That’s probably the best the public — including those who support the proposal and those who hope it never gets off the ground — can hope for.
Cataloochee Wilderness Resort is a proposed 4,500-acre project in the Jonathan Creek area of Haywood County that has been rumored for four years. Over the last two months of 2007 plans for the resort became public, and it is indeed a mammoth development. If all goes as hoped for, it would include two golf courses, a ski resort, more than 1 million square feet of retail space, a cinema, more than 2,000 single-family homes and more.
Many are very emotionally opposed to the project. They claim it will make the Jonathan Creek area more like Gatlinburg than the rural farming and residential community it is now.
At this time not one piece of land has changed hands. Cataloochee spokesman Frank Singleton says negotiations are under way with property owners and retail stores. All the principals in the company appeared at a county board meeting in late December. Singleton says a public meeting will be held sometime in late January or February. Announcements on what retail stores may come could be made by this summer. Singleton is promising to reveal as much as he can when he can.
Many look at the commercial potential of a project this large and say bring it on, it will be good for the local economy. Others, including many landowners in the proposed development area, question how this could ever come to fruition if they simply refuse to sell. The end result could be somewhere in the middle. Some homes, some retail, perhaps not the big plan as the developers envision.
But now is when the rubber hits the road. The developers are planning public meetings and their spokesperson has established a promising relationship with the local media. As the permitting process gets under way, there will be a lot the media can share with readers. Property transactions can be hidden by using shell companies, but most of the time they can be found out by good reporters and watchful neighbors.
By the end of 2008, everyone involved should know if Cataloochee Wilderness Resort is going to happen. It should make for an interesting year for the local media and the property owners of the Jonathan Creek area.