Andrew Kasper

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Jackson County Planning Board members discussed axing part of the steep slope rules aimed at protecting mountain viewsheds.

The viewshed provisions stipulate new mountainside construction should  not be readily visible from public right of ways or public lands.

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In his brief five months in Congress, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, has kept busy — voting on several pieces of key legislation, sitting in on committee hearings, drafting bills of his own and when he can, traveling back to Western North Carolina.

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fr haircutIt’s got more names than the Bible. The “round-over,” the “lollipop,” and the “bob” to name a few. No matter how you call it, Haywood County’s favorite way of trimming trees is despised by tree experts, yet it’s probably here to stay.

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out frThe swim leg of a triathlon is notoriously daunting. Of the sport’s three heats — swimming, biking and running — the water is the most brutal and dangerous.

It’s every person for him or herself as the racers jump from a dock or surge forward from shore, creating a sea of flailing limbs and churning water as they jockey to get an early lead off the start. 

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Macon County Schools may be in store for some noticeable changes come the start of school this fall.

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Most who spoke during a public hearing at the Macon County Courthouse on Duke Energy’s proposed rate increases were not pleased with the prospect of another uptick on their electric bills and lambasted Duke Energy representatives for wanting to use the increase to pay for recently built fossil fuel plants and pay higher dividends to investors.

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fr boombrandAfter weeks of back-and-forth debate, deliberation and nail-biting, members of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority have zeroed in on a slogan to help sell the area to potential visitors.

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A group of Jackson County residents have been making the rounds in recent weeks asking decision makers to think twice before forking over $750,000 to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in hopes of increasing tourism.

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out frIn the early 1900s, Florence Cope Bush, author of Dorie: Woman of the Mountains, described native brook trout as being so numerous that it was near impossible for her mother to dip a wash pan in a mountain stream without it filling with their small, brown and orange speckled bodies. Bush’s mother grew up on land that was taken to form the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but her experience with the fish is common to the region.

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fr floodplainMacon County is weighing whether to relax its existing rules that ban fill dirt in the flood plain.

The county’s planning board is split on the issue and struggling to find mutual ground to stand on.

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Jackson County wants to bring high-speed Internet service to a greater number of residents, but doing so means convincing an Internet service provider there’s enough potential customers to make it worth their while.

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What’s it going to be for Jackson County — Just Do It; Got Milk?; A Little Dab’ll Do Ya? 

That is the $50,000 question as tourism leaders edge closer to an official marketing message and tourism brand used to lure visitors and their wallets to vacation in Jackson.

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out frThe train was the first to arrive in Waynesville back in 1886; then, the rise of the automobile; but, this spring, there’s a new human transporter in town: the Segway.

The owners of a bed and breakfast began offering guided and narrated Segway tours last month, allowing visitors or locals to see town from a new perspective on the upright, two-wheeled people movers.

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fr gunstoreA Sylva gun storeowner was given special permission to fire weapons in the town limits by town leaders this month.

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fr jackchuckWho has the lowest tax rate in the state — Macon County or Jackson County? The answer is both, it just depends on who you ask.

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fr firechiefsJackson County commissioners may be looking to change how fire departments are funded.

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A group of folks allegedly raising funds on behalf of an out-of-state church have sparked complaints and questions from Franklin residents puzzled, and sometimes troubled, by the troupe’s origin and tactics.

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Well raise my electric bill … again.

Duke Energy is looking to hike its rates by nearly 10 percent.

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Two tight-pocketed Macon County commissioners, who have voted consistently against all sorts of new government spending, have decided to go on the offensive and push for a tax decrease.

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Sewage and what to do with it has posed a complicated set of problems for the community of Cashiers — problems that could put in peril the area’s economic development as much as the public’s health.

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Macon County Schools are facing a $2 million budget shortfall and are hoping the county will come to the rescue.

That leaves county commissioners with a difficult decision: inject substantial amounts of money into the school system or force the school board to make difficult cuts.

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Walmart in Sylva was asking for the town board to grant them an exemption for a larger storefront sign. But instead of getting a pass on the existing ordinance, the town board decided to change the sign law as it applies to everyone.

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fr drewsnowskiA Waynesville man who works for Norfolk Southern Railway was buried and killed by a landslide in the middle of the night Sunday while surveying tracks for storm damage following a weekend of unrelenting rains throughout the region.

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coverHidden among the expanse of forestland in Western North Carolina are little-known pockets of trees that are several centuries old. Either overlooked by loggers or too difficult to access, the old growth stands act as windows into the past and markers of Appalachian history.

Since the end of the Civil War until the 1930s, most forests in the eastern United States were clear-cut. However, some tracts were able to escape that era of industrialized logging and continue to grow.

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EcoFest will showcase more than four dozen demonstrators, vendors, information booths and organizations sharing tips and practical advice on how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Below is just a small sample. 

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out frHaywood County is about to experience its newest festival: EcoFest, an ode to sustainability, agriculture and the environment. This year will be the first that EcoFest is taking place and will feature musical performances, kids’ games, demonstrations and vendors showcasing all things “green.”

Although products and services in the vein of sustainability will be sold at the festival, the festival’s true focus is about teaching eco-skills to the public. Experts from all over have been invited to show-off their areas of expertise to interested attendees, highlighting organic gardening, hops growing, backyard chicken raising, pickle making, canning and cooking, bees, worm composting and more. 

SEE ALSO: Get your green on

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fr needmoreThe state fund that helped conserve miles of riverfront, protect thousands of acres of undeveloped mountainsides and build countless sewer and water projects in Western North Carolina is hanging on by a thread.

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The Jackson County Planning Board debated where to draw the line between safety and individual rights last month in its ongoing rewrite of steep slope rules.

Specifically, should driveways to homes on steep slopes have to meet safety standards?

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In several counties in Western North Carolina, a showdown between the printed word and the digital age could soon take place. A bill has passed the N.C. Senate that allows some town and county governments in the region to opt out of placing legal and public notices in the community newspapers of record and instead put them on a government website.

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fr airplaneShortly after takeoff, the Smoky Mountain Flying Club is having to re-route its course. 

The flying club nearly lost an $11,000 non-refundable down payment on an airplane after a deal with investors went bad.

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Sylva town leaders once again have a public hearing on the docket to decide the fate of oversized Walmart signs, but are once again wondering whether representatives of Walmart will stand them up.

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A state-of-the-art training facility built by Drake Software is the latest addition to Macon County’s economic landscape.

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out frBeekeepers in Western North Carolina were hit especially hard this winter by a mysterious rash of bee disappearances. 

Amateur Haywood County beekeeper Andy Bailey said he lost three of his four colonies during the winter. His final hive lasted until the spring but then those bees disappeared. 

What puzzles Bailey is that his hives weren’t filled with the corpses of the thousands of bees, which would seem likely in the case of a massive die-off. Instead, the bees abandoned their homes — honey and all.

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Ask vacationers why they pick Jackson County, and you might heard words like “escape,” “relief” and “tradition.” 

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fr nationalguardAs Lieutenant James Rossi took the stage in his fatigues, a toddler’s voice cut across the auditorium, breaking the otherwise formal and borderline somber ceremony marking the imminent deployment of local National Guard troops to Afghanistan.

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coverFor years, state funding for libraries has been on the decline. But librarians in Western North Carolina are not taking this next round lying down.

In response to a recommendation by Gov. Pat McCroy to cut the state library budget by nearly 5 percent, librarians in the Fontana Regional system put out petitions in the libraries in Macon, Swain and Jackson counties.

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As the manhunt ends, the nation begins to cope and the primary suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing either lay dead or in custody, Dr. Allan Panter, a Sylva emergency room doctor who visited Boston for the race, is still reliving — in vivid detail — the brutal events of that day.

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Macon County commissioners narrowly voted last week to buy a 50-acre tract for $550,000 to create a sprawling baseball and recreation complex. It would take another $550,000 to put in the first two baseball diamonds and a parking lot.

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fr higdonMacon County government employees will have a fatter paycheck now, thanks to a new pay plan approved last week by commissioners. Three of the five commissioners voted in support of the pay raises.

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Ten suspects have been charged in connection with a rash of property crimes in the Cashiers and Glenville area.

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coverWhile sunlight, water and good soil may seem a simple enough equation for getting a plant from seed to fruit, like anything it becomes a lot more complicated when people are involved.

During the past decade, community gardens have been sprouting up across Western North Carolina — from Canton to Cherokee to Sylva. Churches and charity organizations use them as a supply of produce to feed the needy; schools use them as places to teach kids about agriculture and plants; and gardeners use them as social gathering spots and as a source of healthy food. 

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fr wcuplanWestern Carolina University is open to suggestions — from students, faculty and the general public — as it undergoes a campus-wide planning process that will steer infrastructure at the institution for the coming decade.

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art frAll bets are on in Cherokee.

The first major poker tournament held at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort has lured crowds of card sharks from the southeast and beyond, surpassing attendance expectations, and even breaking records.

The 12-day event, organized by the World Series of Poker, drew hundreds of participants from big poker names to hometown mavericks. The series is a professional poker circuit that hosts tournaments around the country in top gambling spots like Atlantic City, Chicago and Las Vegas. Now, you can add Cherokee to that list.

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out frDo you consider yourself an environmentalist or an environmental activist? Do you feel frustrated with the way issues dear to you are being handled by local and state decision makers? Instead of sitting on the sidelines and attempting to influence the political process from the outside, you might want to try becoming part of it.

A new campaign by the Western North Carolina Alliance, a regional environmental organization, is asking local conservationists, tree huggers and eco-activists to consider taking the plunge into the political realm.

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Sylva town officials are staring down three unsightly options to balance the upcoming year’s budget: tax increases, budget cuts or both.

 

None of the choices have much appeal to board members, but it’s understood that something must be done to alleviate the town’s budget woes. Sylva’s government is carrying a $193,000 budget deficit going into the next fiscal year.

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The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority is the latest voice to enter the fray as the county ponders a $700,000 grant to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in exchange for the promise of more tourists.

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fr judacullaJudaculla Rock, a prehistoric gem of the Cherokee and the most heavily inscribed petroglyph in the East, is putting Jackson County on the map.

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Statewide parks and recreation funding is clashing with fiscal austerity in the current state budget process, in a showdown that has environmentalists and local governments bracing for the worst.

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out frMore than a third of the tourists who come knocking at the Jackson County visitor center these days have trout fishing on their mind.

A push in recent years to market the county as trout paradise is clearly paying off, and now the string of towns in Jackson County that claim the Tuckasegee River as their backyard have yet another tool to lure fishing aficionados.

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Don’t light, chew, smoke or spit that tobacco in Jackson County parks, and if you do, you could be slapped with a $50 fine. That is the gist of a proposed law that will soon be voted on by county commissioners.

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