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Downtown merchants anticipate homecoming for county workforce

Downtown merchants in Waynesville hope to get a boost in customers when the Haywood County Historic Courthouse throws open its doors to the public Monday, June 29, following a two-year renovation.

Main Street shops lost frequent customers when courthouse construction forced county employees to relocate to temporary offices outside the downtown area. Come lunch time, they were far more likely to patronize the fast food joints along the commercial Russ Avenue corridor than supporting downtown merchants.

That will all change this week. Nearly 50 full-time employees will return to occupy office space in the newly renovated courthouse.

“I much prefer being downtown and able to walk on Main Street,” said Assistant Register of Deeds Becca Cedron, who said the Main Street location is the part of the move she’s most looking forward to. “It’s more convenient.”

Downtown merchants are equally enthused about the return of potential customers. The move could boost area business at a time when shops are feeling the effects of the economy.

“I’m very excited they’re coming back,” said Cary Turman, manager of Smoky Mountain Roasters. “I think it will greatly increase our lunch, and I maybe hope to see them grab coffee before they come to work in the morning.”

Chris Williams, manager of O’Malley’s, also hopes to intercept the increased traffic flow. Williams already sees a flood of lunch-time customers from the Justice Center, next door to the historic courthouse. He hopes county employees will stop by both for lunch and maybe for an after work beverage.

Meanwhile, the new town office building nearing completion on Main Street will bring even more workers to downtown Waynesville. Half a dozen town employees who have been squirreled away in off-site offices will be returning to work on Main Street by August.

The police department will also take up residence in the new building after a hiatus during construction. While the bulk of positions in the police department are patrol officers assigned to the road, at least half a dozen police personnel with administrative and management roles will add to the full-time downtown workforce.

“Economically, downtown will certainly benefit,” said Town Manager Lee Galloway. People working outside downtown are forced to climb in their cars for their lunch break, and once behind the wheel, “you think, ‘Well, I don’t want to drive downtown and find a parking place,’” Galloway said.

But when stationed downtown, the inverse is true “not just for the restaurants but it will be easy for them to walk to any of the other stores on Main Street,” Galloway said. Between the town and county workers, the foot traffic of 60 new people can’t be a bad thing.

In addition to the tangible bump in commerce, Galloway said keeping civic functions downtown are vital to maintaining a vibrant, working Main Street. That theory was one of the leading arguments in keeping county offices and the courthouse downtown in the first place. The county became embroiled in a bitter debate eight years ago when deciding whether to keep county offices downtown. Town leaders actively joined the voices of those lobbying to keep it on Main Street.

Waynesville seeks input on pedestrian plan

A master plan for making Waynesville even more pedestrian friendly has been unveiled after a year in the making. The long-range plan lays out priorities for new sidewalks over the next 15 years.

“The basic rationale was to fill in small missing links on main roads first,” said Paul Benson, town planner. In later years, the plan calls for extending sidewalks into residential areas.

Topping the priority list is South Main Street. Despite a new Super Wal-Mart being built within walking distance of hundreds of homes, missing stretches of sidewalk inhibit pedestrians fromwalking to it, Benson said.

Other top priorities are along roads slated for a redesign anyway, which Benson described as the low-hanging fruit since the town can get state funding for sidewalks if they are built in conjunction with road construction. Otherwise, the town only has enough money to tackle 1,000 to 1,500 new feet of sidewalk a year, according to Public Works Director Fred Baker. Since funds are limited, it’s important to have a plan that lays out priorities, he said.

The town got a $20,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation to hire a consultant to create the pedestrian plan. A steering committee was appointed by the town to guide the process.

The town also held a public workshop, conducted surveys and solicited email comments to gather a spectrum of views. Nearly 100 members of the public shared their gripes and wish-list for areas needing pedestrian improvement.

“It gets the public involved in deciding which ones are most important and it gives the town a blueprint to follow when making decisions,” Benson said.

A public workshop on the plan will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 25, at town hall. The town wants to hear from the public about where they want to see sidewalks or what intersections and crossings they consider dangerous for pedestrians. The town will incorporate public comments into the final plan.

For more information, or to view a draft plan, please contact Paul Benson at 828.456.2004.

A two-horse town

A rift that splintered the town’s longtime farmers market in downtown Waynesville into two opposing groups of vendors continues to persist this season, resulting in two separate markets that will operate just half a mile apart.

“They’re going to have their market, and we’re going to have ours,” said vendor Judy West matter-of-factly.

The markets both start on May 13, and will operate during the same time period on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

The split occurred at the end of last season, precipitated by the market losing its long-time spot on Main Street. A philosophical division over the direction of the market had been brewing for some time. When it was time to find a new location, factions went in two directions: one to the parking lot of Haywood Regional Arts Theater and one to the American Legion, just half a mile apart.

The two groups have yet to reconcile.

“We have not had any communication with the other market,” said Joanne Meyer, director of what has been renamed Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market. “We just went on from where we started at the end of last season, and took it forward.”

Whether the community can support two markets so close to one another remains to be seen, though both groups express confidence in the viability of their own respective market.

“I think ideally it would be better if we had one market, but I think the markets have split, and I think that people will shop both markets,” Meyer said. “They’ll have their customers, and we’ll have ours. The value-added products will bring a lot of interest to our market.”

Indeed, that’s the major difference between the two farmers markets. Haywood’s Historic Market sells baked goods, cheese, meat, and even fish, from vendors both in and out of the county. Meyer says more than 30 vendors have applied to hawk their goods this year, and there’s ample room in the HART parking lot for more.

The Waynesville Tailgate Market, as it is called, may not offer value-added products, but it’s promoting itself as the original, strictly Haywood County growers market.

“This is the one in operation since 1985,” West said. “We’re strictly Haywood County growers, and Haywood County grown.”

The Waynesville Tailgate Market will continue to offer the same goods it always has.

“We growers of Haywood County wanted to keep our own market, and we wanted to stick strictly with the fresh fruits and veggies,” West said. “We didn’t want the value-added products like jams, jellies, salsas and everything else. We just didn’t want to go down that route.”

That doesn’t mean the Waynesville Tailgate Market lacks diversity in its offerings. West alone will sell dahlias, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, potatoes, onions, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and asparagus this season. She said more than 40 vendors have applied to sell at the market.

Despite the competition, Meyer believes that a desire to eat locally will help her more recently established market sustain itself.

“The response was very good last year, and I do think it will actually grow,” Meyer said. “There are a lot of people who are really interested in buying local food. I think it’s going to do really well this year.”



Origins of the split

The rift between the markets started when a group of vendors created the Waynesville Tailgate Market Committee to study the possibility of moving the burgeoning market from its home in the parking lot of Badcock Furniture on Main Street to a flatter, larger location. Some vendors also wanted to expand their selections to include meats, cheeses, baked goods and other value-added products.

But the idea wasn’t supported by a segment of market vendors, including West, who favored continuing to operate the market as it had been for nearly 20 years. The group was opposed to moving the market or beefing up the selection of goods, and objected to an expansion which would bring in competition from other counties.

The vendors’ case for staying put was complicated by a request from the owners of Badcock, who wanted the tailgate market moved due to limited parking space and liability concerns. But on the day vendors were supposed to vacate the Badcock lot, some refused to budge, culminating in a tense standoff with police.

The vendors finished up the day and were told they had to find a new spot. Meanwhile, the Waynesville Tailgate Committee and about half the vendors had already moved to a new home in the parking lot of the HART theater. The other vendors, however, refused to join them, and the next week set up shop just a half mile away in the parking lot of the American Legion.

Annexation gets more scrutiny as liquor issue comes into play

Business owners hoping to be annexed by Waynesville in order to serve alcohol be out of luck.

At a meeting of the Waynesville board of aldermen on April 14, town leaders failed to approve an annexation request by Grandview Lodge Owner Terry Ferguson. Ferguson maintains that he wants his lodge to be annexed in order to gain access to town services like water and trash pickup. He also said becoming part of the town would save money on his insurance rates in a tough economic time.

“What we are trying to do is trim our expenses as a small business,” Ferguson said. “Times are tough right now, and businesses are trying to cut in every way they can.”

But another perk that Ferguson would gain — namely the ability to serve liquor, wine and beer to patrons of his restaurant — quickly became the focus of the debate.

Haywood County is dry, so businesses outside town limits can’t serve alcohol. Though Ferguson said being able to serve alcohol wasn’t his main goal, he filed an application to obtain an ABC permit from the town of Waynesville, according to Waynesville Police Department Lt. Chuck Way. Way said Ferguson’s request was denied because he wasn’t in the town limits.

When Ferguson came before the town petitioning for annexation, neighbors of the Lodge came with their own petition in hand — one opposing the request, namely because it would allow for liquor by the drink.

“We’ve had a very quiet neighborhood for many years now, and I just have a little petition we passed around worried about liquor by the drink,” said Scott Muse, a Grandview area resident.

The petition cited liquor as the primary reason for opposition, saying that isn’t conducive to the family neighborhood that surrounds the lodge, “where children roam and play.” It didn’t mention beer or wine.

Another neighbor stepped up to say he was concerned that the availability of liquor could change the character of the community.

“We have a very quiet, peaceful neighborhood,” said Sam Cable. “I feel that should alcoholic beverages be permitted, this would open the door for our community to not be as quiet as it is.”

Ferguson continued to maintain that alcohol wasn’t the primary reason for his annexation request.

“This is not an issue of liquor by the drink at all, and it should not be presented that way,” he said after the meeting.

But Mayor Gavin Brown stated that whether or not Ferguson presented it that way, “the issues now mix.”

Alderman Leroy Roberson agreed.

“It seems like it’s coming down to liquor by the drink, though I think (Ferguson) made a solid point about the services Waynesville can provide,” Roberson said.

Brown argued that citizens outside of the Waynesville town limits did not get an opportunity to vote on whether they supported having liquor by the drink and it wasn’t the town’s place to force it upon them. Waynesville residents passed a referendum allowing the sale of mixed beverages on May 6, 2008.

“Those folks don’t want liquor by the drink in their community, and I’m not going to impose it upon them,” Brown said.

Brown was an open supporter of the liquor by the drink referendum. In fact, it was one of his campaign platforms when running for mayor two years ago. Shortly after his election he proceed with the ballot measure as an issue of free choice. The desires of Waynesville voters should not be imposed on those outside town, he said.

“It was never my intention to impose my views on that section of the community,” Brown said.

The board seemed concerned about setting a precedent if they granted Ferguson and his lodge the annexation.

“There are a thousand parcels of land that have businesses on them that are outside the city limits that would want to be annexed so they can sell liquor by the drink,” said Brown.

Alderman Wells Greely cautioned that more thought needs to be given to how the two issues — annexation and liquor by the drink — connect with one another.

“What about other places that might choose to be annexed?” Greely questioned. “With liquor by the drink being so new, I think we need to take baby steps as we go through and think about liquor by the drink and how it affects this community.”

Alderman Gary Caldwell said he wouldn’t support the annexation.

“I don’t feel good about it at the present time,” Caldwell said. “It would be unfair, and it would be hard for me to vote on it.”

In general, aldermen agreed that they weren’t opposed to the idea of having liquor. Alderman Libba Feichter pointed out that having a liquor license allows for more control on the part of the proprietor over how much patrons consume. Currently, Grandview Lodge and other places offer brown-bagging, which allows customers to bring in their own bottle and generally consume as much as they want.

In the end, however, aldermen failed to make a motion to grant Ferguson’s annexation request.

Waynesville could finally see long-awaited make-over of South Main Street

Waynesville’s South Main Street — the two-lane thoroughfare that is the major artery between downtown and the new Super Wal-Mart — could be increased to four lanes and even have roundabouts, according to preliminary redesign options recently laid out by the Department of Transportation.

Town officials have been hounding DOT for more than a decade to redesign the corridor, which also serves as one of the gateways to Waynesville.

The DOT made forays into a feasibility study for the road in 2002, but the plan went nowhere and was shelved.

South Main Street is now back on the drawing board. Town leaders are hopeful the DOT will come up with a redesign that fits in with the town’s land use plan and makes South Main Street more pedestrian friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

South Main Street has long been the neglected end of town. The need to redesign the dated corridor has grown more urgent since the arrival of Super Wal-Mart in 2008. The two-lane road is no longer able to handle the amount of traffic that has been added as a result of the megastore and buildings that have sprung up around it. According to DOT, 18,400 vehicles per day are coming and going in the vicinity of Super Wal-Mart.

“We needed something addressed,” said Mayor Gavin Brown. “It’s not going to go away — it’s an issue and it’s a problem.”

DOT has laid out several redesign options to study. One calls for widening the thoroughfare to four lanes from Hyatt Creek Road, just next to the Super Wal-Mart, all the way to U.S. 276 right at the edge of downtown. A raised median would be placed in the middle.

Another option calls for widening the road to four lanes about half way to downtown — near the Waynesville Inn Golf Resort and Spa, i.e. country club — then to three the rest of the way. Roundabouts could be included in the three-lane section.

A third option would maintain the road as a two-lane corridor and implement intersection improvements such as roundabouts.

The options differ from those offered up in the 2002 study, before the town’s land use plan was in place. That study recommended a four-lane divided road with extra turn lanes in some places at a cost of $27 million. The old study estimated that 30 businesses and a dozen residential homes would be displaced by the redesign.

Starting early last year, town officials pressed DOT to revisit the feasibility study so it incorporated the town’s land use plan. The town opposes major widening of the road all the way into downtown or through residential stretches, Brown said.

In the commercial area, the town does not want a five-lane road, Brown said, preferring a four-lane road with a landscaped median in lieu of a middle turn lane.

In addition, the town wants eight-foot wide sidewalks on either side of South Main Street to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian traffic and street trees lining the corridor.

“Sidewalks are necessary for the safety issue — people are going to walk to these facilities,” Brown said, referring to the new Super Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and other businesses that have cropped up around them. Currently, the sidewalks lining South Main Street are patchy at best, and at points, disappear completely, leaving pedestrians dangerously close to oncoming traffic.

The initial plan didn’t include sidewalks — in fact, the new plan likely wouldn’t either if the town didn’t make it a priority to push for them.

“The DOT is very focused on automobile transportation, and they talk about being multi-modal, but I’ve seen them be pretty reluctant to include things like bike lanes and sidewalks because its an extra expense,” said town planner Paul Benson. “If the town wants to see amenities like that, we’ve got to get involved.”

By all indications, that’s just what Waynesville officials have done. Brown said he’s called the DOT every two months for the past year to check on the status of the study.

In an telephone conference with DOT designers in January, the town voiced concern over whether an overly wide road would be compatible with the town’s design guidelines and vision for the corridor. Town officials reiterated their wishes for sidewalks and street trees.

Brown said the regional DOT office has been very willing to work with the town and has helped them communicate their wishes to the state office.

“They completely understand the town’s vision and were very supportive of my comments,” Brown said of the regional Division 14 office.

DOT Feasibility Studies Unit Head Derrick Lewis cautions that the new designs being studied could change depending on the input of local leaders.

“We’ve changed our process to actively solicit government input at multiple points within the process,” Lewis said. “We’re just trying to get it closer to what everybody wants, and we actually get a better product in the long run.”

Lewis said the DOT will also seek public input early in the process, before the final designs are laid down. Members of the public will be invited to share their ideas and concerns at a workshop this summer.

Town officials promise to be vigilant in making sure the final product reflects the town’s vision.

“If we don’t like what we see, we’ll lobby for changes,” said Benson.

Waynesville land use plan back on the drawing board

Waynesville leaders will finally kick off the town’s much-anticipated review of its six-year-old land use plan on April 22.

Town aldermen have hired the Davidson-based Lawrence Group, renowned in planning circles, as the consultant for the project. A $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation will pay for a portion of the $54,000 consulting fee.

The lead consultant, Craig Lewis, will be in Waynesville Wednesday, April 22, through Friday, April 24, to interview stakeholders and attend a meeting of the land use plan steering committee.

Stakeholders will be selected individually and could include the county Board of Realtors, Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission, for example. Mayor Gavin Brown had a broad definition of what a stakeholder is — “basically anybody in the community that’s involved in the use of land in Waynesville.”

However, Brown said the process will place particular importance on collecting feedback from developers.

“To be quite honest, this (review) is geared to some extent toward the developer segment of the community,” Brown said. “The last go around, for whatever reason, they weren’t engaged, and now we’re trying to engage those folks.”

Mounting complaints from developers that the strict architectural guidelines and other aesthetic criteria are too arduous prompted town aldermen to launch a review of the land use plan. Town leaders resisted making piece-meal or knee-jerk changes to the plan’s smart growth principles, and instead opted for a thoughtful and comprehensive review of the pros and cons of the town’s development standards.

The stakeholder interview process is not the same as a public hearing, which is planned though a date has not been set. Brown assured the public will get a chance to have their say at some point.

“There’s no question about that — I believe in everybody having their say,” Brown said.

Town planner Paul Benson said at least two public hearings must be held according to law, and he hopes the town will hold even more. But Benson added that the public already has a voice in the process through the eight members of the land use plan steering committee, which was appointed by alderman.

“The general public basically has eight permanent seats in the process,” Benson said.

Before public hearings are held, town officials and stakeholders will work with the consultant to amend various sections of the land use plan, bringing each section back before the land use plan steering committee to review. In total, 29 districts will be reviewed, and Benson says they’ll all receive equal attention.


What is the Waynesville land use plan?

Waynesville’s land use plan is based on smart growth principles. It requires commercial developers to build sidewalks, plant trees along the street and in their parking lots, and adhere to architectural standards. Signs are kept short and parking lots are kept small, or at least not oversized. Parking is placed to the side or rear so that building facades and not parking lots define the streetscape.

Affordable senior condos spark opposition among downtown Waynesville neighbors

Residents of a downtown Waynesville neighborhood are up in arms about a proposed three-story, 64-unit condo development that would provide affordable housing for senior citizens — and, they fear, also lower the property values of their homes.

The development, called Richland Hills, is under the wing of Asheville-based nonprofit Mountain Housing Opportunities, which has several developments in Buncombe County. Rent will range between $300 and $500. To be elligible, you have to be over 55. There is also an income cap.

“Low income is not going to fit here,” said neighbor Lela Eason, who is leading the opposition to the development. “This is a well-established neighborhood, and it will completely change the face of it.”

Mountain Housing Opportunities Project Director Cindy Weeks contends that the neighbors would like the development if they understood it better. The architect designing the building is the same one who worked on the Laurels of Junaluska, another senior development in the county, and the building will use green features.

At this point, there’s probably little Eason and her neighbors can do to halt the project, said Town Zoning Administrator Byron Hickox. The project has already been approved unanimously by the town’s planning board and community appearance commission. It meets all the required building, architectural and landscaping guidelines.

The development is located in the East Waynesville Neighborhood District, where high density development is allowed, said Hickox. Town zoning allows for 16 units per acre in that area, and though Richmond Hills will be three stories tall, it still falls just under the maximum allowed height of 35 feet.

None of that has deterred Eason and her neighbors from waging a protest against the development. Eason faults the town for not informing her community of the development sooner. She says her sister-in-law was the only person to get a letter notifying of the proposed project, and that only came last week.

“It’s kind of sneaky that the whole community doesn’t know about it,” Eason said. “There are people who can see it from their properties who are furious, and they have no clue it’s about to take their property values down.”


A poor fit?

A sheet of paper being passed around the East Waynesville district accuses the proposed Richmond Hills development of catering to low income individuals at poverty level. The paper states that drugs are sold out of similar communities in Asheville, and that the safety of the neighborhood may very well be jeopardized should this development be built.

The “low-income” stigma is one Mountain Housing Opportunities has battled many times in its 20-year history. The idea that the nonprofit builds housing projects is incorrect, says Project Director Cindy Weeks.

“People in their heads have some idea about public housing, but that’s not us,” Weeks said. “Nothing about this will be remotely related to public housing. We’re very selective about tenants, and we get background checks and even credit checks.”

Weeks is used to dealing with skeptics. Her answer? She tells them to check out the non-profit’s other developments.

“One-hundred percent of the time, they’ll come back and say it’s beautiful,” Weeks says. Contrary to the reported drugs sold in these complexes, “we’ve never had problems with neighbors; no complaints; no police problems,” she says. “Here in Asheville, it’s gotten to the point where we don’t have much concern over what we’ve built.”

But Mountain Housing Opportunities is dealing with unfamiliar territory in Waynesville. The Richmond Hills project is the group’s first outside Buncombe County. The town was picked based on the results of a market study the nonprofit conducted, which identified Waynesville and Haywood County as having a need for senior apartment homes.

“There’s a lot of seniors in the western part of the state that might be living in substandard housing, not close to medical services or shopping,” Weeks said. “This would be an alternative for them.”

Weeks said a downtown Waynesville location seemed ideal for its accessibility, among other reasons.

“What we liked about the location was that it was well-located to shopping and services in the downtown,” she said. “The site is relatively flat and easy to develop, and we can get access to utilities. Plus, it’s just a nice neighborhood.”

Maybe a little too nice for such a development, says Eason. A one-story, high-end apartment complex would be a better fit, she says — the Richmond Hills complex might be better suited to other areas of the county.

Downtown Waynesville Association Director Buffy Messer doesn’t agree. She says the development will be a good fit downtown.

“I think its actually a very good addition to the area,” Messer says. “We are encouraging more residential in the downtown area. The goal is to expand both shopping and residential.”

Messer says she thinks fear is the driving factor of the opposition to Richmond Hills.

“In many other cities with what is considered low-rent housing, there have been some serious situations with drugs, alcohol and domestic problems,” Messer says. “But we already have some affordable housing throughout the town of Waynesville that probably people don’t even know about.”

Messer says the development is a good way to get seniors living downtown.

“I think so many of our seniors are having to move outside the town and county because we don’t have affordable options,” she says.

With an income cap to qualify, however, it is unclear whether residents will be big patrons of downtown shops. Similar developments by the same entity in Asheville have an income cap of $22,000.


Too late?

Hickox says the residents of the East Waynesville district should have raised their protests earlier.

“The bottom line is that now is not the time to make the argument of if it’s a good fit for the community,” Hickox said. That should have been done more than six years ago, when the zoning guildelines were established that allowed for high density development in the district.

“If you wait until they’ve already proposed the project, you’re too late; you’re too far behind,” said Hickox. “If it meets the standards, the town doesn’t have the legal ability to deny it.”

The Richmond Hills project still has to go before the town Board of Adjustment — the final step before it’s approved. That meeting isn’t really for public comments, Hickox said. Those could have been given at the planning board and community appearance commission meetings. Someone making a case before the Board of Adjustment needs to present hard evidence of why the project shouldn’t be allowed. An example would be a history of traffic patterns in the area and evidence of why the project would clog traffic.

The Board of Adjustment meets on Tuesday (April 7), just after The Smoky Mountain News has gone to press. If Richmond Hills is OK’d — and there’s no indication it won’t — Mountain Housing Opportunities will start getting financing in place.

Construction of Richmond Hills is slated to begin within six to eight months — but not without a fight, vows Eason.

“We have a community crying out saying ‘no,’” she says.

New face on Waynesville board: Funeral home director fills Kenneth Moore’s seat

One would be be hard-pressed to find someone uttering anything but praise for new Waynesville Alderman Wells Greeley.

The 6-foot, 5-inch former college football player and one-time Canton alderman is a well-known and well-liked figure about town. In his role as fourth generation director of Wells Funeral Home, Greeley has helped shepherd numerous residents through some of their most difficult times — and garnered an impressive level of respect doing it.

“I think he’s a great guy and a great choice for Waynesville,” said Canton Mayor Pat Smathers, who has known Greeley for years.

Greeley was picked by town aldermen to serve out the remaining term of the late Kenneth Moore, who passed away March 2. Greeley says that’s left him with some big shoes to fill.

“Kenneth Moore has left such a legacy of service and dedication in his tenure as an alderman,” Greeley said. “He was a champion of the little guy, and I would really hope to carry on the accessibility that he always had. But that will be a tough act to follow.”

Here’s a little bit more about Greeley, including some of his views on issues currently confronting the town.

Smoky Mountain News: Why did you want to be alderman?

“It’s a level of political involvement that I think is rewarding, because you live right in the community and are accessible on a daily basis to the people you’re serving. I don’t really have visions of political grandeur — I just enjoy this level of service at the town level,” said Greeley.

SMN: What makes you a good alderman?

Greeley says his background has prepared him for the position. His experience as an alderman in another town has provided him with a unique view of things.

“I think the fact that I interact with people throughout the county and in both towns gives me a perspective that will be ultimately valuable in making decisions,” he says.

He also says his job as a funeral director has let him interact with citizens from the whole spectrum of backgrounds and incomes.

“My vocation puts me at all levels of population in this county,” he says.

Greeley has other traits that qualify him for his position.

“I’m pretty much a team player and I don’t come to this job with any other agenda other than being able to serve and give something back to the community,” he says.

SMN: What were some of your accomplishments in your previous role as an alderman?

Greeley served as an alderman in Canton from 1981 to 1985. Though his experience was years ago, his tenure means he’s confronted issues at the town level before. As a Canton alderman, Greeley was involved in several annexation and zoning issues. He also helped push for beautification of the downtown area. In addition, he and the board declared Rough Creek Watershed a natural area, laying the groundwork for the opening of the watershed for hiking and biking.

Greeley points out that Canton and Waynesville, “are two totally different venues.” He says Waynesville represents a more tourist-oriented setting. Even though each town possesses its own unique set of problems, Greeley says cooperation will be important when dealing with future challenges.

“There are real partnering relationships that may need to occur,” he says.

SMN: What are your feelings on growth?

Greeley says he’s generally supportive of the current aesthetically friendly development standards and smart growth principles in place.

“Growth is a wonderful thing. It’s got to be controlled growth, but not to the standpoint where its infringing on people’s rights,” he says.

Greeley thinks the land use plan has been successful in its goal to improve the town’s appearance, particularly along the Russ Avenue corridor.

“I’m very pleased in terms of Russ Avenue,” he says. “If I’m an advocate for something, I’m an advocate for the aesthetics of how (the town) will appear for residents and visitors.”

Greeley says the town needs to be careful in granting variances, or exemptions, to the land use plan. Businesses frequently ask for these, and some have criticized the land use plan for not being flexible enough and discouraging industry.

“Variances are something that demand a lot of attention because the minute you allow a variance in one aspect, it no doubt affects another,” he says.

Though he supports the land use plan as it currently stands, Greeley also supports a review of the plan to make sure it’s effective. A five-year review of the plan is currently under way.

“To me, every piece of legislation and every ordinance in the town is subject to review on a continual basis,” he says.

Greely thinks the next big area where the land use plan will be tested is in the South Main Street corridor, which has experienced rapid growth recently with the arrival of Super Wal-Mart and other big stores.

“I think we need to pay particular attention to that and keep it sidewalk and bicycle accessible,” he says.

Related to that, Greeley says he will make the continued development of the town’s greenway an issue of primary importance.

SMN: How will you handle the budget?

W.G. “The budgeting is going to be a real challenge,” Greeley admits. “The one thing I will do very diligently is pay attention to line item expenses to, if nothing else, cast a new set of eyes to say, are there any economies of scale we can possibly save.”


Officials: Appointment process is suitable

Three others also vied for the alderman seat filled by Wells Greeley — Waynesville residents Julia Freeman, Ron Reid, and Bruce Carden, according to Alderman LeRoy Roberson. Roberson says he was surprised more didn’t apply.

“I think part of it is that people have been satisfied with the way the town’s being governed,” Roberson speculated.

The town board has received some criticism over the informality of the selection process. Candidates verbally notified alderman of their interest, then filled out a questionnaire asking their views on town issues. If board members had further questions, they met with candidates individually. The interviews weren’t conducted in public.

Mayor Gavin Brown has defended the process, and so does Roberson.

“Quite honestly, this was much more open than any of the previous times,” Roberson said. “When I first served on the board in 1991, the questions that I had were: would you like to serve on the board, and then the next thing, I was on the board.”

State guidelines provide little guidance on filling vacated town board seats, so the process was left up to the discretion of the town board.

“I’m sure there’s a better way, I just haven’t seen one that’s going to be better other than holding an election, and I don’t think that’s really necessary,” said Roberson.

Cause of quarry slide undetermined

Federal investigators with the Mine Safety and Health Administration have still not determined the cause of a slide last week that sent a 600-foot slab of rock crashing down at a Waynesville rock quarry.

No one was injured in the March 12 slide at the quarry, which dislodged 480,000 tons of earth and buried a drilling rig. The quarry is located in the Allens Creek area and owned by Harrison-APAC, Inc.

Amy Louviere, spokesperson for the federal mine administration, said a closure order is still in effect in the part of the quarry where the slide occurred until the operator comes up with a plan to prevent future slides. The operator could be fined if it is found to be in violation of mining safety regulations. Men had been working in the area earlier that day, but the slide happened after quitting time.

State geologist Rick Wooten said such a large slide in a quarry is an unusual occurrence.

“This is the first major one that I’m aware of in Western North Carolina since I’ve been working out here,” Wooten said. “It’s certainly not a common experience.”

Louviere agreed that despite the nature of quarry operations, slides are not common.

Just last month, the quarry became the only aggregate mine in the state to receive a Mining Star Award for implementing outstanding safety programs.

— By Julia Merchant

Churches pool to offer refuge for homeless in Sylva, Waynesville

A homeless shelter has opened in Sylva to provide an escape from the frigid nights.

The shelter, located at Lifeway Church in Sylva, is the only homeless shelter in Jackson County. It will remain open through March.

About a month ago several local organizations met to discuss the need for a homeless shelter amid fears the spiraling economy would leave people with nowhere to turn.

Local churches have committed to staff the homeless shelter in Sylva with volunteers.

The shelter is working in partnership with the Community Table to provide meals.

Lifeway Pastor Mike Abbott doesn’t know how many homeless people there are in the Sylva area, but said, “We definitely have homelessness.”

With the winter being so cold this year, there needs to be a place for them, he said. The shelter opened about two weeks ago, and as of Sunday (March 1) no one had stayed there.

He said the homeless may not realize it’s there or they may have gone south or to Buncombe County by now. The shelter is open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week.

Abbott said the plan is for Lifeway to host the shelter again next year with it opening Nov. 1.

“I’m excited that in a relatively short period, community organizations and churches were able to come together and accomplish opening this up,” Abbott said. “This speaks well of the community. A lot of good people made this happen.”

The shelter can accommodate about 20 people and there is additional space for women with children and families, he said.

Mountain Projects Executive Director Patsy Dowling said the economy is causing people who normally wouldn’t need help to seek assistance.

“More people are losing their jobs and their healthcare,” she said. “The faces of people in need are changing.”

Many people who have lost their jobs and need food stamps can’t get them because they have assets that preclude them from qualifying, she said.

Laid off employees are having trouble paying their rent and can’t get help because the rental assistance program waiting list at Mountain Projects is “years long,” said Dowling.

Utility bills are becoming harder to pay for people affected by the economy.

Churches in Haywood County have banded together to open a homeless there, too. Space is being provided at Camp New Life.

Dowling spearheaded the community meetings to bring the homeless shelters to Jackson and Haywood counties. Her interest was sparked in December when there was a homeless couple in Waynesville that needed a place to stay.

There was nowhere in Waynesville and nothing available in Asheville. She felt bad that the only thing Haywood County could offer the couple was gas money to get to a shelter in Tennessee.

“We should have a place for people to get back on their feet,” she said.

Asked if she thinks it took too long to get shelters open in Jackson and Haywood counties, Dowling said she is not going to look back.

She said there is also a need for food and clothing, noting that the Community Table may expand its hours and her church in Tuckasegee may open a food pantry.

Dowling has a long list of heartbreaking stories, including a 61-year-old woman who can’t afford heating oil and groceries.

“I hear so many stories of people who were making $20 an hour last year and now are walking into my office with utility disconnect notices,” she said.

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