Holly Kays

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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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out frRain was beginning to set in on a fog-ridden day on the slopes when Annie Dephouse gave her 5-year-old charge, Phillip Meacham, the heads up that it would soon be time to head indoors. 

“We can do two or three more,” Dephouse said as the ski lift swung on its way up to Cataloochee Ski Area’s easiest slope. 

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fr possumdrop2Just like they have for the last two decades, residents of Clay County and beyond gathered in Brasstown to ring in the New Year with the annual Possum Drop. But unlike the last two decades, they had to do so without the aid of a live possum. 

“We ended up using a pot of possum stew,” said Clay Logan, event organizer and owner of Clay’s Corner store. “We made it here at the store. We got a little private room in the back [where] we cook some.”

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fr pathwaysDinnertime came a little late at Haywood Pathways Center Sunday night (Jan. 4), but for all the right reasons. It was the inaugural night for The Open Door’s Hazelwood kitchen, the final piece in turning the dream behind the Pathways Center into reality. 

“It might be a few minutes before we get to the pork chops,” said Jeremy Parton, Haywood Pathways’ newly hired kitchen and shelter director. “They might be a little cold, but that’s going to be OK, because there’s not going to be another night like this.”

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Jackson County got plenty of response back when its new board of commissioners put out the word that they were taking applications for the county attorney position. 

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Public transit in Macon County is slated to get a boost as Jackson and Macon counties work out an agreement to share a position between the two of them.

Jackson’s mobility coordinator position — a job that basically entails marketing the transportation system, helping new customers and meeting with collaborating agencies — is funded through a federal grant, but it’s turning out to be hard to fill as a 40-hour-per-week job for Jackson County alone. 

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fr cullowheeA final public hearing to solicit public input on a draft set of standards to guide development in Cullowhee will take place on Jan. 13

After that, the draft standards will go to the planning board and then to the Jackson County Commissioners. 

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out frWhen Jim Brendle put together the first Smoky Mountain Relay in 2009, it was a pretty small affair. With only 48 runners representing six teams, the 200-plus-mile foot race didn’t draw a lot of attention.  A lot has changed since then. 

“It’s grown to where this year if we don’t have 50 teams, I’m going to be really upset,” Brendle said.

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Alcohol-related traffic accidents are on the rise in Jackson County, with rates outstripping those of both North Carolina as a whole and Western North Carolina in particular, according to Jackson’s 2014 State of the County Health Report. 

The report, an interim update to the county’s community health assessment, compares health trends in the county to those in the state and region. 

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out frIt was still a couple weeks till Christmas, but Santa Claus already had his boots shined and suit cleaned in preparation for the second most important day of the year — his annual practice run at Chimney Rock State Park. 

“Getting to practice here at Chimney Rock, I find the first chimneys I have to go down [on Christmas Eve] are a lot smoother,” explained Claus, who during his off-duty months works as a climbing guide with Fox Mountain Guides under the name Travis Weil. 

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Plans to memorialize a Cherokee gravesite found earlier this year in the midst of construction for a new baseball tournament complex in Macon County now have some hard costs attached to them, and the county has requested funding from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation to make them happen. 

 “It was well received,” Commissioner Ronnie Beale said of the request, which he brought to the foundation’s director, Annette Clapsaddle, earlier this month.

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fr cherokeejusticeIt’s not every day that the scent of barbecue meatballs wafts through the open doors of a jail filled with smiling people wearing slacks, sport coats and blouses. But it’s also not every day that a sovereign nation finishes building its first-ever justice facility. 

“This is not just about a building,” said Principle Chief Michell Hicks as he prepared to cut the ribbon on the $26-million building in a ceremony that had nearly all of the building’s 175 parking spaces full. “It’s not just about having a place to put our stuff. We’re going to change who we are as a people.” 

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fr freshstartThe future was looking increasingly frightening to 54-year-old Anita as she got to the end of her six-year prison sentence. 

All along, she had assumed that she’d be able to live with her mother while she got back on her feet, but a couple months before Anita’s sentence ended, her mother changed her mind. Anita had nowhere to go.

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Though Cherokee Tribal Council meetings are broadcast live online and through tribal television — as well as recorded on DVDs — council retains the right to exclude non-Cherokee people from its chamber. 

During its Dec. 11 meeting, it did just that, requesting that police officers escort a reporter from The Smoky Mountain News — me — off the premises.  

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fr tribalcouncilEditor’s note: Cherokee Tribal Police would not allow Smoky Mountain News Staff Writer Holly Kays entry into the Cherokee Tribal Council chambers to report on this meeting, which took place on Dec. 11. This story was written after watching a DVD recording of the meeting.

It’s been two months since Cherokee Tribal Council members voted to increase their salaries by $10,800 — and receive backpay for the years when the raises supposedly should have gone into effect — but that hasn’t been enough time for the public reaction to the increases, which many believe to be illegal, to cool down. 

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out frHiking the Appalachian Trail had been in the back of Andy Smith’s mind for a while, ever since a coworker at Cherokee Hospital, where he was chief of physical therapy, told Smith about his 1989 thru hike. As 2014 dawned, Smith was 15 years retired and approaching his 65th birthday. He got to thinking that maybe it was time to try a thru hike. 

“I really didn’t have a solid reason,” Smith said. “It wasn’t like a long-term goal that I’ve always wanted to do it. It’s something that’s been of interest, so I decided to do it.”

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fr maconwildernessA roomful of hunters and hikers turned out at last week’s Macon County Commissioners meeting. It was the first meeting after Franklin Mayor Bob Scott went public with a plea for the county to reconsider a resolution it passed in July against any additional wilderness designations in Macon County.

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