FBI investigating tribal housing authority

A tribal authority tasked with helping tribal members find housing is under investigation by the FBI for “possible criminal conduct related to certain loans and loan applications, among other matters,” according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice dated Oct. 4 and delivered to the program’s director, Charlene Owle.

WCU opens $29 million building

With fall classes newly underway, 420 Western Carolina University students are settling into their rooms in brand new Noble Hall, a $29.3 million building that the university just completed. 

Franklin approves plans for new subdivision

fr franklindevPlans for a brand new residential subdivision in Franklin will move forward after the town board of aldermen approved a special-use permit for Scenic Ridge Properties.

Haywood Habitat looks to 2016

art habitatWith the holidays currently underway, there’s plenty for all of us to be grateful for living here in Western North Carolina. A roof over our heads, food in our bellies, a warm bed to climb into each night, a beautiful mountain view to awaken us each morning.

County OKs fee waiver for apartment complex

jacksonRiver Walk Apartments, an eight-building complex in Cullowhee, will get a waiver on the $16,500 it paid in solid waste fees this year, Jackson County commissioners decided unanimously last week.

Former Monarch Ventures owner could face charges

fr cullowheehousingThe Charlotte developer behind a 488-bed student apartment complex planned for Cullowhee could face criminal charges, pending the outcome of an Aug. 27 hearing.

News notes from Cherokee

State of housing in Cherokee to be surveyed

A federal study researching housing conditions on Indian reservations across the U.S. will include the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

In 2009, Congress mandated that the Department of Housing and Urban Development assess housing needs among people living on reservations. The study will determine need based on demographic, social and economic conditions.

The goal is to amass “clear, credible and consistent information that can inform Congress,” according to a resolution approved by Tribal Council last week.

Although all tribes can complete surveys online, the Eastern Band is one of 40 randomly selected tribes whose enrolled members have a chance answer more in-depth household surveys. Selected participants will receive a $20 gift card for their time.

The in-person household survey will ask questions such as: how many people live in each residence; reasons multiple people are living in the same household; and what features the home includes.

Although only a handful of enrolled members of the Eastern Band will fill out in the in-person survey, researchers are collecting multiple types of information to give a more complete picture of life on reservations. They will look at readily available information such as Census data, conduct in-person and phone interviews, and involve background interviews and literature reviews.

Data collection began in January and will continue until January next year, with preliminary findings scheduled for completion in June 2014. The results will not affect how much funding individual tribes receive but could influence overall allocations for the federal Indian Housing Block Grant program.

 

Cherokee leaders call for full transcripts

In an effort to increased accuracy and transparency, meetings of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Tribal Council will now be captured with a verbatim transcript.

Council Member Tommye Saunooke presented a resolution to council last week asking that all discussion at budget and Tribal Council meetings be transcribed word for word to keep an accurate history of what happened.

“I don’t want a summary. I want verbatim,” Saunooke said.

The resolution suggested hiring a court reporter for the job.

Council Members Terri Henry, Bo Taylor and B Ensley all voiced their agreement with Saunooke. However, Ensley questioned whether the tribe needed to hire outside help.

“I agree with what Tommye is trying to do here,” Ensley said. “But I am opposed to contracting someone to do this.”

The tribe already has employees who are capable or could learn to take verbatim notes, he argued. In the end, the council unanimously voted to take verbatim notes of its meetings but to contract a current employee to transcribe them.

Council’s monthly meetings are already broadcast on the tribe’s own cable channel as well as online, and are widely viewed.

Cherokee will be the only government entity in the region that offers complete transcripts of government proceedings. Towns and counties keep minutes of meetings, which are written as summaries of what transpired and vary in how comprehensive they are.

— By Caitlin Bowling

A real estate phoenix: Foreclosed second-home lots transformed into low-income housing

fr bethelvillageThe story is all too familiar.

A property developer buys a large swath of land with grand plans to build high-end homes and sell them for a substantial profit. But the housing bubble bursts. The lots don’t move. The property sits empty, and eventually, the developer can’t repay the bank loan used to purchase the land. It falls into foreclosure and becomes an artifact of the U.S. real estate market crash.

Veteran apartment proposed in Canton

An empty eyesore in Canton’s downtown could get a new lease on life.

The former Jackson’s Appliance store, at the corner of Depot and Main streets in Canton, has lived several short lives during the last several years, but owner Terry Simmons could not find a business with staying power. At one point, he even ran the building as a boarding house.

The ultimate gift: Jackson church builds new house for 93-year-old woman

fr margiebradleyMargie Bradley has called a ramshackle shack in the hills of Cullowhee “home” for almost 60 years. The ceilings sag, the floor is made of plywood and the wind enters through the numerous cracks scattered about the windows and walls.

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