Archived Opinion

Maggie Valley taxpayers deserve better

Maggie Valley taxpayers deserve better

It may sound like some kind of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, but trust me it’s not: the processes by which elected boards operate more often than not is a reflection of the wisdom of the decisions that emanate from that public body.

By that, I mean those who have adopted processes that invite internal, public debate among members, who make it a practice to respect the opinions of their fellow board members and the taxpayers, who ensure those who elected them can make their opinions known, who can make compromises, who work diligently to keep the public involved and informed, and who rely on the advice of the professionals that work for them more often than not to make sound decisions. As a journalist, I’ve witnessed that truth time and again.

At this point, I’m not going to judge whether recent decisions by the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen were wise. I will say, however, that their process is showing some cracks. Here’s why I’ve come to that conclusion.

A recent decision to remove a member of the zoning board of adjustments happened on a 3-2 vote. That’s fine. Split votes are common among many elected boards, and it’s merely a reflection of differing values of board members.

However, what was troubling in this particular instance is that the issue was not on the published agenda for that meeting. Under “other business,” those members of the town board who wanted this member removed brought up the matter and then called for a vote. That’s a bad way to conduct the public’s business.

There are many boards who make it a matter of practice to never vote on controversial matters the first time they are discussed. They know that losing the public’s trust can be a slippery slope, so they make sure to let those who voted for them know what they’ll be discussing and then invite public opinion on the issue. That did not happen in this instance.

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If any elected leader feels the need to take votes by surprise because they know an issue is controversial, well, that’s a big red flag.

Also, it certainly appeared as if those voting to remove Allen Alsbrooks from the board of adjustment had hatched the plan to do just that prior to the meeting. Now, it would have been a blatant violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law if the three of them had met in person or electronically and discussed this prior to the official town board meeting. That’s a big no-no.

If perhaps they had talked in pairs — if one board member had called another, discussed the issue, and then said, “OK, I’ll call so-and-so and see if he’s in agreement before the meeting and I’ll let you know” — well, that’s also a violation of the “spirit” of the N.C. Open Meetings Law. Public decisions must be discussed and made in public. Period. 

Over the past few months, Maggie Valley’s elected leaders have chosen to ignore the recommendations of their paid professionals, in particular town planner Kaitland Finkle. Again, that’s their prerogative as elected leaders, but to do it time and again speaks to some kind of dysfunction. 

Maggie Valley — for all its quaint, touristy exterior — has over the past couple of decades often been embroiled in a bruising brand of small-town politics. Whether it was over Ghost Town, annexation, Soco Road’s future, etc., there have often been strong differences among those who are elected to the board. 

So be it. Let the emotions run hot. But the processes should be set in stone, not subject to the whims of the current elected board. And when potential violations of laws governing open meetings crop up, the disservice to taxpayers is multiplied. Doing the public’s business the right way can be tedious, monotonous and really, really hard. But it’s what voters deserve, and anything less is unacceptable.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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8 comments

  • When three huge, voracious, and intellectually challenged fish thrash around in a very small pond and stir up the sludge from the bottom, they create a toxic environment. Because that's all they know how to do. And then they wonder why they can't see clearly through all their crap. No transparency there!

    posted by Wayne

    Friday, 04/15/2022

  • Can’t anyone who is familiar with all of this report it to the state which oversees these elected officials. There are laws in place to put a stop to this. No one is above the law

    posted by Kathy Adams

    Friday, 04/15/2022

  • Maggie politicians are a joke. This is why the town is stuck in a 1960s mindset. They have no vision whatsoever.

    posted by heather hyatt

    Thursday, 04/14/2022

  • Md . LUCILLE JOSEPHS,

    What parts of this piece do you equate to “propagandist” discourse?

    Do you disagree with the verifiable facts?

    Do you find questioning disingenuous actions “propaganda?”

    I am keenly interested in learning your motivation to your claim.

    posted by Allen Alsbrooks

    Wednesday, 04/13/2022

  • Scott McLeod, you are not a journalist as you claim. You are a propagandist. Big difference.

    posted by Lucille Josephs

    Wednesday, 04/13/2022

  • Linda I reported on this within an hour of it happening on Waynesville Area News Group page on Facebook. Maggie Valley has gotta do better.

    posted by Robert Stokely

    Wednesday, 04/13/2022

  • Thank you for stating true facts

    posted by Dan Dry

    Wednesday, 04/13/2022

  • The 2 new board members don’t know what they don’t know as I pointed out to them a couple of months ago. The Mayor on the other hand is calling the shots and it is so apparent that the 2 new members feel they owe their election to him in their opinions and have publicly stated who they feel helped get them elected. Never mind the fact that if approximately 25 people had voted differently he would not be the Mayor. There are many people that supported him as Mayor and didn’t have a huge problem with his decisions until the November elections when he got the majority on the board to do his bidding. Every board meeting is contentious. Even the appointed boards have suffered since the new elected took office. People being removed from boards or chairmanship of the boards. The appointed boards and town staff make recommendations after much study and discussions on pending issues facing the town. Now, the public hearings and meetings are just cursory meetings to satisfy NC State Statutes. It is apparent to everyone attending the meetings that the decisions are being made outside the Board Room and in lock step with the 3 against the 2 that often get blind sided at the meeting. The RV moratorium was another prime example. These 3 in majority have no background or education to understand issues like spot zoning etc. As a Realtor, I have seen developments postponed and surveyors and engineering going back to the drawing board 2 and sometimes 3 times to satisfy the constant morphing of the guidelines due to constant knee jerk reactions based on whims rather than sound judgement. One recent land owner has asked to be annexed twice and asked to be removed from the annexation request twice because the board won’t back up the Planning Board nor Town Planner recommendations. This hasn’t happened before in Maggie Valley. In the 30 years I have lived her and sold property here, I have never had to say to a potential buyer that they cannot trust what staff tells them because we have a rogue board that doesn’t allow staff recommendations to interfere with their town “politics”. It’s sad. They new board discusses “smart growth” but they are actually sending the message of no growth. This board discusses the rapid growth of the town, yet we have probably had less permits for building in the last year than most other towns. They talk about how great the tourist business is based on bed tax collections yet most of those increases are due to increases in the cost of room nights. Many new owners have huge mortgages and they must adjust their prices to accommodate those mortgages. My husband and I own a motel that is consistently in the top 5 and most often Number 1 on Trip Advisor. The number of fill nights diminish every year since Covid and it only takes a ride through the valley looking at Vacancy signs and empty parking lots. Claims of the best year yet has little to do with the number of visitors when you factor the inflation rate we are experiencing. But as I began my comment, the 2 new board members “Don’t know what they don’t know”. Kudos to The Smoky Mountain News for this editorial. The Mountaineer Newspaper doesn’t have that much nerve and are taking directions and information from the man who has created this mess

    posted by Linda Taylor

    Wednesday, 04/13/2022

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