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Local illustrator part of upcoming Open Studios Tour

James Lyle is an internationally renowned illustrator and artist whose work appears in comic books, in campaigns for major corporations, in video games and in the Weekly Reader read by thousands of students each week. He lives in Haywood County and is participating in the Oct. 3-4 Haywood Open Studios Tour:

SMN: Why do you participate in this event?

Lyle: I grew up in Haywood County and have spent most of my life here, but in spite of the fact that I’m known nationally — and even internationally in some circles — very few folks around here know what I do. So when the HOST event first started, I thought it might be a good way to let people in on the secret. It wasn’t until this year that I had the opportunity to actually participate.

SMN: What about your work gives you the most pleasure?

Lyle: Actually sitting down at the drawing board and drawing gives me the most pleasure. The difficulty now is that it seems that I have to spend a great deal of time in self-promotion and networking. Fortunately most of my experiences in “networking” have been positive, and I find that to be nearly as pleasant as the drawing process itself. I’ve been spending a great deal of time lately as vice chairman of the Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society and that offers a chance to work with a number of up-and-coming artists in the region. Mentoring them is a close second to actually drawing.

SMN: Is your art your sole source of income; and if so, how long did you work at it before getting to your current status?

Lyle: Art is my primary source of income. But my wife and I both work, and I do play an occasional gig with our band, Gypsy Bandwagon — which is technically still “art” in the larger sense of the word. I’ve been working as an artist full time since graduating from Southwestern Community College back in 1992, but actually did quite a bit of work as a freelance artist before getting that degree. So all in all, I have been working professionally since 1983. So, 25 years, give or take a year.

SMN: What attracted you to Western North Carolina?

Lyle: Besides growing up here, I think it’s a beautiful place to live. When I met my wife, I thought for a while that we might live near where she grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but the cost of living there is so high that we added it all up and realized that the mountains was a great place to be. So we came back home.

SMN: What would you do if you weren’t an illustrator or cartoonist?

Lyle: I’d like to be a musician if I weren’t able to be an illustrator or cartoonist. Most graphic artists do seem to have some musical aspirations, so I’m in good company.

SMN: Who is your clientele?

Lyle: My clientele varies a great deal, from small comic book publishing companies and personal commissions to magazine publishers, major apparel companies, and advertising agencies. At the moment I’m working on an advertising campaign for a theater company out of Toronto, Canada, while also working on a series of event T-shirts for the U.S. Marines, illustrating a Pirate novel, and preparing to launch a new webcomic.

But there have been any number of other art-type jobs along the way. From painting billboards and doing mechanical paste-up (back before computers), to laying out catalogs and designing Yellow Pages ads. All in all, I’d rather draw.

SMN: Where are you from and what kind of training and education do you have?

Lyle: While we covered this one briefly a little more info might help. I’m from Haywood County. Our family has roots in Haywood from at least four generations back. While I was born in Asheville, Dad moved us back to the family home when I was just two. And except for a brief time in the Chicago suburbs and some time spent in Salisbury, I’ve been here most of my life.

I have an Associates of Applied Sciences degree in Commercial Art and Advertising Design from Southwestern Community College. I still try to help out there serving with the Graphic Arts advisory group and sending promising students their way when they present themselves. But most any artist will likely tell you that what they studied in school was primarily how to teach themselves. A degree is really just the beginning of an education in art, constant practice and application are required to achieve any real success as an illustrator or cartoonist.

County ensnared in lawsuit over historic courthouse renovations

Haywood County is being sued for $2 million by the contractor in charge of renovations to the newly restored historic courthouse.

Haywood County commissioners fired the contractor 18 months into the job, citing serious delays and poor work. The construction company claims it wasn’t their fault, and instead blames the architect for inaccurate blueprints.

The county is meanwhile caught in the middle. If the contractor prevails in its demand for more money, the county would have to pay up then go after the architect to cover the pay-out.

County commissioners have had a rocky relationship with the company, KMD Construction, for much of the project. The county actually fired KMD from the project in May 2008 — 18 months into the job and a month away from the target completion date.

“At that time we had no idea when, how or if they were going to finish this job,” said Bob Menadue, a construction lawyer based in Raleigh who is representing the county in the dispute.

The county had also gotten a tip from a worker on the job that the contractor was cutting corners to save time and money.

“At that point it became a no brainer we had to terminate them,” Meynardie said.

The county had insured the project through a surety bond company, which took over when KMD was fired. The surety company rehired KMD to finish the work, but under a new project manager and with additional oversight by the surety company themselves. Meynardie said it is not unusual for the surety company to bring the same contractor back in.

“They should know the job better than anybody that could be brought in to finish it,” Meynardie said.


Tit for tat

The contractor, KMD Construction, is being represented by Steven Smith, an attorney with Smith, Parson and Vickstrom in Charlotte.

Smith said the architect provided poor blueprints that did not accurately reflect what the job would entail.

“He did not go out there and do an adequate investigation of the building,” Smith said.

Plans called for an addition on the back of the courthouse. The addition would be bolted into a large concrete beam supposedly inside the exterior wall of old courthouse.

“When they opened up the wall, guess what? No concrete beam in the wall. That one example crippled this project,” Smith said.

But the examples don’t stop there, Smith said. The architects also failed to realize that large granite blocks around the base of the courthouse were the structural support for the building — not a veneer — and could not easily be punched through.

Another example: the historic courthouse contained jail cells on the fourth and fifth floor. Plans called for ripping out the jail cells. What no one knew is that the bars for the jail cells ran through the ceiling that separated the fourth and fifth floors, so tearing out the cell bars required tearing out the concrete slab between floors, Smith said.

Smith said there were several show stopper issues that paralyzed the project. The contractor could not move forward without revised plans from the architect and new engineering. But the engineer and the architect were uncooperative, Smith said.

“We either got insufficient guidance or they said, ‘You deal with it,’” Smith said.

As the project got more and more behind schedule, the architects blamed the contractor.

“They were telling the county that we were holding things up, that we were responsible for the delays, when really we were without adequate design guidance and the project could not move forward,” Smith said.

Smith questioned whether the architects purposely drug their feet to hold up the project, since they are paid extra if the project goes over schedule.

The contractor is suing the county for $2 million. Of that, $800,000 is what the contractor claims it lost on the job, while $1.2 million is the profit and overhead KMS should have realized but didn’t.

KMD had to pay the fees for the surety company’s point man supervising the project’s completion, footed the bill for work that went beyond the scope of their original bid, and incurred extra expenses when hiring back subcontractors after the job was put on hold and then resumed.

The contractor also alleges they were wrongfully fired from the job.

Meynardie said the county tried to work with KMD to get the project back on track, but found them uncooperative. Meanwhile, KMD claims they were never given fair warning or a chance to address the county’s issue with their performance.

KMD named the architect and project engineer in the lawsuit as well, but the county is the main target since it holds the contract with KMD and the purse strings for the project.

“The architect and engineer are going to get to stand on the sidelines,” Meynardie said.

The architecture firm, Pearce, Brinkley, Cease and Lee, would not comment for this article.

Meynardie admits the blueprints were not 100 percent accurate.

“But that is not unusual in a renovation project,” Meynardie said. “The whole idea is the contractor and designer work together.”

Meynardie said the contractor plowed ahead on their own in some cases, ripping out structural elements of the building without the architect or engineer’s approval.

“There was a period of time when this building was in danger,” Meynardie said.

The county racked up additional expenses of its own during the drawn out project. It had to pay rent on satellite office space during the renovations, had to pay architects for their additional time and faces a big legal bill. The county withheld payments from the contractor to cover some of the extra costs it incurred as a result of the quagmire. Historic courthouse renovations have cost the county $8.2 million — only a slight cost overrun compared to the original budget of $8.038 million. It would have been more, however, if not for withholding a portion of the contractor’s payment.


The down and dirty

Tension between architects and contractors often goes with the territory. Contractors get frustrated by architects, whose plans on paper don’t always work on the ground. Architects get frustrated with contractors who can’t follow plans correctly and are constantly angling for change orders.

Change orders are the bane of any major construction project. When a contractor encounters added work not reflected in the plans, they ask for a change order outlining the extra work and adding to the project cost. The result is a constant tug of war between architect and contractor.

When competing for a building project, some contractors will underbid in order to score the job, since jobs go to the lowest bidder. The contractor is banking on pushing up the price tag through change orders over the course of construction, however.

Contractors nitpick the architect’s blueprints, claiming the plans were incomplete and that they are performing extra work outside the scope their original bid and thus need more money. The architect meanwhile insists that the plans are indeed accurate, and that the contractor is responsible for delivering the project for the price they promised.

In the end, contractors can come to blows with a hard-nose architect who holds the line on changes orders.

Jack Patterson, a professor in the construction management program at Western Carolina University and a former contractor by trade, said communication between the contractor and architect is vital, especially in renovations.

“One thing we stress with students to alleviate that problem is good communication skills,” Patterson said. “A lot of times the break down is in communication. Sometimes they get so frustrated that neither side is going to budge and there is no line of communication left to try to resolve that problem.”

Patterson also teaches students to do their own due diligence when bidding on a project to uncover hidden issues an architect may not have realized.

“As a contractor, I tried to find any defects in the blueprint or the building at the very beginning and address it before the bids are let,” Patterson said.

While any project — especially a massive renovation of a historic building — has its share of legitimate change orders, it can be difficult to discern which are legitimate and which are part of the game played by contractors to make more money.

“Animosity can be created through that cycle,” Patterson said. “It can get worse because each starts stonewalling the other and you end up in arbitration and along the way the building ends up not getting done. Somewhere down the line, people have to say this is what has happened and what do we need to do to get it done.”

Smith, of course, claims the change orders requested by the contractors were all legitimate. Meynardie said all legitimate change orders were approved.

But Smith said the contractors eventually quit pursuing change orders and just did the work at a loss, with the intention of settling up when the project was over.

“It got to the point with this job where it was clear where the architect had set up his tent,” Smith said.

Haywood celebrates completion of historic courthouse renovations

Haywood County leaders held a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday on the steps of the newly renovated historic courthouse.

The $8.2 million renovations to the 1932 courthouse have been a long time in the making. The project has been under discussion since the late 1990s, when the county began studying a plan to address cramped and inadequate court facilities. The result was a new justice center to house court functions, with the historic courthouse being remodeled to house county offices.

While the price tag of the projects has been the source of public controversy, county leaders say they made the right decision for the future.

“I hope they will look back and say our forefathers did us right,” said County Commissioner Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick.

Speakers at the ceremony lauded the restoration for accommodating the modern needs — such as elevators for the handicapped to high-tech computer wiring — while still preserving the historic aspects of the building.

“Haywood County citizens have long been committed to their roots while at the same time cognizant of their future,” said Marlene, an longtime Superior Court Judge who recently retired.

While a newly constructed justice center the new home for trials, records and court functions, it will never take the place in people’s hearts as the “courthouse,” said Glenn Brown, a former district attorney who spoke at the ribbon cutting.

Loss of Hazelwood manufacturer marks the end of an era

When Mary Ann Enloe was growing up in the blue-collar hub of Hazelwood, she didn’t know anyone with an alarm clock. The town woke to the sound of the factory whistle and followed its cues all day long.

“Everybody here had jobs,” said Enloe. “Industry is what made Hazelwood what it was.”

The town’s stationary and the badges of police officers even bore the town’s motto: “A Center of Diversified Industry.”

Tight-knit neighborhoods proliferated around several factories, especially after WWII. A quintessential mill town, everyone walked to work carrying their lunch pails. Credit flowed from merchants, be it the local grocer, the drug store or dress shop.

“I could go down there and get what I wanted and it would be written up on mother’s bill,” recalled Enloe, who was the last mayor of Hazelwood before it merged with Waynesville. Enloe’s father was also mayor of the former town.

But one by one, the factories have closed shop: a leather tannery, a textile mill, a furniture plant, a rubber factory. There was just one holdout from a bygone era— until now. Wellco shoe plant announced last week that it will cease operations in Waynesville in September, taking with it 80 jobs and yet another piece of Hazelwood’s former heart and soul.

Wellco shoe plant opened in Waynesville in 1941. Enloe remembers Wellco’s early days, when you could walk through town and see women on their porches stitching boots under contract for Wellco.

“They have been extremely important to Hazelwood,” Enloe said of Wellco. “This is a sad day for Hazelwood.”

Wellco was taken over by new owners in 2007. The owners issued a press release announcing the closure last week, but declined to elaborate beyond calling the plant “no longer economically feasible.”

Wellco had long been battling the pressures of cheaper imports, said Rolf Kaufman, president of the company for 30 years and vice chairman up until 2007.

In Wellco’s early days, it made shoes of all sorts and even slippers, but the market “became so dominated by imports from China we could not longer compete,” Kaufman said.

Over the years, Wellco had shifted more and more of its production to Puerto Rico where wages and overhead were cheaper. By the mid-1990s, nearly all production was done in Puerto Rico to remain viable, but it was an uphill battle to compete against plants in Mexico, China and India.

Wellco ultimately survived as long as it did by catering to a single but powerful customer: the U.S. military.

“The military must purchase garments, including footwear, from U.S. sources whenever available,” Kaufman said. “That protection did save us.”

Wellco began courting military orders in the 1960s, when the company’s innovative technology for attaching soles to boots proved invaluable.

“They had so much trouble in Vietnam in the jungle with soles not staying attached,” Kaufman said.

Military contracts became a larger and larger portion of Wellco’s production line, eventually dominating it operations.

HVO to purchase Wellco site

Although Wellco shoe plant in Waynesville is closing, the community will be spared the blight of another vacant industrial site.

Haywood Vocational Opportunities, which manufactures and assembles medical supplies, is buying the site to expand its own operations. HVO, which currently has 320 full-time employees, hopes to add 75 more within two years at the Wellco site.

“This certainly softens the blow,” said Mark Clasby, Haywood County’s Economic Development Director. “Obviously you hate to lose any jobs anytime, but fortunately in this situation, HVO has been a great success story for Haywood County.”

An expansion was already in the works for HVO. HVO was planning to buy a site in the Beaverdam Industrial Park near Canton, but will now utilize the Wellco site instead.

“It is very conducive to upfitting, upgrading and renovating to meet our needs,” said George Marshall, CEO of HVO.

The Wellco site is less than half a mile from HVO’s current operation. That proximity was the main factor in the decision, Marshall said.

HVO’s main product is medical drapes used during surgery. The company also assembles surgical kits — up to 800 a day — customized with the suite of instruments a particular doctor might need. The new space will be used to expand HVO’s production capacity and grow new product lines, Marshall said.

Clasby is grateful HVO stepped in to buy the Wellco site, even if it meant backing out of the deal in the industrial park. When it comes to courting new industry to set up shop, Clasby feels the 10-acre graded site in an industrial park on the side of Interstate 40 will eventually find a new taker. As for the old Wellco site, Clasby fears it would have been impossible to recruit a new tenant.

“Manufacturing companies are not interested in old buildings with lower ceilings,” Clasby said.

“The Wellco property probably would not have a lot of interest from manufacturing industry,” Marshall agreed.

Tourism office takes tech strides

In her nearly six-month tenure as executive director, Lynn Collins has been helping Haywood County’s Tourism Development Authority make strides — especially in using technology to be more effective for tourism operators and visitors.

As a prominent example, the tourism authority plans to implement a top-of-the-line booking system on its website. Visitors to the site will be able to get tickets to attractions and make reservations at local accommodations with just a few clicks of the mouse — making it simpler than the systems on lead booking sites such as Travelocity.com, Collins told the TDA board at its June 24 meeting.

Under the new system, “bookings can take only three steps versus five or six” with others, Collins said.

The system will be embedded in TDA’s website, but will connect invisibly and seamlessly to the ticketing or reservation system of tourism businesses, Collins said. The company offering the system will preview it for the board TDA and its members in the near future.

Other advances include installation of a new phone system in the TDA’s office — “with voice mail,” Collins told the board with a hint of mock exultation.

On the outreach and PR front, TDA’s monthly newsletter, “TDA Tidbits,” has gone digital, for the kind of immediate and ongoing accessibility sometimes compromised with a paper publication, which can get tossed aside or lost in piles of clutter.

The TDA also previously launched a YouTube channel, where tourism operators can post short videos about their establishment. And it is leveraging so-called social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook to broaden its reach and appeal. According to TDA’s inaugural March edition of its newsletter, “This presence on these Social Media sites allows us to directly connect with potential visitors, providing interactive content, a blog, video, photos, quick responses to any questions, and more.”

Finally, TDA is grappling with helping tourism operators create and raise their profile with users of the “mobile web,” where people can access travel and tourism information from their cell phones.


Marketing plan

The board also adopted its new marketing plan, following a presentation on it by TDA board member and marketing committee chair Marion Hamel, in absence of Jay Sokolow of The Tombras Group, who developed it. The plan aims to concentrate advertising in what are believed to be the highest-value markets — namely nearby metro areas such as Charlotte and Atlanta. Generally considered the top sources of tourists in the region, Collins said that’s likely truer than ever, with more people vacationing closer to home in a tough economy.

The plan also seeks to be more selective and cost-efficient in how it spreads its advertising dollars around in national publications and other venues. The TDA’s revenue comes from a 4 percent tax on overnight lodging in the county and is pumped back in to tourism promotions. The marketing plan calls for spending $254,000 on advertising buys.

The difficult economy notwithstanding, Collins said tourist spending on overnight lodging in the county is only down about 6 percent so far for the fiscal year ending June 30, while many colleagues encountered at a recent conference reported double-digit declines. She said she believes that is because the area is rather central to key locales where the county draws visitors from, something of a crossroads.

Historic courthouse welcomes back county offices

After two-and-a-half years of operating in temporary quarters, the big move is here.

Stacks of boxes are piled high in the hallways and offices of Haywood County workers, awaiting transfer to their new home. This weekend, they’ll be moved in a flurry of activity to the restored historic courthouse, which finally opens for business on Monday, June 29.

The renovation of the 1932 landmark into modern county offices has been much anticipated, once again consolidating many county services under one roof, bringing together departments like the Register of Deeds, Tax Office and county administration.

“I think it’s a very good example of restoring a historic landmark to modify and meet office space needs,” said County Manager David Cotton.

A ribbon-cutting for the historic courthouse will be held sometime in mid or late July to coordinate with the release of a book documenting Haywood County history, said Cotton.

County employees have, for the past few weeks, gone through the tedious process of packing up boxes of county-owned and personal items. Employees won’t actually be the ones moving the boxes — the county has hired movers to do that at a cost of $14,325 — but they’ll still have to oversee the transition.

Also making the move are hundreds of thick deed books — including the birth, marriage and death records of county residents dating back generations — make it safely to their new home in the historic courthouse. The books will be delicately vacuum-packed for preservation and moved on pallets.

The move back to the historic courthouse means the county can stop paying rent to the tune of $5,500 a month for temporary office space in the Waynesville Plaza. It will also free up significant office space in a county-owned building near K-Mart on Russ Avenue.

The county hasn’t completely rid itself of satellite office buildings, however, which still house myriad departments from planning to elections to social services. Some of those departments are eyeing the vacated space in the Russ Avenue building and making a pitch to move there.

“There will be county departments that will backfill the building,” Cotton said. “We’re still working on that, meeting with the directors that have expressed an interest in moving out there.”

There are myriad options for how county office space could be reshuffled. Cotton is compiling those to share with county commissioners at their July meeting.

The county has shelled out $363,000 for new furnishings for the historic courthouse. Each employee will receive a new office set, including a desk, credenza, storage and seating, at a cost of $2,400 per employee, Cotton said.

Employees will be able to take whatever furniture they want to keep from the Plaza location, and the rest will be auctioned off.

Tensions escalate between commissioners, audience

A member of the public was escorted from a Haywood County commissioners meeting Monday (June 15) by a deputy after getting into a verbal altercation with Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick.

Tension has been high at county meetings for the past two months as commissioners wrestled with a budget for the coming fiscal year. The recession has strapped the county, prompting a 1.7 cent property tax hike along with layoffs, furloughs, shortened work weeks and a reduction in benefits for county workers.

Commissioners have faced stiff opposition bordering on belligerence over the proposed property tax increase. So it didn’t take much to ignite the short fuse between commissioners and the public this week.

Commissioners were considering a request from Stephen King, the solid waste director, to lease two new pieces of heavy machinery for landfill operations. King had gotten the OK from commissioners several months ago to hunt for the best deal to replace a bulldozer and excavator that King says are on their last leg.

King found what he considered the best deal out there, but as he began discussing specifications for the equipment, Kenneth Henson piped up from the audience with questions about the undercarriage on one of the pieces. Henson, a grader who is intimately familiar with heavy machinery, challenged King’s knowledge of the equipment, engaging King with questions about the type of undercarriage.

Kirkpatrick told Henson that was enough.

“You don’t want to know?” Henson asked commissioners.

“I do, but I can’t let you talk out in a meeting that way. If I let you do it then I have to let everybody do it,” Kirkpatrick said.

“All I’m trying to do is save the county money,” Henson said.

“I understand,” Kirkpatrick said.

“No, you don’t,” Henson shot back.

“Shut up,” Kirkpatrick said, firmly pointing his finger at Henson.

As the situation seemed poised to escalate further, a sheriff’s deputy who was standing by the doors at the back of the room approached Henson and asked him to leave. As Henson rose, he chastised Kirkpatrick for his method of silencing a public outburst earlier in the meeting.

In that incident, Jonnie Cure, a leader of the group opposing the tax increase, had let out a guffaw while Commissioner Bill Upton was speaking. Those around her chided in with a chorus of “no’s” to express their disapproval at Upton’s comments. Upton had been explaining the difficult decision between even deeper cuts to county staff and services versus a tax increase. Upton said the county’s level of services, whether it’s teachers or law enforcement, is important to residents.

“The reason people move to Haywood County is the services we provide,” Upton said, prompting the outburst.

“Ms. Cure, I don’t believe I have ever interrupted you. In fact I have listened. We learn that in school,” responded Upton, the former superintendent of the school system.

Kirkpatrick stuck up for Upton and told the audience there would be no more outbursts or “talking out loud” during the meeting. Henson apparently resented the way Kirkpatrick had put his foot down with Cure.

“You talked to her like a dog, and you aren’t going to do me that way,” Henson said as he was escorted out.

Henson could be heard grumbling as he moved into the hallway, followed by the deputy saying, “You can’t do that in a public meeting.”

Kirkpatrick apologized to the audience before resuming the meeting.

“It has been a long six months. I apologize for that statement. It is unfortunate and all I can do is say ‘I’m sorry,’” Kirkpatrick told the audience after Henson was escorted out.

Henson remained outside the building talking with other opponents to the tax increase. He was still there nearly an hour later when the commissioners’ meeting concluded and Kirkpatrick emerged.

Kirkpatrick approached Henson, presumably to clear the air, and the two engaged in a 5-minute conversation on the sidewalk about what had transpired during the meeting. County Manager David Cotton stuck close to Kirkpatrick’s side. The deputy who was on hand for the meeting stood a few feet away as well.

Henson said he was legitimately trying to help by educating the county on the specifications for the excavating equipment they were poised to purchase. Henson said he was afraid the county was getting hoodwinked by the promise of special features on the equipment that are unnecessary.

Henson said the county could tap into the glut of used machinery on the market and easily modify it for landfill work. Instead, the county leased two new pieces of machinery billed as having a landfill-rated undercarriage at $20,000 a year for both.

Kirkpatrick said it was his responsibility to maintain order at meetings and he couldn’t allow audience members to pipe up in a confrontational manner throughout the course of the meeting. Kirkpatrick also said the county puts faith in the knowledge of their staff who researched the equipment needs and the best deal.

The two ended their conversation amicably.

More than 1,000 purebreds vie for top honors at inaugural dog show

Haywood County became the Westminster of Western North Carolina this past weekend as more than 1,000 dogs and their owners flocked to the area to compete in the first AKC-sanctioned dog show ever held in the far western region.

The parking lot of the Haywood County Fairgrounds was crammed with RVs, trucks and vans from all over the Southeast, many bearing signs that warned other vehicles to “Stay back — Show Dogs in Tow.” The lot and the barn on site were transformed into a temporary staging area for 131 breeds to be groomed, clipped, and kept cool for the competition.

The show was the first official American Kennel Club event offered by the Western North Carolina Dog Fanciers association. Members of the club were astonished by the turnout.

“With the economy and this being our first event in a site unknown, we hoped and prayed for a turnout of 600 to 800,” said Nancy Davis, president of the WNC Dog Fanciers Association.

The sheer number of breeds was quite a site to behold. They ranged from more common — 14 border collies, 24 boxers; and five basset hounds, for example — to rarer breeds like Portugese water dogs, Pyrenean shepherds, and Salukis.

Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, the first round of competition — best in breed — kicked off the show. Groups of dogs competed for top honors, trotting along the rubber red carpets set up in a series of show rings. In one ring, large standard poodles pranced in a circle with their owners, showing off their gait. In the next ring over, a judge inspected a group of impeccably groomed Malteses for flaws under their coats.

According to Davis, “Dogs are judged against a written word picture of what the perfect example of what a pug, sheltie, or whatever breed would be.”

To succeed in the confirmation round — i.e., best in breed — “You should have a good example of what a breed should be,” said Davis.

Nearby, a large Newfoundland named Timber Knolls Westpoint Sylvanus (or Thayer, for short) had just been crowned best in breed and was waiting with his owners, Mike and Glenda Garrett of Asheville, to get his picture taken. The Newfoundland’s glossy, thick coats are often the ticket to snatching a top prize. Thayer’s owners attribute his gorgeous coat to a good diet of expensive dog food and supplements, but nothing too out of the ordinary, aside from extensive grooming, is involved.

“We kill a couple vacuums a year,” in the grooming process, proclaimed Mike Garrett.

Thayer would go on to compete in the working group competition. For that portion of the show, dogs are split into six groups. Thayer is in the working category — his breed was bred to work for humans due to their strength and webbed feet, which make them strong swimmers. Newfoundlands were originally ship dogs.

Other categories are toys (bred to be companions, like Malteses); terriers (bred for ridding farms of vermin); herding; non-sporting; and sporting (such as golden retrievers and Irish setters, which are bred to retrieve or flush game).

Whether their dogs won or not, owners were thrilled to find an AKC-sanctioned event in Western North Carolina. That was the case with Candler residents Noreen Atkins-Atwell and James Atkins, who brought their two Irish wolfhounds — Champion Summerhill Ulstermyst Crash and Summerhill Abbey Vale Xanadu.

“We’re so happy they’ve started to give shows closer to home,” Noreen said.

Many came to support a new regional competition, like Kari Hill from Greenville, S.C., who stood outside grooming her Scotty, Lorelei Charhill Sea Siren.

“We definitely came specifically to support the new club,” Hill said.

Participants in the show took a piece of Western North Carolina home with them. The prizes were pieces of pottery handcrafted and donated by Sylva potter Gloria Stockton.

And the show is almost certain to attract some return visitors to the region.

“We had a lot of positive comments about our area and how beautiful the site was,” Davis said. “There were some challenges, but people were overall impressed and said they want to come back.”

Haywood erosion enforcement shot down in court

Landowners have won a lawsuit against Haywood County claiming they were victims of overbearing enforcement of erosion control laws.

Judge Laura Bridges issued her ruling this week, although the case was heard six weeks ago. Bridges ruled in favor of the landowners, Ron and Brian Cameron, who had sued the county to get out from under its erosion enforcement citing a state forestry exemption.

Landowners engaged in forestry are held to less stringent erosion standards than developers. Ron Cameron thinks the county’s erosion control officer Marc Pruett simply doesn’t like the fact that the state forestry exemption trumps the county’s erosion laws.

“Is his argument really with the forest exemption, and I am really just being used as scapegoat?” Cameron said in an interview this week. “Between our costs and the county’s costs, we have spent half a million so far arguing over whether Marc Pruett should have control over this land or the state forest service should have oversight of this land.”

The Camerons built a 1.5-mile road network on a 66-acre tract in the Camp Branch area of Waynesville, claiming it was for logging.

The county argued that the Camerons were merely hiding behind the logging exemption, however. The county claims the Camerons’ real intention was to develop the property, witnessed by the creation of a development master plan, registering a subdivision name with the county and applying for a septic tank evaluation.

Ron Cameron said he was merely exploring options. At the time he built the roads in question, his only motive was forestry, he said. Cameron points to the four different foresters he hired since buying the property six years ago as proof that he was interested in pursuing forestry. The county counters that he never did any logging other than cutting trees that lay in the path of the roads he built.

Judge Bridges apparently wasn’t comfortable assigning hidden motives to the Camerons.

“The Camerons have not logged the property but neither have they developed the property,” Bridge wrote in her ruling. “There are no signs on the ground that a development is planned. No lots have been surveyed or staked. No subdivision roads have been created.”

Bridges, who toured the property as part of the trial, called the road network built by the Camerons “crudely constructed logging roads and not development roads.”

The county claimed the Camerons needed to bring their roads into compliance with the county’s erosion laws. After the Camerons filed a lawsuit protesting the county’s jurisdiction over their roads, the county responded with a retroactive $175,000 fine against the Camerons for refusing to come into compliance.

“The fine was issued in my opinion as an intimidation technique,” Cameron said in an interview this week.

Cameron is seeking his attorney fees and court costs in the amount of $260,000 to be paid by the county.

“We tried various ways to not let this progress this way,” said Attorney Jeff Norris, who represented the Camerons.

Cameron said he offered to drop the case and not pursue damages or attorney fees if the county would drop its fines and let Cameron return to his forestry exemption. The county would not let the Camerons walk away without bringing the roads up to county standards, however.

It is not yet known whether the county will appeal the ruling, staving off the Camerons’ demand for attorney fees barring a second ruling.

“The county is disappointed,” Chip Killian, the county attorney, said of the ruling. “We are looking at it closely and will have to make a decision whether to appeal or not.”

The county has to file notice of its intent to appeal within 30 days. The county could preserve its right to an appeal by filing notice within the window, buying time to work out the details of its appeal and make a final decision whether to go through one.

Both sides in the case have argued that a terrible precedent would be set if the other side won. If the county wins, landowners everywhere will shy away from logging for fear they could never change their mind without their motives being questioned and triggering retroactive fines. On the other hand, if the county loses, it would provide a road map for developers who want to exploit the forestry exemption.

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