New Waynesville planning board taking shape
Increasingly, the Town of Waynesville’s planning board has found itself at the crossroads of preservation and development as housing market pressures weigh upon the pastoral setting that drew many residents to move to Haywood County in the first place.
Waynesville’s aldermen are now taking extra steps to ensure that four open seats on the planning board are filled with residents who will be able to keep meetings from becoming chaotic and make decisions in the best interest of the community as a whole.
“There’s lots of changes that are coming through and lots of decisions that have been made, and I want to make sure that we continue on a progressive path for the planning board,” said Alderman Anthony Sutton, who was a planning board member for four years before becoming an alderman in 2019. “They’ll be making lots of decisions about changes to land use and development that are coming to the board [of aldermen].”
About a year ago, aldermen decided to conduct interviews for all applicants to statutorily mandated boards — the alcoholic beverage commission, planning board, Waynesville housing authority and the board of adjustment.
On June 30, the terms of three members of the planning board expired — Michael Blackburn, Marty Prevost and Don McGowan. Adding in Gregory Wheeler’s recent resignation, that leaves four open slots.
Blackburn and McGowan have reapplied, Prevost has not; however, seven others interested in serving have all submitted applications to aldermen, who will end up recommending four people for appointment.
Blackburn has worked at the First United Methodist Church in Waynesville since 2005 and is a 1990 graduate of Tuscola High School. He says he’s hired many people in town over the years, and understands the housing situation.
Like Blackburn, McGowan helped steer the town though development of its most recent comprehensive plan. Per his application, McGowan says he understands that “the tension in the community from those that want no growth and NIMBYism needs to be balanced with a sensitivity to desperately needed market rate and affordable housing, while at the same time growing our tax base.” McGowan also serves on the Waynesville housing authority and is a founder/past chair of the Smoky Mountain Housing Partnership.
Travis Smith says in his application that he doesn’t like “the direction this town is headed,” but didn’t elaborate further. A Haywood native, Smith holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina University and says he’s a very successful small business owner. He’s also applied to serve on the zoning board.
Joshua F. Morgan wants to provide “leadership to the town in managing growth and resources.” Morgan has served on the Haywood Schools Foundation and says he has expertise in personnel. He’s also applied for the BOA as well as the recreation and parks advisory committee.
Ronald Call has experience in small business, community service and public relations. A 1993 Tuscola High School grad, Call said he wants “to be part of the future of this community.” He’s also an award-winning singer/songwriter.
Jan Grossman wants to ensure that “Waynesville grows responsibly with the interest of residents in mind.” A polymer scientist for four decades, Grossman lives on South Main Street, has been active in the hiking and bicycling communities, and has served on the Haywood Greenway Commission.
Peggy Hannah, who is retired, says she wants to “be part of my community and learn how to be part of the solution.” She served as the vice president of Mountaineer Little League and Softball for seven years.
John Baus is a former judge, prosecutor and civil trial attorney who says he wants “what is best for the residents and businesses of Waynesville.” He also says he has experience in real estate and commercial development, and is a current member of the zoning board.
Kara Sither has a degree in elementary education from Appalachian State University and is the director of communications at the First United Methodist Church. Sither thinks that as a single female and renter in Waynesville, she brings unique insight and wants to ensure “equitable and affordable access” to housing not only for current and but also future members of the community.
Matthew Johnson worked in the plumbing supply business and is a graduate of the College of Charleston, but currently works in real estate. Johnson said he and his wife moved to Waynesville to raise their children, and he wants to “help it grow in smart and constructive ways.”
All nine of the applicants will be interviewed by aldermen who are tag-teaming the process; Alderman Chuck Dickson has developed a questionnaire.
“The fairest way to do this is to ask all the applicants the same questions,” Dickson said. “The questions have to do with their experience, why they want to be on the board and their vision for the future of Waynesville.”
Dickson has been paired with Alderman Jon Feichter to interview half the candidates, while Sutton and Alderman Julia Freeman will interview the other half. Sutton said Mayor Gary Caldwell would fill in on either team as needed.
Sutton said his team has five interviews scheduled this week. Team Dickson is still working to reach candidates but is hopeful the interviews will take place soon.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated Travis Smith's experience, noting that he serves on the Waynesville housing authority and is a founder/past chair of the Smoky Mountain Housing Partnership. Those credentials belong to Don McGowan. SMN regrets the error.