Lake Junaluska divisions about the future still linger

By Vicki Hyatt | Aug 01, 2014

Though residents at Lake Junaluska have been discussing their future form of governance for more than three years, the issue is still an contentious one, as was evidenced by a property owners meeting earlier this month.

In one of two regular meetings held each year by the Lake Junaluska Property Owners Organization, a resolution proposing to explore other options than annexation lead to a raucous discussion in the Christian community.

The meeting turned so unruly that even the proposal’s author, the Rev. Paul Starnes (ret.) ceased participating.

“When I made the proposal, something akin to a riot erupted,” Starnes said. “I really was shocked. I was making it in a conciliatory spirit to arrive at some consensus that was larger than what we have now.”

Starnes said he raised the issue near the end of the homeowners meeting in an attempt to further explore options other than annexation — the direction now being pursued as Lake Junaluska attempts to find a way to address aging infrastructure and other issues in the residential community of about 750.

His resolution suggested a renewed effort to convince the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church to reverse its decision that ceased financial support of the lake and only now contributes funds to retire debt.

“I would have liked to see them meet with SEJAC to make a passionate plea,” Starnes said in a phone interview. “They’ve supported it for over 100 years. I would like to find a way to continue Lake Junaluska as a genuine Methodist community where the church makes the rules, not the town.”

Starnes said the easiest money he raised as a pastor was for Lake Junaluska, and believes a grassroots effort to reconnect with Methodist churches in the conference would lead to more financial support.

Starnes' resolution suggested further discussions with the Lake Junaluska Sanitary District, using a private contractor for garbage services and asking whether the county commissioners would fill in gaps regarding road maintenance and law enforcement.

Jack Ewing,  Lake Junaluska Assembly executive director, speculated that the lack of a solution after all this time is adding to friction.

“Like all communities, even though we are somewhat unique in our makeup, we don’t hold exactly the same opinions on every topic, and this was an example of where people expressed them intensely,” he said.

Although the security was asked to stand by after the discussion heated up, Ewing said they never entered the room.

Ed LaFountain, chairman of the homeowners association, said all viable options to annexation were considered,. He noted after the annexation bill didn’t pass the General Assembly last year, a group was established to address issues of reconciliation and look at options that might be available.

“Unequivocally, individuals who opposed annexation didn’t bring any of those to the table,” he said.

LaFountain said there will always be people who disagree about issues and predicted that it will be difficult for healing and unity to be achieved if a minority persists in preventing the community from moving forward.

“We’re very interested in finding the best way ahead and to have a infrastructure here that will support Lake Junaluska Assembly, the conference center and the homeowners over the next 100 years,” he said. I don’t believe it is possible for our community to do nothing. That is to ensure the community will fail.”

Starnes was stunned with the chain of events his remarks set off and said through his 41 years as a pastor, he never developed a thick skin. While he still thinks the time between now and the next legislative session could be well spent trying to find a solution to heal the divide, he’s not likely to lead the charge.

“I didn’t retire here fight with my neighbors,” he said. “I retired here to be part of a Christian community.”

Comments (3)
Posted by: Joseph Edwards | Aug 03, 2014 09:00

I would like to see just what the issue is.  It has been skirted around in this article but go clear definitive description about what it is all about.  Specifics please because we are new to the area.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Aug 03, 2014 09:50

Mr. Edwards, you are wise to ask.  I am 3-years new as well and I regularly have to ask for some historical context.  I find that those that write here have "to be continued" elements in many of the stories.  Sometimes you get  short, "you just needed to be there" responses.  Most times you'll get adequate "more detail" -- even if that's in a soon-to-be written article about the same topic.  The Mountianeer is pretty good about that.


Ms. Hyatt's writings usually contain elements of her opinions.  (No offense to her -- she undoubtedly has strong opinions and keeping them completely out of a new story I'm sure is difficult to do.)  After you read her pieces for a few months, you'll be able to see through any of her opinions that may creep in.  Another component I use to measure reality is to read the actual opinion pieces of the Mountianeer.  If the Mountaineer has an opinion piece that supports the Junaluska annexation, then you usually don't have to wonder if you suspect a slight preference in a news article on the topic.


Occasionally (not often and not for a while) strong opinions show up in news reporting.  The fact that this story about the annexation being a strongly contested issue was even written shows intent to fairly cover the topic as some want to make it sound like this is a no-brainer win-win for everyone.  Vaguely I recall the Mountaineer being formally in support of annexation so if someone wanted to make a public case against it, they'll have to step up to make it.  As a suggestion, there is a "Discussion" part of this website where a formal article can be written in such a case.


From what I've been able to piece together, the annexation idea came about because LJ has a water/sewer infrastructure problem that they either can't afford to fix or don't want to afford to fix.  The solution many propose is annexation by Waynesville and let the Town of Waynesville fix the problem.  While discussing that proposal, some tainted the discussion prematurely by doing surveys and petitions informally and not in strict accordance with how an annexation process is supposed to occur.  Waynesville seems to be investing in things with the assumption that the annexation will occur.  If that's considered "stacking the deck" or hedging risk -- that would be a matter of opinion.  Throw in contributions a state legislator The Mountaineer has publicly tried to discredit and you all of a sudden are arguing more politics than the issue.  Pay attention, stay levelheaded, ask questions, and do not be intimidated.  Welcome to the debate!


Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Aug 04, 2014 11:22

              What it amounts to is the National Conference of Methodists don't want to pay the bill anymore. A number of years ago the so-called "world headquarters" of the Methodist church was in Winona Lake, Ind. They were across the road from Grace College. And Homer Rhodeheaver's publishing company/radio station was of great influence as it was the largest publisher of "Christian" hymnals, books etc . And. They had billy graham who preached out of the Billy Sunday Tabernacle. graham was essentially run out of town by accussations of civil rights abuses such as refusing blacks to service as was reported on a national morning show, forced "virginity testing" commandeering private homes, not paying for anything , etc. Not to mention that billy was constantly claiming that anyone watching tv. was "going straight to HELL!' Then he appeared on a South Bend tv. station claiming "if you are watching this on your tv, you are going straight to HELL!" Didn't go over very well. The people of Winona Lake got fed up having to support an obvious hypocrite. AND! his goons squad, many were left over from the Billy Sunday organization. Sunday was a mobster who took refuge in Winona Lake as many mobsters did at the time and then as if by miracle became a preacher using his mobster body guards as the same. graham was a protégé of Sunday. After graham left the "World Headquarters" was not far behind. Rhodeheaver Publishing got sold.

                   A friend of mine was involved in the "virgin testing" lawsuit. It was settled out of court with a gag order. She had enough money to have a real nice party and some left over.

                  My Grandmother played canasta, bridge, etc with Homer Rhodeheaver's sister, Ruth Rhodeheaver Thomas. In order to participate in their twice weekly sessions all had to tell what good deeds they had performed since last time. She was asked what her viewpoint on life was. She said "question everything". She took care of Homer's home on "The Point". One time my grandmother, mother, aunt, isters, cousins went there and had a nice tour. Then Mrs. Thomas said something about my grandmother playing a role in the Billy Sunday Crusade and my grandmother gathered everyone up and pushed us out the door, with no explanation nor word spoken of again. I never went to another card game and my grandmother died soon after.

                Point is its all about the money and control. The once private community that failed to pay for its own  infrastructure, now wants to pass the bill and responsibility to Waynesville. BUT!!! They still want to maintain a "Christian community" run under Methodist law and not "man's". Ain't that nice?








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