Archived Opinion

Despite community pleas, Swain shelves planning board

It appears Swain County commissioners were out of sync with public consensus two months ago when they decided to postpone the creation of a county planning board.


A group of residents concerned with the pace of development in Swain County and the lack of regulations appealed to the county commissioners in July to create a planning board and get moving with some type of slope development ordinance. Commissioners agreed at that meeting to form a planning board and called for applications.

Within a few weeks, the county had been flooded with a whopping 38 applications. However, the county commissioners decided to postpone creating a planning board and tabled the idea. It has not been brought back up.

If the number of applicants is any indication, Swain County residents appear to want some planning.

Troy Burns, a small business owner and real estate developer, said growth has been good for the county but there needs to some sensible restrictions and controls.

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“Without any kind of planning board in place at all anything is possible anything could happen. I think everyone is in agreement we have to have one,” said Burns. “I want my grandchildren to be able to enjoy Swain County. To do so we have to have some kind of planning. I think it is so important for the future.”

Jeff Herron, an engineer who applied for the planning board, agreed.

“We can’t really stop growth. What you can do is make sure development is planned out in a way that is environmentally friendly and growing in a smart way,” Herron said.

Herron said some of the issues are a matter of public safety, like roads that are too narrow and steep.

“You’ve got to be able to have access for emergency vehicles,” Herron said.

Having some form of development regulations are in everyone’s best interest, he said.

“Smarter growth helps the people who are here protect their investment,” Herron said. “Subdivision moves in next door and beside you and they start slapping houses in there like there’s no tomorrow, if we’re not careful, we will end up with mudslides.”

Andre Gunter, a medical technician, said development neighboring his home in Alarka is ruining the mountainside. Developers bullied his neighbors with the threat of lawsuits to get extra right of way across their land to access the subdivision they are building. Gunter said the land is too steep for development.

“I’ve been waiting for the county to get off its dime and do something,” said Gunter, who also applied for the planning board. Gunter said the issue will be on voters’ minds this fall in commissioner elections. Gunter said a lot of Democrats will cross party lines because “the ones in there now haven’t done anything yet.”

The 38 aplicants include: Lee Allison, Toby Allman, Allen Anthony, John Boaze, Troy Burns, Trey Burns, Michael Clapsaddle, William Dills, Jonathan Douthit, Wayne Dover, David Ennis, Johnny Ensly, Mark Fortner, James Froyd, Shane Gilchrist, Boyd Gunter, Michael Hamrick, John Herrin, Jeff Herron, Sylvia Higdon, David Hilton, Neil Holden, William Howel, Bunny Johns, Earl Jones, Trudy Klug, Johnnie Lackey, Jr., Vernon Ledford, Jr., Sara Robinson, John Seay, Jackie Smith, Phillip Smith Jr., Carla Stephenson, Cheryl Taylor, Wally Treadway, Margaret Varner, Dennis White and Dewight Winchester.

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