Holly Kays

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Blood quantum. Even on their own, the words have a ceremonial, reverent ring to them.

For Cherokee tribal members, reality bears out the ring. Blood quantum — the fraction of one’s ancestry that is purely Cherokee — decides everything from a person’s ability to own land in the Qualla Boundary to availability of scholarships for college to eligibility to receive a share in casino profits each year.

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With a slate of issues including steep slope development, cell phone tower construction and zoning rules for fracking facing the county, Sarah Thompson — formerly Sarah Graham — will be taking the helm as chair of the Jackson County Planning Board.

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fr firecallsJackson County’s elected leaders will be have a big decision to make over the coming month: to levy a fire tax forcing property owners in lower-value areas of the county to pay higher bills or watch local fire departments continue to struggle with old equipment and insufficient manpower.

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fr cashThe new Smokies superintendent got his introduction to the North Carolina side of the park amid plates of snacks and the homey trappings of a bed and breakfast in Bryson City last week.

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out frSipping hot tea while swaddled beside a propane heater, warmth beaming as wind whips snowflakes around the mountaintop outside. A stack of books beside the bed, well-worn titles alongside new adventures, a self-replenishing treasure trove of stories illuminated by kerosene-fueled light. Outside, darkness obscuring what dawn will reveal to be an ocean-like view of mountains upon mountains, frosted with snow and seeming to bow before the 6,594-foot peak of Mount LeConte, the third highest summit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It’s a romantic image, an idyll about which a society steeped in virtual reality is still wont to fanaticize. But for the past four winters, those cozy evenings and frostbitten mornings have been J.P. Krol’s life.

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out campingFor the first time in more than 18 years, fees at the Ralph J. Andrews Campground on Lake Glenville, which is owned and operated by Jackson County, will go up, but Jackson County residents won’t feel the bite.

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Attorneys for the Town of Sylva and No Name Sports Pub are busy trying to hash out the legal road forward for the town’s noise ordinance and sound levels at the music-oriented bar. 

Following a Feb. 5 town meeting during which No Name supporters and opponents alike filled town hall to sound off during the public comment session, the bar’s lawyer contacted the town.

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County and university officials had a sit-down last week over the question of whether Western Carolina University should fall under Jackson County’s revised subdivision ordinance.

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The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority plans to grow its staff to five as it dives into reviewing applications for a new group sales manager.

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fr broadbandScanty wireless networks, outdated computer equipment, slow servers — technological woes have been a centerpiece of discussion at Cherokee Tribal Council meetings for quite some time. After months of introducing resolutions only to table them and hours-long meetings with finance, technology and broadband leaders, Council this month took action on a slate of legislation designed to give some direction to the technology overhaul and designate funds with which to do it. 

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Higher education in North Carolina got some good news with the release of an economic impact study last week, which put its collective economic impact during 2012-13 at $2 billion in the 11 western counties and $63.5 billion statewide.

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fr BOEIt could be just a matter of months before District Attorney Ashley Welch decides whether to press charges in a year-old case of alleged embezzlement at the Macon County Board of Elections, but the investigation still has legs on the federal level.

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out frStepping into Kirk Wall’s custom-carpentered, immaculately decorated mountaintop home, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d knocked on the wrong door. Hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, breakable horse figurines and pieces of pottery — not to mention, only trace amounts of dog hair — made it hard to believe that this place could be home to six large dogs.

But a sing-song howling had greeted me the moment Wall opened the door, and a glimpse into his first-floor bedroom revealed a row of six large dog crates bordering the wall opposite his bed. This had to be the right place.

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The Sylva Garden Club is raising money to build a small pavilion in Bicentennial Park, a small green space located off Keener Street near the historic Jackson County Courthouse and library complex.

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fr murphycasinoWhen the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise board opted to get rid of the project manager position for its Murphy casino construction project last year, some skepticism ensued as to whether the project could still continue on time and within budget.

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Cherokee is one step closer to having an Olympic-sized outdoor pool following Tribal Council’s unanimous vote this month to purchase property for the project.

“We have an identified site with contract negotiations with those landowners,” said Jason Lambert, director of planning and development for the tribe. With the site nailed down, he said, “we can get into more specific due diligence and more specific planning in order to get to that hard construction.”

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Western Carolina University will now be subject to Jackson County’s revised subdivision ordinance, the planning board decided last week.

Technically, the university has been included under the regulations since the planning board revised them last year, but that implication of the revisions had flown under the radar until now. By declining to tweak the standards to exempt WCU, the planning board made a de facto decision to include them.

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Once the spring 2015 semester wraps up at Western Carolina University, off-campus students will no longer have the option of catching the bus to classes. 

While enrollment at the university — and development around it — is increasing, ridership on the off-campus route has been declining. So, WCU has decided to get rid of the off-campus route and funnel those resources instead to the on-campus routes.

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Webster Enterprises is settling into its newly leased building on Harold Street in Sylva following the town board’s unanimous vote to approve a conditional-use permit for the nonprofit. 

“We were delighted about it,” said Gene Robinson, executive director of Webster Enterprises.

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fr dillsboroIt’s been a tough few years for the tiny town of Dillsboro. Ever since the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad moved its depot in 2008 to Bryson City, the town has seen rough times, reflected in the vacant storefronts of the many tourist-oriented business that have closed their doors since then.

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out frPushing through 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 of biking and 26.2 of running, it was all Jennifer Jacobson could do to keep moving toward the finish line of Ironman Louisville in Kentucky last summer. But she did make it, earning an achievement to boost her mood for years to come. 

“That was basically an ultimate bucket list goal for me, and if I don’t ever do another one again, I’m OK with that,” said Jacobson, 33. “But just having that experience was something I’ll never forget for sure.”

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When Jackson County’s subdivision ordinance was revised last year, it included some changes that would apply to development at Western Carolina University. Namely, all WCU projects with more than 60 bedrooms — including dorms — would have to comply with the new county standards.

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The investigation is ongoing following a Halloween party at Dillard Excavating in Sylva that allegedly involved underage drinking and allegedly resulted in the rape of a 14-year-old girl, but the career of a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy who was suspended following the incident is not.

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fr cherokeefireA blaze in Cherokee has been fully contained, but not before burning up 400 acres of forest in the Qualla Boundary. 

“It was more than likely arson,” said James Condon, fire management officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Cherokee. “There was no lightning strikes in the area and there was no brush being burned.”

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fr noisesylvaConflict surrounding noise complaints at No Name Sports Pub — and the Sylva town ordinance that addresses how those complaints are handled — brought out a crowd of about 25 to the town board meeting last week.

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out frThough a mixture of rain and ice pelted the windshield as I headed toward the Balsam Gap access of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the forecast was calling for a high of 52 and the car thermometer read 48 degrees. 

I was headed up to see what springlike weather down below translated to when sitting at 6,000 feet on the scenic mountain road, because, let’s face it, I was skeptical. The Parkway had been closed for much of the winter, including the previous week, when temperatures in Waynesville climbed up to the sunny 60s.

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coverAnna Eason has nothing but good things to say about Haywood County Public Schools. It’s a “good school system,” doing “an amazing job with what the state gives.” Two of her three children are students there now, and she herself is a product of North Carolina public schools, going straight through the Wake County system. 

But Eason, together with a team of other parents around Haywood County — and one from Jackson — are on the board of a new school poised to set up shop in Waynesville. Shining Rock Classical Academy will welcome its inaugural classes in July, becoming the first charter school in Haywood County.

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Webster Enterprises is growing, and a newly leased building on Harold Street in Sylva is expected to allow the nonprofit to expand a recently added component of its business and add at least 30 local jobs.

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There’s no doubt that No Name has neighbors who are upset about noise. Next-door neighbor James Lupo had approached the town board in 2012 to complain, and according to Carl King, who lives next to Lupo, the sound is so loud “they could probably hear it all the way up to Fisher Creek.”

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fr nonameA showdown over noise at No Name Sports Pub is on tap for the Sylva Town Board meeting Feb. 5. 

With their own respective petitions in hand, both the bar’s supporters and its neighbors who are upset about the noise they say constantly streams from the establishment are planning to flood the public comment session.

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Jay Coward will keep his job as Jackson County attorney — for five more months, at least. 

When a new board of commissioners took over in December, they put out a call for applications to select a new attorney, pulling in a list of eight candidates, including Coward.

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fr jax homelessIf all goes according to plan, Jackson County could have a permanent homeless shelter up and running by April. 

That “if,” though, is a big one. Jackson Neighbors in Need hopes to get commissioners’ approval to lease the old rescue squad building on Main Street just past Mark Watson Park and below the Jackson County Library for $1 per year. Then, it will need to raise tens of thousands of dollars to fund renovations and operational expenses, as well as drum up lots of volunteer support. 

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out frIt’s shaping up to be an exciting year for water-lovers in Western North Carolina.

After more than a decade of hydropower relicensing negotiations and years more of permitting and construction, Duke Energy is finishing a slate of river accesses that will make the Tuckasegee one of the most accessible rivers in the Southeast. At the same time, a collective effort to create an interactive map showing where and how to recreate on Western North Carolina waterways — using a tool called Smoky Mountain Blueways — is wrapping up, further boosting WNC’s future as a Mecca for outdoors lovers of all skill levels.

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fr broadbandIt’s been more than eight years since the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians made its first move toward creating a business to bring Internet to the Qualla Boundary, but the issue has proven a good bit more complicated than first expected.

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The exploration of inadequacies at the Jackson County Justice Center has been years in the making, but it’s looking like — for now, at least — the solution will focus on ramping up security and leave the issue of space for another time.  

“There’s two issues I want to bring to your attention, issues I’ve been bringing to your attention for the last 10 years,” Superior Court Judge Bradley Letts told commissioners at their annual planning retreat last week.

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fr nonameA pair of dueling petitions dealing with the question of noise at No Name Sports Pub will likely spar at the upcoming Sylva Town Board meeting Feb. 5.  

Owner Gregg Fuller had approached the board earlier this month asking that it forgive the pile of noise citations he’d accumulated — unjustly, he says — over the past year and that the noise ordinance be revised to specify what decibel level is too much. 

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For most Americans, the Internet has moved from novelty to normal, but translating that shift in norms into law has required some innovation of its own. Since California became the first state to pass a law specifically addressing cyberstalking in 1999, a growing number of states have followed suit, including — just one year after California — North Carolina. 

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out natgeofrScott McCleskey didn’t really know what he was saying yes to when he boarded the plane to Alaska, pack of gear in hand, to take his place on the National Geographic Channel show “Ultimate Survival Alaska.”

All he knew was that he’d done a Skype interview for the slot, later fielded a call telling him to keep his hair long and eventually been given the nod to compete on the show — provided he could be up north within two weeks.

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fr wheellocksSylva’s parking rules now have a stronger set of teeth with the passage of an ordinance allowing officers to put wheel locks, also called parking boots, on cars whose owners have accrued unpaid town parking tickets. 

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fr wcuWestern Carolina University’s slated to get a brand new building on Centennial Drive in place of the one destroyed by fire in November 2013, which was home to businesses such as Rolling Stone Burrito, Subway and Mad Batter Bakery and Café.

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Caesar’s Entertainment Operating Company, a subsidiary of the same company that manages Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort, announced Jan. 15 that it would be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

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fr cullowheeplanningIt’s been one-and-a-half years since the Jackson County Commissioners first OK’d a committee to look into doing some zoning in Cullowhee, and while Cullowhee is still without development standards, a proposal is on its way to commissioners’ desks. 

Approval could come as early as Jan. 29, though it could also drag out a good deal longer. 

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fr nonamepubNo Name Sports Pub is no longer a music joint, at least not until a dispute between the bar and its neighbors reaches resolution. Owner Gregg Fuller says No Name saw its last regular act on Saturday (Jan. 17), and though it will still honor local band Porch 40’s Jan. 29 booking, that’s going to be it for a while. 

“Stopping live music here at No Name is a drastic step,” Fuller said. “A lot of people are unhappy about it. But right now I have to take drastic steps. My ability to defend myself has been taken way. I’m guilty until proven innocent.”

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fr riverbendIt’s been 32 years since Benfield Industries in Hazelwood burned to the ground, 25 since the Environmental Protection Agency designated it as a Superfund site and 13 since cleanup on the site finished. 

But the work’s not done, according to the most recent EPA monitoring. The agency is hoping that its latest remediation plan for the former chemical distribution company site will take care of creosote contamination in Hazelwood once and for all. 

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out frKadie Anderson was packing up camp after a night in the backcountry with her two Australian shepherds when the peace of an autumn forest waking up from a nighttime rain was decisively broken. 

“A pack of hunting dogs came into the camp and attacked my dogs, almost killed my dogs, bit me a couple of times while I was trying to protect them,” recalled Anderson, an Ohio resident who at the time was camping in the Snowbird Wilderness Area in Nantahala National Forest.

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Monarch Ventures, a Charlotte-based student housing company, has been trying to locate a posh 500-bed student housing complex in Cullowhee for nearly four years. But, despite the fact that they’ve got a deed and land-use permit in hand, the county’s heard nothing but radio silence from the company since June. 

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Same-sex marriage may be legal in the state of North Carolina, but it’s not on the Qualla Boundary, according to a resolution recently passed by Cherokee Tribal Council. 

Though tribal code already defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the newly adopted resolution further specifies that the “licensing and solemnizing” of same-sex marriage cannot happen on tribal land.

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Cherokee will institute a two-week fishing season closure each March beginning in 2016 after operating under a year-round season since 2011. 

“We decided to open it up to year-round just to provide more fishing opportunities during March when the state fishing waters were closed, but we decided to go back to a compromise with a two-week closure in March to allow our operations to catch up for the opening day and allow a new level of excitement for the opener, knowing the waters haven’t been fished for two weeks,” explained Mike Lavoie, fisheries and wildlife program manager for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

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Applause broke out as Jackson County Commissioners concluded a unanimous vote last week passing a resolution opposing hydraulic fracturing — known as fracking — in their first regular meeting since a new board was sworn in. 

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fr frackingThey’ve plowed through the feedback, and now the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission has in hand a revised version of rules to govern oil and gas development in North Carolina, all ready for the new legislative session.

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