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Rep. Pless aims to punish Maggie: Tries to limit town’s zoning authority, offers de-annexation for some residents

Maggie Valley resident Linda Taylor (center) recalls her attempt to develop an RV park while Alderman Phillip Wight (left) and Rep. Mark Pless(right) look on. Kyle Perrotti photo Maggie Valley resident Linda Taylor (center) recalls her attempt to develop an RV park while Alderman Phillip Wight (left) and Rep. Mark Pless(right) look on. Kyle Perrotti photo

Mark Pless has escalated his war against three of the five Maggie Valley aldermen. 


While Pless’ animosity toward the men — Mayor Mike Eveland and Aldermen Jim Owens and John Hinton — is nothing new, he’s now airing his grievances publicly in a way not seen until now. Last week, as he is actively seeking to limit Maggie Valley’s ability to establish zoning regulations in the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), he held a press conference to make his feelings known.

In North Carolina, extra-territorial jurisdiction refers to parcels of land adjacent to or otherwise outside of municipal boundaries where cities and towns nonetheless exercise certain powers, like zoning. Residents of ETJs don’t pay city taxes, but they also don’t get to vote in city elections. 

“It’s nice to have an ETJ because you can have zoning in preparation for requests of annexation,” Maggie Valley Town Planner Kaitland Finkle told SMN last year when Pless floated a similar bill. “It’s a great tool to have.”

Pless emailed out a written statement ahead of the press conference that said the town board has “gone rogue” and is “trampling” on property owners’ rights.

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“The mayor and two Aldermen have demonstrated how depraved they became after being elected to office,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to praise the other two aldermen, Phillip and Tammy Wight, whom he said have spoken up “for the people” and “stood against injustices being handed down by these men who moved here to destroy our Mountain way of life.” 

Pless began the press conference, held at the Clarketon Motel — a Maggie Valley motel owned by the Wights — by explaining the context surrounding the legislation. It all began back in 2021 when the board sought to place a moratorium on new campgrounds not long after four RV parks had been approved within town limits. By a split vote, the board approved a moratorium on campgrounds, RV parks, RV Planned Unit Developments and RV storage. The moratorium lasted from January 2022 to June 2022.

Around that time, Pless said he met with Eveland, Hinton and then-Town Manager Nathan Clark at town hall so he could address an issue that “lots of folks” requested he do something about. The moratorium, Pless said, was perceived as unfair.

“And now [Eveland and Hinton] were saying, ‘You're not gonna decide; we're gonna decide, we're gonna pick what we are’,” Pless recalled. “And that's what I kept hearing.” 

In his opening statement, Pless specifically called out the issue he had with the limitations on RV parks along Soco Road, Maggie Valley’s main strip, and said that such restrictive zoning — which would ultimately only likely affect a few people who may want to do such a thing with their land — is putting the town on a slippery slope toward even more unfair or arbitrary zoning regulations. It boils down to property rights, Pless said. His bill would restrict the town’s ability to have any say as to what may be allowed in the outlying areas that are part of the town’s ETJ for five years.

“Why should they be able to enforce their zoning, which is mixed up and has no accountability?” Pless asked hypothetically.

Pless even said the town’s new 133-page unified development ordinance, which had been in the works for years, was created “to go after the fact that they didn’t like RV parks.” He said the precedent established by using a moratorium to limit RV park development could be applied to trample people’s property rights in whatever way the town may see fit.

Pless brought up two individuals to explain how the new ordinances regarding RV parks may hurt them. First up was Linda Taylor, a realtor who said she bought property off Moody Farm Road for about $365,000 back in 2006, property she said she’d recently been working with an investor to develop with hopes that one day a luxury RV park may get built. She said once the moratorium hit, the deal went sour. Taylor’s biggest issue was that she feels like that moratorium and subsequent UDO were passed with no input from folks those things might affect.

“They never said anything to us,” Taylor said.

Next up was Philip Wight, who actually voted in favor of the UDO despite later showing animus toward it. He said he felt his business, The Clarketon Motel, was hampered by not being allowed to recalibrate to accommodate RVs.

“I can rent a room to who I want for the rest of my life, but I can’t create a PUD and have a nice high-end RV park that sells timeshares,” he said.  

While Taylor and Wight’s stories were compelling, in his interview with SMN, Eveland pointed out that they both received the green light for the RV parks they were wanting to develop prior to the moratorium. However, the period to do something has lapsed.

news pless pressconference

Mark Pless called the press conference in Maggie Valley to call attention to a bill Mark Pless called the press conference in Maggie Valley to call attention to a bill he hopes will limits the town’s abilities to control zoning in its ETJ. Kyle Perrotti photo

Pless can’t do anything retroactively with his bill to negate the UDO’s authority in town limits since it’s already passed, but he did say that anyone interested in de-annexation from the town should reach out to him. If they already have sewer and water connected to their homes, they can continue to use those services, although they would be charged the out-of-town rates. He said anyone interested in opting out of the town can simply give him a call.

“Send me a parcel number so I can de-annex you,” he said.

While in the letter, Pless didn’t mention Owens and Hinton by name, he did at the press conference several times, along with Eveland. He said they have been bullying him, something he expects to continue. Similar to the letter, he essentially called them outsiders, meddlers coming to the mountains to change the way things have been done in the past.

“We have three aldermen; the earliest one got here in 2012, The last one got here in 2021 … they’re telling us how we need to do things,” he said.

Pless also reiterated the praise he had for the Wights in the letter at the press conference.

“My hat's off to Phillip and Tammy,” he said. “They've been in the trenches now for about a year and a half. You sit down and you look since this whole thing started, they have taken and taken and tried to stand and tried to stand just to be blown through.”

Considering how much of Pless’ opening statement involved airing political grievances, when asked whether the bill targeting Maggie Valley’s ETJ’s was essentially punishment for their RV moratorium, he didn’t beat around the bush and even called it retribution.

“I do some really bad stuff and I do some good stuff; it just depends on which side of the bed I crawl out of as to which you get sometimes,” he said.

Eveland told SMN that the complaints about the UDO and the RV park moratorium are misguided. He noted that the process for the UDO started way back in 2015 and was dictated by state law. The prior one, voted in almost a decade prior to that point, was a “mixed bag of junk,” Eveland said.

“It was very hard to read,” he said. “When I got on the board at 2013 and it included Phillip Wight, we understood we needed to do some work on the UDO.”

At the time the RV PUDs were being discussed, it was initially understood by board members that only class A RVs would be allowed at the ideally high-end parks. Eventually class super-C, which is basically an RV on a diesel semitruck chassis, was added. However, the night of the vote for the PUDs, then Alderman Twinkle Patel floated the idea of adding all classes of RVs, including class B, which are more like vans than RVs.

On Patel’s motion, that plan passed, leaving Eveland feeling blindsided.

“They came in with all this new paperwork and made it A, B and C, and said let’s vote on it and we’re done,” Eveland said. “Once word got out about how the board handled it and how it got done, people were offended and upset. At that point, it became about campgrounds.”

Eveland admitted that it’s frustrating to be in a situation where the town is being punished by a state legislator who is interfering in its business. However, while he said some of the RV parks in town are clean and well-run, that isn’t the case across the board, so he doesn’t regret the decision to limit them along Soco Road.

Either way, he admitted that losing the power to regulate what happens in the ETJ hurts Maggie Valley’s ability to plan and execute its long-term vision, and the potential loss of tax revenue from people de-annexing is also concerning. 

“I don’t care if you lose a dime in tax value, that hurts us,” he said.

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