Lake Junaluska property owners face major decisions

By Vicki Hyatt | Jul 29, 2013

LAKE JUNALUSKA — As the Lake Junaluska Community Council prepares for an Aug. 4, meeting to consider budget issues for 2014, major decisions lie ahead.

Plans were going forward to merge with the town of Waynesville, but the effort has been stalled until at least next May, and perhaps permanently.

The immediate decision is how to pay for looming infrastructure costs, and that will likely be the topic of the next council meeting, said Bill King, who is the current council chairman.

"We've been postponing some decisions,and we have to face up now to set rates," King said.

Had the annexation process been completed, Lake Junaluska property owners would have paid the same property tax rate as those in Waynesville — 40.82 cents per $100 of value, or $482 on a $100,000 home.

Property owners are currently assessed 33 cents per $100 of value, and the rate will have to increase to 39 cents just to cover the cost of being included in a fire district. Beyond that, water and sewer costs are likely to go up. Before this increase can be imposed, it must be approved by the state utilities commission, a process Buddy Young, the assembly's public works director is familiar with. He said he believes he has evidence to show that a $48 base monthly fee is justified, an amount that's almost triple the current $17 monthly base rate.

A group of homeowners who lobbied against the annexation move have argued there needs to be a vote, something King said could still happen.

However, when the agreement was reached to include provisions for a vote within the annexation proposal in Raleigh, opponents still convinced legislators the bill should not be approved.

The issue can still be revisited in May since it has already passed the Senate and wasn't voted down in the House.

The committee that studied annexation for more than a year opted for a property owner survey since about 60 percent of the Lake property owners have permanent residences elsewhere and aren't registered to vote in Haywood.

However, a vote on the issue is still something that can be discussed by lake residents, King said.

"We've got a couple of months to decide which direction to go on that," he said.

King dismisses criticisms of the property owner survey.

"It was done according to best standards and with sound advice," he said. "People questioning the survey apparently wanted an up or down vote. We gave them a more detailed set of options."