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Maggie Valley candidates talk growth, leadership

Maggie Valley candidates talk growth, leadership

With more contentious development on the horizon, residents of the small town of Maggie Valley have plenty to consider at the ballot box this year.

Running for two open alderman seats are incumbent Phillip Wight, Allen Alsbrooks and Tim Wise. Running for mayor are incumbent Mike Eveland and Janet Banks.

The information in this story came from a candidate forum The Smoky Mountain News hosted with the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce earlier this month, as well as a follow-up interview with each candidate on Oct. 16. Here’s what the candidates said.

Phillip Wight  

Phillip Wight owns the Clarketon Motel, as well as a heating and cooling business. Although he’s from the Enka area, he and his family have lived in Maggie Valley for over two decades. During his opening statement at the forum, Wight voiced his frustration with Mayor Eveland as well as aldermen John Hinton and Jim Owens, who typically vote with Eveland on development-related issues, leaving Wight in the minority.

news Phillip Wight mug

“The current regime refused to recognize that … town councils should never hold their personal feelings against anyone in the community that comes before them,” Wight said, although he didn’t elaborate on a specific incident.  

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Wight is well-acquainted with the tourist industry and said Maggie Valley must continue to attract visitors by offering more attractions to keep vacationing families in the area.

“It’s not like our town needs a Six Flags,” he said. “Just one little spark.”

One item that emerged as a hot-button issue since the forum is the approval of a satellite annexation of a 42-acre tract in the Jonathan Creek area. The annexation was requested by the property owner, and the plan is to hook town sewer and water up for a relatively large residential development. While Wight generally has been against that kind of development that he says doesn’t offer working-class families reasonably priced homes, he had a specific complaint regarding the annexation.

“I voted against every bit of it because I don’t agree that we have to satellite annex it,” Wight said. “We can give them an out-of-town sewer rate.”

Another item that has caused a stir in recent months is the installation of concrete medians  as part of a greater pedestrian safety project. While the project isn’t done yet, photos of cars crashing into the construction areas have caused some backlash on social media. Wight has been a vocal opponent of the current plan and also opposed a DOT plan several years ago that would have reduced Soco Road from five lanes to three. He talked about how some of the medians will block the ability for some vehicles to turn left onto Soco Road, including near the festival grounds, an area that typically sees high traffic.

“I don’t want to be called a dumbass for the next 25 years,” Wight said.

Allen Alsbrooks

Allen Alsbrooks moved to Maggie Valley 15 years ago after serving in the Air Force. He owns the Hearth and Home Inn motel. He also ran for alderman in 2017 and 2019 but lost both times. He served on the planning board before joining the zoning board of adjustment, but he was kicked off that board in 2022, something he mentioned during the forum.

news Allen Alsbrooks

“I was set up and unceremoniously thrown off of the Zoning Board of Adjustment because someone decided I wasn’t fit to serve based on my spectacular record of being fair and independent,” Alsbrooks said. “I’ve let it be known that since the last mayoral election that I was not happy with the direction this town is headed in, and I’m here to help change it.”

Like Wight, Alsbrooks believes more attractions should be added in Maggie Valley, even if something simpler like Canton’s new splashpad.  

“What we offer families to do outside of the natural resources is dwindling,” he said. “We used to have go karts; we used to have waterslides. We used to have a zoo, a bunch of other things that would keep families here when they came to visit.”

On the periphery of the affordable housing conversation has been a discussion about how short-term rentals affect the market. Some places, like Highlands , have even moved to regulate their proliferation. However, Alsbrooks doesn’t believe it’s the town’s business to regulate what people do with their property. 

“Let’s leave that to the homeowners associations,” he said.

Alsbrooks noted that one of the biggest barriers to developing affordable housing in Maggie Valley is that the current zoning ordinance allows for too few homes per acre, which passes a higher cost onto the buyer.

“The way the land prices are these days, the way the infrastructure costs are increasing, you cannot build affordable housing,” he said.

While the current board has split down the same 3-2 lines on several high-profile votes, including many addressing development, residents have expressed concern over the board’s lack of compromise on some issues. Alsbrooks said part of the solution to that problem is breaking up the current majority and then approaching issues with an open mind. 

“You can’t come to a meeting with a predetermined notion of what’s going to happen,” he said. “You’d have to listen to all of the evidence, all of the opinions, and you have to listen to the public’s input. That’s the way I operate.” 

Tim Wise

Tim Wise is originally from Central Kentucky but moved to Haywood County to become the band director at Tuscola High School, a post he held for 29 years before retiring.

news timwise

“I was enjoying retirement, and then I started looking around,” he said. “I always loved Maggie. My general nature is to try to help folks as a schoolteacher, and I had people ask if I’d thought about it. The more I thought about it the more I thought well I’d like to get in there and see what I can do.”

Wise said that as a band director in charge of dozens of kids, while also working with parents, he had to learn about compromise and navigating internal politics; sometimes, he said, disagreement is inevitable.

When it comes to development, Wise said it’s important to be guided by reason and not the emotion that can sometimes come with the strong sense of nostalgia folks feel toward Maggie Valley. He said people must consider that some visitors may stay in the valley and spend money while using it as a hub from which to venture out to surrounding attractions.

Wise noted that while the whole region is growing, Maggie Valley’s growth has been exceptional, and leaders must be proactive in finding solutions to keep up while not sacrificing the town’s character.

“I believe in a balanced growth plan,” he said, adding that leaders must also listen to all points of view to make sure nothing is off the table.

When asked about the potential for commercial development or even a tourist attraction in the Jonathan Creek corridor, Wise said he was open to the idea and that it’s vital to do everything the town can to ensure development is regulated by a “balanced” growth plan.

“I believe in having a growth plan that is balanced. And looking toward the future of all the things that we need to do, we’re going to have to start thinking outside the box. But I think we are in in a good position to do those kinds of things.” 

Mike Eveland

Mike Eveland has served as mayor for the last four years and was an alderman for six years before that. During his opening statement, Eveland touted his record, from executing the popular Fourth of July fireworks show to lowering the tax rate while keeping vital services up and running during the pandemic.

news Mike Eveland

“I will continue to balance the needs of our commercial partners and our residents,” he added. “With your vote, I will continue to show interest in community improvement. I have not nor will I ever support personal interests above the well-being of this community.”

At the forum, Eveland was asked about “smart growth,” a term that is often thrown around by leaders across the country and roughly refers to a principle directed at building sustainable communities through redevelopment of residential areas rather than the typical rural development seen in Western North Carolina for centuries. 

Eveland did note the town is in the process of working with developers on four residential neighborhoods to alleviate the housing crunch — something he’s supported — but in his answer, he also lamented the lack of business development.  

“Commercial, in the last 10 years, has not grown, while the residential has grown substantially,” he said.

An ongoing question for Maggie Valley’s government has been how to prioritize the opinions of business owners who reside outside town limits and therefore can’t vote. Eveland said he believes the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce has been a good liaison between business owners and the town.

“I believe that the commercial side needs to be heard,” he said but added that he ultimately answers to voters and that is his highest priority.

Eveland addressed complaints about the pedestrian islands in the medians on Soco Road. His message was simple: wait until the project is completed before trying to change things.

“What’s next is they have to put power in to be able to hook up signs (to warn drivers of a pedestrian crossing), so we should see in the next few weeks someone drilling into the asphalt to put those signs in,” he said. 

Eveland also addressed the satellite annexation.

“This started because the owners of the property decided they would sell that land. They came to Maggie Valley to ask for an annexation,” Eveland said, adding that he plans to continue evaluating each development in consideration of how the town can further shape zoning regulations.

Janet Banks

Janet Banks is no stranger to anyone who’s followed Maggie Valley town government.

news Janet Banks mug

Banks and her husband moved to the area over 16 years ago from Texas, where she’d worked in higher education, specializing in teaching nurses how to deal with issues specific to children and families. She served as an alderman from 2013-2019 and was the Mayor Pro Tem those last four years.

She lost to Eveland by 47 votes during her 2019 bid for mayor.

“I learned a whole lot about that race, and I feel that I have a pretty good chance this time around,” she said.

Banks said she believes in giving back to the community and used her work in the community garden as an example, noting that volunteers have harvested 1,700 pounds of food to distribute in the area. She said that focus on the community would be a cornerstone of her time as mayor and that she would incorporate stakeholders at all levels in her decision mak ing.

Specifically, while Banks said she’d value input from residents, she also made a strong statement about prioritizing the opinions of non-resident business owners. Although she agreed that the chamber of commerce has been excellent at giving businesses a voice, she said she would ask the state legislature to pass a law enfranchising business owners who reside outside town limits.

“One of the things that has bothered me the most is that business owners feel they don’t have a voice. A lot of them can’t vote, yet they pay taxes into the town of Maggie Valley,” she said. “It’s kind of unfair.”  

Banks said that while she doesn’t want to allow a sense of nostalgia to turn the town toward decision making based on emotion, she does think its unique heritage can bolster residents’ sense of pride while also attracting visitors. She said the best way to do that may be a museum that would proudly display items that convey that special history

While Banks voiced displeasure with the median situation, she went further by saying the town needs to do a better job of enhancing overall safety on Soco Road.

“If I’m mayor and [Maggie Valley Police Chief Matthew Boger] moves into community policing model, I’d like to see a visible police presence on Soco,” she said. “Just their presence will slow people down. 

Early voting begins Oct. 19 and Election Day is Nov. 7.

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