Caitlin Bowling

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Business owners in Cherokee are making their own preparations for the influx of new visitors as a result of live gaming, hoping to draw them away from the casino and into their stores, restaurants or other businesses.


coverAfter nearly a decade of negotiations and broken promises, the state finally approved an agreement that allows table games with live dealers at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

The Eastern Band has worked since the early 2000s to get the state’s John Hancock on a live gaming compact, and now, it’s just a matter of weeks before the longtime dream comes to fruition.


The Jackson County Board of Commissioners narrowly passed a resolution that would allow county governments more flexibility in how its human services departments are organized.

Should Senate Bill 433 pass the General Assembly, county boards will have more leeway in how health departments and departments of social services are arranged. Counties could condense redundant services provided by both departments and thereby save money — a resource in short supply in every county.


After a month of controversy surrounding the granting of alcohol permits, Sylva and Jackson County leaders have made it their goal to work amicably together and compromise when discussing how the county will handle its ABC operations in the future.

“We really want to work with them (Sylva). We don’t want it to be an adversarial thing,” said Jack Debnam, chair to the Board of Commissioners.


Franklin Mayor Joe Collins sent a letter to the chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee last week, personally apologizing for the use of pesticides on an ancient Indian mound.

“I personally apologize for the desecration caused to the mound,” Collins wrote. The Franklin town board declined to issue its own apology in mid-May.


The Jackson County Sheriff has denied allegations that his department setup traffic checkpoints to racially profile Latinos and find possible illegal immigrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation announced June 4 that it will investigate traffic checkpoints conducted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


The Sylva town board has trimmed the green energy features from its new police department project and boosted the proposed cost to more than $1 million.

The town originally budgeted $786,500 for the construction. The lowest bid, however, came in nearly $100,000 higher, forcing the town to decided whether to downsize the project or increase the amount of it’s willing to spend.


Canton may end up defending its use of the property known as Camp Hope in court this August.

John and Deborah Prelaz have filed a lawsuit against the town asking that Canton’s claim to the 38.15-acre property be deemed null and void after it allegedly violated the terms of the deed. The deed requires the town to use the land for recreational purposes that benefit mostly Haywood County residents and those in surrounding counties.


Maggie Valley’s will no longer employ a festival director effective Sept. 5 — a decision that comes as no surprise to town leaders or the festival director herself.

“I had a sneaking suspicion with the new direction,” said Festival Director Audrey Hager, referencing the town board’s multiple assertions that it wants out of the festival business. “I kind of knew it was coming because it’s a totally different strategy than the previous board.”


Western Carolina University is remaining mostly neutral on the topic of alcohol coming to Cullowhee, at least officially.

“The campus has had alcohol on it for many, many, many years, and I don’t see that changing,” said Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student development. “It doesn’t really make it much better or worse.”

Although the approval of countywide alcohol sales will bring booze to WCU’s doorstep, the vote does not necessarily translate to more underage drinking and other alcohol-related crimes, stated university officials.

“Students already have access to alcohol sold in stores and restaurants just a few miles from campus. The availability of alcohol closer to campus will certainly be more convenient for many students, but we don’t know how or if that will change their behavior,” said WCU Chancellor David Belcher in a statement.

Most other college campuses in the country have stores and bars selling alcohol all around them, yet drinking is not substantially different among students at WCU where it is less accessible, according to a study by the Healthy Campus initiative on alcohol and drug use among students in 2007.

“Alcohol is a tremendous risk factor for our students as it is nationally,” Miller said.    

And, like many other colleges nationwide, WCU requires its freshmen to complete an alcohol education program and take tests featuring alcohol-related trivia. The hope is that students will make more informed decisions when considering whether and how much to drink.

“We want to make sure they have good information about the risks of inappropriate use of alcohol,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, we know for many, many of our students, alcohol is part of what they consider the college experience.”

The Division of Student Affairs also offers the “Party Smart” website initiative, which gives students access to advice and information about alcohol.

While WCU isn’t publicly jumping for joy over the arrival of alcohol in Cullowhee, former chancellor John Bardo had openly adopted a pro-alcohol stance in his final years.

Cullowhee lacks a vibrant college town and nightlife scene, and that in turn hurt the university’s ability to recruit and retain students, Bardo had said. Bardo had been looking for ways to incorporate Cullowhee as a town, giving it the ability to make alcohol sales legal.


Permits still pending

Four of the six businesses in Cullowhee that have expressed an interest in selling alcohol have hit a stumbling block after Sheriff Jimmy Ashe raised red flags over their locations — namely as being too close to WCU.

Ashe was designated by the county to render an official opinion on whether a particular establishment and its owner should be granted a permit from the state to serve alcohol.

Of the six establishments in Cullowhee that applied for permits, the sheriff offered a “thumbs down” assessment to four of the six for being too close to campus.

“With a 10,000 student population, this agency has already experienced a significant increase in underage drinking, alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents, alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related sex offenses at fraternities and even alcohol-related deaths … with my experience of 30 years in law enforcement, this would not be a suitable location for alcohol sales,” Ashe wrote in response to the permit application.

University administrators expressed their appreciation for the sheriff’s concern.

“I think we share concerns about making sure our students are safe and are good neighbors in Jackson County,” Miller said.

No matter what happens with the alcohol permits, however, students will still be expected to follow the same code of conduct as always.

“Regardless, WCU will continue to expect that our students are living up to their responsibilities and are good neighbors to Jackson County residents,” Belcher said in the statement. “We will be following the impact of countywide alcohol sales very closely this fall.”

In 2010, 245 students were referred to the university’s disciplinary board for alcohol-related violations. That is a nearly 100 percent increase from the number of violations reported in 2009 but only up 45 referrals when compared to 2008.


Ashe creates extra hurdle

The university has also done its part to vouch for area businesses that were deemed unsuitable for alcohol sales by Ashe.

“The university has been great,” said Jeannette Evans, owner of Mad Batter Bakery and Café in Cullowhee, who is facing delays after getting a negative assessment from Ashe on her permit application.

WCU’s General Counsel Mary Ann Lochner sent a brief letter to the state’s assistant director of ABC permits clarifying that Mad Batter, Rolling Stone Burrito and Bob’s Mini Mart — all of which have applied for alcohol permits — reside more than 50 feet from the entrance of the nearest building on the college’s campus. The letter refutes an assertion by Ashe that the businesses sit too close to the school.

Ashe filed reports stating that the three business are “located within 50 feet of educational institution properties in which 80 percent of the student population being potential customers are underage thus bringing on the problems of underage consumption and alcohol-related crimes involving persons underage.”

Despite her hard feelings about being denied a temporary permit for the time being, Evans said she does not feel like her business nor Cullowhee were singled out during the application process. The denial simply delayed the process, she said.

Evans traveled to Raleigh on Thursday to formally apply for a temporary permit with the state, which makes its own determination regardless of Ashe’s opinion. Evans called applying with the Sheriff’s office a “colossal waste of time.”


Jackson County Sheriff Jimmy Ashe was stripped of his appointed role to render thumbs-up or thumbs-down assessments of businesses wanting to sell alcohol.

Jackson County commissioners, who had initially appointed Ashe to the role, voted this week to instead make County Manager Chuck Wooten the go-to local official in the permit process.

Ashe indicated in a written statement last week that he didn’t really want the responsibility anyway.

The vote Monday to relieve Ashe of the position was a 3-2, down party lines. The two Democratic commissioners voted to keep Ashe, also a Democrat, in the position.

The issue of revoking the job from Ashe was originally not scheduled for discussion at the meeting. However, complaints from the community prompted the board to add the topic at the last minute.

Commissioner Joe Cowan acted surprised when Chairman Jack Debnam asked for a motion to swap Ashe for Wooten as the county appointee regarding alcohol permit matters. Cowan asked to put the vote off for another couple of weeks.

“Could we possibly postpone this item until the next meeting to give us time to read these?” asked Cowan. “I just got these resolutions, and I have not had time to read them or study them.”

Cowan then made a motion to postpone the decision until the board’s next meeting. Commissioner Doug Cody retorted that the resolutions only take a moment to peruse.

“These resolutions are about one page in length. I mean, how long does it take to read them?” Cody said.

Cody, Debnam and Commissioner Charles Elders voted against delaying the matter, and the three then succeed in pushing through the resolutions. Both Cody and Debnam previously expressed a desire to oust Ashe as the county designee following complaints from business owners.

Commissioner Mark Jones sided with Cowan.

“On the quick read, I disagreed,” Jones said, adding that he felt there was no need for a change since all the applications were processed in a timely manner under Ashe.

Specifically, Ashe’s role was to render an opinion on whether the owner and location of an esablishment wanting to sell alcohol was appropriate. If Ashe approved, that business could get temporary permit to sell alcohol while it waits for the much longer process to get a permanent permit from the state ABC Commission.

In a statement written May 30, Ashe stated that processing the permit applications, which requires background checks, interviews with community members and a visit to each location, is time consuming, and a change in appointee would allow his office time to conduct other duties.

“It would be more beneficial to my office to allow the county commissioners to assume the responsibility as the designee for the local government opinion form,” Ashe wrote. The statement wasn’t specifically addressed to anyone but apparently had been sent to commissioners.

Wooten will now take on the responsibilities of the county designee, though he has the option of appointing his own designee. Wooten indicated that if the applications became overwhelming, he would consider naming Gerald Green, the county planner, to the position.


Who’s got it, who doesn’t

Almost a month ago, Jackson County voters approved the countywide sale of alcoholic beverages by nearly 60 percent. And soon after, business owners rushed to file their applications for alcohol permits.

One of the first stops in the paperwork trail is to secure the blessing of Sheriff Jimmy Ashe.

However, Ashe filed unfavorable opinions about six of the 12 businesses that have applied so far. Those businesses have since gone over Ashe’s head to temporary permits directly from the state.

Four of the six that got a thumbs down from Ashe were in Cullowhee. Ashe didn’t like their proximity to campus for fear it would encourage underage drinking. One in Cashiers was turned down because of the applicant’s criminal record.

The sheriff also turned down Catamount Travel Center convenience store on U.S. 441 just outside Cherokee, citing its proximity to Cherokee, which is dry. Ashe did not deem it fitting for a gas station just over the line in Jackson County to start hawking beer and wine on Cherokee’s doorstep, particularly when Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians voted a resounding “no” to the sale of alcoholic beverages in a ballot measure of  their own in April.

Despite Ashe’s opinion, the state ABC Commission rather promptly issued the gas station a permit to start selling.

“Sales have done real well,” said Jamie Winchester, whose family owns the travel center. “It’s been really good.”

Who has it so far:

In Cashiers, Cornucopia Gourmet, Cornucopia Cellars, Cashiers Farmers Market, Ingles grocery, Orchard Restaurant, and Cork and Barrel. In Cullowhee, The Package Store and Sazon Mexican Restaurant. In Tuckasegee, Caney Fork General Store. In Whittier, Catamount Travel Center.

Who’s still waiting:

Bob’s Mini Mart, Mad Batter, Rolling Stone Burrito and the Catamount Travel Center, all in Cullowhee.


The advent of alcohol sales in Jackson County has prompted the Cashiers community to consider new land-use regulations to address the probable arrival of bars in the resort village.

The commercial area of Cashiers already has a development ordinance. The changes would “ensure that (alcohol sales) did not have adverse impact on the surrounding properties,” said County Planner Gerald Green.

The new regulation would require structures where alcohol is served to be at least 50 feet from a church or school. Sound from music or other types of entertainment may not rise above 75 decibels after 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Establishments that serve alcohol must follow the same parking, outdoor lighting and outdoor music standards as other businesses. The proposed change would add a definition for bars, taverns, nightclubs and other establishments serving alcohol such as a restaurant or brewery.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will host a public hearing at 5:40 p.m. June 18 to get feedback on changes to the Cashiers Commercial Area Development Ordinance.

By Caitlin Bowling


The Jackson County Board of Commissioners once again declined to support a movement aimed at restraining corporate power, causing local activists to raise a joint sigh of frustration.

Move to Amend activists, a local offshoot of the Occupy movement, called on commissioners to pass a resolution of support for their cause — namely to reduce corporate money and influence in the political process and instead make government beholden to the common man.

At its last May meeting, commissioners voted 3-2 not to champion the resolution. Commissioner Doug Cody said that he wouldn’t vote for a resolution that singled out corporations unless it also included such groups as political action committees, labor unions and lobbyists and limited their campaign funding as well.

So, the group of activists returned Monday, June 4, with a slightly reworded resolution.

“This resolution is revised to take into account concerns mentioned having to do with labor unions, limited liabilities and PACs,” said Commissioner Joe Cowan, who had been in support of the resolution the first time around but was outvoted.

Cowan added that he would dispense with “my same old worn-out speech” about the importance of passing the document.

Despite the change, the outcome remained the same. Commissioners voted the resolution down once more 3-2 along party lines — Republicans against it, Democrats for it. Commissioner Jack Debnam, who is unaffiliated, swung the vote by siding with Republicans.

Cody asked the activists why the Move to Amend website has a few iterations of the resolution, including one approved by labor unions at universities. Why would labor unions support a resolution that limits their influence, he queried.

“If labor unions are included in on this proposed amendment, why are they signing on to support it? It seems counter-intuitive,” Cody said.

He also claimed that the Move to Amend’s platform would limit the amount of money candidates can contribute to their own campaign.

“This resolution would inhibit an individual from spending his own money. Is that the American way?” said Cody, adding that he funded much of his own campaign for commissioner.

Cody’s comments elicited groans from the vexed crowd of activists.

Cowan said he could not influence what was on the website, but the board should pass the resolution simply because of its call to place restraints on corporations’ campaign spending.

The goal of local Move to Amend activists, along with other chapters across the nation, is to spark a groundswell of support that could ultimately prompt Congress to pass a constitutional amendment limiting corporate spending in the electoral process. The Supreme Court ruled that corporations could spend unlimited amounts in campaigns, prompting fear that politicians will become even more indebted to corporate money.

More than 250 cities, towns and counties in the U.S. have passed similar resolutions. Locally, town boards in Franklin, Highlands and Bryson City approved Move to Amend’s resolutions.

The state General Assembly recently introduced legislation espousing views similar to those reflected in the resolution.


The blueprint for a sign is punched into a computer, and the machine starts up. Sparks emit from the metal-cutting apparatus as it carves out the words “Gateway to the Smokies” and “Waynesville, North Carolina.”

Here, at this part-machine shop, part-artist studio, all the pieces of Waynesville’s latest public art piece are being sculpted, carved and shaped. Once complete, they’ll be welded together to make a replica of the historic arch that once spanned Waynesville’ Main Street — proclaiming the town as the “Eastern Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The replica won’t span the whole street, but instead will crown the entrance to a downtown mini-park at the corner of Main and Depot streets.

The town’s Public Art Commission contracted Ted Dake, owner of Moto-Fab Metalworks in the Iron Duff community, to build the arch.

“We are really excited about Ted doing it,” said Jan Griffin, head of the art commission. “He is very interested in the history of Waynesville.”

The history is precisely why Dake said he was eager to take on the project.

“This one (project) is special because I am a bit of a history buff,” Dake said.

The original arch spanned Main Street itself for several decades, proclaiming the town as the “Eastern Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” When the first arch went up, national parks were all the rage, and towns like Waynesville were quick to declare their close proximity to the Smokies in the hopes of luring at least a portion of the revenue from the new tourism craze.

And for many longtime residents, the arch was a well-known and well-liked Waynesville landmark.

Now, those who fondly remember the original arch won’t have to wait much longer to see the replica donning Main Street. This one will say “Gateway to the Smokies,” rather than the longer original language. It should be complete in about a month, but when exactly it will be installed, “That’s hard to say,” Dake said.

At the latest, the arch will be up by July 18 — the first day of Folkmoot USA, a two-week cultural festival that brings international dance troupes into Waynesville and the greater region. However, the town could erect the arch sooner if completed early.

“It’s all coming together very well,” Griffin said. “I know that he has been working very diligently on it.”

Dake began working with metal as a young man 32 years ago.

“It’s all I’ve ever done,” Dake said.

He made various industrial, blueprint-specific items until about two years ago when his work became more art-focused. The Moto-Fab Metalworks owner started making custom yard art and signs.

Listed among his past works are a historical marker for the town of Bethel and the sign hanging over Frog’s Leap Public House in Waynesville, as well as other metallic touches featured inside the restaurant.

Although there is still some repetition in his work, pieces such as address markers or nameplates are customized for individual clients. His most popular seller is a cowboy kneeling in front of a cross, marking a grave, with his horse standing behind him.

“That is very, very popular. I can’t make enough of those,” Dake said.

The art commission has created and installed three permanent public art pieces around town during the past few years. The latest addition will be the archway, the second art piece referencing the Smokies in the mini-park on the corner across from the historic courthouse. Already in place is a metal railing with mountain peaks and salamanders.

The total cost of the arch project is about $6,000. The art commission sent out its second round of fund-raising letters about a month ago. And, although she declined to say how much the commission had raised so for the project, Griffin said they continue to receive positive response from residents about the endeavor.

“We are doing very well,” Griffin said. “We are very pleased.”

People who wish to donate to help pay for the arch can write a check to the Town of Waynesville and drop it at the municipal building on Main Street. Donors should note that the money is for the art project in the memo line.


A little more than a year after the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law banning various forms of synthetic marijuana, enforcement of the statute still poses a problem for police.

Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed traveled to Raleigh at the request of Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill, about two weeks ago and met with several state officials to talk about synthetic drugs and problems law enforcement officials encounter.

The Waynesville Police Department receives about a dozen calls a week related to synthetic drugs, which in essence are plants that have been sprayed with a number of unknown chemicals and psychotropic drugs, Hollingsed said.

Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed under names such as K-2, Spice, Black Mamba and Bombay Blue, among others. They can also be advertised as incense or potpourri and come in packages marked “not for human consumption.” Problem is, people do consume it. And, anyone can legally buy it.

“You can be 12 years old and walk into a convenience store and buy this stuff,” Hollingsed said. The way the drugs are made and sold one can never be sure what type of chemicals the substance contains, he added.

Side effects of the drugs include hallucinations, seizures, vomiting, elevated blood pressure, increased anxiety, loss of control, lack of pain response, violent behavior and spastic body movements.

“It is a very intense high, and it doesn’t show up on drug tests,” Hollingsed said, adding that the long-term effect of the drugs are unknown.

The police receive calls either when parents find the substance among their children’s possessions or a child has grown suddenly violent or passed out as a result of ingesting synthetic drugs.

“All the sudden, they are absolutely out of control and start threatening people,” Hollingsed said. “You are playing Russian roulette every time you take this stuff.”

Although legislators have outlawed specific compounds, drug manufacturers have tweaked the chemical composition just enough to where it falls outside the arm of the law.

“The original intent of the legislation was that all chemical combinations would be banned,” Hollingsed said.

However, because drug laws require very specific chemical breakdowns, one molecule change can mean the difference between legal and illegal — making it harder and harder for police to enforce laws against synthetic drugs.

Synthetic drugs have been all over the headlines lately after several horror-movie-horrifying incidents. Most notably, Rudy Eugene of Miami was found naked eating the flesh from another man’s face. When police asked him to stop, Eugene simply growled and continued ripping the skin from his victim’s face.

Law enforcement officials then shot Eugene repeatedly, killing him. Not long after the incident was reported, police released a statement saying they believed Eugene was under the influence of bath salts at the time.

Bath salts are a synthetic cocaine or meth substance that causes euphoria, severe paranoia, psychotic episodes, increased energy and heightened senses, among other side effects.

Hollingsed sent a letter to business owners around Waynesville in early April telling them about the drugs and asking those who sell the substances to stop. About a dozen stores sold some variant of the synthetic drugs at the time, Hollingsed said.

“Just because it might be legal, does not make it ethical or safe for the young people in our community,” the letter read.

Legislators, along with the state attorney general’s office, are currently looking into drafting a law similar to the analog drug laws of the 1960s.

The federal government passed analog drug laws to help crack down on the sale and ingestion of different forms of the hallucinogenic drugs PCP and LSD. This means that any chemical substantially similar to those drugs was also deemed illegal, and police could arrest people in possession of them. However, there is no way to know the exact chemical make-up of a compound unless it is tested.

“The problem with that is it requires the state crime labs to test each individual chemical” to see if it is in fact illegal under the law, Hollingsed said.

Since the legality or illegality of specific compounds has people’s heads spinning, law enforcement officials and community members are focusing much of their attention on education.

The Waynesville Police Department, in cooperation with residents, schools and other law enforcement agencies, has started hosting meetings around Haywood County to generate greater awareness of synthetic drugs and their side effects.

“We’ve been active in this county as far as trying to educate people on the danger,” Hollingsed said. “The average kid may not realize the effects it will have on them.”


As people’s discretionary spending remains low nationwide, golf courses in Haywood County are trying to drive their way out of a bunker with price cuts and special offers aimed at drawing in atypical players.

Golf courses in the Haywood County are, at the very least, trying to stay on par with past numbers — be it the number of rounds played or total revenue earned.

“It’s a luxury,” said Jay Manner, the general manager at Maggie Valley Club & Resort. “We understand that golf is important to a lot of people, but it isn’t shelter or food.”

To help golfers save, the club is waving its initiation fee for anyone who signs an 18-month membership commitment.

The decline in golf has mostly taken its toll among casual, or “fringe” golfers, said Duane Paige, the general manager of Laurel Ridge Country Club.

Core golfers, a term Paige uses for those who play two, three or even four rounds a week, have been less likely to let up on their game in the recession.

But fringe golfers, those who played once or twice a month, have backed off, perhaps only playing every other month now, Paige said. And those who used to play very other month might now play just twice a year — or not at all.

Manner said the Maggie Club is “cautiously optimistic” about its numbers this year, particularly given the unseasonably warm winter. The course was up 1,000 rounds of golf in April compared to the prior year.

However, more rounds does not automatically translate to more money coming in. Several years ago, a round at the Maggie Valley Club was around $90. Today, its about $60. The club also moved its twilight hours up. Golfers with tee times after 2 or 3 p.m. would typically pay discounted rates because of the late start. Now that rate has been extended to those who tee off after 1 p.m.

The Waynesville Inn is no different, offering limited time play passes that are cheaper than a full-fledged membership, though without some of the perks.

The passes are “for that golfer that wants to play golf but doesn’t want to tie up money in a membership,” said Tom Halterman, general manager at Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa. “We have gained a great deal of the local play” as a result, he said.

Halterman said that he thinks younger generations are put-off by the lifestyle a golf club membership portrays.

“Today’s generation they are not interested in that type of thing,” Halterman said. “Membership tends to scream stuffy.”

Courses that were once almost entirely private have opened up their fairways to outside play as a way top counter the decline.

“If we can bring in some amount of outside play that helps supplement our income,” said Paige. Laurel Ridge is now among those semi-private courses that accept outside play.

“We are always looking to help people enjoy our golf course because if they do we hope they become a member one day,” Paige said.


Changing demographics

Golf course managers with a long view of their sport are perhaps most troubled by the declining number of younger golfers there to replace their aging core clientele.

Paige said the decline in play among younger golfers isn’t due solely to the economy. Men, who still account for the majority of golfers, typically spend more time with their families on the weekend. They are more likely to be involved in activities with their children and have household responsibilities than men in previous generations.

That’s led Paige to look for ways to get the whole family out to the course, including wives and children. Laurel Ridge offers junior golf camp in the summer, as well as special Tee-It-Forward rounds where the tee box is moved closer on the fairway to make the course doable for youth.

Maggie Valley Club is trying to get kids into the sport by offering junior golf lessons for all ages. That way, when the kids are learning to swing and putt, the parents can enjoy the golf course themselves or the club’s other amenities. Otherwise, people just don’t have the time to devote to golf nowadays as they did in the past.

“They’ve got kids, families,” Manner said. “They don’t have 4 to 4.5 hours.”

Likewise, golf courses are not capturing as much of the baby boomer generation as they expected, given that many people are being forced to work well past retirement age.

In hindsight, the proliferation of golf courses developments aimed at retirees and second-home buyers during the real estate heyday of the early 2000s was perhaps overly optimistic, Paige said.

“We were predicting continued prosperity that if you built it, they would come,” Paige said of the region’s outlook. “So we overbuilt. We have a little bit more supply than we have demand.”

Staff Writer Becky Johnson contributed to this story


Downtown Waynesville will transform into a Mecca for Appalachian heritage geeks and for people who want to learn more about the area’s distinct culture this Saturday as the town hosts its second annual Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration.

The Downtown Waynesville Association held the festival for the first time last year to help preserve and promote the history and culture of Western North Carolina. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 9.

Similar to Haywood County’s many other cultural events, such as Folkmoot, the celebration focuses on a topic of particular interest for visitors —  Appalachian living.

“The Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration is great for tourists,” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority. “It gives our visitors a taste of what mountain living is like, along with its rich history. When people travel to Haywood County, or anywhere, they want to experience the culture of the destination.”

Out-of-towners’ fascination with Appalachian heritage is not a new revelation.

Hundreds of years ago, travelers journeyed to Western North Carolina to savor its “exotic” traditions and mountainous backwoods. And despite increased mobility and Internet access, the reasons for visiting today are still much the same as they ever were.

“It’s part of a long history of outsiders being interested in this history,” said Tyler Blethen, a professor emeritus of history at Western Carolina University. “It’s an exotic place.”

In some old writings, people would refer to the trip from their home to Western North Carolina as a safari because of its unfamiliar customs and distinctive landscape. People would travel from all over — and still do — to see the Cherokee people, observe local practices and buy traditional Appalachian goods.

“Music and crafts were the two biggest drawers,” Blethen said.

The Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration embraces that historic interest by featuring a bit of everything — from blacksmithing, quilting, weaving, woodworking, pottery, painting and soap making to food vendors that serve only traditional foods such as barbecue, smoked sausage, beans and cornbread, corn and cheese cakes, fried apple pies, kettle corn and nuts.

Mountain artists will sell their traditional crafts and show how they are made, while others give live food demonstrations such as molasses making and butter churning.

Two stages will feature live music and dancing indigenous to the area, including dulcimers, banjos, fiddles and cloggers. Musical performances include Chompin’ at the Bit String Band, Barefoot-Movement and Michael Reno Harrell.

Chompin’ at the Bit String Band and Barefoot Movement are two new bands to Waynesville. The two groups will perform with the Smoky Mountain Stompers and the J Creek Cloggers.

The Liars Bench, a two-year old program featuring authentic, traditional Southern Appalachian storytelling, music, poetry and drama, will take up residence at Main Street Perks coffee shop Saturday. Members of the group will perform two shows at 1 and 2:30 p.m. And, Blue Ridge Books will feature a line-up of authors telling local tales.

Fiddler Michael Pilgrim will roam the street playing Appalachian melodies, and a variety of performers — The Ross Brothers, Anne Lough, Ginny McAfee, McKayla Reece, Chompin’ at the Bit and the Pisgah Promenaders — will also sing and dance from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. near the Olde Time Music sculpture.


Schedule of events

South-end stage near Church Street

• 9:45-10:45 a.m. — Chompin’ at the Bit String Band, a four-member old-time string band from Asheville.

• 11-11:45 a.m. — Honey Holler, a four-person old-time country and bluegrass group out of Asheville.

• Noon-1:15 p.m. — Chompin’ at the Bit String Band will perform again with square dancing at 12:15 p.m. and the J Creek Cloggers at 12:30 p.m.

• 1:30-2:30 p.m. — Michael Reno Harrell, an Americana singer-songwriter.

• 2:45-3:30 p.m. — The Ross Brothers, a family band from Waynesville playing old-style Appalachian music.

• 3:45-5 p.m. — Chompin’ at the Bit String Band plays with Smoky Mountain Stompers, a clogging troupe

Courthouse Stage near Depot Street

• 9:45-10:45 p.m. —  Barefoot Movement, a trio from North Carolina and Tennessee that melds Americana influences with acoustic modern rock and jazz

• 11 a.m.-noon — Michael Reno Harrell

• 12:15-1:15 p.m. — Barefoot Movement performs with the J Creek Cloggers

• 1:30-2:15 p.m. — Honey Holler

• 2:30-4 p.m. — Barefoot Movement plays with the Smoky Mountain Stompers at 3 p.m. and the J Creek Cloggers at 3:45 p.m.

• 4-5 p.m. — Ginny McAfee, an acoustic musician from Asheville, and McKayla Reece, a country/gospel singer from Canton

Blue Ridge Books

The Main Street bookstore will host a line-up of author discussions revolving around Appalachian history and life from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• 11 a.m. — Joan Routh, a local storyteller who shares the Jack Tales, a collection of Appalachian folklore.

• Noon — Michael Beadle, the author of Haywood County and co-author of Waynesville, both of which are part of the Images of America series.

• 1 p.m. — Don Dudenbostel with Tom Wilson Jester: the photographer and the author of the new Popcorn Sutton book, Popcorn Sutton: the Making and Marketing of a Hillbilly Hero.

• 2 p.m. — Bob Plott, the author of Strike & Stay: the Story of the Plott Hound, Legendary Hunters of the Southern Highlands, Colorful Characters of the Great Smoky Mountains, and A History of Hunting in the Great Smoky Mountains will share his knowledge of Appalachian history. One of his Plott Hounds will also accompany him.

• 3 p.m. — Carroll Jones, the author of Captain Lenoir’s Diary: Tom Lenoir and His Civil War Company from Western North Carolina, The 25th North Carolina Troops in the Civil War, and Rooted Deep in the Pigeon Valley. Learn about the local civil war history.

• 4 p.m. — Johnnie Sue Myers, the author of Cherokee cookbook The Gathering Place. Learn the recipes and the history of Cherokee cuisine.

Main Street Perks

• 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. — The Liars Bench, a two-year old program featuring authentic, traditional Southern Appalachian storytelling, music, poetry and drama, will perform.

*Performance schedule subject to change


Swain County’s Department of Social Services has started cracking down on welfare fraud after seeing a rise in violations.

“We have found that welfare fraud is on the rise,” reported Melissa Adams, a fraud caseworker, who spoke to the Swain County Board of Commissioners last week.

Since March 2011, Swain County DSS has helped prosecute eight cases of welfare fraud, each ranging from $4,500 to more than $24,000 in claims. It is currently conducting 238 investigations into alleged fraud. It is unknown how much money that translates to.

“Our agency has been working diligently in prosecuting welfare fraud,” Adams said.

Most investigations begin with a phone call from a concerned citizen or another agency. Since Jan. 1, the county has received 54 calls about possible fraud and initiated 15 investigations on its own after red flags were raised during the application process.

“We rely heavily on the reports we receive,” said Janet Jones, the chief fraud investigator with Swain County DSS.

Social service agents cited the economy as a likely reason for increase in fraud.

“Truthfully, it is probably the economy. People are struggling and looking for a way to survive,” Jones said. Jones has also started working on fraud cases full-time, allowing her to investigate a claim further to determine if it was a case of intentional fraud.

Sharon Blazer, Haywood County social services’ chief fraud investigator, agreed.

“I think, with the economy and everything, it is on the rise,” Blazer said. “I don’t think it ever stops; I think it just gets worse.”

The number of calls that Haywood County receives regarding welfare fraud varies from month to month. Some of the complaints can be difficult to verify.

Prosecuting welfare fraud can be difficult if the county cannot prove that someone intentionally deceived the system. Either they claim that they don’t have a job or are double dipping into the federal welfare coffers. Some things, like the number of people who live in the home, are hard to substantiate.

“There is not a way for use to actually verify that,” Blazer said.

However, if a discrepancy is found no matter whether it’s intentional, inadvertent or an error made by the department of social services, the person receiving benefits is required to repay the money that they were not supposed to get.

The state of North Carolina has seen an increase in fraud overall as well. As of April 2012, the departments of social services were investigating almost 780,000 active cases.

From October 2011 to March 2012, departments in North Carolina have received more than 11,000 referrals about possible fraud. The claims are equal to about $7.1 million — a more than $1 million increase compared to the same time last year.

Although welfare fraud has been around for as long as welfare programs have existed, people are taking it to a different level to get by, according to DSS investigators.

“Now, it is going a little further,” said Pam Hooper, an investigator with Jackson County’s DSS. “It’s got everything to do with the economy, I’m sure.”

Jackson County saw its highest number of cases, investigating nearly 350, during fiscal year 2010. That number declined to 116 cases the next year, but Hooper said it is a result of policy changes. Welfare programs no longer take into account facts like how much money a person has tucked away in savings or whether they just bought a new car.

“Change in policy has made a big difference,” Hooper said.

In Swain County, Jones said, a new car purchase still sets off red flags and prompts DSS officials to look into that person.

Unlike its neighboring county, the number of cases investigated in Macon has stayed about the same, according to its DSS.

The county is currently investigating 68 cases, equal to more than $45,000 in claims.


A clean-cut looking Perry Matthews walked into the food pantry with a smile on his face. He wore a crisp, light blue, long sleeve button-up and tan slacks. His long, dark hair was pulled into a neat ponytail.

It is easy to mistake him for one of the volunteers who prepares meals or packs boxes with food. But Matthews, a 26-year-old employed chef and cooking teacher, is part of a new demographic of working poor in Western North Carolina.

Six months ago after finding himself struggling, Matthews started picking up food boxes from The Community Table in Sylva.

“Times got hard, and it’s everything I can do to get my rent and bills together,” Matthews said. “The electric bill was taking up way too much.”

For Matthews, meals have become a regular community event. His neighbors also frequent the Community Table for donations. Then they pool their food and cook meals that they all share together.

Matthews is not embarrassed to admit he needs help and suggests that others who are scrambling to pay their bills visit the pantry as well.

“You’re hungry, and they’re giving food. It’s plain and simple,” said Matthews, who is one of 17.7 percent of Jackson residents who in 2011 did not have continuous access to food.

Some first-time visitors are ashamed to come to a food pantry because of the stigma associated with it.

“Poverty has such a stigma, and a lot of people have the ‘blame the victim’ mentality,” said Amy Grimes, director of the Community Table. “There are so many factors beyond people’s control.”

So, the Community Table tries to create a happy, community atmosphere, where people can sit and socialize while waiting for food or collecting their food boxes.

“(People) probably think it’s a sad, downtrodden kind of place. No,” Grimes said. “It’s much more dignified.”

The new visitors are not part of the generational poverty cycle but rather lost their job or face unexpected costs.

“We are seeing a lot more situational poverty,” Grimes said. “People have a medical issue come up, and it turns their entire life upside down.”

Although many people enjoy the three-month summer that a job at a school affords, Martina Maldonado would rather work. Every year when Western Carolina University’s campus essentially closes down, Maldonado, a cook at the college, is unemployed and must used food pantries to compensate for the lack of income.

“Any holiday they close, it happens,” said Maldonado, a Spanish woman whose daughter-in-law translates for her.

Their number one customer, however, is still elderly people and mentally challenged individuals, who are usually both on fixed incomes.

The Community Table used to grow busier toward the end of the month when people’s food stamps ran out but now stays busy throughout since the federal government began staggering its food stamp release. Some people get food stamps at the beginning of the month, and others receive them in the middle or end of the month.

“We are just busy all the time now,” Grimes said.


Counties in Western North Carolina have seen dramatic increases in the number of people who need food assistance — either from the government in the form of welfare or from local food pantries.

The number of people on food stamps in Haywood, Macon and Swain counties has increased by more than 40 percent over the past four years.

Foods stamps only go so far, however, so churches, charities and community groups have stepped up to the plate to help feed the hungry.

MANNA food bank serves as the region’s major clearinghouse for food for more than 250 food pantries across Western North Carolina. MANNA collects food and money and distributes it among its member pantries, and as a collective, the pantries have an easier time obtaining government funding.

“It’s a great program,” said Alice Fisher, a board member of another food pantry, The Community Kitchen in Canton. “We couldn’t continue if we didn’t have that support from MANNA.”

The Community Kitchen started in the mid-2000s, and leaders decided to serve dinner since the Open Door Soup Kitchen in Waynesville already offered breakfast and lunch. The pantry also hoped to fill a niche in Canton since Waynesville can be a far daily trek for people without a car or even those on a tight budget, said Beverly Brock, director of The Community Kitchen.

“Waynesville has a soup kitchen, and it’s a good one, but it’s quite a bit of gas to get a meal,” Brock said.

The Community Kitchen sees pretty much every demographic flow in and out of its home on Pisgah Drive.

“It’s the whole gamut — we’ve got elderly, we’ve got disabled, we’ve got multiple generations in one household,” Brock said, adding that they also see grandparents trying to raise their grandchildren on fixed incomes.

And, the number of people they see each week depends on what is happening in an individual’s life.

“It flows with how their bills go this week. Every hiccup can make a big impact,” Brock said. “What we do is just help sustain them.”

The pantry typically goes through 5,000 pounds of food each month, which is about one-third more business than The Community Kitchen did in year’s past.

MANNA as a whole distributed almost 10 million pounds of food last year and still does not meet demand, said Alissa Hixson, a spokeswoman for MANNA food bank.

“As soon as the economy went under, everything changed,” said Amy Grimes, director of the Community Table in Sylva.

The Community Table, which typically made 25 to 40 meals each weekday, now makes 80 to 100. The pantry is closed Saturday and Sundays.

“The need is going up like crazy,” Grimes said. “We are seeing new people every week.”

Pantries are seeing more families come for food, though some college-educated individuals are also visiting the food pantries.


Feeding children

At least 30 percent of the children in Western North Carolina don’t have adequate access to food, according to MANNA food bank. The MANNA backpack program helps to ease that burden by delivering 5-pound bags of food to schools on Fridays and sending them home with children in needy families.

“Those families are struggling over the weekend because the kids do not have a free meal at school,” said Emily Paris, program services coordinator at MANNA.

It serves 3,800 children a week during the school year. But, it’s not nearly enough to meet the needs of all the hungry kids.

Although MANNA does its own fundraising for the program, the Waynesville Rotary Club has decided to make the backpack program its pet project year-round, collecting donations that will go to children in Haywood County in hopes of expanding the program. The Rotary club is accepting checks, but people can also donate by tacking a nominal amount onto their bill when eating at Waynesville restaurants.

As of last week, the club had raised more than $20,000 — all of which will stay in Haywood County, emphasized Brandon Anderson, president of the Waynesville Rotary Club.

“We are excited,” Anderson said. “I am pretty confident that it is going to explode from there.”


Food insecurity rates

Haywood: 16 percent

Macon: 16.9 percent

Jackson: 17.7 percent

Swain: 19.9 percent

Data for 2011, provided by MANNA foodbank


How to help

Giving to MANNA food bank or an individual pantry is simple. Call or stop-by or simply mail in a check or ask to volunteer. Check out for specific information about food pantries and soup kitchens in your area.

Other ways to give include:

• The Community Kitchen in Canton is hosting a golf fund-raiser at Lake Junaluska at noon on June 1. Teams are four-person, captain’s choice. Entry fees are $50 per person. 828.593.9319.

• The Open Door Ministries is hosting a Bike Run will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 9. The fund-raiser, hosted by The Carolina Faith Riders, will raise awareness and money for the soup kitchen and thrift store in Waynesville. Registration is from 9-10:45 a.m. There is a $15 per bike entry fee. The route will be from The Open Door, through downtown Waynesville to N.C. 276, across the Blue Ridge Parkway, down Soco, through Maggie. The Bike Run will conclude at Dellwood Baptist Church at 12:30 p.m. with music on the lawn and a lunch. 828.926.3846.

• The last Wednesday of each month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Community Table hosts a blue plate special fund-raiser. A local restaurant donates lunch, which the pantry offers for a minimum $5 donation. Call ahead for a takeout order, or eat at the pantry. 828.586.6782.

• From June 15-July 15, businesses and organizations in Haywood County will be accepting food that will then be directly distributed to food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the county. The goal is to collect 50,000 pounds of food. Look for red donation barrels outside businesses or call the Chamber of Commerce for a list of locations. Those wishing to make a monetary donation should stop by any Haywood County BB&T. 828.456.3021.

•  The Dillsboro River Company will offer free rafts for unguided trips down the Tuckasegee River from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 3 in exchange for10 cans of food per person that will be donated to United Christian Ministries of Jackson County.  866.586.3797.

•  Duckett’s Produce in Maggie Valley is collecting food donations. The donations are then taken to the Maggie Valley Methodist Church where those in need are free to pick up food.


When the microphone opened up to the crowd, Laura Stout felt compelled to say her piece. She raised her hand, got up from her front-row chair and walked to the podium where a dozen or more Cherokee people had spoken already.

They had talked about the tribulations they faced in their life, social ills that permeate the Cherokee reservation and stemming, in all likelihood, from the historical trauma of persecution and acts of genocide faced by their tribe two centuries ago.

Now, it was Stout’s turn, her turn to offload feelings that had weighed on her for most of her life. But for Stout, a white woman whose family has lived in North Carolina for 300 years, standing up before a mostly Cherokee crowd at this sacred Cherokee spot held a different significance. As Stout spoke about the burden of knowing what her ancestors did to the Cherokee and other peoples, it wasn’t long before she started to weep before the 100-person crowd gathered Saturday in a pavilion at Kituwah Mound, the birthplace of the Cherokee people not far from the present-day town of Cherokee.

But, now, she was finally able to stand before a gathering of Cherokee and ask for forgiveness on behalf of her family.

“It’s not enough to take it on. We have to do something about it,” Stout said.

Cherokee speakers talked about healing their own generational trauma that resulted partly from the Trail of Tears — healing that is possible only by forgiving people who brutally and forcibly drove the Cherokee from their land. Healing goes both ways, Stout said. When the Cherokee forgive white people for their wrongdoing, they are not the only ones who feel relief.

“When the Native Americans forgive us, we heal,” Stout said.

Stout was one of more than a handful of white people who attended a universal gathering Saturday called “The Journey of Healing and Forgiveness.” It was an emotional day for many as they described personal strife and their efforts to move beyond them. The day was also a time for people to socialize, laugh and enjoy meals together.

The event as part of an effort by the Cherokee Healing and Wellness Coalition to start a discussion about the need to stop the downward spiral caused by generational trauma, or rather suffering that has passed down from one generation to the next.

The ramifications of the forced removal, known as the Trail of Tears, still impacts the Cherokee people today, said Patty Grant, a leader with the Cherokee Healing and Wellness Coalition. For generations, the lingering psychological impacts of that horrific time have been buried and repressed. But now, it is time to start talking about its effects and begin forgiving, she said.

The two-day event not only addressed long-term trauma caused by the Trail of Tears but also problems that are rampant on the reservation, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, diabetes and violence. The gathering was opened to everyone, not just those of Cherokee descent.


The side effects of trauma

The sunny and increasingly warm Saturday was the final day of a more than weeklong “Journey to Forgiveness and Healing.”

It began on May 18, when 26 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee traveled to Tahlequah, Okla., where their brethren from the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetowah Band welcomed them with a traditional stomp dance. The participants then traversed the northern route of the Trail of Tears through Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Georgia, stopping at significant locations along the way. The travelers arrived back in Cherokee to conclude the event May 25 and 26.

The closing day Saturday started with a line of the attendees processing around Kituwah Mound behind a sacred hoop adorn eagle feathers that represents many things, including nature, the seasons and the circle of life.

The mound itself holds deep cultural and spiritual significance for the Cherokee because it is where the tribe began. The mound is tantamount to Jerusalem for Christians and Jews. People can actually visit locations talked about in Cherokee folklore.

“This is not where we come to. It’s where we come from,” Grant said.

Prior to the removal, “This was a peace place. There was no war. There was no conflict.”

In a speech later, Grant referred to removal as a prime example of generational trauma and said it is at least partially to blame for other ills in Cherokee society. Generational trauma is suffering that has passed down from one generation to the next. People are more likely to form an addiction if as a child their parents or caregivers suffered from such a problem, or become abusive if they themselves were abused.

The person becomes the thing they were harmed by, said Dr. Ann Bullock, the medical director of the health and medical division of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. Bullock was one of several scheduled speakers at the gathering.

It is biologically difficult to forgive someone or a group who has caused you harm because trauma affects a person’s ability to deal with a situation, particularly if it occurred at a young age, Bullock said. If something triggers a bad memory, stress hormones kick into high gear, and the person will mentally revert back to the age they were when the trauma occurred.

“Trauma in a sense freezes us,” Bullock said. “Needless to say, this does not put us at our best.”

When people experience a life-changing event or multiple traumatic events, they spend their life stressed and wondering when the other shoe will drop.

“We are always looking for the next wreck,” Bullock said.


Letting go

A number of people talked about how each new generation of Cherokee people had been taught to hate whites ever since the Trail of Tears in 1838. An idea that is by no means foreign, considering the many forms of racism that continue to persist the world over.

The Trail of Tears created distrust toward white people, particularly Andrew Jackson who is considered the greatest proponent of removing the Cherokee from their lands. The removal started a cycle of hatred that has lasted more than 150 years.

“(My mother) taught me to hate Andrew Jackson,” said Amy Walker, a speaker at the gathering. President Jackson ordered the removal via the Trail of Tears and is universally loathed by Cherokee people. Walker carried that same hate until four years ago when she decided to let go.

“Just before I found out that I had cancer, I decided that I was no longer going to allow a dead man to have that much of my life,” she said.

Walker, like most of the other speakers, deviated from the Trail of Tears and talked about personal tribulations that affected her life, including the death of her father at an early age and how the birth of a daughter was the result of rape.

During her journey to forgive, a trip that she is still on, Walker said she realized that she was taking out her anger toward her rapist on the daughter that resulted from it. She was unjustly laying blame on someone for something she did not do — a problem that is not contained to one person or ethnicity, Walker said.

Hugh Lambert, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a speaker at the event, ran into many people who felt the same as Laura Stout when he participated in the Trail of Tears bicycle ride last year. Similar to the journey some of his fellow enrolled members took a week ago, the ride retraces the Trail of Tears and includes pit stops at culturally significant places. People would greet the riders and offer them food and drink.

“Everywhere we went it occurred to me that these people were saying, ‘We are sorry for what our ancestors did to your ancestors,’” Lambert said, calling the ride a powerful experience.

For Lambert, the ride was not only momentous because of the history of his people but also because of his personal history. Lambert was almost 300 pounds when he was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in 2004. As an emotional eater with undiagnosed depression, he has always flirted with the border between pre-diabetic and diabetic. Until one day, he tumbled over that line.

But, for a year, he still did not change his eating habits or exercise. It wasn’t until he saw a documentary called “The Gift of Diabetes” about another native man struggling to control his diabetes and weight that Lambert realized he needed to shape up and stop making excuses.

The Cherokee need to forgive people for their wrongdoings and take responsibility for their problems as well, Lambert said in a speech to about 100 people this weekend.

“It is time as Indian people to stop being victims,” said Lambert, who now weighs less than 200 pounds.


What is the Trail of Tears?

In 1838, President Andrew Jackson pushed through legislation to remove the Cherokee Indians from their lands in Western North Carolina and other parts of the Southeast to Oklahoma so that white settlers could have their land.

White soldiers rounded up Cherokee people by force and placed them in fenced concentration camps while they continued to capture more Cherokee. Then, the Cherokee people were marched along one of five routes to Oklahoma where they were being forced to resettle.

Along the way to Oklahoma, thousands of Cherokee died from various maladies —malnutrition, exhaustion, disease, some froze to death along the Mississippi River during a particularly cold winter in Illinois. Those who survived the journey and made their home in the Oklahoma Reservation became known as the Cherokee Nation.

A small group who stayed behind became known as the Eastern Band. They fled and hid in the mountains from the white soldiers to escape the march to Oklahoma and were eventually permitted to stay.


The warm weather and sunshine brings a flurry of people to Waynesville’s downtown to enjoy the local fare — but it can also mean the beginning of busking season.

While Asheville is an epicenter for busking — slang for performing on the sidewalk in hopes of earning a few bucks from passersby — the phenomenon is fairly rare in downtown Waynesville. But every so often, someone will plop themselves down on a bench or take up a position along Main Street’s sidewalk and start crooning. For the most part, they are simply playing for fun.

“If they are just playing to play and it’s not causing a disturbance for somebody else, then we see no need (to address it),” said Waynesville Police Lt. Brian Beck.

But, if they decided to set out an instrument case, hat, jar or receptacle — or otherwise hint even slightly that donations are welcome — performers must have consent from the town.

In Waynesville, busking comes under the category of begging, which is banned per town ordinance. Performers used to have to receive express permission from the mayor himself to perform, but now what is needed is a permit. Buskers must fill out information with the planning and zoning office, which takes only a few minutes. Then, they would receive a permit from the town tax office at a cost of $25.

No permits have been issued for quite a while, however.

“I have not issued a permit for somebody playing an instrument since gosh, I don’t know when,” said James Robertson, the town tax collector.

That could be the reason why there have not been many, if any, problems during the past few years. However, in years prior, there were some issues — particularly with intoxicated individuals performing.

Enforcement is more report-based than anything else. The police will not stop just because they see someone performing. However, if the performer is noticeably causing problems or someone calls to complain, the police will respond.

“If a disturbance is taking place, we have to address it,” Beck said.

Like Waynesville, Sylva is not exactly hopping with buskers either, although the occassional college students from WCU have been known to play their guitar on benches.

“We don’t really have a glut of street performers here,” said Chris Cooper, a member of the Jackson County instrumental fusion band Noonday Sun. “It could just be early in the season.”

At most, Cooper said, he has only ever seen a couple of street performers, including a ukulele player and a saxophonist.

Sylva has stricter guidelines for performing on the town’s main roads. They must appear before the town board to request permission to play for donations.

However, buskers can play at festivals and the farmers market without any sort of permit or pre-approval.

Most businesses would not mind a little entertainment outside their doorstep.

“It is pretty OK with most of the shops around here,” Cooper said.

But town codes that prevent buskers from putting out a collection hat in Waynesville and Sylva could be part of the reason performers don’t take to the street in greater numbers.

Asheville has become a haven for buskers partially because it has no permitting process. Indeed, the vibrant and diverse busking scene is part of the city’s character.

Only performers who incorporate fire into their act are required to obtain a permit for safety reasons. That allows the fire department to keep tabs on them.

When walking downtown, it is difficult to turn a corner and not see at least one person busking. However, merchants irritated by buskers can legally ask them to move along.

“A business owner does have the right to ask them to leave if they are impeding business,” said Diane Ruggiero, superintendent of Cultural Arts in Asheville.

In general, though, business owners enjoy and welcome busking outside their doorstep.

“I think that that is one of the reasons that it works here. The business owners are receptive to it,” Ruggiero said. “A lot of them have good relationships with performers.”

And, although a few problems arise here and there, the system mostly works harmoniously.

Performers cannot stay in one place all day, pass a hat or sell merchandise. But, they can set out a hat or can or guitar case — a silent signal for donations. One thing that Ruggiero has tried to teach passersby is to ignore bad buskers.

Some people will give an ill-sounding musician or otherwise deficient performer money with the caveat that he or she stop or use the funds to take lessons. This doesn’t work, Ruggiero said. It only encourages them to continue.

“All you’ve done is given that bad musician a dollar,” Ruggiero said.


Regular coffee connoisseurs in Cherokee may have noticed a slight change in their popular downtown coffeehouse.

The Sequoyah Fund, an economic development nonprofit that makes small business loans, is now running what was formerly Tribal Grounds under the name Cherokee Coffee Shop.

Tribal Grounds was foreclosed on after former owner Natalie Smith neglected to pay the rent for the business. The Sequoyah Fund, which lent Smith money for the lease and start-up costs, took over the shop and decided to keep it open during the foreclosure process rather than leave a vacant building in the middle of the downtown district.

“It’s in the best interest to keep the business open,” said Ray Rose, a Sequoyah Fund board member who is running the coffee shop for now. “We were also requested by the tribal business community to keep it open.”

Part of the collateral for the loan from the Fund was Smith’s business. So when Smith did not pay the rent and foreclosure documents were filed, the business came under the auspices of The Sequoyah Fund. The nonprofit then hopes to sell the business, which is currently housed in a tribally owned building.

“There are people lined up. There is significant interest,” Rose said.

The coffeehouse was closed for one week while the Fund transferred the business to its name and underwent the required inspections.

“We were able to do that in a week, which is incredible,” Rose said.

Leaders with the Sequoyah Fund declined to provide details of the loans granted to Smith.

“I think you are pushing the limit there on things that are confidential,” said Rose. Rose did say that it had been a “significant amount of time” since Smith had last made a payment toward the lease.

Michell Hicks, chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, also abstained from divulging any particulars about the loans or any other debts owed but indicated that the amount is considerable and more than any potential buyer might want to take on.

“I am not sure if they (Sequoyah Fund) will find anyone to take on the amount of debt,” Hicks said. “They may have to accept cents on the dollar.”

A lawsuit against the tribe may also result from the foreclosure. The tribe owned the building that Smith rented for her coffeehouse.

“There have been allegations (but) nothing’s been filed at this point,” Hicks said.

Hicks said he is glad that the coffee shop will remain open, at least for now, calling it “a business that Cherokee desperately needs.”

Attempts to contact Smith were unsuccessful. However, she released a statement to WLOS two weeks ago.

“I acknowledge there have been financial difficulties with my business and I have diligently pursed resolutions to those difficulties. Unfortunately, I have not been able to meet the demands of the Business Committee and the Sequoyah Fund,” said Smith in the statement. “The (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and the Tribe have changed the locks on my business over my express objections. This situation continues to develop, and I am seeking legal assistance.”

With the exception of the coffeehouse in Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel, Tribal Grounds is the only coffee shop in the Cherokee area. The shop was recently honored with the distinction of having its coffee grounds served and sold at The Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

The Sequoyah Fund is a nonprofit that loans money for business ventures and provides training and other resources to companies on the Qualla Boundary and in the seven western counties. The regional loan program has used casino dollars to help provide training and technical assistance to more than 1,000 individuals and extended more than 135 loans totaling almost $4.6 million since 2001.


Haywood County will help ease the burden faced by towns as they start trucking their trash all the way to the county’s far-flung landfill.

County commissioners will allocate more than $100,000 to towns to help cover the added cost of the trash journey, from more trash workers to extra trash trucks. Starting this summer, the county will no longer allow towns and commercial trash services to bring their loads to a mid-point trash transfer station in Clyde and instead will make them go all the way to the White Oak landfill, an extra hour or more roundtrip.

During a public hearing on the county budget this week, commissioners made a point to highlight the county’s contribution to towns’ trash operations.

The county will save hundreds of thousands by closing the transfer station to town and commercial trash trucks but will share some of those savings back with the towns to offset the burden and ideally prevented town residents trash rates from going up.

The county will pay the towns of Waynesville, Canton and Clyde $15 for each household that they pick up garbage from.

“All of them were very supportive of that funding formula,” said County Manager Marty Stamey.

Clyde will receive $7,500; Canton will get $23,700; and Waynesville will be allocated $80,670.

The goal of the money is to prevent towns from having to pass the buck onto their residents. Canton and Clyde have committed to not raising their rates.

“The whole concept of this was to alleviate the burden on those citizens,” Stamey said.

However, Waynesville is still recommending a rate increase, though the amount is unknown.

“What the county is offering us doesn’t come anywhere close to what the additional costs will be,” said former Town Manager Lee Galloway, who is acting as a consultant for the town until July. The estimated cost of hauling its own trash to White Oak is $160,000.

Galloway added that the town appreciates the money that the county is able to provide.

The county hopes the contribution will be an annual allocation, according Stamey.

The county already subsidizes the trash journey to White Oak for county residents who don’t live inside the town limits. County residents without town trash pick-up drop their garbage at dumpster lots located in communities throughout the county. The county then pays to have it trucked to White Oak.

Maggie won’t see any assistance, because for it, the White Oak landfill isn’t any further than the transfer station in Clyde.


Fire tax districts

Residents served by the North Canton and Maggie Valley fire departments will see a 1-cent increase in their fire district taxes next year. The fire tax is tacked on to people’s property tax bills based on every $100 of property valuation.

At the budget public hearing this week, commissioners invited people involved with the North Canton and Maggie Valley fire departments to talk briefly about the tax increases each requested.

The North Canton Volunteer Fire Department has asked for a one-cent increase in its tax rate next year. The current rate is 5.5 cents.

The rate is “considerably lower than other fire departments” in the county and will increase for one year only, said Board Chairman Mark Swanger.

The extra cent will augment the fire department’s budget so it can replace aging gear. The department has already saved $25,000.

“But, we need some more to do that,” said Ben Williamson, chairman of board of North Canton Volunteer Fire Department.

The Maggie Valley Fire Department has also asked for an one-cent increase to help pay for more full-time employees to man the building 24-7. Eventually, the added revenue might be used for new gear as well.

“The big thing is personnel,” said Jan Pressley, who spoke on behalf of the department.

The new employees could mean a lower insurance rates for residents in the valley.


A feeling of déjà vu swept over the Haywood County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday as they reviewed more than $19,000 worth of changes to the Haywood Community College’s creative arts building project.

These were not the first, or even the second, design issues that have arisen during the already controversial project. The construction has racked up more than $300,000 in changes, which has left the commissioners wondering how much more money they will have to shell out and, more importantly, how much of that they will get back.

The project is still within its $10.2-million budget. A contingency fund was built into the price tag to cover unexpected costs that crop up during the course of construction. There is still more than $300,000 in the fund.

The conversation between the commissioners and Bill Dechant, HCC’s director of campus development, seemed rehearsed the third time around as Dechant described some additional work that needed to be done to a steel structural column.

“Was this a design error?” asked Board Chairman Mark Swanger.

“It was a design omission,” Dechant said.

“It will be taken up with the architect?” Swanger then queried.

“Yes,” Dechant replied on cue.

The college has already begun negotiations with the architect regarding mistakes that have arisen during the project. Architects from the Raleigh-based Innovative Design have taken responsibility for some of the problems, and HCC hopes that the firm will reimburse the county for the cost of those errors.

Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick asked the college to provide the board with updates on the reimbursement negotiations with the architectural firm and a local surveyor.

“I really hope you all put the pressure on the architect and the surveyor,” said Commissioner Mike Sorrells.

Dechant moved onto the priciest of the three change orders, re-grading and repaving a parking lot — a nearly $16,500 cost. The revision was to solve drainage problems that resulted from a lack of information on a topographical survey.

It was not an omission or an error, Dechant said. “It just did not have enough detail.”

However, Commissioner Kevin Ensley, a surveyor by trade, said the survey should have included enough information to prevent the problem.

“They should have gotten that information. A survey should pick this up,” Ensley said. “It’s an omission.”

When asked who the surveyor was, Dechant laughed uncomfortably and admitted that he could not recall at that time. The same survey led to additional costs last month related to the repaving of a sidewalk to prevent other drainage problems.

Although the commissioners seem increasingly exasperated by the repeat visits, Dechant repeated that the amount of revisions is minor considering the scope of the $10.2 million project.

“It’s a complex building, and we have had very few change orders considering,” Dechant said.

It looks like even more change orders are in the cards, however. Another round of change orders were considered by the college’s Board of Trustees at their meeting last week — six change orders in all valued at nearly $12,000.

Change orders first go through the college trustees, then on to the commissioners, so commissioners are likely to get this next batch eventually. The list also reflects more than $7,000 in savings because of various changes to the project.

In January, Dechant went before the Haywood County Board of Commissioners seeking approval to use more than $262,000 in contingency funds. Most of it went to a water pump needed to provide adequate water pressure for the building’s sprinkler system.

Architects from Innovative Design erred when studying the water pressure earlier in the planning process. They tested the pressure in the main water lines running through campus a few hundred feet below the building site. As water flows up the hill to the new building, it loses pressure — a fact the architect did not factor into his plans, Dechant said at a previous commissioners meeting.

In April, he returned to the Board of Commissioners asking for a little more than $25,000 to widen a doorway, reinforce an outside deck and construct a retaining wall as well as pay for a couple of minor miscellaneous items.

Last year, the commissioners and college administrators battled for months about the scope of the creative arts building project, before settling on a plan. Commissioners insisted that the college slash the price of its plans, while administrators argued that the building construction and amenities had been whittled down enough already.

The new facility will house studio and classroom space for students studying the creative arts, such as pottery and woodwork.

Money to pay for the new building is coming from a quarter-cent sales tax approved by county voters more than four years ago to fund improvements to Haywood Community College’s campus.


Two businesses — Copper Pot and Wooden Spoon, and Belle on Main Salon and Spa — came out winners during the Haywood Chamber of Commerce’s seventh annual Business Start-up Competition this year.

Thirteen entrepreneurs contended for the $10,000 prize purse this year. The competition is judged by a four-person panel of representatives from the economic development and financial sectors in the county. The field is then narrowed to two before a winner is announced. However, this year, both finalists were named victors, splitting the money in half.

“Both have a great deal of passion. They have a passion that they eat, breathe and sleep,” said Charles Umberger, chairman of the Chamber’s Business and Economic Development Committee and president and CEO of Old Town Bank.

Contestants had to submit a detailed business plan describing their concept, current progress and future goals. While the winning businesses get a tangible boost in their start-up venture, one virtue of the competition is simply encouraging entrepreneurs to formulate a business plan, so even those who don’t win are still better off for going through the process.

The winning submissions had “lots of good things,” Umberger said.

Small businesses account for millions and millions of new jobs in the U.S. every year. That is why the chamber and other sponsors continue to reward quality small business ideas annually, Umberger said.

“Small business matters in the United States. It matters big time,” Umberger said.

A key pillar of economic development is to promote the start-up and expansion of local and small businesses in Haywood County.

“I have never been anywhere as entrepreneur-friendly as Haywood County,” said Ken Flynt, a longtime banking executive, finance professor at Western Carolina University and Chamber board member. “This really is a great place for entrepreneurs.”

In addition to the chamber, other competition sponsors include BB&T, Old Town Bank, Evergreen Packaging, Haywood Vocational Opportunities, Beverly Hanks, Clark & Leatherwood, Northwestern Mutual, Smoky Mountain Development, Haywood County Economic Development Commission, the Western Carolina University College of Business, Haywood Advancement Foundation, Aermor and Haywood Community College’s Small Business Center.


Artisan foods, salon take prize for best business plan

The winners of this year’s Haywood County Chamber of Commerce Business Start-up Competition represent the two sides of business — goods and service.

One provides a valued service to consumers, while the other sells quality products. Each received $5,000 for winning the contest for entrepreneurs with the promise of creating jobs this year.

Belle on Main Salon and Spa

Belle on Main Salon and Spa opened less than a month ago on South Main Street in Waynesville. The business is a full-service salon and owned by Joey Del Bosque, who previously worked solely as a masseur.

“I’ve been self-employed for a very longtime, and this was an opportunity to branch out,” Del Bosque said.

Del Bosque is a certified massage therapist with 16 years experience and received his certification in cosmetic arts from Haywood Community College. He also holds a business and accounting degree and worked as an accountant for 10 years.

The salon is “ clean, bright, new, modern,” said Charles Umberger, the president of Old Town Bank who announced the winners on behalf of the chamber at a luncheon last week. The business plan was impressive because it exhibited Del Bosque’s money management background, with goals, projections and budgets, Umberger said.

The salon has been a dream for Del Bosque for a while, and he was able to reach out to others for help.

“By God, he pulled it off,” Umberger said. “Through family, friends and angels, he got some start-up financing.”

Del Bosque will use the money from the competition to advertise his new business, helping to ensure its success.

“(The money) means an opportunity to launch our name,” Del Bosque said.

Copper Pot and Wooden Spoon

The second time’s a charm for Copper Pot and Wooden Spoon. After entering the competition last year, the owners, a pair of sisters-in-law, decided to try again and took home half of this year’s $10,000 prize.

Dayna Stubee and Jessica DeMarco started the venture about a year ago and are the sole employees. The business makes and sells jams, pickles and other artisan foods using ingredients from six local farms.

“It is something we have always done as a family thing,” DeMarco said. Both women have degrees in culinary arts.

The business has no storefront currently, but they sell their goods at the Historic Waynesville Farmers Market and on With the money, the pair plans to hire a part-time employee and expand their production.

Part of the reason they were chosen was because of their focus on handcrafted items and local sustainability, Umberger said.


Business owners needs to put aside their bickering and resentments for the good of Maggie Valley, Mayor Ron DeSimone emphasized last week.

“This community has been divided for a long time,” DeSimone said at a Maggie Chamber of Commerce meeting last Tuesday. “We need a united voice. We need to come together.”

A builder and architect by trade, DeSimone likes to have a plan, but he said he needs help to make a comprehensive business plan for Maggie Valley.

“I’ve created a business plan for my business but not for a whole valley,” DeSimone said. “All I am asking for is a little of your time.”

With help from the Southwestern Commission, Maggie Valley received a $20,000 grant from the North Carolina Rural Center to develop such a plan for the valley. The commission also pointed the town to Craig Madison, the former president and CEO of the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa. Madison, along with Maggie leaders, will travel from business to business talking to people about what they want for the valley.

Input from business owners will be the heart of the plan, DeSimone said.

“This is their plan. It belongs to the valley,” DeSimone said. “We are here to get it started.”

Madison will also be involved in crafting an economic development plan that will create a unique identity for the town, set goals for the valley, quantitatively measure growth and, most importantly, give Maggie a singular, cohesive vision.

“Something that tells us if we are on the right path,” DeSimone said.

Maggie Valley was hit hard by the recession and has been criticized in the past for pinning all its hopes and dreams on Ghost Town in the Sky, a once-popular amusement park, which like the valley fell into decline. The park was in foreclosure for a few years before longtime resident Alaska Presley bought Ghost Town and vowed to revive it.

But, people cannot expect her to save Maggie and must find some other baskets to put their eggs in, DeSimone said.

“Alaska can’t do this by herself. She can’t carry the valley,” DeSimone said.

Presley was on hand at the meeting to update attendees on the amusement park, which she hopes to re-open around July 1. Presley will only open the first of the park’s three levels. The lowest level will include a zipline and refurbished versions of some of Ghost Town’s original rides.

“The progress there is good,” Presley said. “There is enough that people would enjoy it.”

The chair lift that takes visitors up the mountain to the park is nearly fixed, and work will soon begin on the incline railway, another mode of transportation up the mountainside. However, the railway will take at least five months to fix. Work has also begun on the zipline.

Workers are still in the process of digging wells to meet Ghost Town’s water supply needs and then will need to redo the park’s plumbing, which was damaged during the seasonal freeze and thaw. However, come hell or high water, Presley is confident that the mountain will re-open by mid-summer and that she will slowly be able to restore the other two levels of the park, which will feature an Old West Town and religious-themed elements.


In addition to the obvious benefits of tourism — jobs and revenue for the county — tourism dollars save Haywood County residents a few hundred dollars in taxes every year.

Steve Morse, a mathematics professor at the University of Tennessee, presented business owners and county tourism leaders with a faux jumbo check made out to “Each County Household.” The check was for $334.

Without tourism dollars, every household would be paying out that much more money in taxes each year.

Tourists are “temporary taxpayers,” said Morse, who spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority celebrating National Tourism Week.

“What a country! Where you can have people say, ‘Please come pay part of our taxes,’ and people say, ‘Sure,’” Morse said.

The tourism and hospitality industry constitute one-fifth of the jobs in Haywood County, Morse added.

“Tourism plays a large role in many people’s lives,” Morse said.

Even that truism seems like an understatement when looking at recent tourism spending numbers, which have rebounded back to pre-recession figures.

In 2007, $116.7 million was spent on tourism in Haywood County — only $400,000 more than in 2010.

“As we look forward, we see a bright future,” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority.

One particular advantage that Haywood County, and Western North Carolina in general, have over other parts of the country is an abundance of adventure activities — kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and the like.

“Adventure tourism is hot as a firecracker,” Morse said.

Morse pointed out that the same perks that make Haywood County a great place to visit can turn those visitors into residents or business owners.

“Today’s visitor could tomorrow’s business investor,” Morse said.

And, although good schools, affordable housing, available transportation and low tax and crime rates are still important, the next generation of entrepreneurs is also looking for open spaces, “local, unique flavor,” a sense of community, diverse cultures and natural resources when finding a place to settle.

“They want to live in Mayberry,” Morse said.

With changes in technology, people will be able to work from pretty much anywhere, he said, and Haywood County should play up its attributes to draw in new residents and businesses.

“People will change to live and work in places with diverse cultures,” Morse said.


Haywood is banding together with Transylvania, Buncombe, Henderson and Madison counties under a project titled GroWNC, designed to get the region thinking collectively about ways to develop the economy with a focus on sustainability.

GroWNC is currently holding meetings in all five counties to gain feedback on the goals and gather information about their residents, including one planned in Haywood County this week. Participants are being asked everything from what people love most about Western North Carolina to individual demographics to opinions about the program.

“It is trying to take a long-term vision of the area and see what our common issues are,” said Waynesville’s Assistant Town Manager Alison Melnikova. “It’s basically everything people like about Western North Carolina and preserving it.”

The group will focus on seven core areas: jobs and economic development; housing; natural resources; cultural resources; energy; land use; transportation; and health and wellness.

The consortium is led by an 18-member committee, which is responsible for prioritizing work activities, participating in the selection of consultants and making recommendations to guide the project. Sub-committees have been formed to address the seven specific areas.

Each of the committees has drafted a list of goals that it hopes to work toward that will promote growth and more inter-connectivity between the counties, rather than each county taking its own path.

“GroWNC better conveys our goal of growing together as a region,” said Carrie Runser-Turner, senior planner with Land-of-Sky Regional Council, a multi-county local government planning and development organization. “Really what we are trying to do is look at the choices we make in these areas (and) how they are inter-related.”

Among the goals are creating effective job training programs; exploring alternative energy options; increasing transportation choices; promoting community health resources such as gym class in schools and physical activity programs; building mixed use neighborhoods with a “sense of place;” and encouraging the development of affordable housing, among others.

The meetings being held throughout the project region are informal, allowing people to move from table to table as they wish and skip over areas that they don’t have an particular interest in. Door prizes will also be given away at the meetings.

“The participants get to shape their experience with this meeting,” Melnikova said.

A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant was awarded to the counties for the project through the Land-of-Sky.


Want to participate?

Haywood Community College will host an informational and feedback meeting from 4-7 p.m. on May 16 in the Charles Beall Auditorium. If you cannot attend the meeting at HCC, check out for other upcoming meetings and more information about GroWNC.


The next five years could include the construction of an adventure park, a canopy walk and another casino for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, according to a preliminary outline of its 2012 economic development plan.

Every five years, the Eastern Band creates an updated economic development plan that outlines what the tribe accomplished during the previous five years and its plans for the future.

Several items in the 2012 strategic plan are simply continuations of work started in 2007, such as diversifying its attractions.

With the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel being its main draw, a number of Cherokee’s visitors are 21 years or older. To create greater family appeal, the tribe is looking into the possibility of adding a canopy walk  — a high-elevation nature stroll through the tree tops. The attraction would feature suspended bridges stretching from tree to tree and give visitors a bird’s eye view of the area.

“The environment, the mountains, the streams and everything are so important to Cherokee,” said Doug Cole, a strategic planner with the Eastern Band. “(The canopy walk) takes advantage of that; it doesn’t try to degrade it.”

A likely locale for the canopy walk would be near Mt. Noble in Birdtown, Cole said.

In addition to the walk, the tribe is also making plans to construct a family friendly adventure park, an idea that it has tossed around for a while. The park could include various activities, such as a zipline and climbing wall, as well as a water park. The facility would be open year-round, with some elements inside and some outside.

“There is an opportunity there for the kids and family market,” Cole said. “It could be something that all Western North Carolina could be proud of.”

After finding that project is indeed feasible and that there is enough demand, the Eastern Band then began looking into how it could finance its construction — something it is still figuring out. The park could cost between $90 million and $100 million, Cole estimated, calling the numbers a “pure guess.”

“It really depends upon … how much we want to build,” Cole said.

An adventure park would also help with another goal of the tribe — to diversify its job opportunities and revenue streams.

“I think diversifying the income from the tribe is very important. Right now, we depend on the casino quite a bit,” Cole said. “You don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket.”

That is not to say that enrolled members are not grateful for the support the casino provides. In fact, the tribe has discussed expanding its gambling operations, not just within its current casino but also to another part of the reservations.

For a while, the tribe has discussed the possibility of building new casinos on other tribally owned lands. And now that the living gaming compact is looking more likely to pass, building a small-scale casino in Cherokee County is the gaming commission’s No. 1 priority, said Don Rose, a member of the commission. It would not be a full-fledged casino but would be more than a bingo hall, and Harrah’s would not necessarily be affiliated with the new casino.

“This would be a totally separate casino,” Rose said.

Although a large portion of the economic plan involves tourism, it also addresses quality of life for enrolled members.

The reservation only has one large commercial grocery, Food Lion, and no national retail stores. Many enrolled members must drive to the Walmart in Sylva for the simplest things.

“If you wanted to buy a tie or shirt, you would have to drive to Sylva and back,” Cole said. “We need to have that available.”

There is also no drug store, like a Walgreens or CVS, where enrolled members or even visitors can easily pick up a prescription when necessary, he said.

The tribe will also look into investing more into tribally owned businesses through operations such as the Sequoyah Fund.

The blueprint, formally called the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, helps the tribe when applying for federal monies.

Since 2007, when the last plan was drafted, the Eastern Band has received $3.37 million for economic development projects, states the report.

Mostly, however, the economic strategy plan is a map detailing what the Eastern Band hopes to achieve during the next half decade.

“The real reason we do this is to keep us on strategy on what we want to do during the next five years,” said Cole. “Hopefully by 2017, we can make a lot of that happen, too.”

It’s track record on seeing project through has been surprisingly good. Past CEDS projects include the construction of the Sequoyah National Golf Club, a movie theater, a skate park and smattering the reservation with painted bear statues, among others.

The tribe will spend this month prioritizing projects and developing action plans. A final draft of the economic development strategy will be submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration by the end of September.


Speak out

To voice your opinion, review the plan or find out information about public meetings regarding the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, visit


When none of the Republican candidates for Congress garnered 40 percent of the votes during the May 8 primary, the election got more complicated.

Rather than narrowing the long list of candidates to two — one Republican and one Democrat — the primary left Republicans with two candidates who will participate in a second primary on June 26. That delay could possibly give the Democratic nominee, Hayden Rogers, a head start going into the November general election as the two remaining Republican candidates, Vance Patterson and Mark Meadows, continue to duke it out for their party’s nomination for another six weeks.

“Does it make it more difficult? Yes. Does it make it impossible? No,” Meadows said.

The field was already overflowing with candidates from both sides of the aisle looking to snatch up the seat of departing Congressman Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville. Eight Republicans lined up to fight for the position, while three distinct Democratic candidates jumped into the ring for a comparatively easy battle amongst themselves.

With so many Republican candidates, it was difficult for voters to distinguish most of them from Adam. So, when May 8 finally rolled around, voters in the Republican primary split their ballots too many ways.

Meadows received nearly 38 percent of the votes — just 2 percentage points shy of the need 40 percent for the nomination. Meanwhile, Patterson, who garnered 23.6 percent of the votes, will have a second chance in a runoff.

Meadows, 52 of Cashiers, is the candidate who drew the short end of the stick, said Chris Cooper, an associate professor of political science at Western Carolina University.

“It’s a good day for Hayden. It’s a good day for Patterson. It’s not so good a day for Meadows,” Cooper said. “It has complicated Meadows’ life.”

A second primary means a divide in campaign funding and volunteers and no one for the Republican Party as a whole to gather their support behind.

“You are splitting everything a campaign needs between two candidates,” Cooper said.

Although a runoff is not the ideal situation for Meadows, the May 8 primary showed that he has a broad base of support. Meadows won the majority of votes in all but four counties in the district.

“It doesn’t mean he will win, but he is clearly the frontrunner going forward,” Cooper said.

Meadows will have to make a strategic decision — to run against Patterson only until June or position his message as if he has secured the nomination, Cooper said.

Although he hit a snag, Meadows said his strategy for the election will not change, and he will continue to focus on appealing to all voters, not just one group.

“Instead of talking about other candidates, we have talked about our message,” Meadows said. “We are going to go ahead with our message — less government, less spending.”

As for Patterson, Cooper said his best option is to focus on the runoff race.

“Patterson needs to aim to beat Meadows, and Meadows has a tough choice to make,” Cooper said.

And, that is exactly what Patterson said he plans to do.

“A lot of the work’s been done,” said Patterson, who started the race with little to no name recognition. “I just need to make sure I can differentiate myself from Mark (Meadows).”

In most cases, second place is a disappointment, but for Patterson, runner up in the Republican congressional primary is exactly what he was aiming for.

“We are really where we hoped to be,” Patterson said. “We were hoping to make the runoff.”

Patterson said he thinks that he can close the gap in support during the next six weeks.

“Why would I not continue on? We’ve got good momentum,” Patterson said. “We made the playoffs, and when your team makes it into the playoffs, anything can happen.”

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is in a difficult position since it cannot officially support anyone until a nominee is chosen. The Democratic Party, however, can start putting its political weight and funding behind Hayden Rogers, a Blue Dog Democrat and former chief of staff to Shuler.

“It puts us at a tremendous disadvantage,” said Ralph Slaughter, chair of the Jackson County Republican Party. “It would make it much easier if my job was supporting one person as opposed to two people.”


The cost of a runoff

Close races come at a cost — a steep cost for cash-strapped counties that can ill afford to stage a special “do-over” election when no clear victor emerges the first time around.

When there’s a crowded field, as there was in this year’s Republican primary contest for Congress, if none of the candidates secure at least 40 percent of the votes cast, the runner-up has the right to call for a special run-off election.

And that means county taxpayers must foot the bill. How much?

“More than $25,000 and probably close to $30,000,” said Robert Inman, director of Haywood County’s Board of Elections. “We are looking at a major expense.”

Jackson County’s board budgeted $25,000 to cover the cost of any runoffs this year, but it is unclear if it will need to find more.

“It’s just really hard to tell,” said Lisa Lovedahl-Lehman, director of the Jackson County BOE. “I base (the amount) on past years.”

Haywood County hasn’t budgeted any additional money specifically for such cases.

“We just kind of have to pay those bills as they come along,” Inman said. “Haywood County has not budgeted any (funds) at all, not one penny.”

Instead, the money is a mixture of any leftover elections funding and county contingency funds.

The Macon County’s Board of Elections estimated its cost to be between $20,000 and $25,000.

Cost depends on a number of variables: How many runoff elections there are? How many machines and employees will be required to man the polls? How many early voting sites must it operate? Are there runoffs for both Democratic and Republican races, which would up the number of ballots needed?

“You are basically turning around and doing another election,” said Joan Weeks, director of the Swain County Board of Elections.

The Swain County board will have to return once again with its hands out to the Board of Commissioners to help pay for any runoffs. The election board approached the commissioners earlier this year asking for money to pay for an early voting site in Cherokee. Now, it will go back for more funding. The total cost of an election in Swain County is between $6,000 and $12,000.

Primaries typically report low turnouts anyway — ranging from 12 to 30 percent during the past decade.  

For runoffs, or secondary primaries, voter turnout numbers are far lower. Runoff turnouts are anywhere from 2 percent to 12 percent of registered voters, Lovedahl estimated.

It is nearly impossible to replicate the emotion that first drove voters to the polls for the primary or that will drive them to the polls come November.

“You can’t change the emotion that they had the first time,” Inman said.

“The cost leaves some wondering if the restrictions are too tight. I wonder if there is not perhaps a better way.” said Ralph Slaughter, chair of the Jackson County Republican Party. 


The Jackson County farmers market had three or four vendors who regularly showed up each week to sell their homegrown goods in 2001.

For the most part, the growers would sit around, chew the fat and trade produce.

“It was kind of our farmer’s morning out,” said Cathy Arps, who runs Vegenui Garden with her husband Ron.

The vendors would make maybe a few sales during the day. However, mostly, people would drive-by the market, roll down their car windows and glance at the offerings before zipping off.

“It was very difficult,” Arps said. But, “The farmers of the farmers market hung on.”

Now, about a decade later, the number of vendors has more than septupled and the amount of customers has grown even more.

The Jackson County market is not an anomaly. The number of vendors at the Waynesville farmers market went from fewer than a dozen in 2008 to now more than 60, with crowds perusing all their options. Beeswax candles, goat’s milk soap, sauces and rubs, cheese and round out the traditional baskets and tables of produce.

“There is a tremendous movement underfoot to save your local farmers,” said Carol James, former president with the Haywood Historic Farmers Market.

Both markets are representative of a nationwide trend that spread during the last several years. Considerably more people are buying local.

“The farmers market is sort of a snapshot of the radical change,” Arps said.

The desire to buy local goes beyond food. People are growing tired of the mass-produced, dime-a-dozen riffraff made overseas that line the shelves of retail giants. Locally made is a hip alternative.

Looking to capitalize on the movement, Haywood County and the downtown Waynesville business district are finding ways to promote locally produced merchandise that is unique to the area as well as items made within the U.S. — which seem difficult to find when perusing the tags at any area department store.

Taking a cue from the Good Morning, America series “Made in America,” Buffy Phillips, executive director of the Waynesville Downtown Association, decided to find out what businesses in Waynesville’s downtown sell items crafted in Western North Carolina and in the U.S.

“I just thought it was time we came together and promoted it,” Phillips said. “I find that customers are asking. They want to know what is made in the USA and locally.”

Phillips has been compiling a list of downtown businesses with U.S. and locally made wares. Although American-made clothes are still difficult to find, people can find WNC-made jewelry at the Jeweler’s Workbench or buy dog treats at the Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery. High Country Home sells furniture and cabinets constructed in Waynesville and hardwood floors from Franklin. And, the local brews are taking off with Headwaters Brewing Company, Frog Level Brewery and soon at the Tipping Point. With the exception of a few items, most food necessities can be found around town — from the smoked tomato jam at Sunburst Trout Market to barbecue sauces to jams and salsa.

Phillips is distributing stacks of stickers and signs to businesses along the downtown Main Street strip that each can used to advertise whether they sell products made in the U.S.

Twigs and Leaves Art Gallery is already one step ahead of the curve with a map displayed in its window, showing where in the U.S. each of its products hails from — all but a handful are from within WNC.

“I would love to think that everybody on the street would have something made in North Carolina,” Phillips said.

And, in a couple of months, the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority will launch its own similar campaign “Homegrown in Haywood.” The logo of the advertising initiative is a needle inside of a fish, inside of a duclimer, inside of an artist’s palette, inside of an apple.

Visitors want to experience the local culture, buy things that are specific to the area and eat what the locals eat, said Lynn Collins, executive director of the Haywood TDA. The marketing campaign helps point people in the right direction and also advertise the things that make the county different.

Part of the movement in Western North Carolina is also about preserving Appalachian culture, which is why the dulcimer — a locally significant instrument — is included in the tourism agency’s logo.

In addition to food and art, there are blacksmiths who makes tools, woodworkers who build tables, soap makers, bookbinders, people who manufacture guns — all too numerous to count.

“Locavesting” catching on

People aren’t just purchasing more items grown, constructed and masterminded in Western North Carolina, but they are willing to invest in local ventures.

For example, when Annie’s Naturally Bakery closed late this year, 10 area residents pooled their money to help the popular Sylva joint reopen.

“I think this is a concept that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people,” said Frank Lockwood, an assistant professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Western North Carolina University. “I think we will find more and more examples of this locavesting as we figure out how to do it.”

Along the same vein, some area growers have begun selling season-long memberships to their farm’s bounty, guaranteeing an individual a portion of the crops that are harvested each week.

“It is basically like people buying a subscription to your product,” Arps said.

Although the products are slightly pricier than their grocery store counterparts, people are willing to pay that little extra for natural products without all the additives, preservatives and extra unnecessary stuff.

Jackson resident and farmer Jackie Hooper hasn’t heard any complaints about her reduced sugar apple butter-like spread. In fact, she said, less is what more people are looking for.

“People don’t seem to mind that there isn’t more sugar,” said Hooper, who also sells chicken, quail and rabbit, among other items. “They are actually glad because sugar is one of the things they are actually trying to cut down on.”

That sentiment hits on a big reason why people want to buy straight from the farmer rather than the grocery store. People are more health conscious compared to the past.

“They are really reading package labels,” said Hooper, of Shared Blessings Farm in Cullowhee. “They no longer want to buy it ready-made in a grocery store.”

In many cases, the product is also tastier, since it had a shorter distance to travel before it ended up on someone’s plate.

Robin Smith, of Lenoir’s Devon in Canton, is one of several cattle farmers in Haywood County whose focus is to deliver fresher, higher quality beef without a middleman.

“We were just really interested in selling a better product than the grocery stores had,” Smith said. “(The beef) doesn’t go from a big plant and have additives in it.”

In places like Western North Carolina, the movement only seems natural given the vast tracts of open land. There have always been farmers in the area, but after WWII, fewer Americans grew their own food or received produce from a nearby farm. And now, the nation is moving back toward its roots.

“There are now people that are willing to grow the products and make it available,” Lockwood said. “In the neck of the woods we live in … it’s something that makes a lot of sense.”

The dour economy has also played a role in national shift in mentality as people lost their jobs and saw manufacturing facilities move overseas, making buyers more conscious of where their purchases come from.

“I guess now with a loss of businesses and employees, we don’t want to lose anymore,” Phillips said.


Whether it’s called pickin’, groovin’ or jammin’ — every summer, Western North Carolina blends its majestic mountain views with its heritage music at various concerts and jam sessions.

Although each is different, the concept of the events is simple. Musicians come together from around Western North Carolina to play music.

“For musicians and listeners alike, the jam makes it possible to step back in time when life was basic, simple and unhurried. They all come for one thing — to learn, share and enjoy the enduring music that has wafted across the hills and hollers from the cabins, porches, school houses and church houses of Appalachia for centuries,” said Judy Sipes, an autoharp player who plays in Old Time Music Jam in the yard of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Some jam sessions, like Pickin’ in the Park in Canton, result in a group of three or four artists playing in one area, surrounded by other gatherings of three or four musicians hosting their own pickin’ sessions. Spectators can move from group to group during the event. Others, including Pickin’ in the Square in Franklin, have open mics followed by a headlining band. Then, there are shows such as Concerts on the Creek in Sylva, which feature a scheduled band or musician each week.

Concerts on the Creek is a relatively young event that started four years ago as a once a month musical performance aimed at attracting more people to the downtown.

“At the time, it was the beginning of the economic recession, and we felt like this would be a great way to bring tourists into the area to do something for free,” said Julie Spiro, executive director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Travel and Tourism Authority. Spiro added that the event also gives area residents something free and fun to do in their town.

Concerts on the Creek soon grew from a small monthly event to a weekly one that, on average, brings 600 to 700 people to downtown Sylva every Friday night. Balsam Range, which plays each year, draws about 1,5000 spectators.

“It sort of depends on the weather and the band,” Spiro said.

After last year, the event had gotten so big that the Jackson County chamber, the town of Sylva and the recreation park, who all sponsor Concerts on the Creek, were required to hire a police officer to patrol it this summer.

Although she does not have any concrete data, Spiro said that several businesses have told her that they see a bump in business as a result of the Concerts on the Creek.

“They are busier,” Spiro said.

There’s another undeniable drawing card for the outdoor music that fills the air on summer evenings in the mountains: it’s free.

“All you have to do is bring your chair and come downtown,” said Linda Schlott, director of the Franklin Main Street program.

More than 200 people turn out every Saturday night for Pickin’ on the Square in Franklin.

“People love Pickin’ on the Square,” Schlott said. “The entertainment is different every week. Some nights it is clogging; some nights it is 60s music; some nights it is bluegrass.”

One element of Pickin’ on the Square is a one-hour open mic session before the main band takes the stage, a local version of American Idol that gives anyone their chance in the spotlight.


Community jams

Gather round for some old-fashioned mountain music. Free. Bring a lawn chair or blanket.

Haywood County

• Pickin’ in the Park from 7 to 10 p.m. every Friday night at the Canton Recreation Park in Canton.

• Street dances from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on select Friday nights in front of the historic courthouse in downtown Waynesville. Mountains music, clogging and square dancing. June 22, July 6, July 20 and August 3.

Jackson County

• Concerts on the Creek from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. every Friday night at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva. The complete 10-week schedule is as follows: Sundown (May 25); Vinyl Brothers Big Band (June 1); Rafe Hollister (June 8); Balsam Range (June 15); Mountain Faith (June 22); Buchanan Boys (June 29); The Johnny Webb Band (July 6); Empty Pockets (July 13); The Elderly Brothers (July 20); and Dashboard Blue (July 27).

• Groovin’ on the Green is held on the Cashiers Village Commons on Friday nights during summer, starting June 1. The series is sponsored by the Greater Cashiers Merchants Association. Artists include Hurricane Creek (June 1); Honeycutters (June 8); Rafe Hollister (June 15); Von Grey (June 22); Velvet Truckstop (July 6); One Leg Up (July 13); and Leigh Glass & The Hazards (July 27). 828.743.1630.

Macon County

• Pickin’ on the Square at 6:30 p.m. every Saturday night in downtown Franklin through Aug. 25. Open-mic, followed by main entertainment. The next 12-weeks of bands is as follows: The Johnny Webb Band (May 19), Sundown (May 26), Highway 76 (June 2), Heart of the South Band, featuring Earl Coward (June 9), The Elderly Brothers (June 16), The Tonesman (June 23), Tugelo Holler (June 30), Lisa Price Band (July 7), Miller Creek Bluegrass Band (July 14), Michael Reno Harrell (July 21) and Easy Street Band (July 28). 828.524.2516.

Swain County

• Old-time music jam from 1-3 p.m. the third Saturday of the month at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on U.S. 441 outside Cherokee. 828.452.1068.

• Community music jam from 6-7:30 p.m. each 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month at the Bryson City library in downtown Bryson City. 828.488.3030.

• Music in the Mountains from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every Saturday in downtown Bryson City. Artists include Boogertown Gap (June 2); Frank Lee, Isaac Deal and Bradley Adams (June 9); Juniper (June 16); Mountain Dew-et (June 23); The Barefoot Movement (June 30); The Josh Fields Band (July 14); Jakleg (July 21); and The Elderly Brothers (July 28).


Mark Meadows and Hayden Rogers came out on top last night in a Congressional election that at the beginning of the day boasted a full slate of 11 candidates.

The field of eight Republicans and three Democrats vying to represent the mountains in the halls of Washington was narrowed down. Rogers won 56 percent of the Democratic vote. Although Meadows emerged as the top vote getter on the Republican ticket, he received less than 40 percent of the votes — the minimum percentage required to officially win a race. Now, a special election must be held between Meadows and the second-highest vote getter on the Republican ticket, Vance Patterson, on June 26.

The Congressional race became a wide open contest after Congressman Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, announced he would not seek re-election after six years in office. Shuler was a conservative Democrat and had the ability to cater to both side of the political spectrum among mountain voters.

A wide field of Republicans were already lining up to take on Shuler, but after Shuler announced his retirement, the floodgates opened even wider for anyone with the dream of holding a congressional seat.

Republican voters particularly had a difficult time with a daunting eight candidates to choose from. The choice will be considerably easier when two distinct candidates emerge for the November election.

On the Democratic side, Shuler’s own chief of staff Hayden Rogers put his hat in the ring after Shuler’s retirement and has emerged as the victor in the Democratic primary.

Rogers said he is thrilled that he has moved one step closer to the possibility of representing the community that he grew up in.

“I’m really excited,” Rogers said. “We were sort of last to the dance, but we worked really, really hard to put a structure in place and get our message out.”

Rogers, 41, grew up in Robbinsville where he played high school football, majored in political science at Princeton University and now lives near Murphy.

Now that the race has narrowed, Rogers said he will continue to push his message of working together to move the nation forward rather than to the left or right.

“Whether it’s Mr. Meadows or any of the other Republican candidates for the most part, they are pushing a sort of fringe ideology,” Rogers said. “I really believe voters are looking for true leadership and open mindedness.”

Lauren Bishop, a Waynesville resident, said she was personally was sad to see Shuler step down and has now thrown her support behind Rogers who she believes can pick up where Shuler left off.

Many voters leaving the polls could not recall which congressional candidate they supported — or did not vote in the race at all, indicating that that particular primary race was not what necessarily drove people to the polls yesterday.

On the Republican ticket, Meadows, a 52-year-old Christian businessman from Cashiers, has advanced to the front of the Republican pack.

At about 10 p.m. Tuesday night, Meadows was optimistic but did not want to comment on the race at that time.

“We are excited about our vote totals at this point,” Meadows said at that time. Meadows did not return later calls for comment.

He is currently a real estate developer in Jackson County. Meadows has no previous experience in a political office.

His opponent, Vance Patterson, is a 61-year-old resident of Morganton. Patterson has 37 years of business leadership experience and started 16 companies. The TEA party candidate ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress in North Carolina’s 10th District in 2010.


Jackson voters approved alcohol sales in Tuesday’s election by a comfortable margin, making it only the third county in Western North Carolina to permit the sale of booze county wide. Most counties are dry, with alcohol sales only allowed inside town limits.

Voter turnout was higher in Jackson than many surrounding counties — likely inspired by the issue of alcohol being on the ballot.

There were four separate questions on the ballot: the sale of beer, wine and liquor drinks, plus whether to open an ABC store somewhere in the county.

Cullowhee has perhaps the biggest vested interest in alcohol sales. It is home to Western Carolina University, but since it is not technically a town, you can’t buy a case of beer at the gas station nor pony up to the bar. The stark lack of nightlife, bars and restaurants typically associated with the college scene have potentially hampered its ability to recruit students.

“This is potentially good for the university,” said Mary Jean Herzog, a WCU professor who is also involved with efforts to revitalize Cullowhee. “Having nice places to go could help in attracting students.”

Herzog worries that the lack of planning in Cullowhee could lead to not-so-attractive establishments opening. She hopes the vote to approve alcohol can jumpstart efforts to get community-based planning going in Cullowhee that would be similar to what is in place in Cashiers.

“It could be very good for the economy, and I hope that is what happens,” said Herzog.

In Cashiers, alcohol sales are also a welcome addition, saving a long and twisty drive down the mountain into Sylva to get a simple bottle of wine. Cashiers will be the likely location for a county-run ABC store, hurting the bottom line of Sylva’s ABC store, which previously had a corner on the market. It will also open the door for restaurants to sell alcohol, enabling them to compete on more of a level playing field with establishments in nearby Highlands, which has alcohol.

And on the opposite end of the county in the Whittier area, the election results will likely touch off a growth boom of convenience stores and restaurants selling alcohol on the doorstep of Cherokee. The reservation is dry — an alcohol vote there was soundly defeated last month.

Now that it has passed in Jackson County, businesses can park themselves just beyond the reservation’s boundary to capture the business of both Cherokee residents and the robust tourist trade there.

Many voters interviewed at the polls today said they believe alcohol will help Jackson’s economy and attract restaurants that would otherwise shy away from the mostly dry county.

“I want more restaurants and better things in the area,” Kathy Didonato, 45, said on her way out of the polls Tuesday. “It is going to make Jackson County grow.”

Since there is already alcohol sold in Sylva and Dillsboro, some residents did not see why it would be a problem to expand that to the remainder of the county.

“I personally don’t see what the big issue is,” said Christopher Rosbor, 20.

Taylor Bennett, a resident of Cullowhee, said that people have to balance the good and the bad side of having alcohol.

“You want the convenience of alcohol sales in your local store, but at the same time, you don’t want a raging local bar,” he said.

For Bennett, the good outweighed bad. Countywide alcohol would allow Cullowhee to capitalize on money that would otherwise go to Sylva.

Buncombe and Clay counties are the other two in WNC that allow countywide alcohol sales. Voters in Henderson County also had a ballot measure on countywide alcohol sales Tuesday. It passed there as well.

Historically, alcohol has been a point of contention whenever it has appeared on the ballot, with pro and con forces battling it out publicly via billboards, church pulpits and through newspaper and radio advertising.

There was a marked lack of opposition to countywide alcohol sales in Jackson County, however, with the exception of a public stance taken by the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association.

A poll conducted two years ago by Western Carolina University Public Policy Institute in cooperation with The Smoky Mountain News was a harbinger of public sentiment: it predicted that 56 percent of registered voters would support countywide alcohol sales compared to 39 percent who would be opposed. The poll surveyed nearly 600 registered Jackson County voters.


Cherokee Schools has launched a year-long process to develop a new strategic plan, a move prompted by issues raised in a recent accreditation review of the school system.

As a sovereign entity, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians operates its own school system and does not have to comply with the state standards as other public schools do. But, Cherokee Schools are subject to certain oversights through the Bureau of Indian Education.

“We have to meet a lot of different standards,” said Lori Blankenship, chair of the Cherokee school board. And “It is in our best interest to be accredited.”

The schools must go through an accreditation process every few years.

The new strategic plan is in its infancy and will take the better part of a year to piece together, said school officials at a recent tribal council meeting. The first step is a public meeting to gain input from students, parents, teachers and other stakeholders about what they would like the plan to include.

“That may give us even more precise direction (for the schools) or it may change the direction depending,” said Mark Rogers, acting superintendent for Cherokee Central Schools. “It won’t just be me going through striking; it will be a group effort.”

The recent review found three areas where the schools needed to make changes to be full accredited. They have until 2014 to make the adjustments.

The first of three required actions is more staff development opportunities, which can help the schools attract and retain quality teachers. School officials plan to join the National School Boards Association and the National Indian School Board Association.

“They provide lots of training and structure that really assists in policy making,” Rogers said.

Another, more holistic required action is the continuity of curriculum from grade-to-grade. The schools are currently looking at a top-down approach to connecting the curriculum and ensuring that the students in one grade are adequately prepared for the next.

By looking at what a high school senior should learn and know before they graduate, administrators can figure out what the juniors should study to be ready for their senior year, what sophomores should study to be ready for their junior year, and so on. The continuity will not only exist among grades but also among subjects.

“That will start the conversation with the eighth grade. What do they need to do to develop that ninth grade student?” Rogers said.

The final required action includes tracking more quantitative data to show marked improvement — something that the schools currently do, Rogers said.

“We just did not put it in our strategic plan,” he said.

Students at Cherokee Central Schools recently finished their end of year testing, and the results are looking good, Rogers said. “Our tests scores are way up. Preliminary result look very positive,” he said.

The test scores were not being released as of Monday because students had not been notified of their scores.

The review marked the first time it was done for the elementary, middle and high schools collectively, rather than as separate entities. The three schools are all part of the same campus now, after the construction of a massive, new $109-million school for K-12 students in 2009.

“This is the first time they’ve come together,” said Terri Henry, a tribal council representative from Painttown.

The new strategic plan will include elements of the current plan, which was approved in 2009. One element that will likely be removed from the plan will be additional course offerings, which would mean hiring more teachers, supplies and other related items.

“We hope to maintain what we have,” Rogers said. “We are in a bad economy, and the money is not flowing, and our main goal to maintain what we have right now.”

There are currently about 1,150 students enrolled in the Cherokee Central Schools.


Voice your opinion

Cherokee Central Schools will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m., May 24, at the school to hear input from students, parents and other stakeholders regarding a strategic plan for the school system.


Waynesville Police Department is one of several law enforcement agencies hoping to see an expansion of the Western North Carolina crime lab in the next several years to speed up processing, trials and convictions of offenders.

“Our evidence has to go all the way to Raleigh,” said Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed. “We would love to see the expansion of the lab in Western North Carolina.”

The current lab serving WNC, based in the Skyland area of Asheville, can run tests to identify specific drugs and fingerprints as well as process firearms, tool markings and fire-related evidence. However, it is not certified to run toxicology tests, which are most often used to show an individual’s blood alcohol concentration or if they have ingested any drugs. Those tests can only be run at the state lab in Raleigh.

“Right now, our biggest backlog in the system … is toxicology,” Hollingsed said.

What ends up happening is situations like this: A police officer pulls over and arrests a motorist suspected of driving under the influence. At some point, a blood sample is drawn and sent to the lab in Raleigh. While town and county law enforcement officials wait for the results, prosecutors must repeatedly ask for the judge to postpone a hearing or trial as they wait for the results. However, a judge will only delay a case for so long. And, without the toxicology report or other proof that a person was over the legal limit or on drugs, an offender may get off or get a looser punishment than the crime deserves.

Defense attorneys may also request that the crime lab technician who conducted the testing appear in court. In that case, the lab technician must spend a whole day driving from Raleigh to Western North Carolina and back — precious time that could be spent testing evidence for other cases.

“It’s breaking the state,” Hollingsed said.


The same trolley that used to lead the New York Marathon and transport students at New York University from place to place has found a home in Waynesville.

Starting this Saturday, the diesel trolley will traverse downtown Waynesville, Frog Level and Hazelwood, shuttling passengers between the three shopping districts.

Waynesville resident Tandi Haas got the idea during a discussion of how to attract more visitors at a Downtown Waynesville Association meeting.

“When I saw a need, I was like, ‘Let’s do it,’” said Haas, who is also opening a new shop on Main Street.

Haas said her goal is to promote shopping in stores around town. For now, trolleys will make stops in public parking lots in each of the districts. Eventually, Haas said she hopes to stop at inns or bed and breakfasts to transport guests where they want to go. That way, they would not have to drive to downtown or Hazelwood and scour for a parking spot — a prize piece of real estate when second-home owners and vacationers flood into town.

Although only one trolley will hit the road this Saturday, Haas plans to have two trolleys making the rounds the following Saturday, May 19.

The trolleys can hold between 30 to 45 people and will stop in each community every 30 minutes. People can pay $5 and receive an armband, which will allow them to ride the trolley for the day.

The current stops include the public parking area in Frog Level, the parking deck near downtown Waynesville and the public lot near Bourbon Barrel Beef and Ale in Hazelwood. The trolleys will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday. However, depending on the feedback, the times could change.

“If it’s successful, I’ll extend it to Fridays,” Haas said.

Haas plans to sell merchandise related to the trolley, including mugs, T-shirts and sweatshirts. She is also selling advertising space on the trolleys and creating partnerships with businesses to publicize both Waynesville stores and the trolley.

“The whole goal is to make it a win-win,” Haas said.

Haas is currently renting two trolleys from The Trolley Company in Hendersonville but hopes to own her own trolleys one day. She has hired bus drivers with the Haywood County School system to drive the trolleys each weekend.

“We are just really thrilled,” said Eva Ritchey, owner of The Trolley Company. “If there is anything that does make it successful, it will be the energy and the vision of someone like Tandi Haas.”

Haas will use the former home of Ridge Runner Naturals as her base of operations. Later this year, the building will also be home to Haas’ store Apple Blossoms, which will sell upcycled items such as doors or windows, makeup and bath products.

“It’s perfect. I can advertise the trolley there,” Haas said.

Although some may be concerned about a pile up of traffic because of the trolleys, the vehicles went for a test run this past weekend, and Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said he did not hear any complaints. However, he plans to sit down with Haas to discuss where the most logical places to pick up passengers would be if Haas decides to expand her operations.

“We’ve got to find a happy mix there,” Hollingsed said. “We don’t want the trolley stopping on Main Street every block. Main Street has enough problems moving traffic.”

As of press time Tuesday, Haas had not yet applied for a business license. She said she thought she had already gotten one, but the town had no record of it. The process is quick and should be doable to get up and running by Saturday.

For a list of trolley stops and a schedule of pick-up times, check or call 828.452.1860.


As an aggressive spring thunderstorm brewed over Waynesville this March, causing power outages around town, Erika Stansbury received a frantic call from her elderly in-laws who had lost power at their gated apartment complex.

“Grandma’s on oxygen, and she gets very anxious,” Stansbury said. Her mother-in-law gets nervous her oxygen supply will run out if the power stays off too long.

Stansbury and her husband drove across town to pick up the grandparents and let them stay at their home, which still had power. But, when they reached the gated apartment complex on South Main Street, the gate wouldn’t open. No code, no amount of force or no magic words would pry the electric-powered hinges from their closed position.

The problem is not just this single gated community.

Dozens of gated communities pepper the mountainsides of Western North Carolina. Getting through those gates in an emergency has presented a host of problems for the medics, volunteer firemen and law enforcement officers charged with protecting public safety in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

“It’s a problem. There is no doubt about it,” said Randy Dillard, chief of the Cashiers-Glenville Volunteer Fire Department. “About everywhere we go, we have to deal with one.”

To help mitigate the problem, Haywood and Macon counties have passed standards within the past two years requiring new developments to install gates with fail-safes that allow emergency service officials to gain entry without an access code.

“It’s a life-safety issue,” said Haywood County Manager Marty Stamey, who formerly served as the county’s emergency service director.

However, older communities, like the one Stansbury’s in-laws live in, were built prior to the rule. As with most gated communities, the Stansburys could go around the gate and get inside on foot, but that would mean walking the elderly couple back out through the storm to the van, which they ruled  out.

“We could get to grandma, but we had no way to get her to us,” Stansbury said.

So, Stansbury called the emergency maintenance number for the apartments. The man who answered was more than an hour away and did not seem too excited to help, she said. The other maintenance employee was on vacation.

“There wasn’t anyone on-site,” she said.

When her first option failed, Stansbury called the Haywood County Sheriff’s non-emergency number.

A sheriff’s deputy drove to the scene but admitted that he did not know how to open the gate without going to extreme measures such as taking the gate off its hinges or ripping it open — something that emergency services would consider if the blocked path meant the difference between life and death.

Luckily, power was restored as the Stansbury’s discussed the problem with the deputy.

“The power came on. But, we had no way of knowing (that it would),” Stansbury said.

The following day, Stansbury took her concerns to the county fire marshal who said he would call and strongly suggest that the owner of the apartment complex exchange the current gate for a newer model, which includes several fail-safes. But, the fire marshal cannot force the owner to replace it, and to the best of her knowledge, Stansbury said the gate has yet to be changed.

“It upset me. That’s for sure,” Stansbury said.


Bust ‘em down

Ideally, the county’s dispatch office maintains a list of gate codes and can give fire, police or emergency medical services officials the accurate code.

“Dispatch, 99 percent of the time, has the gate code,” said Jimmy Teem, the Macon County Fire Marshal. “We have not had any really big issues with that yet.”

Haywood County’s 911 center likewise keeps a record of all the gate codes in the county. Most communities periodically change their gate codes for security reasons, so county dispatch has the hassle of constantly updating its system with the latest codes for dozens of gated subdivisions. But it seems to work.

“Most are good about calling and letting us know (about code changes),” said Chanda Morgan, 911 supervisor for Haywood County. “We’ve not had any problems getting in.”

Indeed, many communities — if they are diligent about reporting gate code changes to dispatch — never see a hitch.

“To my knowledge, they never had a problem getting in,” said George Escaravage, a resident of The Sanctuary in Waynesville.

Their gates are also equipped with modern fail-safes: they open automatically in a power outage and have a special audio-trigger mechanism that recognizes the sirens of emergency service vehicles.

Other places aren’t so lucky. Cashiers has one of the highest concentrations of gated communities in the area, and emergency services rarely goes a day without getting a call from within a gated community.

“We probably have more gated communities than anywhere in Western North Carolina,” said Cashiers Fire Chief Randy Dillard. “There is no telling how many gates we have.”

Like other counties, Jackson County tries to keep an accurate list of gate codes but relies on homeowners’ associations to provide them.

“Most people are very, very willing to work with us,” Dillard said.

The Cashiers-Glenville volunteer firefighters usually keep a list of codes stored in their personal phones as well. They are sometimes driving to a fire in their own vehicles rather than first going to the fire station and riding in the fire truck.

Many of the volunteers also work in the construction industry, and luckily already know the codes because they are building a house in a particular gated community.

Still, they occasionally encounter a gate they don’t have the code for, and dispatchers have to track down a resident of the community to get a code.

“They change the code, and we don’t know the code,” said Todd Dillard, director of Jackson County’s Emergency Management Office.

In rare cases, the emergency service officers must take the gate off its hinges.

“Usually, we can pull the pins on them,” Randy Dillard said.

Randy Dillard said he did not remember a time when the fire department has to destroy a gate to gain access — such as busting through it with a truck. And, usually, there is time to find out the correct code.

“It’s hard to justify tearing down a $10,000 gate if its not life threatening,” Randy Dillard said.

Unlike Haywood and Macon, Jackson County does not have any standards on its books requiring gates to be equipped with fail-safes, to the chagrin of some.

“Unfortunately, we do not have an ordinance,” said Todd Dillard.

Todd Dillard said that Cashiers is “where we have most of our problems.”

“There have been some delays. Luckily, there has been no loss of life,” Todd Dillard said.


Bold that message

Neighboring Highlands — which also has a high concentration of gated communities and lies across the county line in Macon — has not had as many problems. Highlands is an actual town, with a paid police department, and officers keep an updated list of codes provided by homeowner’s associations.

“All of our gated communities, we have gone and talked to the people in charge of those gates,” said Capt. R.L. Forester of Highlands Police. “So far, we have not had an issues where we could not get into any gated community.”

The police also patrol many of Highlands’ gated communities on a regular basis so they already know the codes. However, if there were a major gate malfunction during a crisis, the police would waste little time.

“We would crash the gate and go in,” Forester said.

Swain County does not have any sort of ordinance or standards either that require gated communities to install fail-safes, but it rarely has troubles.

“When we know there is gates, we ask the homeowners’ association to give us an updated gate code,” said David Breedlove, director of Swain County’s Emergency Services.

The codes are linked in the emergency service’s database of addresses and phone numbers so that it pops up when a resident in a gated community calls. Dispatch then relays the gate code to the right emergency officials as they are en route. Homeowners’ associations are good about keeping dispatch abreast of any changes to their access codes, Breedlove said.

Indeed, that’s the best way to avoid problems: informing their county dispatch of any changes to the code to ensure that when a fire truck or ambulance rolls up to the gate, there won’t be any obstacles standing between them and those who need help.

“If they would keep the 911 center updated … that would be the biggest thing. That would be the words that I would say put in bold,” said Todd Dillard.


Back-up plan

A back-up fail-safe many gates now have is an audio activation that recognizes a specific siren call of ambulances and fire trucks to prompt some gates to open. Some of the newer models even allow emergency vehicles without sirens to use their dispatch radios to unlock a gate.

“The radio-controlled are the best way to go because they get all the first responders,” said Randy Dillard, whose fellow volunteer firefighters will arrive on a scene in their personal vehicle.

Other gates have a Knox-Box that sits near the entry. Emergency officials have a key to the box, which holds a master key to the community.

But, if these measures fail or a gate doesn’t have them, emergency management employees assured people that they won’t let a little thing like a gate stand in their way during an urgent situation.

“If they can’t get in the gate and they’ve got a call, they are bound to get in there,” said Teem, the Macon County Fire Marshal. “They will assess the situation (and) they would take the appropriate action — cut a lock, pull it down or whatever.”

Mike Forbis worked for the state fire department for 10 years before recently becoming the fire marshal in Jackson County but would respond to fire alarms in the county during that time. He would sometimes ran into locked gates.

“That is just par for the course for emergency services,” Forbis said.

Several years ago, firefighters had to sit outside the gate of a community where a brushfire was burning until dispatch could find a resident to let them in.

“We had been called to a fire, and when we got there, the front gate was locked,” Forbis said. “And, none of the codes worked.”

It was late fall or wintertime, Forbis recalled, and many of the second-home owners who lived in the subdivision had already left for the season. The dispatcher had to call half a dozen houses before someone answered and opened the gate.

“You had to keep dialing numbers to get somebody to answer,” Forbis said.


Haywood County commissioners have increased funding to the county school system this year for the first time in four years, but with cuts in state and federal funding, the boost from the county won’t be enough to help plug the schools’ budget hole.

The county is chipping in an extra $350,000 toward in the operating budget for Haywood County’s elementary, middle and high schools.

But, the school system will see an almost $400,000 cut in state money, the loss of $1.7 million in emergency federal funding extended to schools during the recession, and a reduction in lottery money for building maintenance and construction, said Assistant Superintendent Bill Nolte.

“We are starting a couple million in the hole,” Nolte said, adding that schools are grateful for the money from the county.

Haywood County schools will receive $14.3 million next year for operating expenses and $256,000 for capital projects. The county slashed the capital budget for school maintenance four years ago by two-thirds, and has yet to restore it. Schools have a troubling backlog of repairs as a result.

The school system presented a nearly $900,000 wish list for capital projects, listing several critical items including a new school bus and roof repairs at its meeting with commissioners more than a week ago.

Instead, commissioners decided to direct their increase in school funding to operational costs for the schools.

“You will see a little bump,” said County Manager Marty Stamey. “I wish we could do more at this time.”

The increase is designed to get the county back on track with a funding formula that had fallen by the wayside during the recession.

“We were able to go by the formula until the economy went over the cliff,” said Board Chairman Mark Swanger.

About eight years ago, the county brokered a deal with the school system designed to curb what had become an annual fight over how much money the county would pony up.

“It seemed like there was always a fight,” said Commissioner Kevin Ensley, adding that talks are more agreeable since both parties approved the formula.

Under the deal, the county would use a formula based on student population to determine school funding each year. The formula also built in a 1 percent increase year to year. But, it has been frozen for the past four years.

As the economic prospects have started looking a bit sunnier, officials were grateful for the help from commissioners.

“We would be pleased to be back on the formula,” Nolte said. “The economy is still not recovered so if they have the revenue to put us back on the formula negotiated several years ago, we would view that as very positive and be every thankful for that.”

Unlike the county school system, Haywood Community College did not ask commissioners to increase its operating budget this year but requested that the board would allocate any additional funding to capital projects, such as road repairs and building renovations.

HCC presented the board with more than $2.6 million worth of capital projects at a recent budget meeting on its ultimate wish list, but only asked for $500,000.

“They commented that they knew that that could not be funded, but they wanted to make use aware of what those needs are,” Swanger said.

In the proposed budget, the county will allocate $176,000 to HCC’s capital projects — an increase of $56,000.

Besides the schools, other department’s budgets remained relatively on par with this year’s numbers.

(Reporter Becky Johnson contributed to this story.)


After years of sideline painting and photography as a pastime, a now retired Sue Weathers is finding an abundance of inspiration in the mountains of Western North Carolina — far away from her childhood home in England.

Since moving to Macon County five years ago, Weathers, who previously worked in laboratory safety, has been able to refocus on her first loves — painting and photography.

“Mostly what I’ve done, I’ve done here; I’ve learned to do here,” Weathers said.

Weathers does not paint many still-lifes and detailed portraits but instead emphasizes the shapes within a scene and the feeling the view evokes.

“What I paint is to do with the shapes that I see and also the feeling it gives me,” Weathers said. “I don’t do a lot of detail stuff.”

Weathers uses oils or watercolors, or both, to illustrate her picturesque surroundings in Macon County where she has lived for five years. “How can you not paint something like that?” Weathers asked. “I have just been taken over by the landscape.”

The watercolors offer a flatter mountain background, while the oils allow parts of the painting to stand out, giving the work perspective. Weathers avoids pieces that could be mistaken for photography — another art form that she has dabbled in since the age of 7.

“I don’t like my paintings to look like photographs,” Weathers said. “(Although) I like my photographs to look like paintings sometimes.”

Weathers received her first camera — a Kodak Box Brownie — when she was just six or seven. She later graduated to a Kodak 35mm camera

Her father was a master photographer and owned a retail camera store in England.  He sold cameras and equipment, developed film, and took photos. Her parents would spend most of their days and nights working at the shop, and Weathers would spend the time painting or entertaining herself with other activities until early in the morning, sometimes 1 or 2 a.m., when the work was finally done.

“It was something to do,” Weathers said. “There is a lot of down time when your parents are working.”

With her early life immersed in photography, it seems only natural that she would delve into the art herself. However, her dad had qualms about the matter.

“I really wanted to do photos, but my dad didn’t want me to. He thought there were better things,” Weathers said.

So, she went to the University of Liverpool and earned a degree in science. Weathers then moved to Alberta, Canada, before settling in the U.S. Weathers moved to Rabun Gap about five years ago after living for a time in Florida and recently moved closer to downtown Franklin to be closer to the Macon County Art Council’s Uptown Gallery.

Similar to her painting, Weathers’ photos focus mostly on nature.

For the most part, Weathers allows her photos to speak for themselves and does very little doctoring.

“I don’t mess with my images very much, but I do saturate them,” Weathers said.

Weathers enjoys both mediums — one allows for more abstraction, while the other is more detail-oriented. One of her paintings is a perfect example. Weathers photographed a nature scene with trees lining a river and mountains in the background. And, although the photograph captured each leaf and crevice, it could not capture the way the sun hit the rocks well enough to Weathers’ liking. So instead, she painted it.

If she had to choose, Weathers said she would stick with painting.

“I think I am growing more as an artist with the painting,” Weathers said.

Weathers currently shows works at Uptown Gallery in Franklin and will open a studio in her home this summer.

For more information about the artist and her work, visit


The Waynesville Board of Aldermen approved a revitalization plan for South Main Street last week despite a dispute over one aspect of the proposed design scheme.

The town hired Rodney Porter, a consultant with LaQuatra Bonci in Asheville, last year to study South Main Street. The area has grown increasingly run-down and unattractive. Town leaders hoped new street scheme would promote more economic development along that stretch of road, prompting a year-long public process to develop a new vision for the corridor.

Porter’s report assessing South Main peppered with less-than-flattering language describing South Main: deteriorated condition; not economically healthy; dilapidated structures; no distinct image; scrubby patches of overgrown and unattractive weeds; seldom pedestrian traffic.

Porter addressed the board again last week to show-off his plan to make South Main Street more attractive to developers. His plan includes bike lanes, a continuous sidewalk, a roundabout where Main and Riverbend streets and Ninevah Road intersect, and a four-lane road from Allens Creek Road to Hyatt Creek Road.

The plan received overall positive feedback from the public, but two aldermen and the mayor expressed apprehension about one aspect that seemed to open an old can of worms. Rearing its head again was the ongoing debate over parking lots — namely should parking lots go in front of buildings or be scooted to the side and rear?

Porter felt strongly that parking lots should be to the side and rear, allowing building facades to define the street’s character rather than asphalt and parked cars.

The town of Waynesville had once been in Porter’s camp. Its development standards once required parking lots to sit to the side or rear of buildings, and for facades to flank the street front.

But in response to complaints from developers, the town board recanted and began allowing small, limited parking areas in front of buildings in certain commercial districts, including South Main Street.

In contrast, the consultant wanted the town to go back to its old requirement of storefronts and not parking lots abutting the street — creating a quandary for some of the aldermen.

“Is there a way of modifying this report?” said Mayor Gavin Brown. “I don’t want to have my name on a document that is contrary to another document that I signed less than a year ago.”

Porter stood his ground and fought for the plan to stay as is.

Placing parking lots to the side or back of buildings gives South Main a distinct identity and makes it pedestrian friendly, Porter said. What is the point of creating a plan otherwise, he asked.

“If we pull those buildings back (farther off the street), I really don’t know what we are doing more than putting trees in the sidewalk,” Porter said. “That really sort of strays away from the ‘complete streets’ movement that we have.”

The so-called “complete streets” concept focuses on making a street user friendly for everyone — motorists, cyclists and pedestrians — rather than purely auto-centric.

“It’s not in keeping with complete streets, and you are separating the pedestrian atmosphere with another row of parking,” Porter said. “You would not have the opportunity for any significant street frontage, and depending on how the traffic is laid out, you would quite possibly end up with more curb cuts.”

Curb cuts increase the likelihood of an accident.

Aldermen Gary Caldwell and Julia Freeman sided with Brown, saying they felt uncomfortable approving a plan that runs counter to current land development standards.

“To contradict what we currently have as a land development standard, it’s troublesome to me,” Freeman said.

Paul Black, director of French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization, voiced his approval of the plan and its commitment to complete streets concept. A parking lot would split the sidewalk and storefronts making it more hazardous for pedestrians, Black said.

“It would be very difficult to have a sidewalk café if the waiter’s got to walk across the parking lot,” Black said. “I don’t know if there is a way to reconcile your development code with the plan.”

Alderman Wells Greeley did not openly express an opinion about the plan, while Alderman LeRoy Roberson endorsed the plan as laid out by the consultant.

After more than an hour of comments and discussion, new Town Manager Marcy Onieal found the plan’s golden ticket to passage — a sentence on page 19 of the report that says all proposed development must meet the town’s land development standards. That means that the town’s ordinances would override any contradictory language proposed in the plan.

The board ultimately passed the South Main Street master plan as is.

“I can live with it,” Brown said.

None of the disagreements will matter, however, once the N.C. Department of Transportation gets its hands on the project. The plan is merely a guideline for DOT, detailing what Waynesville would like to see happen to South Main. But, it is by no means set in stone. DOT could decide to scrap the town’s plan altogether or only incorporate parts of the layout when it revamps the street.

“We’re going to have a big comedown with reality when DOT gets ahold of this and starts designing the road,” said Town Planner Paul Benson. “We are going to get a definite reality check as the program proceeds forward. But, I think at this point I don’t see any problem personally with having sort of an idealized plan out there.”

See for yourself

Check out the South Main Street revitalization plan for yourself at


Tim Cain has a bird’s eye view of Swain County’s real estate market, and from where he sits, the news looks good.

Cain was hired to oversee the countywide appraisal of every home, lot and tract of land in Swain County, a periodic exercise used to determine property taxes. His firm, the Raleigh-based Assessment Solutions, has visited more than 85 percent of the properties in Swain County during the past nine months. His expert assessment: property values in the county have bottomed out and are now on the rise.

“There has been a leveling off, and I am really excited to see what happens this spring,” Cain said. “It appears that they (property values) have stopped falling.”

Although the numbers are nowhere near those shown in the 2009 revaluation, property values are close to pre-recession numbers recorded during the 2005 reval — a positive sign considering the plunge the market took during the past few years.

“It has picked up, and we are feeling optimistic that is will continue,” said Kelly Stribling, president of the North Jackson County Board of Realtors, a local board that includes Swain County. “(But) It is certainly not like it was.”

Homeowners are slowly starting to buy and sell property, though many must still reduce their asking price if they want anyone to bite.

“There is a slight decrease in pricing,” Stribling said. “Some homeowners and sellers if they really want to move the property, they drop the price.”

But, people are still willing to pay a good price for a nice home, she added.

Cain agreed, saying that a nice chalet near the picturesque Nantahala Gorge or Fontana Lake will likely see an increase in value since the last approved revaluation in 2005. Meanwhile, homes in Bryson City seem to have remained steady when compared to the 2005 reval.

“If you’ve got a house in Bryson City, we really haven’t changed much,” Cain said. “The numbers that we are seeing now closely mirror the numbers we saw in 2005.”

Commercial lots will likely see an increase overall, while vacant lots, which were once destined to become subdivisions, will still lose some value.

“You’ve got a lot of subdivisions; they’ve got the infrastructure in place; (and) they are just sitting there,” Cain said.

People had bought, what were then, choice pieces of property at a premium and made plans for development. Then, the housing bubble burst, and the properties have since sat vacant, waiting.

“People are waiting out the economy,” Cain said. “They were demanding top dollar for their lots. And today, you’ve got developments that have gone bust.”

The last few years have been “a scary time” for people who need or want to sell property, Cain said.

Property owners’ hesitancy to put their lot on the market, and people’s reservations about buying have made it more difficult revaluate parcels, a process which is based partially on the sale price of adjoining properties.

Realtors and property assessors are seeing only about one-third of the transactions that they saw five years ago, Cain said.

Each property revaluation is specifically tailored to an individual county and even a specific part of the county.

“There is a specific reason that people go to Swain County,” Cain said. “It is a distinct place.”

The market value is determined by how much the property has depreciated, how much nearby properties sold for and how any improvements affect the property’s worth. A homeowner may spend $10,000 adding an in-ground pool, but the addition is essentially worthless unless it is deemed a valued amenity by homebuyers. The same is true for a $40,000 kitchen renovation. It is only as valuable as buyers in Swain County believe it to be.


Do-over of Swain’s reval a good call

Swain County commissioners seem to have made the right decision when they decided to throw out the results of its countywide property revaluation in 2009 and call for a do-over.

The 2009 revaluation captured a snapshot of Swain County real estate values during the height of a market boom — and before everything went bust.

It takes about two years to appraise every home, lot and tract of land in the county, so that 2009 appraisal largely drew on 2007 values, when the market was still hopping.

Since someone’s property value dictates how much they pay in taxes, a bunk appraisal based on no longer valid real estate values would have skewed what people legitimately should have paid in taxes.

So commissioner tossed out the results and decided to try again in a few years. That time is now here, and the appraiser leading the process said commissioners made the right call to hold off.

The 2009 reval that was tossed out would have posted a 30 percent increase to property values on average since 2005.

The do-over of the reval underway now shows instead of increasing, values are pretty much on par with where they were in 2005.

“The numbers are significantly lower than they would have been during that (2009) revaluation,” said Tim Cain, president of the Raleigh-based Assessment Solutions.


Canton and Waynesville’s paths have diverged when it comes to the most cost efficient way to haul trash to White Oak Landfill.

Both towns will face higher costs to dump residents’ trash starting this summer when the county closes a trash transfer station that served as a mid-way point and instead will require towns to truck trash all the way to White Oak.

The Canton town board decided last week to privatize trash pick-up. Rather than running its own trash fleet, Canton will contract with Henson Waste Disposal starting July 1. The company is based in Canton.

To continue trash pick-up in-house, Canton would have had to hire additional garbage men and buy an additional truck to haul loads out to White Oak and back — an additional 40 miles, or one hour, round-trip for each load.

The extra long trip made it difficult to gauge what would be cheaper — contracting a company or doing the work itself.

“That is the reason we have to look at it to see if we are going to have to go out and buy heavy duty vehicles or contract it out,” said Alderman Ed Underwood.

Town Manager Al Matthews said no town workers will lose their jobs as a result of the switch over, as the town crews that do trash pick-up will stay on the town’s payroll in the streets department.

Henson Waste was the apparent low bidder with a price of $184,884 a year. However, it is currently unknown what the contract price will be. The town and Henson Waste are still negotiating “minor technicalities” within the contract, including a possible fuel adjustment clause, Matthews said.

The county is estimated to save $800,000 to $900,000 annually as a result of closing the transfer station — some of which commissioners said it will give back to towns to help cover their additional costs.

Hauling trash the additional distance to White Oak will also impact commercial garbage haulers and industries with large trash volumes, like manufacturing plants or the hospital. County residents, however, can continue to use one of the many convenience stations located throughout the county.

The town of Waynesville had briefly considered contracting out its solid waste operations as well but decided to continue hauling its own waste based on an analysis done with the help of Land-of-Sky Regional Council, a government planning and development organization in Asheville.

Although there will be additional costs associated with the decision — including the purchase of a new, more efficient rear-loading garbage truck and one new employee — the town does not yet know how much more it will have to shell out each year, said former Town Manager Lee Galloway. Galloway is remaining on board with the town as a consultant until the end of June.

Additional costs for the town will also translate to more money out of residents’ pockets every month. Residences currently pay $6.50 a month for trash pick-up.

“We will be recommending a rate increase,” Galloway said. The amount of the increase is also unknown.

To help mitigate the added cost and cut down on trips to the far away landfill, Waynesville will continue to promote recycling. There is grant funding available for towns to purchase recycling carts or bins for their resident, and Galloway would like to see Waynesville take advantage of that.

“We need to make it easier for people to recycle,” Galloway said. “I would love it if the town could apply for and get money for carts.”

The town currently picks up blue bags full of recyclables from homes and businesses. However, it does not collect cardboard or glass from businesses.

“We haven’t collected cardboard in probably 10 years,” Galloway said. “There is a guy (from Henson Waste) who picks up cardboard and hauls it to Jackson.”

Business owners should call Henson Waste if they wish to have its cardboard and glass picked up for recycling.

The county is also making a push for increased recycling countywide. The goal is to decrease the amount of waste in landfills by eventually recycling at least 40 percent of its refuse. Haywood County currently recycles 11 percent of its garbage and hopes to increase that to 20 percent during the next 10 years.

It also plans to add to the list of items that can be recycled, such as glass, cardboard, paper and plastics. Soon, the county hopes to recycle carpet and shingles.

The county sells its recycled materials to companies around the U.S., which amounted to more than $642,000 in gross revenue during the last fiscal year.

“We use the revenue from the recycling to offset our costs,” said Stephen King, director of Recycling and Solid Waste Management in the county.


Voice your opinion

The Haywood County Board of Commissioners will hold a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 7, on its 10-year solid waste plan. The plan, which details the county’s goal regarding solid waste, is available at The website also lists what items the county currently recycles.


When the maintenance director for Haywood County Schools received news that a transformer at Pisgah High School stopped working last Thursday, it seemed apropos given the grim portrait of the schools’ budget he and other education officials would paint for county commissioners later that day.

The school system has made a plea to county commissioners to more than triple what it’s getting now for maintenance, repairs and building upkeep. While a sizeable increase, the school system has been barely scraping by in recent years. It’s capital budget was slashed by two-thirds when the recession hit four years ago.

This year, the school system says it needs its former funding levels restored — plus some — to help dig itself out of the maintenance backlog. It needs $839,000, including such critical things as a new bus, roof replacements and emergency sidewalk repairs.

“Most of what we need there is for emergency things that seem to always come up,” said Tracy Hargrove, maintenance director for Haywood County schools.

One of those emergency needs is the $20,000 transformer that failed at Pisgah High School — a cost that the school system had hoped to delay until the next fiscal year.

“We have several projects that are relatively critical that we have been kicking down the road a little bit,” Hargrove said.

Not to mention, the county’s 22 buses are wearing down as the numbers on the odometer quickly tick higher and higher. Bus drivers are sometimes forced to swap vehicles if classes are scheduled to take a field trip as some of the buses fair better than others.

And, next year, schools are projected to receive 53 percent less funding for capital projects than they did in 2008, Hargrove said.

The school system is also dealing with a depleting fund balance, the amount of money it has left at the end of the year that essentially makes up its savings account.

The school system ended the 2010-2011 fiscal year with a balance of $4.2 million. But, funding cuts have since drained that reserve. Officials estimated that the schools will only have anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million leftover at the end of the next fiscal year.

“It will only last a year or so and then we’re in trouble,” said Assistant Superintendent Bill Nolte.

Like other departments in the county, schools have been forced to prioritize renovations and improvements and make cuts where they can.

During a meeting with county commissioners last week, Haywood County Schools asked for a total of $14.33 million from the county for the next fiscal year — a more than $1.7 million increase compared to this year. That includes the increase to its building maintenance and repair fund, plus funding for classroom operations, such as teacher salaries.

“I feel like we were very deliberate (when laying out the budget),” said Anne Garrett, superintendent of Haywood County Schools.


Squeezed at both ends

The schools are looking to the county to help make up funding shortfalls at the state and federal level. The state has engaged in a odd funding formula, where it allocates money to schools and then asks for some of it back during the year, called a “reversion.” Reversions are intended for austere budget emergencies, but have become a standard annual practice by the state.

“That is why it is disingenuous,” Mark Swanger, chairman of the board of commissioners, said of the state’s contribution to education.

Education officials have been taking the bulls by the horns when they can because they don’t know what funding they will receive the following year or how much they will have to revert back to the state.

“It’s like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football,” said Commissioner Kevin Ensley.

Part of the state’s allocation to schools comes from lottery money. The money is supposed to supplement the schools’ budgets, but many officials have stated that it only supplants funds that the schools should be receiving anyway.

“We haven’t gotten any additional funding since the lottery started,” Nolte said.

Meanwhile, commercials are advertising that lottery money is helping pay for teachers’ salaries. A fact that school officials say is simply not true.

In addition to the loss in federal and state funds, county governments will have to pay for an additional five school days to comply with an unfunded state mandate that increase the number of days from 180 to 185.

“Five days, we have to fund out of our local budget,” Garrett said.

Commissioners did not indicate where they stand on the schools’ request, but will be revisiting the issue soon as the budget for the coming fiscal year is finalized.


Haywood Community College officials have requested an additional $380,000 in county funding this year — all of which would help pay for renovations and new construction on campus.

Similarly to Haywood County Schools, the college has been strapped by recession-drive county budget cuts and now wants its funding restored to past levels. College leaders said the extra money is necessary to cover “projects that can’t wait any longer.”

Campus buildings continue to deteriorate because of a decline in funding that every county department experienced when the economy went sour, school officials said. Historically, HCC received around $500,000 for capital projects, maintenance and upkeep from the county. This year, it received $120,000.

So, the community college is hedging its bets by asking for money for the school’s most pressing projects rather than presenting the entire kitchen sink — which for this year alone includes $2.6 million in improvements.

“We realize we are not going to come in here and ask for $2.6 million,” said Bill Dechant, director of campus development.

College officials met with commissioners last week to present their budget requests.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Mark Swanger asked school officials what other sources of funding they receive for capital improvements.

HCC receives energy rebate funds, grant funding and has saved or reallocated a small portion of its operating funds, Dechant said.

Among HCC’s most important projects is a makeover of the 3300 building, which is currently a machine shop. The structure, which will house classrooms and labs for the natural resources department, needs roof repairs as well as a new entrance.

“Our number one priority … is renovation to our 3300 building,” Dechant said. “Our entrance is very similar to a phone booth.”

There are also sections of cracked pavement and potholes that need repair, an outdated phone system, roof repairs for at least four other buildings, HVAC upgrades, stormwater and sewer line repairs, a new Timbersports facility and demolition of the old sawmill.

It also wants to implement an emergency response system. Emergency alert systems have become a commonplace part of college life ever since the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 as administrators want avoid a potentially catastrophic situation.

“There isn’t a way to reach everyone on campus,” Dechant said.

HCC also plans to tear down the sawmill, which originally sat on the outskirts of campus but has become more centrally located as the college has expanded.

“It’s not the kind of eyesore we need,” Dechant said.

Parts of the demolished structure will be sold for scraps.


Two new art galleries are opening in Bryson City this May only about a street’s width away from each other.

Blue Mountain Studios and Studio 19 both are gathering artists from various mediums to work in a studio setting and show their work in a storefront studio. The studios plan to have a collaborative relationship with the common goal of promoting the arts in Swain County.


Studio 19

Studio 19 is the collaboration of Debra Mills, a basket weaver; Joan Glover, who makes gourd art; Lori Anderson, a cornhusk artist; and Julie Bottorf, a jewelry maker.

“This is a studio primarily,” Mills said. “It’s all about the work and the learning and passing it on.”

The four women will consume most of 19 Everett St. with their workspace and a small teaching area. The remaining front portion of the store, formerly a yoga studio, will showcase art they have created.

“Working all by yourself, it puts you in a vacuum,” Mills said. By all working within a small space, “We can feed off each other, our excitement level.”

Mills previously owned The Cottage Craftsman, which is also in Bryson City, but said the venture became more about paperwork than art for her.

“All I did was paperwork. There was just too much administration,” Mills said.

So, Mills sold the Cottage Craftsman more than a year ago and began searching for a new place where she could focus more on weaving a basket than through mounds of paper work. She also roped in Anderson, whose work had immediately impressed her.

Anderson works with cornhusks — a skill she learned from area legend Annie Lee Bryson. Although she makes Bryson-esque cornhusk dolls, Anderson, a volunteer with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, found her own niche. She has a deep fondness for Western North Carolina’s native wildflowers, which shows when examining her meticulously crafted cornhusk flowers.

“Rather than stealing her (Bryson’s) joy, I found my own,” Anderson said.

Anderson takes a camera and ruler on every hike. So, when she sees a particular flower that she loves, she can replicate it to scale and incorporate even the tiniest of details.

When Mills saw Anderson’s work for the first time, she was in awe.

“I went bonkers,” Mills said. “Her work was beautiful and pure and honest.”

In addition to working out of the backroom studio, the four artists plan to teach regular classes for children and adults. The tutorials will be anything from a simple cornhusk doll that can be crafted in 30 minutes to a more complex basket pattern that takes all day.

Construction on the studio/classroom portion of the business will be complete later this month. And, Mills hopes the gallery will open soon after.


Blue Mountain Studios

Blue Mountain Studios is a place “where artists can get a start,” said owner Brona Winchester.

The gallery/studio, which is located on Main Street in the heart of downtown Bryson City, officially opened for business a few days ago and is hoping to soon fill up its six separate studio spaces with working artists. Anyone can rent a work area that sits behind the storefront gallery or a larger room to host a variety of art classes.

Winchester said she plans to keep her prices reasonable so that new and young artists can afford to create there.

“I am trying to keep them very, very reasonable,” said Winchester, who charges a 30 percent commission for art sold out of the gallery.

Winchester also rents the neighboring storefront on Main Street. And, eventually, pending funds, Winchester hopes to sublease the other storefront and turn the space behind it into expanded studio space and a small venue for live music.

Winchester herself only dabbles in drawing and painting, but she wants to devote more of her time to her own artwork particularly since creative energy will be flowing throughout the building.

“There is going to be a lot of creative energy,” Winchester said.

But, the main impetus for the studio was to promote art in Bryson City, particularly up-and-coming artists.

“We can work together and really service the community more,” Winchester said. “We have so many talented people. We have to pull them out of the sheds and the barns (that they currently work out of).”

Among the artists currently featured in the gallery are painter Kathryn Hicks Tsonas, surrealist Daniel Murch, watercolorist Lenny Gemski and quilter Maddy Haughn. Blue Mountain Studios will remain open until at least 8 p.m. during the fall and summer months, Winchester said.

“For so long at 5 o’clock, it’s a ghost town,” Winchester said. “We want it to be a place where people feel welcome.”


The litany of Republicans from Western North Carolina running for Congress haven’t taken any cues from their counterparts on the presidential stage, where the once robust field of candidates has slowly been picked off until there was just one man left standing.

Although all eight Republican contenders for the 11th District seat have hung on to the bitter end, a few have clearly emerged as front-runners as the primary draws to a close.

Jeff Hunt, Mark Meadows and Ethan Wingfield have emerged as the Republican front-runners in the race.

“They are raising the most money. They seem to be putting together the most endorsements,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University.

In a recent poll of self-described Republican voters, Meadows, Wingfield and Hunt ranked top three, respectively. More than 40 percent of those surveyed were still undecided however, according to the independent poll by the Atlanta-based Rosetta Stone Communications.

It’s going to be “a tight race,” Cooper said. “It’s going to start coming down to things like name recognition.”

• Hunt is a 61-year-old Brevard resident who has served as district attorney of Henderson, Transylvania and Polk counties since 1994.

• Meadows is a 52-year-old Cashiers resident, former restaurant owner and real estate developer.

• Wingfield is a 26-year-old native of Weaverville, who started his only technology firm in 2003. He was recently a senior strategy consultant for Capital One.

Prior to the poll, Hunt and Meadows had already classified themselves as front-runners. Meadows said he feels good about his place in the race, while Hunt describes himself as the only candidate with a consistently conservative record. Hunt is the only candidate of the three who has held a political office.

Wingfield sprang onto the political scene late last year with an announcement that he had raised about $201,000 in 10 days — of that $125,000 was money he loaned himself, however, not individual contributions. Wingfield is pleased to be in the top-three field.

“Clearly, our grassroots support is surging, and we have the momentum in this race,” Wingfield said.

Something about what Wingfield is selling is catching on with voters, Cooper said.

“He is young. He is articulate. In some ways, it makes sense,” Cooper said.

On the Democratic side, Hayden Rogers has emerged as the front-runner, particularly in the money race.


Campaign fundraising

Meadows has the most money of the candidates. But, much of it has come from his own personal wealth. The conservative Christian advanced his campaign $250,000. He received nearly $122,700 in individual donations. Of that, $9,200 came from political committees.

“Clearly, Meadows had the money from the beginning,” Cooper said.

However, Hunt has shown he has a more diverse base of donors and contributors, raising almost $138,000 for his coffer. Of that, political committees donated $395. He also loaned himself $11,600. As a district attorney, Hunt has run for office before, possibly giving him an established donor network to more easily tap.

So far, Wingfield has raised about $133,300, with $5,000 of that from political committees. Wingfield has loaned himself $200,000.

Both Hunt and Meadows received a large portion of their donations — more than 85 percent — from inside Western North Carolina. For Wingfield, only 12 percent of the individual gifts were from inside WNC.

However, none of the Republican candidates are raising much money this primary season, compared to one of their Democratic counterparts, Hayden Rogers, who rallied a war chest of $300,000 in just three months of fundraising, all of it from donations.

Rogers has emerged as the front-runner of the three Democrats running for the seat.

The broad field has made fundraising harder for Republican candidates. People either are not giving, waiting to see who will win the primary, or have split their contributions among a couple of favorites.

“It’s been split so many ways,” Cooper said. “The really base voters don’t know who they support and don’t know who is likely to win.”

So, to bolster their standing in the lineup, candidates are racking up lists of notables to endorse their individual message.

Just last month, Hunt received the endorsement of 11 fellow district attorneys, Bruce Briggs of Madison, Mayor Jimmy Harris of Brevard and Mayor Steve Little of Marion.

Meadows saw a huge boost in recognition and support with the endorsement by Jeff Miller, a Republican candidate for Congress who went up against Shuler in 2010.

Meadows has compiled an index of at least 34 endorsements, including Sen. Jimmy Jacumin, state Rep. Carolyn Justus, state Rep. Phillip Frye, state Rep. Mitch Gillespie and Sheriff Robert Holland of Macon County.

Wingfield has not announced any endorsements thus far.

However, in the end, who a candidate’s backers, both financially and verbally, are does not automatically translate to a victory.

“Money is important. Endorsements are important,” Cooper said, but ultimately, it is votes that count.


Democrat field limited

The Democratic voters have a considerably easier time — with three distinct candidates to choose from. Hayden Rogers is a Blue Dog Democrat from Murphy; and Cecil Bothwell is a liberal Democrat from Asheville; and Tom Hill, a retired scientist, is a comparatively unknown candidate from Zirconia.

Of the trio, the two standouts are Rogers and Bothwell, who both have previous political experience. However, Rogers has a clear upper hand in a conservative-leaning district, where he could draw a potentially broader base of voters come November than Bothwell.

“Bothwell is an ideological brand in some ways,” Cooper said. “He is the kind of person who can get really active support from a small group of people.”

The question is: Can Bothwell get enough 11th District voters to buy into his beliefs and plans?

“He obviously has an uphill battle,” Cooper said. “I just don’t know that that is a brand that will sell well in WNC.”

Rogers was the clear winner as far as fundraising goes this quarter. The former chief of staff to Shuler for six years, he has contacts in Washington and party connections that no doubt benefited his fund raising efforts.

“Rogers has had a real advantage,” Cooper said.

In just three months, Rogers raised about $301,000 — two-thirds of which came from individuals. The remaining came from political committees.

“It’s a sign of the strength of our campaign but also shows how well our message is resonating with voters,” Rogers said in a news release.

His ability to quickly raise funds in a primary and with a relative lack of competition will give Rogers an advantage over the Republican nominee, Cooper said.

“Rogers is going to have such a head start because he is able to focus on the general,” Cooper said.

Meanwhile, Bothwell has raised a total of about $58,000 during a more than six-month period, plus a loan of $4,000. All but $900 of his war chest came from individual contributions — lots and lots of them. Bothwell had many dollar-and-cent amounts compared to Rogers’ $100-plus contributions.

“We’ve attended more than 160 events in the district over the past year,” Bothwell said in a news release. “This contest will be a real test of grassroots organizing versus the big money power brokers in Raleigh and Washington, D.C.”

Less than half of Bothwell’s and Rogers’ contributions came from people in Western North Carolina, a calculation that can be indicative of what type of support candidates are receiving from people who can actually cast a vote for them.

“It is a very important metric,” Cooper said. “It is not what you’d want to see as a candidate.”

Cooper predicted that voter turnout for the primary will be low statewide. Most states only see a 3 or 4 percent voter turnout, Cooper said, and North Carolina will be no different. Those who do vote, he said, will have distinct leans to either the left or right — a fact that could “bode well for Bothwell.”

Rogers is considered a more conservative Democrat.

And although quantity of youth voters was a popular discussion topic in 2008, Cooper said this year would likely see low turnout among the 18- to 29-year-old age bracket as well.

“The youth turnout I do not think is going to be very good,” Cooper said.


Meet some of the candidates

Several of the Republican congressional candidates will attend a dinner and meet-and-greet starting at 6 p.m., April 27, at Southwestern Community College’s Swain County campus with an opportunity to meet-and-greet the candidates.

Among the 11th District Congressional Candidates who have confirmed their intent to attend are Spence Campbell, Jeff Hunt, Mark Meadows, Vance Patterson and Chris Petrella. Other congressional candidates will have representatives in attendance.

Bring a covered side dish, salad or dessert. The main dish will be provided.

828.488.2842 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Departing from the normal talks of budget cuts and tightening belts, Haywood County commissioners asked a group of tourism and town leaders how the county could pitch in to help bring visitors or new second-home owners to the county.

The commissioners met with members of the county tourism board and elected officials from Canton, Maggie Valley and Waynesville, among others, last week to discuss tourism and how the county can attract more residents or second-home owners.

“I would be interested in the county putting money into something,” said Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick. “How can the county help?”

One option Kirkpatrick offered up was commercial advertising. The county could look into a commercial that would collectively market Haywood County to people in other parts of the U.S.

“I would be interested in doing something like that if it’s in the best interest of everybody,” Kirkpatrick said.

“We would be interested in the county putting money into something too,” came the quick reply of Alice Aumen, a board member with the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority.

Aumen’s swift acquiescence to the county tossing in a few shekels drew chuckles from other leaders seated around the large square table.

The trick is getting people here, not so much selling them on the place — the area generally speaks for itself once people come to visit, several attendees stated.

“It all starts with a visit. It all starts with them being a tourist here,” said Lynn Collins, executive director of the TDA. Collins said that many retirees and second-home owners were initially tourists in the county before they were residents.

The meeting last week, billed as a roundtable discussion, was a chance for county commissioners to get up to speed on the tourism authority’s marketing campaign and strategy.

Jennifer Duerr, a member of the tourism board, suggested marketing Haywood County as centrally located between Gatlinburg and Asheville. People could stay in Haywood County and easily make daytrips to either location, she said.

Duerr also emphasized the county and towns should use more pictures and videos of the area. It is their best form of advertisement but often is under-utilized.

“It is so simple,” Duerr said. “This gorgeous area has been given to us like a gift, and we always walk away from that.”

The Tourism Development Authority recently purchased its own film equipment and has been shooting video to use in its advertising efforts.

As discussions dove deeper, several leaders noted that it is difficult to market “Haywood County” per se when few people know where it is or even that it exists. Out-of-town visitors are more likely to recognize Maggie Valley, many stated.

“Well, we are glad to let you use (the name) Maggie Valley,” half-joked Maggie Mayor Ron DeSimone.

Haywood County as a whole should build upon the efforts of places, such as Maggie Valley, Waynesville and Lake Junaluska, which have name recognition nationwide.

Ben Glover, owner of Maggie Mountain Rentals, said that he shied away from naming his business Haywood Mountain Rentals because he feared it would attract fewer customers.

“Haywood County, we were scared of and that is kind of sad,” Glover said.

Glover said a concerted effort may be able to change that.

“The term ‘Haywood County’ needs to be collectively promoted,” said Glover, a member of the TDA board.

Wintertime recreation was also a particular topic of concern at the meeting. Beyond Cataloochee Ski Area, the list of activities is meager.

“In the wintertime, we are truly at a loss for things to tell them to do,” Collins said. “We do have a shortage of things for children to do.”

Aumen agreed, adding that the county should focus on attracting entire families that can come back generation after generation.

County Commissioner Mike Sorrells suggested creating more indoor events to occupy people during the cold winter months and offering package deals for travelers.

Several leaders said that the towns are not adequately communicating what they have to offer to tourism leaders who tout the activities as reasons to visit Haywood County.

“I think that is everybody’s shortcoming,” said Canton Town Manager Al Matthews. “We can’t fault (tourism promoters) for not telling (visitors) about something that they don’t know exists.”


The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen’s split decision to de-annex someone who didn’t want to be in the town limits anymore — or pay town taxes any more — seems to have brought a trickle of other unsatisfied residents making similar appeals.

There have now been four additional requests for so-called de-annexation in the two months since the initial one was granted.

“I think that (one instance of de-annexation) has opened the discussion,” said resident Lynda Bennett, who spoke at the Maggie town board meeting earlier this month.

Bennett spoke on behalf of homeowners in the Katua Falls subdivision, which also hopes it will get the green light to be de-annexed from Maggie Valley. According to Bennett, the town had said it would care for the roads running through the subdivision — something that it has not been done, she said. However, towns do not typically maintain roads within subdivisions.

“That is why Katua is asking to be de-annexed,” Bennett said. “I don’t want Katua to be treated any differently.”

The town tabled the de-annexation request until talks with the planning board move further along. The town planning board is in the early stages of discussing new standards for road maintenance, including which road Maggie is responsible for, said Mayor Ron DeSimone.

Later that same meeting, Sonja Michaels, of Nelson Drive, made a half-hearted attempt to de-annex two lots that adjoin her house. Michaels bought the lots, some 2.5 acres, last year to prevent someone from building on them and preserve the view from her home.

But, she said the vacant lots don’t receive town services, and she shouldn’t have to pay taxes on them.

“I don’t have water; I don’t have sewer; I don’t have police protection because there is nothing to protect,” Michaels said. “Don’t you think it’s silly for me to pay?”

By that standard, however, any vacant lot in town that didn’t have a house standing on it could use Michaels’ argument.

The lots had been voluntarily annexed into the town in 2007 — a fact that was clear when Michaels purchased the land. Therefore, the town board denied her request.

The board narrowly approved a request for de-annexation by Joe Manascalco, a resident of Evergreen Heights, last month.

Manascalco argued that his 3.5 acres didn’t meet the legal criteria for annexation when it was absorbed into the town limits in 2009.

After to board’s 3-to-2 vote, DeSimone said that the decision would open a can of worms for town leaders. And, his prediction seems somewhat true. Each meeting since featured at least one resident hoping to be de-annexed.


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