Junaluska to grow and expand its vision both short term and in the long term. Change is essential.    

James Ryer

Lake Junaluska property owner

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