WNC cops frustrated by lack of drug, alcohol testing at regional crime lab

Waynesville Police Department is one of several law enforcement agencies hoping to see an expansion of the Western North Carolina crime lab in the next several years to speed up processing, trials and convictions of offenders.

“Our evidence has to go all the way to Raleigh,” said Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed. “We would love to see the expansion of the lab in Western North Carolina.”

The current lab serving WNC, based in the Skyland area of Asheville, can run tests to identify specific drugs and fingerprints as well as process firearms, tool markings and fire-related evidence. However, it is not certified to run toxicology tests, which are most often used to show an individual’s blood alcohol concentration or if they have ingested any drugs. Those tests can only be run at the state lab in Raleigh.

“Right now, our biggest backlog in the system … is toxicology,” Hollingsed said.

What ends up happening is situations like this: A police officer pulls over and arrests a motorist suspected of driving under the influence. At some point, a blood sample is drawn and sent to the lab in Raleigh. While town and county law enforcement officials wait for the results, prosecutors must repeatedly ask for the judge to postpone a hearing or trial as they wait for the results. However, a judge will only delay a case for so long. And, without the toxicology report or other proof that a person was over the legal limit or on drugs, an offender may get off or get a looser punishment than the crime deserves.

Defense attorneys may also request that the crime lab technician who conducted the testing appear in court. In that case, the lab technician must spend a whole day driving from Raleigh to Western North Carolina and back — precious time that could be spent testing evidence for other cases.

“It’s breaking the state,” Hollingsed said.

Whole Bloomin’ Thing celebrates its 10th year

Waynesville’s 10th Annual Whole Bloomin’ Thing Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 12, in historic Frog Level.

The event is Haywood County’s premier spring festival and kicks off the growing season with beautiful flowering baskets, vegetable and herb starts, berry bushes, and potted ornamental plants to jumpstart anyone’s garden.

Local artisans will feature a wide range of nature-inspired gifts and crafts – from baskets & birdhouses to soaps & stemware, pottery & jewelry to metal sculptures & flower planters, and dozens of other handmade creations. Enjoy fresh cheeses, homemade preserves and jellies, BBQ and burgers, veggie wraps, ice cream and desserts.

Live music and entertainment will be provided throughout the day by local musicians and dancers, including Chris Minick, Frog Level Philharmonic (Dixie Land Jazz), Marshall Ballew, The Ross Brothers with the J Creek Cloggers, Raq Shuraka Dance Co. (belly dancing), and Caleb Burress.

The Frog Level Philharmonic will play from 10 a.m. to noon. The band features Charles Alley on clarinet, Otis Sizemore on cornet, Pat Stone and Mary Thomas on keyboard, Mark Raines on trombone, Jerry Donahoe on banjo, Jim Boyer on drums and Jim Juhnke on tuba.

This year, people can also take home a little piece of Frog Level history. The tin tiles from the Water Street Cottage will be salvaged, embellished by local artists and sold at the Merchant’s Association booth.

The Frog Level businesses will be open during the festival, and the Haywood County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer all gardening questions. Children’s activities include face painting, seed planting and more.

Parking is available at Haywood Builders, St. John’s Catholic Church, the VFW upper parking lot, the public parking deck on Branner Avenue and all public parking in the area.

South Main plan dredges up old parking debate

The Waynesville Board of Aldermen approved a revitalization plan for South Main Street last week despite a dispute over one aspect of the proposed design scheme.

The town hired Rodney Porter, a consultant with LaQuatra Bonci in Asheville, last year to study South Main Street. The area has grown increasingly run-down and unattractive. Town leaders hoped new street scheme would promote more economic development along that stretch of road, prompting a year-long public process to develop a new vision for the corridor.

Porter’s report assessing South Main peppered with less-than-flattering language describing South Main: deteriorated condition; not economically healthy; dilapidated structures; no distinct image; scrubby patches of overgrown and unattractive weeds; seldom pedestrian traffic.

Porter addressed the board again last week to show-off his plan to make South Main Street more attractive to developers. His plan includes bike lanes, a continuous sidewalk, a roundabout where Main and Riverbend streets and Ninevah Road intersect, and a four-lane road from Allens Creek Road to Hyatt Creek Road.

The plan received overall positive feedback from the public, but two aldermen and the mayor expressed apprehension about one aspect that seemed to open an old can of worms. Rearing its head again was the ongoing debate over parking lots — namely should parking lots go in front of buildings or be scooted to the side and rear?

Porter felt strongly that parking lots should be to the side and rear, allowing building facades to define the street’s character rather than asphalt and parked cars.

The town of Waynesville had once been in Porter’s camp. Its development standards once required parking lots to sit to the side or rear of buildings, and for facades to flank the street front.

But in response to complaints from developers, the town board recanted and began allowing small, limited parking areas in front of buildings in certain commercial districts, including South Main Street.

In contrast, the consultant wanted the town to go back to its old requirement of storefronts and not parking lots abutting the street — creating a quandary for some of the aldermen.

“Is there a way of modifying this report?” said Mayor Gavin Brown. “I don’t want to have my name on a document that is contrary to another document that I signed less than a year ago.”

Porter stood his ground and fought for the plan to stay as is.

Placing parking lots to the side or back of buildings gives South Main a distinct identity and makes it pedestrian friendly, Porter said. What is the point of creating a plan otherwise, he asked.

“If we pull those buildings back (farther off the street), I really don’t know what we are doing more than putting trees in the sidewalk,” Porter said. “That really sort of strays away from the ‘complete streets’ movement that we have.”

The so-called “complete streets” concept focuses on making a street user friendly for everyone — motorists, cyclists and pedestrians — rather than purely auto-centric.

“It’s not in keeping with complete streets, and you are separating the pedestrian atmosphere with another row of parking,” Porter said. “You would not have the opportunity for any significant street frontage, and depending on how the traffic is laid out, you would quite possibly end up with more curb cuts.”

Curb cuts increase the likelihood of an accident.

Aldermen Gary Caldwell and Julia Freeman sided with Brown, saying they felt uncomfortable approving a plan that runs counter to current land development standards.

“To contradict what we currently have as a land development standard, it’s troublesome to me,” Freeman said.

Paul Black, director of French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization, voiced his approval of the plan and its commitment to complete streets concept. A parking lot would split the sidewalk and storefronts making it more hazardous for pedestrians, Black said.

“It would be very difficult to have a sidewalk café if the waiter’s got to walk across the parking lot,” Black said. “I don’t know if there is a way to reconcile your development code with the plan.”

Alderman Wells Greeley did not openly express an opinion about the plan, while Alderman LeRoy Roberson endorsed the plan as laid out by the consultant.

After more than an hour of comments and discussion, new Town Manager Marcy Onieal found the plan’s golden ticket to passage — a sentence on page 19 of the report that says all proposed development must meet the town’s land development standards. That means that the town’s ordinances would override any contradictory language proposed in the plan.

The board ultimately passed the South Main Street master plan as is.

“I can live with it,” Brown said.

None of the disagreements will matter, however, once the N.C. Department of Transportation gets its hands on the project. The plan is merely a guideline for DOT, detailing what Waynesville would like to see happen to South Main. But, it is by no means set in stone. DOT could decide to scrap the town’s plan altogether or only incorporate parts of the layout when it revamps the street.

“We’re going to have a big comedown with reality when DOT gets ahold of this and starts designing the road,” said Town Planner Paul Benson. “We are going to get a definite reality check as the program proceeds forward. But, I think at this point I don’t see any problem personally with having sort of an idealized plan out there.”

See for yourself

Check out the South Main Street revitalization plan for yourself at www.townofwaynesville.org.


Forum to focus on Lake Junaluska’s future as a town or not

As Lake Junaluska weighs whether to become part of the town of Waynesville or form its own town, a public forum for residents to ask questions or share comments will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at Bethea Welcome Center.

At stake is Lake Junaluska’s identity and the fate of a community made up of 800 homes. A task force has been formed to study the issue. The mission of the task force includes gathering public opinion, reporting findings to the Junaluska Assembly Community Council and possibly making recommendations.

The taskforce will be made up of three representatives from the community council, three from the Lake Junaluska Assembly Property Owners Organization, three members from the community and one member representing the United Methodist Church.

While Lake Junaluska is not an official town, the community already looks and acts like one. It has its own trash pick-up, water and sewer system, street maintenance and even security force. The homes that make up Lake Junaluska’s residential community pay a yearly fee for those services.

But, an aging water and sewer system and other infrastructure issues have led the community to consider joining Waynesville instead of bearing the expense alone. If the community joins Waynesville, it would see an increase to its property-tax base but would also incur the Lake’s aging infrastructure.

Perk up New coffee shop opens in Waynesville

Coffee lovers and addicts have a new place in Waynesville to get their fix.

Main Street Perks opened on Main Street about three weeks ago, filling a large, vacant hole in the downtown façade with goodies, caffeine, a wall of booths and a couple of café tables and chairs. The coffee shop is owned by the perky and outgoing Melisa Williams, a Florida native who moved to Waynesville in 2007.

Williams buys her coffee from Smoky Mountain Roasters in Waynesville and Bean Works in Asheville. Her goodies — muffins, bagels, cream cones and more — come from local baker Kandy Medford.

Main Street Perks also offers ice cream, malts and traditional, thick, need-a-spoon-to-eat shakes. While coffee and ice cream don’t really go hand-in-hand, Williams said the decision to offer the treat came down to one thing: “I like ice cream,” she said, laughing with her whole person.

It’s hardly Waynesville’s only coffee shop. There’s Smoky Mountain Café a block down the street, and Blue Ridge Books a block up the street. There’s Panacea Coffee Roasters a stone’s throw away in Frog Level. Plus, the new City Bakery with coffee offerings of its own opened up next door to Williams the same week as her own grand opening.

But she says people are slowly discovering the new coffee stop.

“I’m happy,” Williams said. “It’s been progressively picking up everyday here.”

This first month or two of operating is crucial for any business, figuring out whether it can build and maintain a customer base — something that other Main Street storeowners understand.

“I am getting a lot of support from the merchants,” Williams said.

Other Main Street business owners have already become familiar faces at Waynesville’s newest coffee shop.

“It’s great to see the camaraderie between merchants,” said Buffy Phillips, director of the Downtown Waynesville Association. “They are delighted to have those places.”

Williams had hoped to open a few weeks sooner to avoid clashing with the much-anticipated opening of City Bakery, which sits next door. But, renovations to turn the former retail space into a coffee shop took longer and cost more than expected.

“There was a lot that needed to be updated,” Williams said.

Eventually, Williams hopes to add more seating. But, first, she is focused on finish the building renovations and promoting her business.

“I know that she has some wonderful ideas that she hasn’t been able to make happen yet,” Phillips said.

Main Street Perks will host an official opening party from 6:30-9 p.m. on April 13. The event will include live music — something that Williams hopes to offer regularly. Jeanne Nabor will perform on April 13.

Anyone with a demo CD is free to drop it off at the coffee shop, Williams said.

Some sushi with that pedicure? Suit pitted neighboring businesses over alleged ‘noxious’ fumes

A sushi restaurant in Waynesville lost a protracted legal battle last month after accusing a neighboring nail salon of driving away its diners.

Saki Sushi claimed fumes from Tweety Nails hurt its bottom-line. Litigation dating back two years culminated in a nearly two-week jury trial in March, ultimately exonerating the nail parlor as the sushi joint could not prove that the smell negatively impacted the restaurant — or even that the nail salon was the origin of the smell.

“It’s a relief. It’s indescribable,” said Steve Nguyen, husband of Tweety, who owns Tweety’s Nails.

The two businesses leased storefronts next door to each other in the K-Mart strip mall on Russ Avenue.

Janet Green, owner of Saki Sushi, which had been there first, claimed “noxious odors and chemicals” began emanating from the nail salon shortly after it opened in fall 2009.

The court-filed complaint by Saki Sushi claimed that the smell interfered with Green’s ability to enjoy the property, among other charges, and sued the salon for as much as $60,000. The restaurant also sued its’ landlord.

But, Nguyen said he believes the lawsuit was retaliation. He and his wife at one time expressed an interest in buying Saki Sushi from Green.

Nguyen said that there is no smell in the building now that Saki Sushi has moved to a location on Howell Street.

On at least a couple of occasions, Green called the police about the smell, and on more than several occasions, she asked employees from the nearby Radio Shack to come into her restaurant and tell her if they smelled anything.

During the trial, at least one witness stated that he noticed a strong acrylic-like odor while in the restaurant. Another witness said her coworker couldn’t eat at Saki Sushi with her because he was sensitive to the smell.

However, the witnesses did not know when the smell started and could not definitely connect the stench to Tweety’s Nails.

One witness testified that the odor was considerably less noticeable and possibly different from the fetor wafting from Saki Sushi. Although Green consulted others about the smell, including the Waynesville police, “Mrs. Green admitted that she never even complained to Tweety about the smell,” said Mark Melrose, attorney for Tweety’s Nails.

All sides attempted to settle the issue through mediation but gave up on resolving their differences early last year. The case finally landed in court last week.

After hearing the evidence presented in the case, Judge Mark E. Powell dismissed all of Saki Sushi’s claims, except for its nuisance claim against the nail salon. Within 20 minutes, the jury returned with its verdict, Melrose said. The jury found no validity to the claim and did not award Saki Sushi any damages.

When considering a nuisance claim, Melrose said a jury must also decide if the business benefits the community.

“Every little thing that bothers you is not a lawsuit,” Melrose said.

For example, it would be extremely difficult to claim legally that the paper mill in Canton is a nuisance because is a crucial part of the town’s economy.

“If you ask people in Canton, they say it smells like jobs,” Melrose said.

Although the case is finally settled, Tweety’s Nails plans to sue Saki Sushi for the more than two years worth of court and attorney fees.

Waynesville welcomes new town manager

After nearly six months of searching nationwide, Waynesville found a new town manager close to home from the town of Black Mountain.

Marcia “Marcy” Onieal recently inked a contract with town leaders to become Waynesville’s new town manager, the first female to hold the job.

“I hope that I will be a good fit with the community,” said Onieal, who listed her past experience in local government and her familiarity with mountain culture as strengths that she brings to the position.

She beat out more than 60 other applicants in a lengthy and comprehensive search to replace Lee Galloway, an admired and respected town manager who has led the town for the past 17 years.

Onieal had been the town manager of Black Mountain — a town very similar to Waynesville — since 2008.

Black Mountain and Waynesville are both quaint towns with progressive feels, sporting vibrant and picturesque downtowns. Both have a healthy tourist trade, without being strictly “tourist-towns.” Black Mountain’s population is 7,800 year-round residents compared to Waynesville’s 9,900. Both are also home to a large community of retirees.

“I like the small town character,” Onieal said.

Onieal said she was attracted to Waynesville because it is a progressive and well-managed town.

“I am so pleased to be coming into an organization that has been so well managed,” she said. “Not every town has a vision, and this town does.”

The Waynesville’s location will also allow her to indulge in some of her favorite activities.

“I love to hike and ski,” Onieal said. And “I’ve always been into art in some way.”

Onieal and her husband James Lamm, an architect and engineer, live on a small farm in Madison County where they care for three rescue horses. When Onieal became town manager of Black Mountain, she was not required to live within the town limits so she decided to rent a condo there and keep her farm.

However, the couple now plans to sell the farm, find the horses a new home and settle down in Waynesville.

As of yet, she has not had much time to see Waynesville’s sights since most of her time in town has been spend house hunting. However, that will quickly change when she assumes her new roles.

Onieal resigned as the town manager of Black Mountain in December, following a change in the make-up of the town board there in last fall’s election.

Although the search process spanned nearly six months and required applicants to undergo intense review, the time between Onieal signing the contract last week and her start date is fleeting. Her first day is March 29.

Onieal will earn $102,000 initially. In October, she will receive a 5 percent raise — bringing her annual salary to $107,100. Thereafter, Onieal will obtain raises equal to those of other town employees. Current town manager Lee Galloway earns $114,091 a year.

The mayor and Board of Aldermen took time Wednesday after announcing her appointment to praise and congratulate Onieal.

“She will be an asset in the community,” said Mayor Gavin Brown.

The newest Waynesville alderwoman, Julia Freeman, agreed, saying she is confident that Onieal will do a great job.

“We look forward to your new ideas,” Freeman said.

Onieal will replace Lee Galloway, who has served as town manager for about 17 years.

“It’s a joy to walk in behind someone who has done such a great job,” Onieal said. “I am looking forward to every single day I walk through the door.”

During Wednesday’s announcement, town leaders thanked Galloway for his many years of service.

“We were very fortunate. Lee (Galloway) has been outstanding as everyone knows,” said Alderman LeRoy Roberson.

Although he is anxious to begin his retirement, Galloway will continue to work for the town until the end of June.

“I don’t feel like I will be left hanging,” Onieal said. “I am grateful that Lee will be around.”

During the next few months, he will help finish next year’s budget and start passing on some his vast institutional knowledge to Onieal.

“My first weeks on the job will be a whole lot of listening, learning and meeting people,” Onieal said. “I have a natural interest the history of the town itself.”

Once she settles into her new position as town manager, Onieal said one of her main focuses will be economic development. And, although the goal is to bring new businesses to town, Onieal said the integrity of the town’s appearance should not be sacrificed for the sake of progress.

And, although he will no longer work for the town, Galloway does not plan on becoming a stranger.

Galloway said he is excited to retire and plans to take six months off to relax and enjoy retirement. He also plans to be an active volunteer, possibly working on trail maintenance, or with Habitat for Humanity or the Red Cross.

“Personally, I’d like to learn more about photography and read more,” Galloway said.

Eventually, he plans to work part-time as an interim town manager for destinations that are in between managers. But, Galloway said he will continue to live in Waynesville.

“Why would I go somewhere else?” Galloway said. “It’s a great community so I’ll be around.”

 

Onieal’s resume

A Tennessee native, Marcy Onieal moved to Asheville at age 13 when her father, a vice president at American Enka Corporation, was transferred there. Onieal has lived in Western North Carolina ever since.

A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate, Onieal earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in public administration. She was a Morehead and National Merit scholar. Upon graduation in 1992, Onieal became assistant town manager in Wilson, N.C. She left that position in 1999 to become a partner at Design Group Associates, a family-owned design and consulting firm.

She is also heavily involved in civic and volunteer organizations, including the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Girl Scouts of WNC, the Black Mountain Emergency Homeless Shelter, Rotary International and Buncombe County Rape Crisis Center, among others.

Lake Junaluska wades gingerly into discussion of merging with Waynesville

In the coming months Lake Junaluska residents will weigh in on whether to become part of the town of Waynesville.

For Waynesville, the move could mean a million or more dollars in additional property taxes each year and the benefits of being a larger and possibly stronger town.

For Lake Junaluska residents, the daily logistics of running a community of 800 homes could be placed in accomplished hands. And perhaps most importantly, the burden of repairing the community’s aging water and sewer lines would be punted to Waynesville.

But, there are downsides, too. Lake Junaluska residents could lose autonomy and identity. And, Waynesville may not want the hassle of managing Lake Junaluska’s infrastructure if it would cost more than the town stands to reap in new property taxes.

“It appears on the surface to be a win-win, but how much? How much to provide the services?” wondered Waynesville Alderman Wells Greeley during a discussion on the idea at a town board meeting last week.

Discussion of the issue is in its earliest stages and will take months to explore.

“This decision is going to impact Haywood County for the next 100 years and beyond, so we want it to be in all of our best interests,” said Jack Ewing, the CEO of Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center.

While Lake Junaluska is not an official town, the community already looks and acts like one. It has its own trash pick-up, water and sewer system, street maintenance and even security force. The roughly 800 homes that make up Lake Junaluska’s residential community pay a yearly fee for those services.

The idea of merging with Waynesville comes as Lake Junaluska residents stare down the growing problem of aging water and sewer lines.

“The community will need to decide whether they would like to bear that burden alone, or as part of a larger group,” according to a report by a consultant hired to analyze the pros and cons.

The idea of merging with Waynesville was borne out of that reality.

Lake Junaluska Assembly hired a consultant to study the issue and prepare a report outlining various options — merging with Waynesville, forming its own town or remaining as it is now.

Ultimately, the decision will rest with Lake Junaluska’s residents.

“Each option has some advantages and disadvantages,” said Ron Clouser, president of the Lake Junaluska Community Council. “I would hope that people would have an open mind and take time to read the study and see what it proposes.”

Ewing said leadership at Lake Junaluska is not endorsing any option and has no preconceived notion about which course is best.

“Over the next three to six months, there will be multiple opportunities for people at Lake Junaluska to provide input on these options,” Ewing said.

Down the road there could be a vote to gauge residents’ opinions.

Clouser said he wouldn’t want to factionalize residents by moving forward without a “practically unanimous” consensus.

“I don’t want to see us go down a road that has a split with anybody,” said Clouser, one of seven members elected by homeowners to lead their residential community association.

Ewing shared the consultant’s report with Waynesville leaders at their town board meeting last week. Ewing told the five town board members they will obviously need to embark on a fact-finding mission of their own.

“You may say, ‘No, we are not interested in partnering with you in that way,’” Ewing said.

 

Which is cheaper?

One question that will likely weigh heavily in the decision is cost: Will residents of Lake Junaluska pay more in property taxes than they would in annual fees?

Currently, the town’s property tax rate is 40 cents per $100 of property value. That’s more than what Lake residents currently pay in fees, set at 28 cents per $100 of property value.

But, that fee is bound to go up if the lake has to tackle its water and sewer problems on its own. By how much is not yet known, however, thus making a true dollar for dollar comparison impossible right now.

“Property owners want to know is this going to cost me more or is it going to save me money,” Ewing said. “The report is intentionally silent on finances. It is important, but we didn’t want people to begin with ‘what is the cheapest option for me, and I like that option best.’”

Indeed, that’s not the only issue that will weigh on residents’ minds, Clouser said.

“I think it is going to be more complicated than that. I think it will be more than just an issue of that number,” Clouser said.

What may be more important to residents is how their community character and identity could be impacted. Lake Junaluska has a 100-year history, and residents who cherish that may not want to place their future in someone else’s hands.

“There is a track record of what it means to live at Lake Junaluska. That is an issue at this point,” Clouser said.

Waynesville has a track record of its own: one of bringing independent communities into its fold. The neighboring town of Hazelwood merged with Waynesville two decades ago, but Alderman Gary Caldwell says it didn’t lose its identity.

“Hazelwood will always be Hazelwood and Lake Junaluska will always be Lake Junaluska,” Caldwell said.

Yet Clouser said Junaluskans have a deep sense of pride, both emotional pride in where they live and financial pride in taking care of their own.

Ewing agreed.

“One of the issues our residents are going to talk about is their desire for independence,” Ewing said “Many people may wish to stay the way we are.”

But, there’s a caveat. A true “status quo” simply isn’t an option, he said. Residents must understand “the responsibility of going it alone when it comes to upgrading our infrastructure,” Ewing said.

This is where Waynesville may prove its mettle.

“Waynesville is better resourced to address the needs of the Lake Junaluska community, such as replacing the water and sewer infrastructure, the capital equipment of Lake Junaluska and paving the roadways,” the consultant’s report states.

But, joining forces with Waynesville has other perks as well. Simply put, Waynesville is seen as a quality-run town.

“Waynesville already has a well-established, successful, and relatively progressive governance structure,” the consultant’s report states. “They have established a culture of efficient, effective, and professional administration that has not yet been created at Lake Junaluska.”

 

Sister communities

Waynesville leaders, meanwhile, have to figure out the financial pros and cons of the different options.

“My original reaction is there is a distinct opportunity for the town of Waynesville. The question is, is it cost effective?” Mayor Gavin Brown said.

While the extra property tax looks good on paper, the town would have to hire additional trash crews, police officers and street workers to take on such a large new area.

But, the cost of repairing the lake’s water and sewer system will be the kicker. If it appears that it will cost more than the town is getting in return, the town could temporarily impose higher property taxes on residents of the Lake than the rest of town.

“If there is a need to bring a certain system up to code, they can charge a higher rater to that specific area for a set period of time,” said Andrew d’Adesky, a graduate student with the Institute of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill that prepared the study on behalf of the Lake.

The town, like the residents of the Lake, has more to consider than just economics. Waynesville and Lake Junaluska are kindred spirits in some ways, both forward-thinking communities on each other’s doorstep. Waynesville Alderman Leroy Roberson said the two have a cross-over relationship.

“There is a mutual community,” Roberson said.

Bringing Lake Junaluska into the town’s fold could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to forever change the town’s course in a positive way, Brown said.

“It would be a nice addition to the town of Waynesville,” Brown said.

But, the town must also ask whether it is worth the hassle. Lake Junaluska is three miles from downtown. Can the town afford to have its attention diverted when there are existing parts of town that need attention?

“Should we add another issue to the town’s plate? Would we spread ourselves too thin?” Brown asked.

Waynesville could also enjoy the benefits of a simply being a larger town.

Lake Junaluska community has around 800 homes — about half are seasonal homes, the other half are lived in by year-round residents. Waynesville’s population of 10,000 would increase by at least 10 percent.

That could mean benefits beyond the obvious increase in property taxes. There are numerous slices of state revenue that towns get based on their population — from a cut of sales tax revenue to street and sidewalk funding.

Bigger population numbers also carry bigger clout, which can come in handy when recruiting businesses or lobbying for the town’s interests in Raleigh.

 

Lake Junaluska: past and present

Lake Junaluska began as a religious community more than 100 years ago, and as a summer retreat for the United Methodist Church. Pastors, bishops and other church leaders founded the Lake Junaluska for religious gatherings and conferences in 1908.

Almost immediately, they began building summer homes there for their families to escape the heat of the South and a like-minded community quickly built around the Methodist Church retreat.

Lake Junaluska is no longer a private Methodist community. Anyone can buy a home and live there, and it is no doubt the lake community is growing increasingly secular.

But, its roots in the Methodist church have hardly disappeared. Many homes have been passed down through the generations. Children with fond summer memories of the lake came back to live permanently. Lake Junaluska also is a hotbed of retired pastors and bishops. The grounds of the conference center, which dominate the main campus around the lake shore, bustles with conferences and retreats throughout the year.

Waynesville eyes Walmart site for new ABC store

After more than a year of will they or won't they, Waynesville's ABC Board will soon decide whether to open a second liquor store in the Super Walmart complex.

"Right now, we still don't have everything approved," said Earl Clark, chair of Waynesville's ABC board. But, "It's a whole lot closer than we were a year ago."

The board is contemplating a second location behind Hardee's along the entrance drive to Super Walmart off South Main Street. The area is considered a prime locale that will allow the town to capture a larger share of customers, whether it's residents or visitors.

The South Main Street plot "would be very ideal," Clark said.

While Canton and Maggie Valley have liquor stores as well, the convenience factor of a store beside Walmart makes it likely people would stop in for their liquor purchases while they are shopping in Waynesville even if they live in other parts of the county.

The ABC board has not purchased the land. A property option has expired.

However, the ABC board still has a few details to figure out. The board is working on a site layout that would work within Waynesville's development rules. One concern is providing adequate parking to match the size of the new store, Clark said.

Waynesville currently has one ABC store on Walnut Street, which dates to 1967. The building is small and can only hold so much inventory. It is also located in a strip mall that's somewhat off the beaten path from main commercial areas.

Clark said the current location is too small for the amount of business it does. Last year, the Waynesville store sold more than $2.1 million in alcohol.

The ABC board operates autonomously from other town entities, but Waynesville does receive a portion of the profits earned from alcohol sales each year.

Waynesville receives an average of $100,000, said Town Manager Lee Galloway.

Although the new store is expected to increase revenues, the town won't see a slice of that for years to come. The additional income will go toward buying the land, building the store and covering additional salaries and overhead.

The total cost of the new store is expected to hover around $1 million but could reach closer to $1.25 million when everything is said and done, Clark said. The property will cost about $500,000 and the remaining amount will cover the cost of construction and the initial stocking for the 5,000-square-foot store.

Just stocking the store alone, a cost that is borne upfront before sales start coming in, will likely cost between $150,000 and $175,000, Clark said.

"We are still counting our pennies," he said. "We want to build something nice."

If the ABC board gives the additional store the green light, then it would operate both locations for at least a couple of years. However, if the board does not see a benefit from keeping both open, it will shut down the smaller, older store in favor of the more prime South Main Street locale.

Meanwhile, Maggie Valley has struggled to make running two ABC stores pay off financially. Maggie Valley opened its second ABC store in 2009 on Dellwood Road. The town annexed a satellite tract a mile beyond the town limits for its new store, strategically situated close to Waynesville's doorstep in hopes of pulling some customers who previously traveled to Waynesville's liquor store.

In 2009 when Maggie's new store opened, revenue at Waynesville's ABC profits dove. While Maggie's ABC revenue grew, Waynesville's dropped by a comparable amount.

But, Maggie Valley's second store has yet to pay off. Sales are barely robust enough to cover overhead at two locations, and the cost of building the new store has not yet been paid off.

The Maggie Valley stores lost nearly $24,000 last year and a little more than $38,000 the year prior.


Profits for the Waynesville ABC store

2011: $146,876

2010: $156,568

2009: $263,229

2008: $252,652

2007: $237,587


Where the money goes

Surplus profits from ABC stores go back into town coffers. Waynesville's ABC profits took a hit the year Maggie Valley opened a second store on Waynesville's doorstep, siphoning off customers.

A portion of the proceeds are earmarked for local law enforcement and an alcohol education but the majority is simply added to the town's disposable revenue.

Guns and greenways don’t mix in Waynesville, but state may say differently

Waynesville leaders are looking for a way to keep guns out of town parks and recreation centers despite changes in the state’s conceal carry law that allow guns in more places than before.

A new state law stipulating where concealed weapons can and can’t be carried seem to leave a gray area when it comes to town parks. The town of Waynesville has always banned concealed weapons at town parks and would like to keep doing so but likewise doesn’t want to go against the new state law.

The law passed last year prevents concealed guns from being carried in recreational and athletic facilities and schools. And, under the law, weapons are legally allowed in some formerly prohibited places such as bars and state parks. While the state tried to be specific where guns are banned, however, the verbiage is ambiguous in some respects.

“There are a lot of questions in our mind, ‘what is an athletic facility? Is a dog park an athletic facility?’” said Town Manager Lee Galloway during a meeting with town leaders earlier this month.

The town’s recreation center on Vance Street and the nearby baseball and soccer fields could be classified as athletic facilities and still ban weapons. The dog park, which is completely surrounded by athletic facilities, would also remain gun free.

Prior to the state law change, Waynesville already had an ordinance in place that prevented people from carrying concealed weapons in town parks.

Several North Carolina communities, including Blowing Rock and Hickory, have begun to question the legislature’s decision, he said. Some town boards have decided not to loosen their ordinances to fall in line with the state.

“It has pretty well been concluded that this will end up in court at some point,” Galloway said.

Mayor Gavin Brown asked the town attorney to draft an ordinance even though a likely court battle over the legislation would leave a final outcome up in the air. And, if the town passes the new ordinance before the matter is resolved, the board can simply adjust it as needed.

“We can change the ordinance” if necessary, Brown said.

Despite any arguments over gun rights, the fact remains that neither Waynesville nor any town in North Carolina has had a problem with permitted gun-toting individuals. Those with permits generally obey the law with respects to their weapons and only use it for protection.

Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said he could not find incidents involving a permitted carrier using a gun at a sporting event or in a park.

“I can’t say that we have a big problem with this; we can’t find any city in the state that has a problem with this,” Hollingsed said.

The people that the town and police need to be concerned about are those who do not have permits but carry a weapon anyway, the town board agreed. The law will not prevent that individual from committing a crime.

“You worry about the people who are going to carry a concealed weapon no matter what the law is,” Hollingsed said.

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