New rural fire districts coming to Waynesville
Widespread inequality in the rates Haywood County residents pay for fire protection is about to come to an end.
In Waynesville, property owners pay about 10 cents per $100 in assessed property valuation on property tax bills for fire protection; outside the town limits, property owners are assigned to fire districts, where they pay anywhere from 6 to 11 cents per $100.
But because of clerical errors or omissions some homeowners outside the town pay nothing at all, and at the Lake Junaluska Assembly, property owners pay a flat fee of just $8 a month per water connection.
In January, Waynesville aldermen unanimously passed a resolution asking the Haywood commissioners to create fire service districts encompassing Lake Junaluska as well as the Knollwood, Reinhart, and Shingle Cove subdivisions.
On April 17, the county will present a proposal to create five new rural fire districts.
The first, called Waynesville Rural #2, will encircle most of Lake Junaluska; it proceeds across Dellwood Road to the south and also follows Sleepy Hollow Road north of the lake, past Mouzon Road.
“Those services are currently provided by contract,” said Assistant Haywood County Fire Marshall Andrew Messer. “I wouldn’t say there’s really any change in it at all, other than the billing.”
This area, which until last summer had paid only $4 per water connection per month, is home to some of the most valuable properties in the county. The proposed district would bring the current $8 monthly rate into line with existing districts that already pay a percentage-based rate, and stipulates that the rate shall not exceed 10 cents.
Messer said he’d fielded a few calls from concerned residents confused about the change. They weren’t complaining about the rate increase, but rather had questions about the map of the new district.
The Town of Waynesville estimated that even at 6 cents per $100 it would gross an extra $100,000 per year, raising Lake Junaluska’s total payments from about $50,000 per year in 2016 to about $200,000 per year, starting July 1, 2017.
Waynesville Rural District #3 would encompass an area west of the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway and north of Eagles Nest Road, centering on Ranger Drive, and Waynesville Rural District #4 in the same vicinity would cover a very small area east of Reinertson Drive and south of Chanticleer Lane.
Further north on the expressway, Waynesville Rural District #5 would include a sparsely-settled area centered on Shingle Cove Road.
South and west of downtown, Waynesville Rural District #6 would encompass 15 parcels on Lloyds Mountain Ridge, many of which are not yet developed.
While these areas have always enjoyed fire protection, if commissioners approve the creation of the districts, property owners will join the rest of greater Waynesville in funding fire protection for over $1.9 billion in property.
The Haywood County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing to solicit input regarding the creation of five new rural fire districts.
Location: Haywood County Historic Courthouse
Date: April 17
Time: 5:30 p.m.