Waynesville Public Art Commission seeks members

Are you artsy or interested in art? Want to engage the community and enrich public spaces through original art that celebrates Waynesville’s unique historic, cultural, natural and human resources?

Then join the Waynesville Public Art Commission, because that is exactly the mission of this nine-member board. The Public Art Commission has a vacancy and is seeking a member willing to make decisions, raise funds and help preserve and expand the public art collection.

For more information call 828.452.2491 or visit  for an application.

Watershed forestry back on the table

Waynesville town leaders are weighing whether to conduct selective logging of an old white pine plantation in the Waynesville watershed, a protected 8,000 acre tract whose creeks feed Waynesville’s drinking water reservoir.

While the town permanently protected the watershed from development and large-scale logging several years ago, it left the door open for limited forest management as the need arose. Despite public outcry, the town board maintained that limited timber harvests would be used sparingly and wisely — if at all — and only when the overall health of the forest stood to benefit.

Logging would not be pursued for purely a profit motive, they claimed at the time, nor would it jeopardize water quality of the headwaters that supply Waynesville’s drinking water.

Indeed, the logging being recommended today is being billed as environmentally beneficial.

Foresters, along with the town’s watershed advisory board, have recommended thinning out an old white pine plantation to make way for hardwood trees, which have more ecological benefits.

The harvest plan calls for cutting most of the white pine trees from a 10-acre area. The white pines are widely spaced, and hardwoods have already started growing up in the understory. Removing most of the white pines will allow the hardwoods to mature.

The timber harvest plan calls for selective cutting on another 40 acres, where the white pines are much denser and about 30 years old.

“The idea is to thin this stand,” said Rob Lamb, executive director of Forest Stewards, which has spent several years studying and assessing the watershed’s ecology to develop a long-range forest management plan.

Thinning will increase the vigor of the remaining white pine, plus let some light in to the forest floor to accelerate the re-establishment of native hardwoods.

The far more healthy and valuable stand of white pines left standing could be harvested 20 years from now while allowing for the re-establishment of natural forest at the same time.

Lamb believes it is a win-win-win scenario. He said the watershed will benefit ecologically by phasing out an old white pine plantation in favor of hardwoods, while the town will likely see some profits from the harvest. The logging company that gets the winning bidder would also make money.

Charles Miller, a Waynesville native who lives near the watershed, doesn’t like the idea, however. He was an outspoken critic of timber harvesting in any form or fashion during the debate over the issue five years ago and instead advocates a hands-off management approach.

Miller said the white pine stand is dying off anyway, and hardwoods will take over in their own time.

“The pines are dying. It would be better to have that dead wood on the ground and regenerate the soil than to go in there and destroy that,” Miller said.

Miller said logging will tear up the ground and trample the small hardwoods that have already taken root.

Miller said it is likely a done deal though, citing the outcry that ensued five years ago, to no avail.

“We turned in a petition with 600 names on it and they ignored it,” Miller said.

Town leaders voted 3 - 2 to reserve the right to conduct limited timber harvests in the watershed if deemed ecologically sound. While the watershed emerged as an election issue, those who favored forest management provisions kept their seats.

Peter Bates, natural resources professor at Western Carolina University and president of Forest Stewards board of directors said the harvest plan doesn’t jeopardize the town’s primary goals of conservation and water quality protection.

Town manager Lee Galloway said he feels the Town is ready to “take action” on the white pine harvest plan.

The recommendation comes from the Waynesville Watershed Advisory Board, which Galloway says is comprised of people knowledgeable of forestry practices as well as ordinary citizens. It is also based on a comprehensive management plan for the watershed created by Lamb and Bates,

After the comment period the town board will ultimately decide whether or not to go ahead with the white pine harvest.

“If they decide to go ahead and we advertise the timber sale it could be several months before the bid is completed,” Bates said.

Lamb said he is confident, “… we will get some good bidders.”


Want to weigh in?

Public input on whether to selectively log an old white pine plantation in the Waynesville watershed will be accepted through Nov. 12. The proposed harvest plan is available on the town’s website or hard copies may be picked up at Town Hall.
Submit comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or in person at the Oct. 26 and Nov. 9 town board meetings.

Efforts to preserve Waynesville neighborhood underway

Waynesville is attempting to preserve the neighborhood bounded by Walnut and North Main streets by seeking official recognition from the National Register of Historic Places.

The town recently received a grant through the Certified Local Government Program to prepare a National Register nomination for the district.

If town officials succeed, the “Spread Out Historic District” would join the Main Street and Frog Level historic districts, which already enjoy National Register status.

“We’d hate some of these older homes be torn down,” said Bette Sprecher, a member of the Waynesville Historic Preservation Commission. “We just wanted to preserve the whole area. All the things that have been torn down through the years, you gotta preserve something.”

Sprecher has been interested in historic preservation ever since her own home on Haywood Street was supplanted by the post office in the 1960s.

“It was a beautiful house. My grandfather picked out every piece of lumber in there,” said Sprecher. “We want to avoid things like that.”

Before the Spread Out Historic District can receive official recognition, however, a study must be conducted to see whether National Register status would be justified. Property owners must also decide where they stand.

Until now, there’s been a mixed reaction, according to Sprecher. Some property owners are “all for it,” while others want their homes to be left alone.

According to the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office, however, being on the National Register doesn’t mean private property owners need permission from the federal government to make changes. Homeowners in the district can freely make alterations to the property as long as they use their own money.  

The National Register status does make certain tax credits and grants available to property owners who undertake maintenance projects — whenever federal funding is available.

“The last caveat is obviously an issue right now,” said Paul Loether, National Register chief.

Homeowners must follow federal standards only if they receive this federal assistance.

Being listed on the National Register also helps local, state and federal governments in their planning processes. For example, government will make their best efforts to avoid highway construction in historic districts.

Moreover, conferring National Register status to a district is a way of honoring its past.

“It’s honorific,” said Loether. “It’s a legal recognition that a property is historic …. It’s not so much to control it, but to prevent something being destroyed that the folks in the town and neighborhood have worked so hard to preserve.”


What do you think?

A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Waynesville town hall. Town officials will provide an overview of the Spread Out Historic District nomination and explain the National Register program to residents.

Old Waynesville hospital could be converted to affordable housing

Haywood County officials foresee the historic hospital in Waynesville one day being transformed into affordable or senior housing.

“That would be my vision,” said Commissioner Bill Upton. “Something might show up that we haven’t thought of, but affordable housing is definitely needed.”

The mammoth brick building occupies an entire block, with 125 rooms and 50,000 square feet of outside space. The Department of Social Services is moving out next fall, and the county is seeking proposals on what to do with the building once vacated.

Developers have until late October to propose a new use for the hospital, but housing of some sort appears to be the commissioners’ preference.

“I felt that would be the highest and best use for that structure,” Commissioner Kevin Ensley said. According to Ensley, at least one developer has already looked at converting the building into affordable housing.

“I wouldn’t have any objection,” said Commissioner Skeeter Curtis. “We always need some housing.”

The Department of Social Services will relocate in fall 2011 to the site of the former Wal-Mart store in Clyde. Commissioners decided it’d be more cost-effective to buy and renovate the deserted superstore rather than fix up the crumbling hospital.

The old hospital was originally built in 1927 and expanded in the 1950s. County officials have said it would cost roughly $6.1 million to renovate it.

Commissioners have complained that the building will need a host of major renovations including a new roof, new windows and rewiring to accommodate the latest technology.

As the first county-owned hospital in North Carolina, however, the building may be eligible to be included in the National Registry of Historic Places, which comes with tax credits for renovations.

“I think the historic tax credits are what really makes it attractive for developers,” said Ensley.


A time of great need

Mountain Projects, a community action agency in Haywood and Jackson counties, may be on the ground assisting any developer that steps in.

“If they choose to do affordable housing, at that point, we’ll get involved,” said Patsy Dowling, director of Mountain Projects.

The agency can guide developers through the highly competitive process of receiving low-income housing tax credits from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.

Earlier this year, Mountain Projects helped launch Smokey Meadows, an affordable apartment complex in Canton. It filled up in record time.

Dowling is well-aware of the struggles that the working class faces in tracking down affordable housing, especially in recent times. She has seen the waiting list for affordable housing assistance backlogged for as long as three years.

“Our waiting list got so long we had to close it and stop taking applications,” said Dowling. “It’s back open, but the wait is tremendous …hundreds and hundreds of people in Haywood County are on the waiting list.”

Mountain Projects is helpless to help even those who walk in with their suitcases with nowhere to go.

While neighbors may be wary about living near low-income housing, Dowling said a comprehensive background check is done and clients must sign a strict 17-page lease.

“In these apartments, it’s not just anybody,” said Dowling.

Ensley agreed that bringing affordable housing to the area would only bring benefits.

“I don’t think that low-income or moderate-income housing is a negative at all,” said Ensley.

Another bonus is that the building would be put back on the tax rolls, Ensley and Dowling said. Affordable housing complexes not only pay taxes, but also create jobs.

If a developer takes on the task of renovating the old hospital, the central office for Haywood County Schools, which occupies one small section of the building, would likely be uprooted.

As commissioners await proposals, Curtis said the last thing he wants to see is the hospital destroyed.

“It’d be nice if we could save what we could of it,” Curtis said.

“A lot of our people were born there,” said Upton, who worked in the 1927 building while serving as school superintendent.

Waynesville debates which special events merit street closings

Waynesville’s town board is drawing the line at 14 Main Street closings annually.

As a result, the town has rejected a request to shut down part of Main Street to traffic for a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony.

The group organizing the memorial was hoping to close the area in front of the Haywood County Courthouse for three hours so that an American flag could be raised between two parked fire trucks during the ceremony. The group putting on the ceremony is the 9-12 Project, a political group that shares many of the philsophies and goals of the Tea Party.

Representing the 9-12 Project, Jan Sterret said she wanted to interrupt traffic as little as possible.

“I think the greatest thing is the visual of the two fire trucks with the huge flag hanging down,” said Sterret. “It would be very meaningful for a lot of people.”

But Mayor Gavin Brown, Town Manager Lee Galloway and town aldermen expressed concerns about irking the N.C. Department of Transportation with yet another closing. Main Street doubles as U.S. 276, a state maintained highway, and is not technically under the town’s jurisdiction.

Whether it’s for a street dance, International Festival Day or a block party, closing Main Street requires permission from DOT 60 days in advance.

So far, the DOT hasn’t objected to the large number of street closings in Waynesville.

“Although they don’t particularly care for it, they’ve allowed it,” said Alderman LeRoy Roberson.

But town officials fear the DOT might begin clamping down if the town adds any more closings to the list.

“Sooner or later, DOT’s going to start knocking on the door,” said Brown.

Jonathan Woodard, a DOT district engineer over Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties, said he would normally expect one or two street closings a year.

“I wouldn’t expect it to be an every weekend or once-a-month type situation,” said Woodard.

Though 14 street closings a year certainly doesn’t meet that threshold, Woodard said it really depends on which street is being closed.

Making the call

Festivals and events that have historically been part of Waynesville’s repertoire will likely continue to be approved for street closings.

“The newer ones have a tougher time, there’s no question,” said Brown.

Even the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce’s request to shut down Main Street for the inaugural Fire & Ice festival last winter was denied. The detour would take drivers down the much steeper Depot Street.

“If it was snowy or icy, that could be a hazard that we were directing people into,” said Galloway.

Waynesville’s tight budget continues to remain a concern. During each street closing, town employees must set up and remove barricades and clean up streets during the aftermath. A few extra police officers are often called in to work the events.

“We have to try to control those costs to some degree,” said Galloway.

Brown’s other reservation was that the 9-12 Project is not a legal entity that could held responsible if something went awry during the Sept. 11 memorial.

“You would rather have a group of individuals who collectively take responsibility,” said Brown. “And the 9-12 group is not organized like that.”

In contrast, the Downtown Waynesville Association — which coordinates most of the events on Main Street — is an established organization that carries a large insurance policy for its festivals.

Brown said the 9-12 Project didn’t notify the town until Aug. 17 of its request for a street closing, while the Downtown Waynesville Association applies annually for street closings every February.

“It shows me a lack of coordination,” said Brown.

With about 100 people showing up at the Sept. 11 memorial last year, town officials say the Haywood County courthouse lawn will easily accommodate the entire ceremony again. Fire Chief Joey Webb is working with the group to possibly close down Depot Street to allow a flag to be draped across two fire trucks.

Buffy Messer, director of the DWA, points out that unlike other towns, side streets can’t always accommodate events. The Apple Festival once took place on Church Street, but its slope made setting up booths challenging.

“Main Street is just on this little ridge,” said Messer. “All the side streets are sloped. Our topography is just a little different than any other town.”

HART presents the Southern comedy ‘Catfish Moon’

The Haywood Arts Regional Theater’s next play never played Broadway, or even New York, but it is one of the most popular comedies being done today.

“Catfish Moon” by Laddy Sartin tells the story of a group of close friends who have had a break up and are working towards a reconciliation — or trying to. The entire thing is set on a fishing pier complete with cooler, beer, rods, lawn chairs and a full moon and plenty of laughs — an appropriate way to spend a summer evening.

HART’s production is being directed by Allison Stinson and will feature Jessica Bachar, Tom Dewees, Jackie Webb and Jack Ross. This is a feel-good comedy that will leave you with some things to ponder, and a greater appreciation for a full moon on a summer night.

Laddy Sartin is currently a resident of Rock Hill, S.C., and a Mississippi native. She holds a BFA in Theatre from the University of Southern Mississippi. An actor and stage technician as well as a writer, Sartin has worked in theatre for the past two decades.

In the 1970’s and 80’s he appeared as an actor on a number of TV series including “Matlock,” but then he became a father and things changed. His wife had been the family’s principal moneymaker as a theatre technician working on “A Chorus Line,” but the family decided to leave the city and take a different direction. Sartin had been writing for years and he dug back into his trunk and found parts of what would become two celebrated plays, “Blessed Assurance” and “Catfish Moon.”

Sartin was the 1991-92 recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council’s Playwriting Fellowship, the state’s most prestigious individual artist award and then “Blessed Assurance” was selected for the Eudora Welty New Play Series at New Stage Theatre in Jackson, Mississippi, and was performed there in March 1995.

In the fall of 1992 “Blessed Assurance” was produced by Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., and was their entry in the American College Theatre Festival and received national attention. The play was also produced by the University of Southern Mississippi in September 1993 and by West Georgia College in February 1994.

Waynesville’s special police unit puts new spin on fighting crime

Not long ago, Waynesville’s historic Frog Level district was fraught with littered beer bottles and an unrelenting band of vagrants.

“Sleeping under back decks, defecating on front doorsteps, leaving wine bottles and beer cans,” said Lieutenant Brian Beck. “The creek banks looked worse than the landfill.”

The historically bustling railroad and industrial district is just a few blocks from Main Street and was recently revitalized. But it continued to be a gathering spot for the homeless, partly due to the proximity of the Open Door soup kitchen.

Now, Beck says complaints from Frog Level have gone down drastically.

“The business owners are very happy. People can walk down the street without being accosted,” said Beck.

Crucial in the cleanup was the Special Projects Unit at the Waynesville Police Department — a division of law enforcement that is rare in most small towns, especially those west of Asheville.

Police Chief Bill Hollingsed, who has supervised similar units at other agencies, resolved to start something comparable in Waynesville about two years ago.

The Special Projects Unit currently includes five officers fully devoted to community outreach and crime prevention in neighborhoods that are regularly problematic.

“When [neighbors] have to pick up the phone and call several times a day or week over the same house or the same problem over and over again, they get frustrated, we get frustrated,” said Hollingsed. “Instead of reactively responding to calls, we’re trying to be proactive.”

Because Frog Level had its fair share of repeat offenders, SPU officers stepped up their presence in the district and even ordered litterers clean up their own trash.

“They’ve been better than better,” Brian Pierce, owner of Panacea Coffee House in Frog Level, said of the special unit officers. “Patrol officers come down usually every morning and sit in the parking lot and watch things, make their presence known.”

It’s just one example of the many projects SPU busies itself with regularly.

Officers conduct driver’s license checkpoints in areas with rampant speeding. One works full-time patrolling schools to curb drug problems and fights.

The unit also conducts D.A.R.E. programs in the school. It offers presentations to store owners on how to best secure their businesses. Officers even fingerprint children at special community events for parents to keep on file in case they are ever kidnapped.

Battling drugs

SPU officers routinely help rid neighborhoods of drug houses where illegal deals are frequently made and violence is likely to break out.

In extreme circumstances, SPU can use the civil nuisance law to force property owners to forfeit the house. Most commonly, however, drug-dealing tenants are kicked out by their landlords, according to Sergeant Sylvia McMahan with the Special Project Unit.

The SPU has helped seize cocaine and, in one case, $8,000 in drug money.

But solving most cases requires patience, McMahan points out. Officers keep detailed notes on everything they observe and keep in mind that they’re taking a long-term approach.

“It’s not a quick fix,” said McMahan. “It’s a long, drawn-out process.”

In Waynesville, the secret to the Special Projects Unit’s success has a lot to do with flexibility. Since officers aren’t usually tied down with routine patrol shifts, they can go into a community and take the time to work on bigger picture issues, from code enforcement to animal control to extra special attention with surveillance.

“We can be there basically around the clock until we get the problem solved,” said McMahan. “We have more time to spend in a certain area than what your regular patrol officer does.”

Despite SPU’s success, most Waynesville residents aren’t yet in the know about the unit.

“I don’t think they know what we do,” said McMahan. “We’re sort of behind the scenes.”

Rare in WNC

To Chief Hollingsed, preventing crime on the front end reduces the crime load that would otherwise land on the plate of regular patrol officers — making it a good use of resources. But it’s a luxury other small town police departments say they couldn’t afford.

With fewer than 10 officers working at the Bryson City Police Department, Chief Rick Tabor said it’d be impossible to have a whole unit devoted to preventing crime.

“I would love to have the resources to have anything like that, even if it was just one person,” said Tabor.

Det. John Buchanan with Sylva Police said at this time, all officers are required to keep a log of noteworthy events during their shifts. The assistant chief of police reviews those logs and asks patrol to be stepped up in areas with high incidents of crime.

“Our resources are so small here,” said Buchanan. “We just kind of have to do what we can.”

“Fantasies in Fiber and Fabric” come to life

“Fantasies in Fiber and Fabric,” an exhibition of three-dimensional garments, hats, bags, and one-of-a-kind original dolls by Toni Carroll, will run from Wednesday, Aug. 25, to Saturday, Sept. 18, at Gallery 86 in Waynesville.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. There will be a special artist’s reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 3, in conjunction with the Waynesville Gallery Association’s Art After Dark event.

Inspired by nature and driven by passion, Toni Carroll’s work in “Fantasies in Fiber and Fabric” are enchanting and astonishingly beautiful. A Jackson, Miss., native currently living in North Carolina and Florida, Carroll shares her zeal of fabrics and design.


Waynesville farmer’s markets learn to coexist after split

Twenty-five years ago, a fledgling farmers market got its modest start in a small parking lot on Waynesville’s Main Street with only two vendors.

Today, Waynesville is home to two farmers markets — held on the same day, at the same time and less than half a mile apart.

The rarity of two markets in a town the size of Waynesville shows a clear love for local produce. But the dual markets stems from key philosophical differences among the vendors, which ultimately led to a split.  Two years since the divorce, leaders of both markets say a reconciliation is still nowhere in sight.

“They are pretty well set to continue on the way they are,” said Joanne Meyer, a member of Haywood’s Historic Farmer’s Market board. “We will continue on the way we are. We have always said they were welcome to join us. They would have done so by now if that’s what they wanted to do.”

“I don’t see a problem with it continuing being two markets,” said Judy West, co-market manager of the Waynesville Tailgate Market, the original market in town. “They’re new-age, and we’re old-age.”

With one vendor already at 90 years old and others in their 80s, Judy West estimates that her vendors have more than a 1,000 years of gardening and farming experience under their belts.

However, the Historic market, too, has many old-timers in its ranks, including mountain farming families going back several generations, who sell alongside young farmers and transplants to the area.

Steve West, former director of the Haywood County Extension Office, remembers the early efforts to start Haywood County’s first farmers market. He led a dogged phone campaign to entice farmers and home gardeners to the market, which expanded little by little until eventually its own success got the better of it.

By the summer of 2008, the Tailgate Market was bulging at the seams and could no longer fit in the confines of the Main Street parking lot.

As farmers hunted for a new location, a difference in philosophy that had been brewing below the surface finally boiled over, and vendors went their separate ways.

Each market seems content to continue operating under its own ideology.

“We deal strictly with fresh fruits and vegetables,” said West. “We think a farmers market and tailgate markets, any way you want to slice it, should be about fruits and vegetables.”

Unlike its counterpart, the Historic market allows vendors from counties that are adjacent to Haywood, as well as farmers selling eggs, cheese, homemade breads, jams, meat, seafood and heritage crafts.

Meyer pointed out that at the Historic market, seafood is delivered right from the North Carolina coast the day after it’s caught.

“Everything’s very fresh,” said Meyer. “It’s just wonderful to have that available in this area.”

A looming threat

West can only think of one scenario in which the two markets will merge. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which is being considered by federal legislators, has the potential to impose costly new requirements at farms. Depending on the version that is passed, the burden might be too heavy for small-scale farmers to shoulder. West fears only large, commercial farms will be able to survive the tougher regulations. Farmers left standing might have to band together at one market since their numbers will likely decline drastically.

“It’s going to hurt a lot of markets, not just ours,” said West.

West’s husband, Steve, anticipates the worst if a strict version of the federal law is passed.

“You will see these markets belly up across the country,” he said.

Meyer said for now, she and her counterparts are just waiting to see if the bill is passed.

“On the one hand, you want to see food safety,” said Meyer. “But it seems like maybe the government ought to concentrate more on the agri-business and leave the small farmers some room.”

Steve West pointed out that most farmers at markets aren’t exactly making a killing.

“We’re not rich growing squash, you know,” Steve West said. “Most of us do it because we enjoy growing and we enjoy meeting people.”


Have your pick

• Haywood’s Historic Farmer’s Market at the HART Theater in Waynesville. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays May through Oct. 828.627.3469. www.waynesvillefarmersmarket.com.

• Waynesville Tailgate Market at the American Legion in Waynesville. 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturday June through Oct. 828.456.3517. In marking its 25th anniversary, the Waynesville Tailgate Market will have a $50 cash giveaway this week. Entries will be taken at the market on Wednesday, Aug. 11, and Saturday, Aug. 14.

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