On Tuesday, May 18, a public hearing was held to elicit comments on a Comprehensive Plan that is designed to establish a set of guidelines and recommendations for future development in Macon County. Not to be confused with the Comprehensive Transportation Plan, the Comprehensive Plan covers various sectors which will be impacted by growth, from healthcare to education to land use.
Of the thirteen citizens that signed up to speak at the hearing, eight spoke in support of the plan and five in opposition to it in whole or in part. Almost all the speakers addressed the plan as a whole, with few comments on specific recommendations in the plan. However, slope development recommendations stood out as one issue that garnered both support and opposition.
Copies of the proposed plan are available at the county manager’s office, as well as at the Macon County Library, the Hudson Library and Nantahala School. In addition, an electronic version of the plan can be found on the county’s website at http://maconnc.org.
The board of commissioners has scheduled a follow-up meeting to discuss the plan on Tuesday, May 31, 6 p.m. at the Macon County Courthouse. Following are excepts from some of the statements heard at the public hearing:
... I speak in support of the Comprehensive Plan as presented by the Planning Board, and I urge you to accept it. ... It's an amazing testimonial to the dedication and the hard work of the Planning Board and all of the sub-committees, and of course it represents untold hours. These members represent a diverse cross-section of our county. ... They made every effort to collect total public input. They had community meetings; they had surveys. We had plenty of opportunities. ... I have learned that as long as we live in communities, there has to be some private sacrifice for the public good. ...
... I would request that since this plan took over two years to develop and contains so much information and so many recommendations, that you not rush your approval process before it's thoroughly reviewed by the public, possibly allowing the public the opportunity to supply you written comments over a short period of time before you take any action. ... I feel the Macon County plan proposes too many goals and recommendations of special interest groups within the county. In some places, it discusses items that should be the responsibility of the County Manager and department heads or the school board or are not government responsibilities. ...
... To me this is one of the most important things ever to come before the commissioners. I am particularly interested in this plan as it refers to and is related to agriculture, to land and to water. As a former educator, I'm very interested in what it has to say about our children and our youth. All the sections seem to me to be very pertinent and to be a commitment to all of our citizens' well-being. As elected leaders, I very much urge you to adopt this Comprehensive Plan. ... It's a strong brave step in the right direction for all of us. ...
... I think we could have had a good plan here. I know there is a lot of good information in there. ... But to be perfectly honest with you, it scares the bejeezus out of this boy. ... This has land-use provisions, and let's be really, really honest with each other, that's just a new word for zoning. ... I came away thinking, this is just chock full of hidden agendas. ... I don't need to tell you folks, we're dying out here. ... The economy has tanked, and I don't see it coming back, at least not this year. ... I'm begging you, please, get government off our backs and keep the regulations off our backs.
... We need to take care of our local assets in order to build a stable, new economy going forward, and this is only going to happen by working together and following some framework. This plan offers such a framework. ... One thing the plan is is comprehensive. That's the idea of it. ... It is obligatory. It is not regulatory. Anyone who would suggest it is has just not read [it]. The plan encompasses a vision for Macon County based on values of living and working in this magnificent valley surrounded by these unique mountains. It's based on values that believe in building good, safe towns. Values that believe in preserving our best farm land, ... that believe in conserving our water resources, that believe in protection our rural heritage, that believe in not ruining our mountain sides. I cannot believe that as a county we do not all agree on these values. ...
... In my profession as a real estate appraiser here in Macon County ... I have personally experienced many of the problems identified in this plan. ... Most of the people in this room would agree that two of the biggest parts of our heritage are our fierce independence and our recognition of our Godgiven freedom. ... The key word [in this document] is ‘guide.’ A guide may give directions, but there is no implication that to guide is to regulate or to require. ... While much of the document does address some good points and acts as a guide in some key areas, it is based on a premise that there is a lack of regulation and that there is a need for more regulation in our lives. Therein, I find a major break from protecting the heritage of the county ...
... I served on the Planning Board during the time that the proposed Comprehensive Plan was developed. ... There is no mention of zoning, and it doesn't have any regulatory authority. It simply takes a snapshot of where we are today, what we're likely to be seeing in the future, and incorporates the work of the committees and the people to map out where we hope to be tomorrow. If we're going to move forward with economic development and jobs in the count, we need a plan. The board of commissioners directed the Planning Board to undertake the task. I was skeptical at first, but now I know that it was the right thing to do.
... Our Founding Fathers understood clearly that private property ownership is the foundation of prosperity and freedom itself. For a long time infringement on property rights were held in check by those who honored our Constitution, common law and state law. Now the trend toward a more modern government has moved to take rights from the property owner and far from the scrutiny of our courts and has deferred the responsibility to committees and back-room regulators, anonymous folks. ... This [plan] was the result of a survey, and only a small number of people, four hundred and something out of a county of 30,000, contributed. I suspect that's why most of us are here, we just want to be heard ...