Holly Kays

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fr jacksonplanningJackson County Commissioners were upset to discover last week that no one’s been enforcing the county’s mountain and hillside development ordinance for more than two years.

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coverTwo short years ago, Fay Grant was living on the other side of the country, a professional music editor for film and television shows in Los Angeles’ bustling entertainment scene. It was a different world altogether from the sleepier mountain town of Waynesville, where she and her husband Ben now make their home. 

She doesn’t regret the move. 

Something was missing from life in L.A. She wanted to do something different, something that made a difference. So, Grant took a few months off for a road trip across the country, and that drive, she said, “led me to The Tote Project.”

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Commissioners in Jackson County are moving forward with a plan to scrap their policy of contracting legal services with a private attorney in favor of hiring a full-time staff attorney. At a recent work session, they gave County Manager Chuck Wooten the go-ahead to advertise the position and include more than $100,000 in salary, benefits and associated expenses in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2015-16.

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fr forbetterCalvin Mann can’t make it far across the campus of Haywood Pathways Center without bumping into a friend.

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fr pathwaysParticipation at the Haywood Pathways Center in Waynesville has been holding pretty steady ever since it opened in late 2014, with about 25 people living on campus, 80 percent of them male.

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out frWhen Michael Bradley first picked up a fly rod in 2011, he wasn’t looking for anything more than a relaxing pastime. He’d tried fly fishing once before, as an 11-year-old kid, but “didn’t do so good at it.” At age 20, he thought things might be different if he gave it another try. 

He was right. 

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fr geraldgreenThe business end of Jackson County Planner Gerald Green’s departure — who will be in charge of finding a replacement, what the timeline might be — was a necessary topic of discussion at last week’s county commissioner meeting, but commissioners prefaced the logistics with a unified lament over his leaving.

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fr firetaxA public hearing to get Cashiers’ take on a proposed fire tax for the area drew about 70 people to the Cashiers-Glenville Recreation Center. Judging by the 10 speakers who said their piece to the Jackson County Commissioners, one opinion is fairly unanimous among Cashiers taxpayers: the Cashiers Fire Department needs more revenue. 

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drugsA bigger number of Jackson County students could be subject to random drug testing if a proposed policy change being considered by the school board gets approved.

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out frThe Haywood Historic Farmers Market hopes to open its selection to an even larger portion of the population by exercising its new ability to accept food assistance money from the SNAP program — and use $14,000 worth of grants to make those dollars go further for SNAP users. 

“Everyone deserves the same access to healthy local food, regardless of their circumstances,” said Carol James, a president of the market board. “We are pleased to be able to provide this access to those who use SNAP. Not only does it allow them to buy quality products from their local farmer, it puts them in a setting where they have the opportunity to take advantage of the educational programs at the market.”

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fr sidsAfter a solid three-year run in Canton, Sid’s on Main is closing, leaving a huge vacancy in downtown.

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fr frackingA section of legislation giving the Mining and Energy Commission the authority to decide which local ordinances are OK and which are not when it comes to fracking could be struck down, if a state court sides with a lawsuit recently filed by Clean Water for North Carolina.

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schoolsLeaking roofs, technology needs and impending state cuts prompted Jackson County Schools to put out a hefty ask to the county at the beginning of its budget talks, but it’s looking like the school system will wind up with only about half of the original $4.8 million in new funding it asked for.

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cherokeeIt’s election season in Cherokee, and with the long-time chief Michell Hicks opting not to seek re-election, five candidates are vying for the tribe’s top office.

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fr tuscolaThings are back to normal at Tuscola High School after an emailed threat prompted a complete evacuation of the school April 30.

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out frFour years ago, Jennie Wyderko — then finishing up her undergrad at Virginia Tech — had barely even touched a mountain bike. 

Fast forward to 2015, and she’s one of two female officers for the Nantahala Area Southern Off Road Bicycle Association, co-organizer of a women-only skills clinic and weekly ride through the club and a year out from finishing a 2,000-mile mountain bike route along the Great Divide in the Rocky Mountains.

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fr cullowheeCullowhee residents crowded the basketball court at the Cullowhee Recreation Center last week for a chance to sound off during the last public hearing before Jackson County Commissioners take a final vote on whether to adopt the Cullowhee Community Planning Standards.

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Earlier this year, it looked like Monarch Ventures, a Charlotte-based company that’s been trying for years to build a high-density 500-bed student housing complex in Cullowhee, could be history.

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The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity will be absent from Western Carolina University’s roster of Greek life opportunities until 2020, following a February incident in which a PKA pledge claimed to be waterboarded by his fraternity brothers.

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fr cherokeecouncilWhen the Cherokee Tribal Council voted to give itself a hefty pay raise last fall — $10,000 extra a year plus tens of thousands in backpay for the years when it supposedly should have already been receiving those extra dollars — the decision aroused the ire of a staunch contingent of tribal members who deemed it illegal.

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out frFrom paved 5K routes to epic trail runs and triathlons, Western North Carolina is rife with outdoor races of all types. But a peek at the history shows that the bulk of these events are new arrivals on the landscape, most founded in the past decade or so with new ones popping up each year.  

“Sporting events seem to be growing across the nation, and people are interested in taking their families on these trips,” said CeCe Hipps, executive director of the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce. “What better place to be in the great outdoors than Haywood County?”

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Plans are under way to build a new apartment complex near — but not in — the town of Sylva, an idea that seemed to meet favor from the planning board when it was presented earlier this month.

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fr drexelThe old Drexel furniture factory in Whittier isn’t producing much these days, unless you count bird nests and ivy vines as products. Tall grasses wave across the 21-acre property, obscuring the wood pallets strewn across the yard and reaching into a crumbling woodshed offset from the main building. Vines spider across the building’s brick exterior, and swallows dart and dive in the grasses.

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fr casinoBreweries could be built and alcohol served at special events in Cherokee, if a House bill currently awaiting hearing in a Senate committee becomes state law. 

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out frSolar power is on the rise across the U.S., and a campaign recently launched in Western North Carolina is urging mountain folk to join the trend. 

“You can only do what you can afford to do, and now that it’s affordable, people are taking advantage of it and getting involved,” said Avram Friedman, executive director of The Canary Coalition, one of the two groups collaborating on the Solarize WNC campaign. “I think we’ve sort of reached that critical mass when things are turning around.”

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fr frackingDiscussion about a new industrial development ordinance is just getting going in the Jackson County Planning Board, but the board didn’t waste any time in taking a unanimous vote asserting that fracking — a controversial form of fossil fuel extraction recently legalized in North Carolina — falls under county regulations for mining.

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A state investigation into jail conditions in Jackson County turned up a passel of compliance issues and a mandate that Sheriff Chip Hall submit a plan of correction by the end of the month.

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Jackson County’s Tourism Development Authority will soon launch a search for a tourism director, a milestone for the newly minted countywide tourism agency.

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fr nativehealthIt was a century ago that Beverly Kiohawiton Cook’s relative was taken from his family and shipped off to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Those years at school, days of travel away from family and forbidden to use native dress and speech, were traumatic.

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For the third year in a row, opossums are making their way to the political scene in the N.C. General Assembly. 

The bill — of which Rep. Roger West, R-Marble, is a primary sponsor — would suspend all state wildlife laws related to possums between Dec. 29 and Jan. 2 each year. It’s currently awaiting hearing in the House Committee on Wildlife Resources.

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fr parkingTown commissioners are once again mulling over the question of two-way traffic in downtown Sylva with the conclusion of a traffic study from Waynesville-based J.M. Teague Engineering this month.

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coverSarah Davis loves bats. They’ve been the wintertime residents of Linville Caverns for as long as she can remember, a marker of the seasons she looks forward to each year. The cave, a commercial cavern near Marion, has been in Davis’ family since the 1940s — she and the bats go way back. 

“There would be hundreds of them in the winter, and I absolutely loved them,” Davis recalls.

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It was about 5:15 p.m. on March 13 and Mark Leamon, a jailer at the Jackson County Jail, was in the midst of his routine visual check of the male inmates incarcerated there. It’s an oft-repeated exercise, a quick check to make sure that everybody’s safe and obeying the rules.

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out frA pair of hikers camped near the Lower Falls in Graveyard Fields got a rude awakening March 16 when a bear entered the tent where the backpackers — and at least one of their packs — were spending the night. 

“That right there is the number one ‘do not do’ when you’re camping is keeping anything with food inside your tent,” said Justin McVey, wildlife biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “The situation could have easily been alleviated had the camper hung the food.”

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Cherokee will have a new chief when Election Day concludes this September.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks, who is serving his third four-year term, will not seek re-election, but five candidates have filed in hopes of taking his place.

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Jackson County Commissioners have voiced their opposition to fracking in the mountains loud and clear, and now they’ve signed an agreement making Jackson the first county in North Carolina to lean on the Natural Resources Defense Counsel for help writing rules to mitigate the industry’s impact in their jurisdiction.

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The way is now open for oil and gas companies to start drilling in North Carolina, but no wells are going to pop up any time soon. Besides the time lag automatically built into the permitting process, low natural gas prices will likely discourage development and a pending lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the very commission that wrote the rules could invalidate them.

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fr gleaningSharing food can be a simple thing. Like passing a bag of trail mix to the hiking buddy who forgot to pack lunch, or ladling an extra bowl of chili for the neighbor who stopped by at dinnertime.

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coverJune Johnson’s foray into the world of gardening began in the dead of winter. A sunny January day last year inspired her to venture outside, and her walk brought her to the path behind Maggie Valley United Methodist Church and the grassy lawn surrounding it. The sight made her pause.

SEE ALSO: Conference digs toward the root of hunger in WNC 

“Having grown up around farming, I thought, ‘Why don’t they have a church garden?’ and roamed into the back of the church,” recalled Johnson, a retired teacher and native of Haywood County.

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out frIf the stack of boxes piling up on the counter of the outfitter store at Nantahala Outdoor Center is any indication, thru-hiker season is coming fast. The parcels of food, reminders of home and creature comforts are welcome diversions from the travel-light lifestyle on the Appalachian Trail, where miles are many and luxuries are few. 

“A lot of people ask about what you’re thinking about [on the trail],” said Youngblood, an 18-year-old hiker whose off-trail name is P.J. Coleman, as he sorted through his just-opened box of mail drop goodies. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’re thinking about food.”

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fr sylvajusticecenterSecurity upgrades are on the way at the Jackson County Justice Center, but commissioners have decided to hold off on any expansion of the lobby area — at least for now.

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fr sylvaparkingA parking enforcement ordinance in Sylva is making an appearance in the state Legislature.

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fr litterIf Lisa Muscillo has a superpower, it’s probably her ability to zero in on roadside litter, no matter how well it’s hidden or how high the speed limit.

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out frIt’s been nearly 20 years since Burt Kornegay first started looking into land along Hickory Knoll Road in Macon County, but dirt is finally moving on the Bartram Trail Society’s vision of routing a piece of the long-distance trail away from the road and over the Pinnacle and George Gray Mountain instead. 

“This had been years in the making,” said Kornegay, who was in the midst of his 12 years as president of the Bartram Trail Society when he bought the land. “This was going on even before these tracts of land came up.”

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Proponents of domestic violence prevention are cheering following the launch of a federal law that will allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who commit domestic violence on tribal land.   

“It’s going to be a really good thing for the tribe,” said Bill Boyum, Chief Justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court.

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After allegedly depositing money meant to purchase emergency rescue equipment in a personal account, Cullowhee resident Addam Carl Holdorf, 21, is free on $20,000 bond.

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Western Carolina University has held steady on its rate of tenured and tenure-track professors over the last decade, keeping numbers of permanent faculty that far outstrip the national average.

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fr WCUWhen Bruce Henderson first came to Western Carolina University back in 1978, he was just happy to have a job. The market was tight when he finished his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, so he took what he was offered. Within a couple years, he figured, he’d be able to move somewhere more notable than the little college in Cullowhee.

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Big white stencils of helmeted bikers now adorn a growing number of streets throughout Waynesville.

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out frThe plans are set: Waynesville’s getting invaded this fall, and the army will be 1,000 strong. 

Semi trucks will haul luggage and portable showers, tents will dominate the lawn of the Waynesville Recreation Center and, most importantly, the soldiers, adventurous souls who have signed up to pedal nearly 500 miles across the state in Cycle North Carolina’s Mountains to Coast Tour, will show up with two-wheeled mounts in tow.

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