These familiar (and slightly altered) words of two of this country’s most prominent presidents are exactly on target for our current situation here in Jackson County. As our recently elected county commissioners get on with the business for which they were elected — of creating land-use planning initiatives and regulations — they will need our support and assistance to overcome the resistance and the attacks from various developers and real estate brokers in the area who don’t care about giving anything back to the community and care only about what the county can do for them.
In recent days, there has been a concerted effort on the part of a few zealous real estate barons from the Cashiers/Highlands communities to create an insurgency based upon half-truths and outright lies in order to try to stop the moratorium and to sabotage work on the drafting of land-use regulations. With deep pockets, they have taken out several full-page ads in local papers attempting to incite the local people to mutiny, to abandon ship, with the voyage of subdivision regulations only just under way.
But we, the crew of The Good Ship Jackson County, are not fooled by their tawdry tactics or their lies. Neither are we sympathetic to their moaning or their false and unfounded accusations about job losses and an economic tsunami occurring here. (In fact, descriptions that I’ve heard about similar situations in other states and countries indicate just the opposite — that putting land-use regulations in place not only creates jobs but attracts people and business to the area.)
What, in fact, this amounts to is little more than sour grapes. These guys have had their way (with no regulations of any kind) with the sale of land in Jackson County for so long that they are, in a sense, throwing a tantrum when anyone attempts to limit, in even a small way, business as usual. With only dollar signs in their eyes, there is clearly no concern for the future or for the general welfare of the people of the county. And we, the working year-round residents of Jackson County, are supposed to be sympathetic to, or take pity on, their bawling?
These same real estate “professionals” have publicly criticized our commissioners for the fact that they didn’t conduct a financial impact study to support the idea of a moratorium. It occurs to me that they themselves have made no study of the impact of a moratorium on the economics of the community.
This being the case, how then, can they project that a moratorium will result in loss of jobs, loss of property rights, higher taxes, “bringing our local economy to a halt.” Where do they get their figures to support such preposterous claims? Where’s the beef?
If this weren’t enough, I heard this week that some local real estate agents, developers and construction companies may actually be laying people off and halting construction on certain projects so that they could speak at the Public Hearing on Feb. 27 — saying that the economic downward spiral had already started and people were already out of work. If this is so, then they have clearly gone over-the-top. One can only imagine what they’ll do next.
Just as a reminder, here, let’s not forget that four commissioners who ran for office in the last election did so on various platforms that endorsed land-use regulations for the foreseeable future. The results of the 2006 elections gave four of our county commissioners a clear mandate to provide a balance to the kind of hyper-aggressive development that has invaded the county. It should come as no surprise to anyone that upon taking office this group and their team of county officials have gone to work right away to try to do what they pledged to do — to save our county from certain ruin at the hands of unchecked development. Opponents to the moratorium are acting as if Jackson County had just been given a pig in a poke.
In the end, this is not a political issue, but an economic issue. It’s not about Democrats or Republicans. And it’s not about loss of jobs. It’s about class. This is a class issue. It’s about the haves and the have-nots. The moneyed elite vs. the working and middle classes. At the moment, the working people and the middle-income people of Jackson County outnumber the rich. But that could change if the real estate people and the developers have their way.
Don’t let the expensive ads or the underhanded scare tactics of a few realtor/developers fool you. They are not the majority, and they don’t have your best interests at heart. This said, the rest of us now need to work in whatever ways we can to support our newly elected leaders. We can start by contacting them and telling them of our support, writing letters to our local newspapers, and speaking up at open meetings — such as the public hearing at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Southwestern Community College.
We have waited much too long for this day to come. It’s finally here. And Jackson County is leading the way for the rest of WNC for responsible development. So, ask not what your county can do for you, but ask what you can do for your county. NOW is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their county. Jackson County.
Thomas Crowe is a writer who lives in Tuckasegee.