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As promised, Pless strips Maggie Valley of development powers

Rep. Mark Pless offers a motion on the House floor on July 12. Rep. Mark Pless offers a motion on the House floor on July 12. NCGA photo

The Haywood County Town of Maggie Valley has lost significant authority to exercise development powers after a bill promoted by its Republican representative passed on the afternoon of July 12 — despite a last-ditch effort for compromise. 

A week ago,  Pless held a press conference  decrying Maggie Valley’s Mayor, Mike Eveland, and two aldermen — John Hinton and Jim Owens — calling them “depraved” in a written statement.

At issue was a 2021 moratorium enacted on new campgrounds, shortly after four RV parks were approved within town limits. The moratorium extended not only to RV parks but also to RV Planned Unit Developments and RV storage facilities.

Pless opposed the moratorium and last week went so far as to offer any property owners who feel that they’ve been unjustly affected by the town’s development decisions a nuclear option: de-annexation from the town.

If enough people took Pless up on his offer, it would impact the town’s bottom line to disastrous effect. Currently, Maggie Valley’s tax rate is 40 cents per $100 in assessed value, but the town has less than 1,700 residents. 

De-annexed parcels with existing sewer and water connections could continue to use them by paying slightly higher rates as out-of-town customers, but property owners would no longer pay both county and town property taxes — only county.

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That philosophy carries over into another aspect of Pless’  HB 184 , which not only disallows Maggie Valley from adopting, extending or renewing any temporary moratoria on development approvals but also prohibits the town from enforcing its rights to its extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Extra-territorial jurisdiction refers to parcels of land outside of municipal boundaries where cities and towns can exercise certain powers like zoning. Residents of ETJs don’t get to vote in municipal elections, thus having no say in how they’re governed by those municipalities, but they’re not on the hook for municipal taxes, either.

Eveland, Hinton and Owens have vehemently opposed Pless’ effort to tie the town’s hands, but two other aldermen, Phillip Wight and his wife, Tammy, have allied themselves with Pless on the issue.

Together, the Wights own the Clarketon Motel, the site of Pless’ earlier press conference, and say the moratorium affects their business.

“I can rent a room to who I want for the rest of my life, but I can’t create a PUD and have a nice high-end RV park that sells timeshares,” Phillip Wight told The Smoky Mountain News at the press conference.   

The bill, however, didn’t exactly sail through its final test.

Pless made a motion for the House to concur with the Senate version of the bill; however, a Buncombe County Democrat, Rep. Eric Ager, rose to ask Pless a question but Pless declined to yield.

When Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) pressed Ager on what he wanted, Ager asked for a compromise.

“It seems like there’s an option here to have the community come together and figure out a solution as opposed to just pushing one way or the other,” Ager said. “It seems like we have a small-town dispute. There’s people on both sides, and I think we could do a much better job of mitigating that dispute.”

Ager also asked for a recorded vote, rather than a voice vote. Pless didn’t respond to any of it, but Moore postponed action on the bill for about 15 minutes until it was again brought for a vote. It passed by a margin of 61-40.

Eveland told The Smoky Mountain News shortly after the vote that he’d sent emails to legislators in Raleigh opposing the bill, and that Ager was one of several who responded favorably.

Now, Maggie Valley will move forward under the restrictions for at least the next four years, unless something changes.

“I guess tomorrow we’ll start to see exactly what this means for us and get with our lawyer to see what we can do,” Eveland said. “I think it’s a blow to the Town of Maggie Valley — the folks that work there and the taxpayers of Maggie Valley. We got voted into office based on what voters wanted done. Pless has made clear we’re being punished for something we did 18 months ago.”

Eveland said the town recently hired a lobbying firm to advocate for its interests in Raleigh.

“Now we have to spend taxpayer money to protect ourselves,” he said. “We’ll just continue to roll on.”

The bill sunsets on Jan. 1, 2028.

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