Maggie Valley should take a hard look at the chance to diversify
A light manufacturing industry with the potential to create 10 highly technical jobs in a business poised for the future sounds like something most communities in the nation would heavily court.
This is especially true in an economy where unemployment is 9.6 percent statewide and is hovering around 8 percent within the county.
A proposal to bring such an industry to Maggie Valley, however, was not viewed as good news in all circles. After nearly five hours of public testimony and discussion, the Maggie Valley Board of Adjustment failed to approve a change in the town’s zoning ordinance that would have made a special exception to allow a robotics plant to operate in a building that fronts U.S. 19 through the town.
Changing an ordinance requires a four-fifths majority. That didn’t happen last week after a board vote was taken where one member was absent and one of the four present opposed the motion.
Many of those in the community who spoke out against the zoning change neighbored the proposed site — Carolina Nights, a site formerly used as a dinner theater that’s been closed since 2010. They cited the town’s roots in tourism and the community plans adopted through the years that foster tourism to the point of excluding many other businesses and industries.
If the now-empty buildings are allowed to be taken over by manufacturing type of operations, even clean, low-noise and ones that will be virtually unseen by the public, that is less opportunity for tourist-based activities and services in the community.
Those who favored the exception, including all on the town planning board and the majority of the board of adjustment members, argued diversity would help strengthen the Maggie economy.
The one “no” vote on the board of adjustments was enough to send the business owner back to the drawing board. This might have been avoided had the fifth board member shown up at the meeting or arranged to vote by proxy. Since that didn’t happen, the matter will go before a special-called planning board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, and then be taken up at the town governing board meeting on Nov. 13. Unless there is a four-fifths majority, which means all four board members must agree since one board seat is being intentionally left vacant, the matter will be struck down again. On a second vote, which must be taken at a later meeting, it only needs to pass by a majority.
Times have changed, and narrowing the town to a single element as tourism, while opportunities for seemingly harmless technical jobs pass us by, is in our view, a very big gamble to take. Opportunities like this don’t present themselves very often, and it would be foolish not to look at adapting to the changing times to have somewhere for our next generation to work in Haywood County.
We hope the leaders in Maggie take a good hard look at the past, where they have been headed recently, and what types of opportunities they care to shoo away for the sake of continuing on a path that was set many years ago.