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Some say time is right for land-use discussions

fr franciscoveThe controversy over a proposed gun range in a rural farming community in Haywood County has raised questions about the adverse impacts of unwanted development in rural communities given the lack of land-use protections.

County commissioners have said they would be willing to entertain a larger dialogue on land-use planning if the public signals an interest. Public outcry has erupted three times in the past year over proposed development deemed unsavory or out-of-character by a particular community — namely a trash and recycling sorting center, a charter school campus and a shooting range.

While residents swiftly and readily rallied to oppose projects in their own communities, they evaporated into the shadows when the particular threat in their own backyard passed.

A speaker at this week’s commissioner meeting said communities would be well served to take a more proactive approach and craft small-area land-use plans before the next threat comes along.

“Rather than reacting to each individual thing that happens, I think it is a good opportunity for communities in Haywood County to think about what do we want to see, what is the character we want to preserve,” said Susan Sachs, a Haywood resident.

Sachs recounted the work of a grassroots task force several years ago when a 4,000-acre resort development threatened to alter the character of Jonathan Creek. It never came to pass, but the task force developed a blueprint for how to approach land-use planning, and it could serve as a framework to jumpstart the dialogue now, Sachs said.

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“It is a way to think about any large development that would change the character of this community that we all love,” said Sachs. “Communities that don’t want planning just don’t do it, but it sounds like there are some communities in Haywood County that are interested.”

Jackson County, for example, has small-area land-use plans for three of its communities: Cashiers, Cullowhee and the U.S. 441 gateway to Cherokee.


Candidates asked to weigh in on land-use planning

With land-use planning on the radar in Haywood County, candidates for county commissioner were asked where they stood on the issue at a forum last week. Here’s what they said.

“Mountain people are real independent. I am not a big land-use planning advocate. But there is a flipside to that. There is also a property rights issue for the person who has something come in next to them. I prefer a piecemeal approach to the issue. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all.”

 — Kevin Ensley, Republican candidate running for re-election

“I believe if you own property and pay taxes on it you should be able to do what you want to for the most part. On the flip side of that, there are things I wouldn’t want beside my house either. I would like to take this to the people and possibly let the people decide.” 

— Brandon Rogers, Republican candidate

“It is a touchy situation. I don’t know what I’d do. Someone said anyone who believes that we shouldn’t have zoning should live beside a pig farm. But if you give the government a little bit of power … I don’t want to sound anti-government but I really am.” 

— Greg Burrell, Republican candidate

“I am against zoning. I believe we can handle this with some special ordinances. I don’t believe government should tell anybody what they can or can’t do with their property. If you don’t like living next to a pig farm, move.”

— Robin Black, Democratic candidate

“As a property owner in Haywood County, I am a little nervous about land-use planning. I think the county commissioners will need to protect certain situations that would arise in the county.” 

— Steve Brown, Democratic candidate

“I believe you should be able to do what you want on your own property, as long as they aren’t disturbing somebody else.” 

— Terry Ramey, Democratic candidate

“I would not be in favor of that. I don’t believe in anybody telling you what to do with your land. I am not for any kind of zoning. But if it would be dangerous to a community or it is something that would have an effect upon their lives as well, then that should be considered.”

 — Charles Boyd, Democratic candidate

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