JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 885

Waynesville’s South Main presents a vexing problem

Sounds like Waynesville’s leaders heard just what they expected last week regarding South Main Street — many people feel many different ways, and so no matter what the outcome many are going to be unhappy.

Waynesville’s leaders and residents have a real challenge in front of them as they decide just how best to re-design this corridor. South Main Street connects two distinctly different areas — the thriving, historic town center and the new big box development that currently includes Super Wal Mart and Best Buy. Along the way are nice neighborhoods, lots of small businesses, and a lot of open asphalt parking areas. The challenge is to provide the right roadway to bring together two areas that have commonalities and are also, in many ways, polar opposites.

The state Department of Transportation has so far said it will adhere to the town’s wishes. They say this corridor is not connected at all to any of its thoroughfare plans to move mass numbers of vehicles, and so will defer on this one to town leaders and local opinion. That means local residents and towns apparently won’t end up fighting DOT for the road they want, which still happens way too often.

So what is best? It seems fairly obvious that a road that gets progressively smaller as it nears downtown’s portion of Main Street makes sense. Bike lanes and sidewalks should be included the entire length of the route. Waynesville has already established a reputation as a pedestrian-friendly community, and making these main corridors adhere to this long-range plan is obviously in the best interest of the town and its citizens.

The area between Country Club Drive and the entrance to Super Wal Mart will be the most difficult. Some businesses in this area likely won’t be around within a few years, but others are right now awaiting the decision on the roadway so they can complete plans. This is where some will walk away dissatisfied with the final decision. Some think it’s time to four-lane this area — a move that would lead to the razing of many buildings — while others like the haphazard collection of small, privately owned businesses. For some, that’s the character of Hazelwood.

“It seems like they are trying to get rid of old Hazelwood to beautify the town. That’s what the sole purpose is,” said Oma Lou Leatherwood at a public hearing on the road held last week at Hazelwood Elementary School.

For others, the need to re-develop the area is obvious: “It’s just really decrepit looking. They are never going to attract businesses if that stretch is so ugly,” said Joellen Habas.

And so, without doubt, there will be losers and there will be winners. Some aspects of what needs to be done here are obvious, but some decisions will likely be made on the gut instincts of town aldermen. Stay tuned.

Public split on South Main’s future

In the heyday of curbside service, Jim Caldwell had a special talent for dressing hot dogs.

He could balance 10 buns up on one arm, stacked from his wrist to his bicep, while his other wielded ketchup and mustard bottles, striping the dogs in rapid succession, sprinkling them with onions and topping with chili.

Those were the glory days though, and the cars that once lined the curb in front of Jim’s Drive-In on South Main Street in Waynesville are few and far between today. The once blue-collar community anchored by four factories and tight-knit neighborhoods has been slowly deteriorating over the years, largely passed over by urban renewal.

“It’s just really decrepit looking,” said Joellen Habas, who travels the South Main business district several times a day. “They are never going to attract businesses if that stretch is so ugly.”

Planning is currently under way to overhaul the corridor, which connects downtown Waynesville with a new Super Wal-Mart at the south end of town. The road passes through three distinct districts: a residential stretch defined by affluent homes and mature trees, a mixed-use district with professional offices, and a commercial stretch.

After years of prodding by town leaders, the N.C. Department of Transportation has launched a feasibility study for a redesign of South Main Street. A public meeting was held Monday (July 13) to gather input from the community on which plan they prefer. Nearly 150 people turned out to voice their opinions.

While planning is only in the early stages, it already promises to be a bitter debate over how wide the road should be, particularly through the main commercial district. Some want more lanes to prime the pump for redevelopment, others want a small-town feel. Some want to hang on to the strip of old buildings, others want to raze them and start over.

There are three options currently on the table. One calls for keeping it two lanes, one calls for adding a single middle turn lane, and one calls four four-lanes with a small raised median. The four-lane version, which also includes sidewalks, bike lanes and street trees on both sides of the road, would consume 120 feet of right of way. A road that wide would take out nearly all the existing businesses on both sides of the road, according to the DOT.

Business owners along South Main Street don’t want to see their buildings bulldozed in the name of progress.

“It would take a barrel full of money to buy that much property,” said Dick Bradley, the owner of an Ace Hardware and gun store on the corridor.

While not a fan of a significantly wider road, Bradley does think the road needs an appearance overhaul.

“The junk cars, the filthy lots, the big weeds,” Bradley said of the aesthetic problems plaguing the road.

Currently, the road has patchy sidewalks and lacks curbs, with the road and adjacent parking lots forming a giant sea of continuous asphalt.

Long-time residents are distraught about the thought of razing the corridor in the name of gentrification, however.

“I can’t see them doing something like this just because Wal-Mart moved up here,” said Oma Lou Leatherwood, 63, who lives just off South Main Street. “It seems like they are trying to get rid of old Hazelwood to beautify the town. That’s what the whole purpose is.”

The area seems primed for redevelopment, although it has not yet been realized. Many properties in the commercial district are for sale or perpetually for rent. Economic development planners thought Super Wal-Mart’s recent arrival would spur growth along the corridor, with corporate chains like Chili’s and Walgreens expressing interest so far.

“Change is something that happens whether you want it to or not,” said Thom Morgan, the owner of Mountain Energy gas station along South Main.

Morgan has bought additional property to the rear of his lot that would allow him to move back should widening claim the front of his convenience store. Morgan hoped to use the extra property for an expansion, however, with plans to add more pumps, make his store bigger and bring in a Dairy Queen.

Morgan has already started designing a site plan for the expansion.

“I’m ready to start doing something in the next year,” Morgan said.

But a final road design could be years away, making it difficult for anyone to redevelop while in limbo over how much property a wider road might claim.


How wide is too wide?

Many at the meeting questioned the need for four lanes.

“There doesn’t seem to me like there is too much traffic,” said Joellen Habas, who travels the South Main business district several times a day.

“It gets backed up a little when people get off work, but then it moves on,” agreed Leatherwood.

Henry Foy, the former long-time mayor of Waynesville, said a two-lane road with roundabouts would suffice to handle traffic. Foy wants to preserve the small town feel. He said a large four-lane road with a median would destroy the town’s character.

“We don’t want Waynesville to get that big,” Foy said.

Habas said she doesn’t want another major commercial thoroughfare like Russ Avenue. Instead, add some sidewalks and curbs, plant some trees, but leave the basic width alone, she said.

Patrick Bradshaw, an engineer with an office on South Main, said a four-lane with a median would be “overkill.”

Bradshaw said town leaders understand that, but the challenge will be convincing the DOT of that. Bradshaw thinks a combination of turn lanes, intersection redesign and congestion management techniques could improve traffic flow without a drastic widening.

Tracy McCracken, who owns property on South Main Street, called the four-lane design “too much for that part of town.”

Waynesville town leaders have not weighed in on which design they prefer. Alderwoman Libba Feichter said the town board will likely endorse a vision at some point.

“I feel like it would let people know we are together, that this is the plan that suits our community,” Feichter said.

Feichter hopes it is possible to pick a combination of plans, judiciously adding extra lanes at intersections but not the full length of the corridor.

The public seems united on one front: to leave the road alone through the core residential stretch. Widening that stretch would take out the tunnel of mature shade trees arching over the road.

“I don’t want them to destroy the character of our town,” said Pam Kearney, who lives in a neighborhood off the residential stretch of South Main.

Public art showcases Folkmoot USA

Folkmoot will be the subject of a public art piece commissioned by the Waynesville Public Art Commission (WPAC).

Artist Wayne Trapp has been selected to be the artist for the third public art piece. With an installation date scheduled for early November, the new piece will be placed in the landscaped area between the two retaining walls outside the new Waynesville Police Station located at the corner of Main and East Street.

The theme for this piece is Folkmoot — chosen to honor the international dance festival that has been such a vital part of the community for over 26 years. Folkmoot is a theme that represents the WPAC mission to “engage the community and enrich public spaces through original art that celebrates Waynesville’s unique historic, cultural, natural and human resources.”

The WPAC wanted a work of art that could convey the color, movement, energy and drama of this event and requested that artists interpret these elements in their design proposals.

Of the six artists who originally submitted qualifications, three finalists were selected to present detailed drawings and models to an advisory panel of citizens and town officials. These individuals were selected for their knowledge of public art installations, artistic knowledge and community history. Taking into consideration the verbal and written comments from the advisory panel, Trapp was chosen or the Folkmoot piece.

Trapp is a celebrated sculptor who has worked in stone and steel for years, creating lavish, even colossal outdoor pieces for corporate clients and public places. His interpretation of the Folkmoot piece will be a bold and dramatic statement and a lasting reminder of the friendships created abroad and at home that are a significant part of Waynesville and this festival.

During his presentation to the advisory panel, Trapp made the suggestion that children or other community members could be invited to design the colorful, moving flags that will become part of his permanent sculpture. Each flag could be an original, graphic design, not representative of any specific country. His suggestion was well received by the advisory panel and will be used in his execution of the Folkmoot piece.

As with the inaugural art piece, “Old Time Music,” located in the heart of downtown Waynesville, at the corner of Main and Miller, funding for this project will be provided by area businesses, community and art supporters and an award from the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority.

Waynesville’s second public art piece is also part of the Waynesville Police Station project and is planned for the plaza in front of the new building. In January, the WPAC sponsored a contest for Tuscola High School art students. They were asked to create a paver design for the plaza taking into consideration the history of the building site. The purpose of the competition was to give the students experience with the public art selection process, and at the same time, and for no extra cost in the building project, create a second piece of permanent public art for the town. The young artists used architects specifications and site plan as a reference. Upon submission, the students’ designs were reviewed by the WPAC and project architects (ADW of Charlotte) and three finalists were selected. The three finalists gave formal presentations to a committee of citizens and town officials who made the selection of the winning design, “A Patchwork Community,” by Courtney Boessel. Courtney’s design was presented to the Town Board in February for final approval.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Folkmoot or future projects, or for more information about the WPAC, contact the Downtown Waynesville Association at 828.456.3517 or Mieko Thomson, WPAC commission member, at 828.226.2298.

South Main redesign could ‘raze’ the bar

South Main Street in Waynesville is headed for a major roadway redesign, one that could take out rows of long-time businesses to make way for more lanes, sidewalks, bike lanes and a median.

South Main Street — the two-lane thoroughfare that is the major artery between downtown and the new Super Wal-Mart — has long been in need of a makeover with an increasingly run-down appearance over the decades. Despite the close proximity of walkable neighborhoods, South Main lacks sidewalks in some sections. There is no curb: rather parking lots and the street form a continuous sea of asphalt. Despite the arrival of a Super Wal-Mart along the corridor, many lots and buildings remain vacant or perpetually for rent.

A road redesign has been high on the town’s list of project requests submitted to the N.C. Department of Transportation every year. The DOT has finally launched a feasibility study for the road, spurred by increased traffic brought on by the new Wal-Mart. The plan calls for keeping the road two lanes with intersection redesigns only, adding a single middle turn lane, or bumping up to four lanes with a raised median.

The Cadillac version of the redesign would claim a 120-foot wide swath of right-of-way: four lanes, a raised median, and bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides, along with curbs.

“If you did that, all these buildings would be gone,” said Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown, standing on the side of South Main Street one day last week. “The necessity of having four lanes is in conflict with current uses.”

Brown doesn’t want to say good-bye to many of the long-time businesses that he grew up with, from a local Ace Hardware store to chili dogs at Jim’s Drive-In.

“But in the long run, is it better for the community?” Brown asked, admitting that many of the businesses along the stretch have seen better days. “In 50 years from now, this entire corridor will be redeveloped.”

Brown envisions a new corridor that will have tree-lined sidewalks and rows of new businesses sporting aesthetic and pedestrian-friendly facades, as required by the town’s land-use plan.

“Its useful life for the most part has been expended,” Brown said of the current road design. “This is an opportunity for it to be a Phoenix.”

The widening could favor one side of the road or the other, claiming the majority of right of way from just one side of the road in an effort to preserve buildings on the other side, according to Eddie McFalls, a contracted road designer conducting the study for the DOT.

If town leaders, business owners and residents along the stretch don’t want to see large numbers of buildings taken out, a value call will come into play over which elements to cut, such as median or the sidewalks.

“Either it is going to be very wide or there will be trade-offs,” McFalls said.

Joel Setzer, the head of the DOT for the 10 western counties, said these are decisions that need to play out locally between town leaders and the community.

“We need a vision for the corridor,” Setzer said. Setzer said since South Main Street is mostly a local road and not integral to the state transportation network, the DOT is more likely to defer to local wishes.

“When you start looking at more of a local road, the designs and characteristics the local folks want weigh in even more,” Setzer said.


Residential section

The feasibility section is not only examining the commercial stretch of the road, but sections passing through residential neighborhoods as well. At one point, a DOT plan called for widening South Main Street through the South Main residential district known for its shady mature trees arching over the road, rock walls and affluent homes. Brown said the town would fight any plan that would ruin the character of the two-lane residential stretch.

“It is so comfortable to drive through the large, shady trees,” Brown said.

Setzer agrees.

“Based on the traffic counts, it doesn’t show we need to disturb that area,” Setzer said. “That was a big relief because no one really wanted to tackle that.”

It appears the DOT planners in Raleigh agree in principle.

“It would really change the character a lot to wipe out those trees,” said McFalls.

However, there is still the possibility of a middle lane being added at key side roads so people waiting to turn left into their neighborhood don’t back up traffic behind them, McFalls said. Brown agreed, partly.

“At the same time, I don’t want to create turn lanes for people who aren’t turning,” Brown said.

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.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.