It's time to weigh in on Lake Junaluska's future
This is a watershed year for Lake Junaluska as it celebrates 100 years as a religious retreat known throughout the world.
But the community may be facing a big change if it becomes part of its larger neighbor, Waynesville. The idea of consolidation came from Lake Junaluska.
Soon after assuming the role of executive director of the United Methodist Church conference and retreat center, Dr. Jack Ewing challenged his staff to begin working on a strategic plan for the community's future. That plan included the Lake Junaluska Assembly Public Works Preliminary Report on the Municipal Status of Lake Junaluska which identified four options: remain as it is, incorporate into its own town, ask to be annexed by Waynesville, or transfer control of the water and sewer infrastructure.
Involuntary annexation is not an option in North Carolina, and Waynesville isn't interested in that anyway. Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown has said from the beginning that Waynesville is "not going to go out there and take Lake Junaluska."
Since there is no continguous property adjoining Waynesville and Lake Junaluska, the only way annexation could occur is by enacting a state law. Brown said early in the process he would not seek such a law unless Lake Junaluska wants it. Time is running out for that option. The cut-off date for introducing bills in the N. C. General Assembly is early March. Otherwise it's a two-year wait.
Both Lake Junaluska and Waynesville seem poised to meet this year's legislation-filing deadline. Waynesville's governing board wants to hear from folks about the idea.
Public input opportunities are scheduled for at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 at and 11 a.m. Feb. 22 in the governing board's meeting room at Town Hall.
"We're interested in listening to anybody who wants to talk about it," said Brown, who went on to explain that speakers don't have to be residents of or own property in Waynesville. "People can be from anywhere."
Town staff expects to have the results of a feasability study compiled by engineering firm McGill & Associates by Feb. 22, the date scheduled for the town governing board's annual retreat.
"Staff is pulling figures from several sources to supplement the McGill report," Brown said.
Lake Junaluska residents and property owners have been in the loop since the first task force meeting April 26, 2012.
The committee's Jan. 26, 2013, meeting centered on the formidable challenges of incorporation as a town. Task force chairman Ron Clauser said Monday that the group's job is nearly over.
"It was a good process," said Clauser. "We had a cross-section of participation on the task force — age, gender, property owners, clergy, fulltime and seasonal residents, and we had excellent attendance at the meetings."
Members in addition Clauser are retired Waynesville town manager Lee Galloway who was appointed by the Waynesville governing board; Joe Stowe; Kelley Bonfoey; Buddy Young; Mary Allan Conforti; Ed LaFountaine; Don Rankin; Pat Koontz: Dr. Jack Ewing; Bill King; and Dr. Lawrence McClesky, who was later replaced by George Thompson.
Gene McAbee, head of security at Lake Junaluska, served as recording secretary. Nine meetings were attended by about 100 people each time. The task force met Thursday night in a public meeting at the Harrell Center and will likely have a final meeting on Feb. 28.
Surveys will go out next week to residents and property owners, and Clauser said when surveys are returned and tallied, the task force will make its recommendation to the Community Council, which will in turn send the recommendation to the Lake Junaluska Assembly Board of Directors. Century-old Lake Junaluska may face a future very different from its past.