Archived Opinion

Pless continues to support some ‘bad stuff’

Pless continues to support some ‘bad stuff’

Rep. Mark Pless, to put it bluntly, is a piece of work.

He identifies as Republican yet supports measures that fly in the face of a long-held conservative philosophy that a less centralized government is better, one that puts more control in the hands of local leaders. 

He also carries grudges — a fact he readily admits.

A recent legislative “victory” for Pless stripped Maggie Valley town officials of authority to regulate zoning in their extra-territorial jurisdiction. The bill that he introduced and shepherded through the legislature was, in Pless’ own words, “retribution” for an earlier RV moratorium the town had enacted.

Politics in the town of Maggie Valley have long been acrimonious and sometimes sensational. Votes at town board meetings are often split as the town navigates its unique status as a haven for small tourism-related businesses while also yearning for its former glory days when Ghost Town in the Sky attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

To this end, the town spent years developing a comprehensive Unified Development Ordinance. For a while during its development — from January 2022 to June 2022 — RV parks were banned. However, during most of the time this plan was being developed, you could indeed build almost any kind of RV park.

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In North Carolina, extra-territorial jurisdiction refers to parcels of land adjacent to or otherwise outside of municipal boundaries where cities and towns nonetheless exercise certain powers, like zoning. Residents of ETJs don’t pay city taxes, but they also don’t get to vote in city elections.

Pless, with the support of two of the five Maggie Valley aldermen, seems very proud of his bill that strips the town of the ability to control zoning in its own ETJ. He calls it a property rights issue, but it’s just Pless throwing his weight around.

“Why should they be able to enforce their zoning, which is mixed up and has no accountability?” said Pless at a recent press conference.

Well, for one, the “they” he is referring to were aldermen elected by the voters of Maggie Valley two years ago when all these issues were being discussed, so they are duly elected to make decisions about the town.

Second, it’s simply ludicrous for one legislator to be this heavy handed toward local government’s rights. But it’s no surprise considering this is Mark Pless we’re talking about. He also tried to get a bill passed that would make all town and school board elections in Haywood County partisan even though just about every town alderperson and members of the school board were against the measure. No matter, he tried to get it passed.

Julia Freeman, a Republican on the Waynesville Town Board, had this to say about Pless’ partisan elections bill: “Honestly, he’s an individual that’s not actively listening to his constituents or listening to elected officials in the community. I have not been contacted, and whoever these constituents are, I’d like to speak to them because they have not reached out to me. I don’t know who he’s representing, except maybe his own self interests.”

Pless just can’t stop himself. He’s also seeking $20 million to rebuild Central Haywood High School in Clyde, which was destroyed in the flood cause by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred in August 2021. But the school system doesn’t need the school and has told him so. The system’s enrollment is declining, and school officials already have a school — Central Elementary — that was available.

“With the mill closure and declining [average daily membership], we didn’t feel like an expansion at this time was prudent,” said Haywood Schools Superintendent Trevor Putnam in a recent news story.

Here’s Pless on his reasoning for introducing the Maggie Valley ETJ bill: “I do some really bad stuff and I do some good stuff; it just depends on which side of the bed I crawl out of as to which you get sometimes.”

This is one of the few times I agree with our legislator. Constituents be damned, he does indeed do some “really bad stuff.” 

(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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