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Ghost Town responds

The following comment was provided by Steve Shiver, Ghost Town CEO and president, in response to questions about the challenges Ghost Town faces in its quest to reopen the park amid Chapter 11 proceedings.

“At this stage of the process there are too many details of our reorganization plan that we continue to formulate. It would be premature and inappropriate to comment on the details of that plan and unfair to those creditors we have involved in this process, without first making it available to them. It is our intent to do everything in our power to open the park for our third season and to maximize the return to our valued creditors as quickly as possible.”

Ghost Town coaster opening faces big hurdles

Ghost Town investors are banking on finally getting the park’s Cliffhanger rollercoaster up and running in order to attract visitors and increase cash flow.

But the park has miles to go before it can open its centerpiece ride. Not only does it lack state inspections, but also funding to get the coaster into compliance. The amusement park filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with millions in unpaid bills.

Last week, Ghost Town president and CEO Steve Shiver told The Smoky Mountain News that there was one test left to run on the coaster before it can pass inspection. He made a similar assertion last fall that the roller coaster was close to completion.

However, Jonathan Brooks, bureau chief of amusement inspections with the Department of Labor, told a different story last week.

“That’s an incorrect statement,” Brooks said. “They’ve got multiple tests to do.”

Shiver later said he meant that there was only one big test left to run on the coaster, not including some of the minor inspections that still need to be completed. Syntax aside, one thing is clear — much work still remains to get the coaster up and running.

First and foremost, a major series of tests involving the restraints and seat design of the roller coaster cars must be performed. But Larry Moyers, owner of Rotational Motion which has rehabbed the coaster, says he won’t do it until the park pays down some of its debt to his company.

“Right now, I’m owed enough money that I really need to see some sort of hope that I’m going to get paid,” Moyers said. “For me to invest anymore in it without payment would be foolish.”

According to Moyers, that amounts to about $150,000 for work done between April and August of last year.

“In the past six months, I’ve struggled because of the economy, and being owed that much from one customer is huge,” he said.

Moyers says he needs the funds to pay his engineers who worked on the coaster.

Getting Moyers on board is just one step in opening the coaster. The coaster is designed with lap bars instead of over the shoulder restraints, because Moyers’ engineer determined that with the design of the coaster, a shoulder harness would actually cause riders harm.

But Ghost Town’s owners still have to convince state inspectors to OK the lap bar. Inspectors want to see several destructive and load tests on the lap bar and seat designs before they sign off on the Cliffhanger.

Moyers said that, like himself, state Department of Labor Bureau Chief Jonathan Brooks was skeptical.

“He was in the same place I was when I started this project,” Moyers said. “We had to convince him that over the shoulder harness was not viable and we shouldn’t go that way.”

But Brooks still doesn’t appear to be completely convinced.

“At this point in time, I don’t know that over the shoulder restraints are required or not required,” Brooks told The Smoky Mountain News.

Brooks said that Ghost Town’s owners need to initiate the inspection process immediately if they hope to have the coaster ready by the proposed May 15 opening date. Though Shiver said back in November that the results of more than 400 test runs of the coaster had been sent to the state, Brooks said he hasn’t received them.

“I do not have any testing results or inspections from Ghost Town as we sit here today,” Brooks said last week. He also said no request for inspection had yet been submitted to him.

“This is our busy season trying to get stuff done, and the sooner they can schedule, the better off they would be,” Brooks said.

Communication with Ghost Town during the inspection process has been inconsistent, Moyers and Brooks revealed, in contrast to Shiver’s past statements that the park owners have maintained constant contact with state officials.

Brooks said he hadn’t heard anything out of Ghost Town in months until he corresponded with Moyers and a park maintenance worker in late January or early February.

Moyers said he waited so long to hear from Ghost Town that he went ahead and booked other work.

“We had a meeting in November saying we could make a spring opening if we received payment,” Moyers said. “We gave them a very clear timeline and we didn’t get money or a phone call until Feb. 20. The problem was, I had other work lined up that I was committed to.”

Brooks expressed doubts about Ghost Town’s ability to get its rides up and running by its proposed May 15 opening date if it doesn’t act quickly.

“The closer they get to the May opening date without calling for inspections, the more likely stuff may not make it,” Brooks said. “All total, from start to finish, if we started today, we would be right on top of May 15.”

Shiver admitted that the roller coaster may not be up and running by the proposed opening date.

“It may not be day one that it’s open,” he said. He said the investors will likely have to go back to the bankruptcy court and petition to increase the line of emergency credit in order to perform the necessary tests on the ride.

Doing so would be worthwhile, Moyers said.

“I think it’s important to the future of the park to get the coaster open,” he said. “I think if they try to open it without the coaster, it would be throwing good money after bad.”

Troubled park hopes to get back on feet

The dire state of finances at Maggie Valley Ghost Town in the Sky led the amusement park to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 10.

The filing will allow the partners of Ghost Town LLC to structure a plan to try and pay back creditors, and protect the company from potential lawsuits in the process.

Sluggish ticket sales last season due to surging gas prices, coupled with the high costs of rehabilitating the park’s 48-year-old infrastructure, dealt a serious blow to Ghost Town’s anticipated revenues and debts mounted.

Nearly half a million dollars in liens have been filed against Ghost Town for unpaid services, including construction of the incline railway that takes visitors up the mountain, engineering services, equipment rental, and parts for the Cliffhanger roller coaster. The company owes money to multiple other vendors, according to the bankruptcy filing, and has an estimated debt load of $2.5 million, according to Ghost Town General Manager Steve Shiver.

Shiver said the company tried every avenue to secure a loan, but the current lending environment made it impossible.

“We were on the cusp of making this thing work, and then the credit markets absolutely fell apart,” said Shiver.

The company approached lender after lender, to no avail. The partners poured almost $4 million of their own money into the park, according to Shiver.

They even held state sales tax money garnered from sales of tickets and merchandise, which should have gone straight to state coffers. A document from the state Department of Revenue filed Dec. 19 of last year reveals that Ghost Town owes the state $97,739.82 in back sales taxes.

“They obviously had cash flow issues, and were using the (sales tax) money for cash flow purposes,” said Lee Shelton, a financial expert who resides in Maggie Valley.

In a last-ditch effort, Ghost Town partners were working to secure a high-interest “mezzanine loan,” just before the decision was made to file for bankruptcy, said Shiver.

“The credit markets collapsed and forced us to look at alternative lending,” Shiver said.

Mezzanine loans demand as much as 20 to 30 percent interest.

“Mezzanine financing is usually a lender of last resort, because you can’t raise any more capital and can’t find anyone else to provide conventional lending,” said Shelton.

But at the last minute, the deal fell through, said Shiver.

Bankruptcy “was an action of absolute last resort,” he said.

“We put a lot of money into repairing the park,” Shiver said. “The alternative is to close the doors and sell it for the real estate. It will bring pennies on the dollar in a forced sale.”

For Ghost Town to get back on its feet, two things have to happen — increased visitation and securing a loan to pay off its debts. No one knows for certain if either is going to happen.

Shiver expressed remorse for the situation the park is in.

“I am so, so sorry that we are in this position to owe local vendors and national vendors,” he said. “We don’t like this. I feel for all the small businesses affected by this.”


The Ghost Town lifeline

Small business is the livelihood of Maggie Valley, and Ghost Town’s impact on the many shops, hotels and restaurants in the area is far-reaching.

“We’re all in shock. We’re not happy to hear it,” said Mike Nelson, owner of Abbey Inn in Maggie Valley. “Ghost Town is very, very important.”

Nelson said the park is what defines Maggie Valley, and is still the top attraction – more so than other nearby features, like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“They come for Ghost Town,” Nelson said. “That’s what put Maggie’s name on the map.”

Maggie Valley Mayor Roger McElroy observed a drop of 30 to 40 percent in local business during the five years Ghost Town was closed. Visitor numbers since the park re-opened don’t rival what they once were, but the 130,000 people the park attracted last year — according to Shiver — is a far cry better than none at all.

“The point is that 50 percent of those people were from out of state, and most likely stayed overnight in the area,” McElroy said.

Ghost Town not only draws tourists, it creates jobs for locals. The park itself has a $2 million payroll and employs around 200 people in peak season, albeit some part-time; the tourists it draws also create 100 to 200 jobs in the hotel, restaurant and shopping industries.

“There are a lot of folks that are not going to have jobs if this park is not successful, and there’s a lot of money that will not filter through the community,” said Shiver.


Key to success

Ghost Town partners plan to open the park May 15 and are banking on drawing 150,000 visitors this season despite the economic recession.

Critical to the park’s success will be its ability to get two of its biggest rides – the incline railway and Cliffhanger Rollercoaster — working.

Along with high gas prices, the failure to get those rides working since Ghost Town re-opened may have contributed to the dip in visitation during the park’s second season.

“The numbers I heard around town were that in 2007, things were up very nicely since Ghost Town was back, even though they had their problems,” Nelson said. “And in 2008, it definitely slumped off, primarily because Ghost Town did not achieve the numbers it needed.”

Indeed, the Maggie Valley Visitors Center saw the number of visitors increase by 40 percent the year the park re-opened. But in the park’s second season after re-opening, a study conducted by the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority found no significant increase in the number of children visiting the county.

Getting the Cliffhanger Rollercoaster inspected by the state has been a major obstacle. The company Ghost Town hired to build the roller coaster train had never built one before, and the design lacked the necessary tests, which slowed the process.

Ghost Town now has just one more test to perform before it can open the Cliffhanger, said Shiver, which the partners were not expecting.

“The thrill and excitement of our roller coaster is that it’s got a loop, but no over the shoulder harness,” Shiver said. “The N.C. Department of Labor wanted to see some tests on the restraints, and that’s what we were getting ready to do.”

When The Smoky Mountain News interviewed Shiver in November of last year, he said the park had completed 400 test runs of the new coaster and sent the results of those to state officials. It’s unclear why more tests have been required.

Attempts to secure the necessary money to run the tests, however, were unsuccessful.

The incline railway is another story.

“That’s got some hurdles,” Shiver said. “It’s close as well. We replaced the track, but we’re in discussion with the vendor. We’re actually in court with the vendor.”

The vendor, Industrial Service Group of Georgia, has filed a lien against Ghost Town in the amount of $407,910. Shiver refuses to discuss the case.

The amount of money Ghost Town investors have spent to rehab old park structures and bring them up to safety code has been a big financial drain.

“This group agreed to pay probably more than it was worth,” McElroy said of the park. “They had to do a tremendous amount of work they didn’t anticipate.”

Shelton wonders if the investors opened the park prematurely.

“There wasn’t competition to buy the place, so it wasn’t like you had to be in a rush,” he said. “They could have taken their time and probably could have brought in the state inspectors and said, take a look at this.”

In a press release, Ghost Town officials said they will make opening the rides a priority, and hope that doing so will increase visitor numbers.

“Once The Cliffhanger Rollercoaster...is open, Ghost Town will appeal to a broader audience, including thrill-seekers, teenagers and pre-teens,” the press release stated.

It added: “By completing the Incline Railway, Ghost Town will save a significant amount of money on bus transportation and will attract more school groups who, in the 2007 and 2008 season, had to be bussed to the top of the mountain where the Theme Park is located.”


Outpouring of support

Right now, Ghost Town is, “working with the courts through our attorneys and our creditors to come up with a real plan that will be acceptable and approved by the court,” Shiver said.

The partners continue to search for financing.

“We’re working with several potential sources for post-petition financing, and that’s ongoing,” said Shiver. “They are companies that specialize in this kind of financing, and there are banks involved as well.”

Shiver said the May 15 opening date, while hopeful, is still tentative.

“We are shooting for that, but of course, it all depends on our ability to restructure and finance,” he said.

The community has shown an outpouring of support for the embattled park.

“I’m just humbled by the support and phone calls that I’m getting,” said Shiver. “It’s been overwhelming, and I’m so grateful and thankful to the people of Maggie Valley.”

The community is doing what it can to help. Maggie Valley’s Tourism Development Subcommittee, which gets funding from the county’s room tax, has agreed to give Ghost Town some of its money for advertising. Local leaders have also reached out to state officials.

“We’ve talked to our legislators and hope that we can work with them and express to them how bad it’s going to hurt if Ghost Town fails,” said McElroy. “Hopefully they can come through with some help.”

“We’ve got to get the word out to the judge that we the community want it to stay alive,” said Nelson.

Shiver wants to get the ball rolling, and put Ghost Town back on the path to success.

“There have been many sleepless nights,” he said. “I’m just anxious to get it done for the community, and for our creditors and investors.”

Another landslide jeopardizes Maggie Valley home

A Maggie Valley man alerted Haywood County officials this week of a landslide posing a risk to his home in Smoky Mountain Estates in Maggie Valley.

Marc Pruett, soil and erosion control director for Haywood County, visited the site of the slide on Walt Moody’s property on Tuesday. Pruett reported that “the failure comes up within about three feet of the back edge of the house. It’s not good.”

Moody estimated that the slopes above and below his house are between 45 and 50 degrees.

The cause of the slide has not been determined. Moody said that in recent weeks, rains have appeared to soften the ground around his property.

“I think this started with that rain in January,” Moody said. “I’ve never seen the ground that way. We’re leaving footprints and footprints are filling with water immediately. (It’s) like walking on a sponge.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Moody had not decided whether he would take steps toward remediation of the slope.

Moody said recent landslides in the area have brought public attention to the challenges of building in the mountains.

“I believe we’re going to see a significant change in the way construction is managed in the mountains of Western North Carolina,” he said.

Landowners held accountable in wake of landslide

Property owners at the site of last month’s landslide in Maggie Valley are being tasked by county officials with the job of stabilizing the mountain in the wake of the slide.

The county has given the property owners until Feb. 21 to have a professional inspection conducted of the collapsed slope, the first deadline in a long remediation process.

Edward and Pamela McAloon, whose house sat on a nearly vertical slope, weren’t home when a 300-foot wall of mud slid off their property during heavy rains Jan. 7, destroying the home of their downhill neighbors Bruce and Lorraine Donin. The Donins, who were on the second and third floors of their house when the slide occurred, emerged badly shaken but uninjured.

Haywood County’s slope ordinance passed in 2006, too late to force the McAloons to hire an engineer and submit a slope stability plan when constructing their house on such steep terrain. But it does give the county power to force the McAloons to clean up the mess. In contrast, counties without such an ordinance lack the power to force any slope remediation by the property owner, meaning a failed slope may never be fixed or fixed at taxpayers’ expense.

Haywood’s ordinance gives the county’s engineering review board power to step in and require the owners of property “upon which a critical slope is located” to have a professional inspection performed to determine what it will take to fix the slope. On Jan. 22, the engineering review board gave the McAloons 30 days to do just that.

The board will also instate a timeline for repair of the slope, said County Engineer Mark Shumpert — another authority put in place by the slope ordinance.

The county can require the property owner “to repair the slope to adequately eliminate the hazard...within a time period as determined by the Engineering Review Board.”

The county has not yet set a timeline for the McAloons to repair their slope because of some issues that complicate the site, Shumpert said, such as access.

“Access to the site is going to be very difficult,” he said. “To cross that stream they may have to work with the Corps of Engineers and the Division of Water Quality, in order to obtain the permits to do that.”

Getting the proper permits to work around the stream that runs through the property will likely be the biggest obstacle to repairing the slope.

“It might take them six months to give them the permits they need,” Shumpert said. That’s why the county has opted not to set a timeline for remediation just yet.

Shumpert said he has not heard from the McAloons since the slide, and doesn’t know if they’ve hired a contractor to evaluate and start repairs.

But the attorney retained by the McAloons, Canton Lawyer Pat Smathers, said the couple has hired an engineer to take a look at the property. Smathers would not say whether his clients should be held financially responsible for the disaster, though he did say, “they regret what occurred.”

County inspection records indicate the McAloons were warned at least three times about the slope’s potential for failure.

The Donins, whose home was destroyed by the slide, have retained attorney David Wijewickrama of Waynesville, though they have not filed a lawsuit.

Searching for clarity after muddy disaster

It was around 1:30 a.m. on an exceptionally rainy Wednesday that Bruce and Lorraine Donin’s world came crashing down.

One minute, the senior couple from Florida was enjoying a peaceful night listening to the creek rush past their three-story home. The next, they were crawling their way through a twisting, tumbling nightmare, desperately trying to escape the mudslide that turned their house into a pile of rubble. The Donins ended up on their roof, which was sitting on the ground — miraculously unscathed, and badly shaken.

The 300-foot landslide that slammed into the Donin’s house in the Wild Acres subdivision in Maggie Valley originated from the property of their uphill neighbors, Edward and Pamela McAloon, also of Florida. The McAloon’s house was teetering on a whopping 83 percent slope — one that was deemed dangerous three different times before the house was built.

The mudslide that destroyed the Donin residence has sparked a renewed debate over building in the mountains and just whose to blame when something goes wrong.

In the Donin’s case, pinning a culprit isn’t easy. Though the county, private engineers and the McAloons themselves were all aware of the potential instability of the McAloon property, a lack of regulations in place at the time meant no one had to do anything about it.

And unless that changes, say slope ordinance advocates, there will likely be more destructive landslides in the future.

“As there’s an increase in the amount of development on steep and unstable slopes, I think we’ll see an increase in the number of similar incidents,” said Bill Eaker, environmental services manager for the Land of Sky Regional Council.


Who’s to blame?

County documents show the McAloons apparently ignored warnings that their property posed a potential risk for a landslide.

When the McAloons embarked on building a second-home in Wild Acres, they didn’t have much to work with. The remarkably steep lot was barely more than half an acre, leaving little room for shoehorning a house pad on the property.

They sought advice from private engineers at Alpha Environmental Sciences, who were the first to issue a warning about the stability of the site in July of 2005. The engineers visited the site specifically to evaluate the stability of its slopes. They identified two slopes that posed a risk. “This area will most likely continue to erode until the slope gives way and slides,” the engineers said of the first. Of the second — “due to the steep grade of the slope, there is potential for a slide.”

The same concerns were expressed when county officials inspected the property in October 2006 for erosion control compliance, a standard part of the construction process.

“We have concerns about the slope just past your home. It appears to be exhibiting signs of failure. Please have your plan designer, or another qualified person, have a look at it,” wrote erosion and sedimentation control inspector Tim Surrett.

But months later, there had been no move to remediate the unstable slopes. The county’s final erosion inspection in January of 2007 included a statement recommending that the owners seek professional help assessing the long-term stability of the slope.

While the county clearly had concerns over the hillside’s stability, Haywood’s slope ordinance had not yet been passed, and county officials couldn’t force the property owners to do anything.

“Our people were sitting there saying ... we think you’ve got an awfully steep slope, and that you need somebody to look at it,” recalls Mark Pruett, the county’s director of erosion and sediment control.

David Wijewickrama, a Waynesville lawyer retained by the Donins, says the McAloons are to blame for ignoring the repeated warnings.

“Even though they’d been warned, they had not followed the recommendations,” he said. “So what I see there are potential charges of negligence, such as negligent infliction of emotional distress. There are a variety of allegations that we can make against them.”

The McAloons could not be reached for comment.

In any case, out-of-staters from flatter terrain may not fully understand the risks of building in the mountains.

“It’s not something in their thinking that areas are prone to slides,” said N.C. Rep. Ray Rapp (D-Mars Hill), who has advocated for a state-wide steep slope regulation in the N.C. General Assembly.

Individuals unfamiliar with mountain terrain who are building here should get help from local professionals, Eaker suggests.

“We strongly encourage folks considering buying property or building in steep slope areas to retain the services of professionals that are here in this area, that are familiar with the mountain environment and how it works, and what the limiatations are,” he said.

But just who to pick can be daunting. Eaker suggests programs like Clear Water Contractors, where contractors who have undergone training in best building practices are listed on a Web site.

Gordon Small, a former employee of Haywood Waterways and advocate for smart building in the mountains, said there should be a public database that lists the citations that contractors have received.

“Not all builders and developers are equal,” he said. “I would like to see a public list on the Internet of citations issued. Over time, you’ll have a whole lot better people doing the work.”


County’s hands tied

If the McAloons were buildin on their property today, they would fall under Haywood County’s slope ordinance, which gives the county teeth to address slope stability concerns — teeth the county lacked just a couple years ago. Under Haywood’s ordinance, slopes over a 35 percent grade require an engineer to certify their stability.

“We have that slope ordinance in place now, which could very well have prevented the problem that recently happened,” said Pruett.

People have come forward since the adoption of the ordinance with requests to build on slopes as steep as that on the McAloon property, and now the county can make them comply with additional stability measures.

“We’ve not turned them down, but we’ve required them to submit a plan or do something else to modify the slope,” said Mark Shumpert, the county’s engineer. If a private engeineer signs off on the slope, the county generally agrees.

“For the most part, if the engineer signs off, we’re not going to argue with them — just make sure they submitted the information we need,” Shumpert said.

Shumpert said no slopes built on since the adoption of the ordinance have failed.

In theory, the hoops put in place by Haywood County’s slope ordinance might deter individuals from building homes on steep slopes. But if people are determined enough and have the cash, there’s still nothing to stop them.

“You can drive around parts of the county and realize there’s not really anywhere that can’t be built on — it comes down to financing,” said Shumpert. “A structural engineer can do you up a whopper of a home plan that costs more than the house itself.”

Though Haywood County’s slope ordinance still allows for steep slope development, it’s much more regulation than some counties have put in place. Neither Macon nor Swain counties have a slope ordinance.


The state’s role

A bill introduced by Rep. Rapp in the General Assembly would put in place a statewide steep slope ordinance modeled after Haywood’s. The bill, dubbed the Safe Artificial Slope Construction Act, stalled after meeting stiff opposition from the North Carolina Homebuilders Association and the North Carolina Realtors, and wasn’t brought up in the most recent General Assembly session. Rapp says the Maggie Valley landslide has reinforced the need for statewide regulations.

“What has happened with the Maggie Valley situation, is it just helps reinforce the need for this,” he said. “I don’t think we can be dismissive anymore of the dangers that are involved by continuing to ignore this issue.”

Rapp says a statewide ordinance would provide a method of protecting mountain slopes, especially in counties that lack any such regulation.

“I think we have a checkerboard pattern of ordinances up and down the ridges. Some communities have standards that go way beyond what’s called for, but other counties have absolutely nothing,” he said.

The bill would give counties with no regulations a chance to adopt an ordinance of their own, but if they didn’t the state would impose minimum criteria. Rapp said he had already been planning to reintroduce his bill prior to the landslide in Maggie Valley.

“I had been talking with different local groups to see what kind of support I might generate as well as some of the legislators who had been resistant to the original bill, to see what they found most objectionable and how we can make it a little more palatable,” he said.

Rapp says the two powerful lobbying forces — the homebuilders and Realtors — who opposed the bill took issue with the requirement that an engineer be hired if slopes exceeded a certain threshold. He argues that the additional cost is well worth it to prevent a total loss like that suffered by the Donins.

“These are very expensive homes being built on these slopes, by most standards, and if there is an additional cost of $1,200 or $1,400 that goes into having an engineer study and soil samples that may be required, that is well worth the lives and property that would be saved,” he said.

But Alan Best, president of the Haywood County Homebuilders Association, says his group has additional concerns.

“Why is the rest of the state mandating what we are regionally addressing? How does Raleigh or those other counties or other representatives understand what’s happening in WNC?” he said. “Is it something we need statewide when it’s something unique to Western North Carolina?”

However, many counties aren’t addressing it on their own, and the bill would force them to step up to the plate.

Another state initiative targeting landslides is the Landslide Hazard Mapping Program. The program, started after the 2004 hurricanes, aims to map potential landslize hazard zones as a tool for developers. But the program is moving at a snail’s pace because the funding is slow to materialize.

Rick Wooten, senior geologist with the North Carolina Geological Survey, said the landslide maps would have pinpointed the risk of the area where the Maggie Valley landslide occurred.

“Our maps would have picked up that spot as an area where debris flows could potentially go,” said Wooten.

The state program has recently secured more funding, which will allow it to continue mapping mountain counties. Next on the list is Jackson County, followed by Haywood County in 2010. Macon County has already been completed.


Slides without devastation

In the event of any landslide, there’s question of whether anything really could have prevented it. After all, landslides have been a naturally occurring geological phenomenon in the mountains long before humans set foot here.

“These mountains have shallow soils and rocks close to the surface. You get enough rain and saturate the soil to the point where it liquefies, and you’re always going to get some landslides,” said Shumpert.

But most experts agree that slope construction exacerbates the problem. Ground that has been disturbed can’t hold as much water, said Wooten, and therefore increases the chance that it will liquefy and become a landslide.

“No, you won’t ever stop all of them, but you can limit them, and you can minimize how bad they’ll be,” Shumpert said.


“With enough planning and engineering, quality construction, and building on slopes that aren’t so crazy high and steep,” he said. “But it depends how much money you put into it, and how risky the area is where you’re building on a slope.”

The mountain where the Donin landslide occurred may qualify as a risky area. A landslide in the same subdivision killed a woman in 2003. And in the 24-hour period that the Donin slide occurred, another landslide on the back of the same mountain in the Villages of Plott Creek subdivision sent large volumes of mud into Plott Creek, turning the water into mud for a couple of miles.

“There’s been a lot of activity in the mountain right there,” said Pruett.

But careful building practices and slope regulations could prevent that activity from wreaking havoc, added Rapp.

“We certainly can’t control natural events, but we can have an impact on their effects,” Rapp said.

Maggie Valley gets new police station: It’s the town’s first new public building since incorporation in 1974

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

As captain of the Maggie Valley police department, Jason Moody normally keeps his emotions in check. Today, though, as he leads a tour around the police department’s new building, he’s beaming.

Maggie Valley mayor’s race pits long-time foes

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

Forget the presidential election — the biggest race to watch in the coming months may be the battle for mayor of Maggie Valley.

Exploring every angle: Alison Brown’s bluegrass journey comes to Maggie Valley’s Eaglenest Entertainment Sept. 8

By Chris Cooper

The phrase “well rounded” gets thrown about pretty often, but it fits few people better than banjoist extraordinaire Alison Brown. Her forays into the many facets of bluegrass music, as well as her superb technical and compositional abilities have earned her Grammy and IBMA awards, critical acclaim and immense respect from music fans of every stripe.

Maggie studies potential growth, regulations

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

The surprisingly large crowd at a presentation on Maggie Valley’s proposed land-use plan seemed impressed with the details but questioned how applicable it was.

The land-use plan, created by Kannapolis-based firm Benchmark, would divide the town into districts where certain types of development will be encouraged. Residents got their first look at the proposal during a public hearing at town hall last Tuesday (June26).

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