Zoning decisions unearth deeper issues in Maggie Valley
A slew of zoning decisions in the Town of Maggie Valley have revealed deeper concerns about development and the future of Haywood County’s tourist hotspot.
Maggie Valley has long been a top tourist destination in Western North Carolina, even without the infamous, on again off again theme park, Ghost Town in the Sky. For the fiscal year ending in June 2021, the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority reported over $2.5 million in occupancy tax revenue. Maggie Valley accounted for 48% of all collections .
But, while tourism may be booming, Maggie Valley, like the rest of WNC, is hurting for workers . “Now Hiring” signs blanket the valley and several restaurants have reduced hours of operation due to staffing shortages. Some attribute this in part to a growing lack of affordable housing and a growing number of short term rentals, highly profitable in a booming tourist economy .
When developer Frankie Wood arrived on the scene in Maggie Valley with hopes of reopening Ghost Town in the Sky, the need for infrastructure such as affordable housing became immediately clear. Along with plans to redevelop Ghost Town came plans for housing developments.
Over the past several months Wood has submitted zoning requests for some of those properties. At the Oct. 12 Board of Aldermen meeting, the board was set to vote on three zoning requests and recommendations from the planning board. At that meeting, nearly 100 members of the public showed up to weigh in, the majority starkly opposed to Wood’s plans for development.
Maggie Valley resident and local Realtor Jim Blyth spoke to the board about one of the public’s major concerns — water. According to Town Planner Kaitland Finkle, all of the properties up for zoning have portions in the critical watershed, as well as 100-year and 500-year flood plain.
“In the wake of the disaster in Cruso and Bethel about two months ago, when people lost their lives in travel trailer parks, I think that needs to be kept in mind as you’re considering the law, considering the effect to the community, because we could too have a flood similar to that in Maggie Valley,” said Blyth.
Additionally, Blyth brought up concerns about water intake. There are two water intake spots in Maggie Valley that provide clean water to about 9,000 residents. One of those intake spots is between The Ghost Town in the Sky property and St. Margaret’s Catholic Church in Maggie Valley. The other is near the other two properties Wood is seeking to develop.
Several other members of the public brought up concerns about a high-density development on the L-shaped property accessed by Rocky Top Road for other reasons. They were concerned about overuse of Rocky Top Road, a road already in poor condition and slated for improvement.
Tammy Hartzog is owner of Kamp and Kountry, a development also accessed by Rocky Top Road. At the Oct. 12 meeting, she said 95% of the people at Kamp and Kountry don’t want a large development accessed by Rocky Top Road. The road provides access to at least 160 unique homes and properties, 110 of which are part of Kamp and Kountry. The road is approximately .65 miles long.
Decisions about zoning the three properties caused a rare split among board members. Mayor Mike Eveland continued his opposition to Wood’s efforts.
“I believe firmly that along Jonathan Creek, along Campbell Creek, along Soco Highway, we have enough to do with campgrounds and what they call RV parks,” said Eveland. “I don’t know that we should be doing high-density RV campgrounds along Jonathan Creek, Campbell Creek, or along the corridor of Soco Road. I believe firmly that the residents of Maggie Valley, that’s what they’re seeing. Does that mean I’m anti-growth? absolutely not.”
Eveland cited several other properties in Maggie Valley and Haywood County that, for him, were examples of smart growth that catered to the year-round community.
However, while Eveland and members of the public alike seemed to be concerned about exactly what Wood’s plans are for the three properties, Town Attorney Craig Justus reminded board members at the start of the Oct. 12 meeting they were not to give weight to an individual developer’s plans while making general use redistricting zonings.
As for the developer in question, Wood has apparently been taking stock of public outcry. His original plans for the property on Rocky Top Road involved a “high class” residential RV park. But after hearing aggressive public opinion, Wood plans to put small cabins on the property instead — 32 to be exact. However, Wood says that if he can’t get the zoning he needs for the Pioneer Village property or the property accessed by Rocky Top Road, he’s likely to walk away from them.
In addition to Eveland, Alderwoman Twinkle Patel joined in voting against two zoning requests from Wood and recommendations by the planning board.
“I voted against R-3 on the Pioneer Village property because the property is bordered on two sides by R-1 zoned properties and on the other two sides by properties without zoning, one in the county and the other recently annexed into town,” said Patel. “I voted against R-2 zoning by Rocky Top Road because the surrounding parcels are R-1. Currently, the property is un-zoned, so it has no regulations. Any development of this property would require hookup to the city sewer and getting rid of the 13 septic tanks on that property, and this is the first step to clean water.”
Zoning decisions must be passed by a two-thirds vote on first read. Because two of the properties only passed with a 3-2 vote, with Eveland and Patel voting no on both the Pioneer Village property and the L-shaped property accessed by Rocky Top Road, they will be up for a vote again at the November aldermen meeting where a simple majority will be enough to pass.
Dave Angel, owner of Elevated Mountain Distillery in Maggie Valley, spoke at the Oct. 12 meeting. He noted that as of now, the properties have septic tanks. When properties are annexed into the town and zoned, they can be hooked up to town sewer and water, which is safer for the waterway as opposed to septic.
“Please look at the facts that you’ve got, consider the emotion that’s in the room, but don’t let the emotion overweigh your responsibility of looking at everything,” said Angel.
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And the owner of “Kamp and Kountry” has some nerve complaining. That place is an eyesore!!
Mr. Blyth is speaking from both sides of hos mouth. He recently submitted a plan to the MV Planning Board (where his bed parter holds a sweat) and MV Zoning Board of Adjustment to build a camper storage building lot which according to the plans submitted would look worse than the self storage buildings. And the entire parking lot would be paved. Where would that runoff go? One guess… Into the creek!!
Interesting when checking the minutes of those public meetings where no one mentioned water quality at either of them. It’s even more interesting Mr. Blythes bed partner participated in the proceedings.
Frank wood does not need to develop anything. You can see how he already has destroyed properties oh east coast of North Carolina. Maggie Valley is a wonderful spot for people to wind down and chill out. Many other attractions are available within a short drive. This town does not need A spike in population. Especially with no infrastructure to support it.
Maggie Valley is its own attraction.