To the Editor:
Like so many other young couples, my husband and I felt so blessed when he landed a job in this area five years ago and we were able to move and start a family in Waynesville. We had looked at living in Sylva, but immediately were attracted to the historic character and charm of this dear town and seriously impressed with the well-thought out planning of the downtown, where we currently live.
This interest in being a part of a vibrant, beautiful community led me to attend a meeting hosted by Paul Benson, planner for the town of Waynesville, on Tuesday in which the town’s newly drafted land development standards were presented to the public. Benson explained that over a more than two-year period, a committee appointed by our respected town board reviewed the old land development standards, coming up with a completely new document to be enacted into law — a document that would entirely replace our current standards.
Mr. Benson said that only 10 percent of the current law would effectively be changed; however, the changes he discussed I found to be on very critical issues (parking, setbacks, landscaping, to name just a few). Many of these changes could alter the originally planned landscape, making it appear more and more like suburban strip malls and big box centers of larger cities, not the quaint mountain town we love and that tourists love to visit.
Residents wishing to make changes to improve and protect the character of their neighborhoods have been told that this review process would be their opportunity to organize and make changes. But even after news outlets have advertised the public meeting times, the public still needs ample time to review, digest and discuss the more than 300-page document that is currently the law, along with the new 200-plus page document being proposed to supersede it. These documents are written in entirely different forms, making it very time-consuming to compare and contrast them.
Currently, neither Mr. Benson nor his committee have offered the public an easy to read list of all changes from the old law to the new—only summaries they wish to highlight and that are admittedly incomplete. They are putting the burden of review on the public, a process that again is complicated and lengthy.
Currently, the town planning board is set to begin discussion and possibly even vote on the new standards Monday, Dec. 20. This would only allow concerned citizens two and a half weeks (during the Christmas season) to review it. I would urge interested citizens to contact the Town Board and urge them to delay all voting on this plan until at least March to allow interested citizens time to read, meet and develop their own concerns for consideration.
What is the vision of Waynesville’s residents for their future? A handful of men only have spent two years revising the original standards which were developed and adopted (in 2003) with both men and women actively involved. Allowing folks a couple of months to give feedback is not too much to ask. The standards adopted by the town greatly affect the beauty, character, economic development and general sustainability of our community.
What you can do to help:
1. Email or call the Waynesville Aldermen, the chair of the Planning Board and the Town Planner and ask them in your own words to postpone any vote on adopting the Land Development Standards until at least March.
Alderman Gary Caldwell, 828.456.3138
Planning Board Chair Patrick McDowell, 828.508.4932
2. Attend the Waynesville Planning Board meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 20, in the upstairs room of the new downtown police station to ask the entire planning board to postpone their critical vote on this issue until at least March.
3. Forward this letter and info to anyone Waynesville residents you know who are concerned with Smart Growth, historic preservation and maintaining the character and charm of our community. Post information on any Facebook or other social networking site you regularly use to contact your Waynesville friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.
4. Contact me with your other ideas on how we can work fast to take advantage of this window of opportunity for making positive change in our community. A small group of concerned citizens is currently forming to carefully review the new plan and we would love your help.
Mary Alice Lamb