Haywood just not prepared for growth
If there was ever a time in recent memory when Haywood County leaders and its citizens need reminding that they live in a county too large and too populous and too beautiful to be without land-use planning, it’s right now.
Just last week at a county board meeting, we learned that Jule Morrow wants to put an indoor shooting range and gun store on his property in the Francis Farm area of Haywood County. Some neighbors (who plan to attend the 9 a.m., Jan. 4, Haywood County Board meeting to voice their objections) say the range and gun store will be a blight in what for generations has been a cove of farm fields and pastures. As someone who travels that area frequently since my own home is not far away, I personally agree with those neighbors.
But it really doesn’t matter what I, those neighbors or anyone else thinks. Morrow’s a builder, and he knows that Haywood County has nothing even remotely close to zoning or land-use districts. You get outside any of the town limits and it’s pretty much do as you please. Who can blame him for trying to earn a living and get the best use out of his land?
Sure, there are some slope and sediment control ordinances (thankfully, for those are valuable). There are ordinances about junkyards and subdivisions, off-premise signs and manufactured home parks. But Haywood’s leaders have never undertaken the herculean task of implementing countywide land-use planning.
By this I mean designating particular areas as OK for certain types of commercial or industrial development while declaring such activity won’t be allowed in other areas. That kind of zoning sounds very restrictive and controlling, and in some cases it can be.
But it can also be very liberating. Think about those Francis Farm residents who’ve lived in the rural valley for decades. If that part of Haywood County had been zoned and that particular tract or area deemed unfit for the type of commercial development now being proposed, those residents would not be in the situation they find themselves in now. They would have a measure of protection.
Just a couple months ago a facility that would have recycled and sorted commercial waste wanted to locate in the Beaverdam Industrial Park. Those living close to the proposed facility and others who are against certain commercial activities rallied against the proposal. In this case, the company wanted to locate in the county owned industrial park, and county officials backed off their offer to sell the land after the public outcry. If that company had found private property for sale at the right cost, nothing could have been done to stop it. Nothing, because Haywood has no comprehensive land-use plan.
The grassroots coalition that came out against the recycling and sorting plant represented a broad spectrum of residents, many who usually aren’t on the same side of any issue: farmers, conservative business types, avid environmentalists, factory workers, and more. What they shared was a passion to protect their lifestyle.
Over the holiday weekend I drove Francis Farm Road and saw Morrow. He was on his land, putting little orange flags in the ground, apparently mapping out where the range and store would sit on the property. He’s apparently eager to get started.
I only wish citizens and leaders of Haywood were as eager to start working on a land-use plan. Look east and we see Asheville and Buncombe County bursting at the seams, development spreading quickly. It’ll come to Haywood, and the county really isn’t prepared.