In hopes of transforming Cullowhee into a more vibrant college community, a group dedicated to reinventing the lackluster area around campus wants the Village of Forest Hills to expand its town limits and annex a portion of the university and its surrounds.
The restaurants, coffee shops and bars typically found around universities are markedly absent at Western— witnessed by a standing joke on campus that “Cullowhee is a state of mind.”
One barrier to revitalization in Cullowhee is the lack of legal alcohol sales. Alcohol sales, from a six-pack at a gas station to a glass of wine with dinner, aren’t allowed by the county. Incorporated towns have the option of allowing alcohol sales, however, as do Sylva and Dillsboro.
If the annexation goes through, and if the Village of Forest Hills in turn passed a law to allow alcohol sales, it would help attract restaurants and a grocery store.
But there are other ways incorporation might benefit Cullowhee revitalization. Lacking town designation, the community is missing out on state and federal grants, from funding for sidewalks to sewer lines. If incorporated, the area would also be entitled to a cut sales tax revenue collected by merchants in the town limits.
Another option, and one that remains if the Village of Forest Hills decides not to expand, is for Cullowhee to incorporate as brand-new town of its own. But the process would be more arduous and complicated.