Waynesville leaders chart its future

By Mary Ann Enloe | Mar 31, 2014
Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown

Should the Town of Waynesville jump into the economic development business?  Maybe, said the mayor and board of aldermen at their annual retreat Friday, March 28.

Towns in North Carolina traditionally don't plow property tax revenues into business recruitment.  That job is left up to counties and the state which allocate funds for economic development. Locally, the paradigm is shifting  now that Haywood County has merged its economic development commission with the chamber of commerce.  

"What should our seat at the table be?" asked Mayor Gavin Brown as the board discussed the town's role in entrepreneurship and the ways in which it could become an economic development player in the new structure. "Or, should we have a seat at the table?"

Alderman Julia Freeman, the executive director of REACH, a nonprofit organization which assists domestic violence and sexual assault victims, would like to see breweries use Waynesville's ample water supply.

"We have some of the best water anywhere," she said.  "Beer makers need that."

Aldermen Wells Greeley and Leroy Roberson both own businesses on Waynesville's Main Street and  emphasized that the town and its staff should be business-friendly.

"How friendly do you want to be?" Brown asked the board as they talked about costs. "How far do you want to go?"   

The board agreed that the first step is to assess the merits of a town economic development program.

"As of now, there is no funding nor staff resources devoted to economic development," said Town Manager Marcy Onieal.  She and Town Clerk Amie Owens were the only staff members in attendance.  

Onieal advised the board that for areas to be a part of the downtown Municipal Service District, the areas have to be contiguous.  The MSD (the Downtown Waynesville Association) imposes an additional tax upon itself in order to provide certain amenities which property taxes alone would not take care of. 

Board members agreed they would like to see Hazelwood's and Frog Level's empty buildings in use before expanding business opportunities further out of town. 

Friday's meeting was facilitated by David Long of Greensboro, whose list of clients include Black Mountain where Onieal previously worked.  Long uses what he labels 'a structured brainstorming process' in conducting his planning retreats. "It's the cornerstone of the process."

"It points clearly to a visible path of consensus. None of this is set in stone. It's a tool for the board to use," he said.

During a morning break, Onieal said the planning session was extremely valuable to her as the town's manager.

"I'm hearing ideas articulated here today by the board that I haven't heard them address. I always think I know what they're thinking, but sometimes that isn't the case," she said with a chuckle.

Waynesville's focus question was, "What are the most important issues, needs and opportunities facing the Town of Waynesville over the next three to five years?" It took almost two hours to compile a list of 49 topics.  After whittling the list to nine, economic development came out on top.

Infrastructure was next.  The board discussed the current $32 million need and talked about the challenges of the town's pay-as-you-go policy.

"Because of the economic downturn, we're falling behind," said Onieal. Brown reminded the board that the town owns only four streets.  The others are N.C. Department of Transportation roads.

A new needs assessment will be developed, as well as a cost analysis of "fixing versus replacing."   Waynesville historically keeps a healthy rainy-day fund balance and does not carry a heavy debt burden.  The board agreed to explore the merits of bond funding for its infrastructure needs.

Brown noted a need for a more defined policy about contributing tax dollars to nonprofit organizations.

"We've always been able to do some of that, and I certainly hope we continue, but we need a policy," he said.  HART and Folkmoot are just two groups which need an infusion of funds. Both bring visitors to the town.

Environment, promotion and public relations, planning and vision and quality of life were some of the topics that made the short list.  Waynesville's retreat was held in the reception room of Lake Junaluska's Harrell Center, and the Lake's Executive Director Jack Ewing stopped in to welcome the board.

"Thank you for being patient with us as we work through this process," said Ewing of the expected merger between Waynesville and Lake Junaluska.  "This is not just a good option for us.  It is the only option."

Ewing went on to say that Lake Junaluska's Community Council and the board of directors are now unanimous in their support of the merger.

The merger cannot occur without legislative approval and is expected to come up again during the short legislative session held in May.

In wrapping up the amicable day-long meeting, Brown commended board members on their participation.  Roberson said he'd like to see board members get together  two-by-two between regular board meetings to "talk things over."

Greeley agreed, adding that since the mayor and all board members have regular day jobs, such discussions would make it easier to stay up to speed on town business. State law does permit members of boards to discuss board issues outside of convened meetings as long as there is not a quorum.  On Waynesville's five-member board, three aldermen together constitute a quorum, but not two.  Town board meetings are always open to the public and citizens may speak before the board.  

Comments (4)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 31, 2014 14:29

"We have some of the best water anywhere," -- Isn't that the truth?  I've tried the municipal water from the sink of a hotel in most major cities in the US.  Hands-down Waynesville's water is the best I've ever had.  I've never noticed any chlorine or chemical taste or smell.  Someday I've got to take a hike up to the reservoir.

 

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Waynesville town government gets it right.  They are planning before acting.  They are communicating openly.  They don't have a large debt.  They are respectful of Open Meetings Laws.  What's not to love?!  Don't rock the boat!



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 01, 2014 09:39

       Proper repair of OUR infrastructure comes first. No infrastructure, no means of conducting business.

        Individuals create business.

       No one should have their taxes used to support "business". This promotes unfair advantage to those getting the support while using taxes paid by those not getting such an advantage.

       Just look at what has resulted from the walmart debacle. Not only has a degenerative mess been unnecessarily created in West Hazelwood, other businesses have been adversely affected.

        And! walmart is effectively an economic terrorist that sucks the lifeblood out of a community. it does this by selling primarily foreign made crap which result in OUR money going to support foreigners rather than US. Plus, as has been well documented, they do not pay enough wages to prevent a large percentage of their employees to go on government support programs, resulting in them being the largest "taker". All while requiring communities to give them "incentives".

          If OUR community leaders had a lick of common sense and due regard for OUR Founding Principles, they'd tarred and feathered walmart representatives the first time around. Run 'em out of town on a rail.

          Generally speeking, these blood suckers only stay in one location for about ten years. About long enough for their "incentives" to run out, building deteriate, etc. Then they once again find another location, ask for incentives to move, operate, etc, etc, etc... It is a vicious cycle paid for by US.

        The best way to end such ill-liberal nonsense is to not engage in it to begin with.

         Fix the infrastructure. Properly educate the people. Obey OUR Founding Principles of equally protecting your inhabitants. Business will pay to come here.

          Stop fooling around in areas that are not in the best interests of all, while favoring some over the rest.

           Require only AMERICAN made products be sold within the district of Waynesville would certainly help.

          C.Z.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Apr 01, 2014 10:33

Mr. Zimmerman: I would propose the idea that Walmart is the face of the real problem: cheap goods made overseas.  Walmart itself is not the problem.  It just is the marketplace for the advantages of a low-class/low-wage worker in another country.  We, the consumer, have the benefit of those low-class/low-wage earners while appreciating their low-cost products.

 

The only ways to combat the root cause of the problem:

1) take over the world and raise everyone's minimum wage (not likely)

2) impose tariffs on imports (careful, this gets messy and has far reaching impacts to our exports and those that hold our debt)

3) produce goods in the US using a cheap labor force (sorry, the labor force isn't getting any cheaper.  low-wage earners have the added increased costs of healthcare, unemployment insurance, social security taxes, etc.)

 

The area around Walmart is HOT with development.  (In mountain town standards.)  If Waynesville wanted to facilitate that, they should seriously look into the overly-ambitious flood zone the Feds impose for that area.  The 100-year flood map is far too encompassing -- using the worst flood in the last 95 years as a benchmark.  That flood map causes people to pay into the national flood insurance program and stifles economic development.  I know people who moved OUT of Hazelwood because they don't want to pay an extra $200/month on their mortgage. 

 

Specifically, my property is in the 100-year flood plain.  My house is 92 years old.  It shows no sign of flooding and it did not flood during the worst flood event in the last 95 years.  The Feds say my home should have been under water by 2 feet at some time in the last 100 years.  If I wanted to get a mortgage on my home, I would have to pay flood insurance.  That's a big burden on that area.



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Apr 01, 2014 12:48

       Founded as a republic, anyone may challenge any law that affects them.

       Personally, we, as much as possible, do not buy nor intend to buy products made overseas. We prefer to pay OUR laborers what they deserve. We did buy a 2001 Subaru in 2001. It was made in Charlotte, however. Except for CEL that no one seems to be able to diagnose/fix, it has been a great car. Inherited two Mercedes from bother in law.

              A number of years ago, Walton was running a local small business. As was his sister(J.B.) in law's husband Hunt. Hunt created a trucking company to haul Walton's and others goods and thus began J.B. Hunt. Hard times hit. Coincidentally, there were several other larger trucking companies that were on the verge of going under. Claiming "too big to fail", they asked Feds for help. One of the ways was for US to subsidize truck driving schools run by trucking companies. We were paying for trucking companies to train their new recruits and subsidize them for the first year. I and my fellow owner/operators were  paying the Feds to cut OUR own throats. The percentage of independent owner/operators went way down while highways were filled with unexperienced minimum wage steeringwheelholders/nitwits. Accidents went way up. Freight not delivered on time. Spoiled produce, etc, etc.

              Walton used the model and set out to expand his business such that We are actually subsidizing walmart.

              Next time you see a Schneider, or J.B. Hunt, or North American or about any of the other large national trucking company truck, just remember, you are subsidizing its operation. Same with all walmarts.

              Many small business people who went to the trouble and expense to own/operate their own truck, went out of business because of Hunt, etc.

              When the government picks winners, they create losers, too.

 

               C.Z.



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