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Wednesday, 28 February 2007 00:00

Moratorium will preserve building industry, not destroy it

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The Jackson County commissioners should move forward with their temporary subdivision moratorium, notwithstanding all the concerns that have been raised about this proposal.

 

No issue in recent memory has created as much controversy or hysteria in Jackson County. People fear for their jobs and for their ability to take care of their families. That independent streak runs deep in mountain people, and so any measure that could potentially take it away is sure to be met with intense skepticism.

But the truth is that this temporary ban on the approval of new subdivision plans should not cost any jobs. Plans already approved will move forward, and developments already under construction won’t be affected. Some are guilty of spreading untruths about this proposal, so it is important to define its impact: no new plans will make it out of the planning office until a new subdivision ordinance is written, which shouldn’t take more than six months at the longest. Jobs already started won’t be affected.

So despite what some are saying, this is not a stop-work order. It is a pause to catch the county’s collective breath before moving forward.

The arguments for the moratorium are simple. The pace of growth has outstripped the county’s ability to monitor it, to protect public health and safety, the environment, and the very people to whom the commissioners owe their job. Planning needs to be made for affordable housing. Once the mountain coves and hilltops are built out and only a few parcels remain, locals won’t be able to afford to live here. It happened at the coast, it has about happened in places like Highlands and Blowing Rock, and it could happen in Jackson County.

A subdivision ordinance won’t immediately solve all these issues. But a good ordinance will give the citizens of Jackson County the assurance that their leaders are not going to just lie down and let the tide of big-time development money wash over them and the county and just take whatever outcome follows.

Instead of being skewered, these commissioners should be praised for their foresight and their courage. They should pass the moratorium and invite all the concerned citizens who took part in this week’s public hearing to help them write a subdivision ordinance.


Swain election must be investigated

The State Board of Elections came to Swain County last week, and we hope they left with enough information to instigate a full-blown investigation into voting problems that look awfully suspicious.

The state officials were here to investigate two matters: the signed affidavits of two trailer park residents who claim they were forced to vote Democrat; and the affidavit of a postal service employee who claims absentee ballots were mailed en masse by some Democratic Party loyalists.

The problem, though, is that an investigation by this newspaper turned up many other irregularities. Even though we don’t have access to all the voter information that is available to election investigators, we found many potential violations of election laws: absentee ballot witnessing laws may have been broken, laws governing how absentee allots can be obtained and then returned to the election office may have been broken, and laws governing how patients in nursing homes may vote could have been broken.

There is a lot to look into, and the state needs to make this a priority.

This isn’t about any political party or any particular candidate. It is much bigger. The citizens of Swain County need to have confidence in their electoral system. Voter fraud is a serious and malicious crime. That’s why citizens — and elected leaders — should demand a thorough and in-depth investigation by the state so this matter can be cleared up once and for all.

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