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Laurie Oxford’s department is getting smaller; some of her former co-worker’s offices sit empty.

Oxford, an assistant Spanish professor at Western Carolina University, spoke at a public forum about university cuts Monday on how multi-level reductions have affected the Arts and Sciences department, which has eliminated several faculty positions and all of its Chinese classes.

“Wherever the money is, it’s not in Arts and Sciences,” Oxford said, half-joking.

Losing a person means more than simply having one fewer coworker.

“They mean considerably fewer class choices (and) in general, a much less effective program,” she said.

Oxford warned the audience of more than 200 students, politicians, professors, administrators and other community members that soon other departments will begin to look like the Arts and Sciences if states and universities continue to make sweeping cuts. WCU administrators must cut about $30 million from next year’s budget.

Larger class sizes, higher tuition, fewer course offerings and laid-off faculty members brought the crowd together.

The forum was part of a statewide, student-led “Cuts Hurt” movement that attempts to lay out what the decline in education funding really means. The approved state budget will cut more than $400 million statewide in higher education spending.

The budget cuts passed by the Republican-led General Assembly were “as extreme as they were unnecessary,” said Gov. Bev Perdue, in a video to attendees of the WCU forum.

Perdue vetoed the budget bill earlier this year, but the General Assembly overrode her veto.

“You’ve seen these cuts, and you understand the damage that has been done to the core of North Carolina,” Perdue said.

Like colleges and universities across the country, WCU has faced its own budget crisis and had to raise tuition and make across-the-board cuts in order to balance its budget. Last week, university administrators presented their recommendations for tuition and fee increases to its Board of Trustees. They had originally planned to raise tuition by 17 percent during a four-year period but changed those numbers after meeting with students.

“We heard you, and we went back to the drawing board,” said Sam Miller, vice chancellor of Student Affairs.

Instead, tuition will increase by 13 percent during a five-year period. When combined with fees, the total cost of attendance will increase by almost 7 percent.

“We think that it is still unfortunately higher than we’d like to do,” Miller said, tempering that sentiment by adding that the increase will help balance the budget and maintain academic quality.

Several students spoke during the forum about how tuition increases affect them.

Emily Evans, a single mother and senior at WCU, said she knew that university administrators were doing their best to minimize the impact of the budget cuts but bemoaned the need to increase already high tuition costs.

“When is the last time your Pell Grant went up?” Evans asked.

Students must take out more loans to cover the cost of education. Student loan debt in the U.S. will surpassed the $1 trillion mark this year.

“This is a big problem, not just for students like me,” Evans said.

Some students are forced to put their education on credit cards, which have high interest rates. Fewer students will ultimately graduate as college becomes tougher to afford.

“Anybody in this room could predict that those students aren’t going to finish,” said N.C. Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill.

Lawmakers have turned their back on education and that needs to change, he said.

“We have got to turn this state around. It’s going the wrong direction,” Rapp said.

Throughout the event, speakers urged students to register to vote and to create videos of themselves talking about why education is so important to them and how they have been affected by the cuts. The videos will be posted to the “Cuts Hurt” Facebook page.

“People will listen to you,” said Andy Miller, a WCU student and one of the event organizers. “Your voice matters and important, important people are listening.”

Individuals with an interest in the region’s past can now search two new online archives devoted to Cherokee culture and the evolution of travel in Western North Carolina.

Both sites are maintained courtesy of Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library.

“Travel Western North Carolina” includes images and commentary about 27 towns and communities in WNC over five decades. The site allows users to follow a route along footpaths and wagon trails in the 1890s, take a train ride in the 1910s, and drive by car along mountain roads in the 1930s.

Each “stop” includes a description of the community and excerpts from primary documents of the time, including newspapers, letters and guides. The site is online at www.wcu.edu/library/DigitalCollections/TravelWNC.

“Cherokee Traditions: From the Hands of Our Elders” unites information about Cherokee basketry, pottery, woodworking and more and includes information about artisans and archival photos. The “From the Hands of Our Elders” pages grew from a grant-funded, multi-institutional project that also saw the creation of two guides to Cherokee basketry and pottery. The site is online at www.wcu.edu/library/DigitalCollections/CherokeeTraditions.

Photographs and documents from the sites are accessible by searchable databases, making rare and unique research materials accessible to students, researchers, teachers and the public. Both new collections formerly were elements within Hunter Library’s “Craft Revival: Shaping Western North Carolina Past and Present” website, a research-based site that documents an effort to revive handcraft in the western region of the state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Anna Fariello, an associate research professor who headed the craft revival site’s creation and development, was responsible for generating much of the content in the “Cherokee Traditions” pages.

“I think this will be especially helpful to our students and researchers who want to look at authentic Cherokee material,” Fariello said. “The way I built this site, perhaps it could be added onto. It has the capacity to be expanded to include some of the other aspects of Cherokee culture that are focuses of WCU’s Cherokee Studies Program.”

Pages in the “Travel Western North Carolina” site – originally intended as context for the craft revival site – were created through research by George Frizzell, head of special collections, and illustrated with special collections documents. Frizzell wants visitors to the site to come away with an understanding that the WNC region changes and adapts like any other.

“I hope it shows people that this area changed with the arrival of new technologies, and that with the arrival of the railroad and automobile, the infrastructure was revised and revamped, and people acknowledged the impact on the economy,” he said.

Digitizing information serves a number of purposes, said Mark Stoffan, head of digital, access and technology services for WCU’s Hunter Library. Statistics show that the library’s digital collections are accessed by users from around the world. Increased digitization opens information to a broader audience. Digitization can help publicize collections – sometimes prompting gifts of similar materials – and helps protect originals from handling.

For more information about the new digital collections at WCU, call Fariello at 828.227-2499 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For a list of all Hunter Library’s digital collections, go online to www.wcu.edu/library/DigitalCollections.

Constant reshuffling of the organizational structure at Western Carolina University — at least three such applecart upsets in just six years — led to a recent faculty resolution seeking some order to the chaos.

“This … is in response to past practices, or mis-practices, on campus,” said Sean O’Connell, a WCU professor who led a review of how other universities handle similar reorganizations.

WCU’s Faculty Senate passed an official request recently calling on administration to develop guidelines and to follow them when considering organizational changes.

The tone of the meeting — discussion lasted just 20 minutes — was in stark contrast to a two-hour debate that raged among the board’s members on the same topic last April.

That spring meeting came shortly after the College of Education and Allied Profession was shuffled about, however, resulting in the resignation of Professor Jacqueline Jacobs, a tenured faculty member. She resigned to bring attention to her contention that university administration failed to include faculty members in decisions concerning reorganization.

More than six months later, Faculty Senate opted in a 22-2 vote to ask the university’s administration to emphasize “shared governance,” and to “recognize the necessity of faculty knowledge and participation in academic decision making.”

This, according to the resolution, would mean “all reviews and deliberations about reorganization should be conducted in a collegial and constructive way. Any reorganization proposal should seriously consider disciplinary and interdisciplinary relationships and shall also investigate impacts on stakeholders in non-academic units.”

In plain English, the people who work at WCU want to have their views considered when changes are contemplated.

Faculty hope making their desire for inclusion clear in the form of a resolution will avoid what has happened in the past.

“I think it’s clear that if the new reorganization policy recently passed by Faculty Senate had been in effect last year, the reorganization of the College of Education and Allied Professions, which eliminated two departments and suspended the doctoral program would not have proceeded as it did, without any significant faculty participation,” Professor Mary Jean Herzog said in an email interview.

Herzog works within the College of Education and Allied Professions and was critical of how a re-organization within that college was handled.

“Faculty participation and voice may scare some administrators as well as some faculty, but it has been proven, over and over again, that when decisions are made that involve all the stakeholders, the institution earns dividends in student, staff, and faculty support,” Herzog said in an email.  

Perry Schoon, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions, defended the reorganization, however. A university-level review of decision-making during the reorganization of the College “determined that appropriate processes were followed. … The institution has recognized the likelihood of other units needing to reorganize due to the economy and the lack of any university policy to guide those efforts. The resolution from the senate is the first step from one of the constituencies on campus to begin the development of guidelines.”

There’s no word on when, or if, the university’s top leadership will embrace the resolution as future policy when it comes to reorganization.

 

Salary scrutiny study

Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher told faculty members late last month that he has authorized a “thorough” salary analysis to review who gets what and why in the form of pay at the university.

“This is to be prepared for that time when we do get money again,” Belcher said. “I’m worried about the salaries.”

Belcher noted a salary study at WCU has not been done in several years. Salary increases also have been nonexistent as North Carolina struggles with the economic downturn.

English Professor Elizabeth Heffelfinger asked if the study would include information previously gathered about possible inequities at WCU in what women and men are paid.

“I want this to be as comprehensive as possible,” Belcher said in an affirmative response. The study would include all faculty, staff, and administrative positions.

Western Carolina University’s Division of Educational Outreach will sponsor the seventh annual Dulcimer Winter Weekend beginning Thursday, Jan. 5, and continuing through Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Methodist Assembly’s Terrace Hotel at Lake Junaluska.

Participants can select from more than 50 classes offered for the mountain dulcimer and hammered dulcimer, and new for this year, the guitar. Mountain dulcimer instructors will include Anne Lough of Waynesville, Joe Collins of Shelby, and Larry Conger. Collins and Conger are both former national champions on the dulcimer.

The early registration fee of $149 is available until Tuesday, Nov. 15, and the fee will increase to $199 after that day. A non-participant fee of $40 allows accompanying guests to attend jam sessions, nightly events and a Sunday morning singing.

Reservations for accommodations should be made directly with the Terrace Hotel. The cost of a single occupancy room for three nights is $207 per person and the cost of a double occupancy room for three nights is $258 per person. A meal package that includes eight meals is available for $82. To book a room or meal package, call 800.222.4930.

Complete class descriptions, a full schedule and online registration are available at dulcimer.wcu.edu.

828.227.7397 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Western Carolina University Chancellor David O. Belcher this week fired C. Joseph “Chip” Smith, the director of intercollegiate athletics.

Belcher announced that Fredrick Q. Cantler, WCU’s longtime senior associate athletic director for internal operations, has agreed to come out of retirement to serve as interim director of athletics.

Cantler, who retired in March after 33 years in athletics administration at WCU, will serve as interim director of athletics as the university conducts a national search for a permanent athletics director, Belcher said.

“With Fred’s wealth of experience, including a previous stint as interim AD, I have the greatest confidence in his ability to keep the athletics program moving forward during this time of transition,” he said. “Fred brings extensive knowledge of athletics budgeting and NCAA compliance issues to this assignment, and I am grateful to him for his willingness to assume this responsibility.”

During his career as a sports administrator, Cantler helped develop the Catamount women’s soccer program from scratch in 1999. Two years later in 2001, the program captured the first of its three Southern Conference tournament championships. Also, the Catamount baseball team won both the regular season and tournament titles in 2003 and won the regular season in 2007, advancing to the NCAA regional tournaments.

Western Carolina University will host a screening of the movie “The King’s Speech” followed by a discussion focusing on stuttering, including treatment, self-help groups and other resources for people who stutter and their families, on Sunday, Oct. 23.

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is hosting the event, which is free and open to the public, at 2 p.m. in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center. The discussion will be led by David Shapiro, WCU’s Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor and author of “Stuttering Intervention: A Collaborative Journey to Fluency Freedom.”

The movie is an Academy Award-winning historical drama inspired by the true story of King George VI and how speech therapist Lionel Logue helped him gain control over severe stuttering and deliver critical radio addresses during World War II.

“‘The King’s Speech’ reminds us that everyone has a voice, that every burden is lightened when it is shared, and that there is no replacement for the strength gained from human interaction,” said Shapiro. “Indeed, when people gather with a common focus and shared purpose, willing to learn and grow together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

The event is being held in honor of International Stuttering Awareness Day. Shapiro also is participating in the 2011 International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference. His paper, “Stories of People Who Stutter: Beacons of Hope, Portraits of Success,” is posted on the conference website at www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad15/papers/shapiro15.html. Shapiro is answering questions posted in an online forum, which is open through Oct. 22.

Dr. Shapiro will host a discussion after the movie as part of International Stuttering Awareness Day.

828.227.3291 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The author of the newly released second edition of Stuttering Intervention: A Collaborative Journey to Fluency Freedom admits that his tome is a textbook for students in communication sciences and disorders and a reference work for speech-language pathologists. But to Western Carolina University Professor David A. Shapiro, it is not just a scholarly work, it also is a love story.

The book draws from Shapiro’s 35 years of experience as a speech pathologist in its examination of ideas and practices for assessing and treating people of all ages who stutter. He refers to working with people who stutter as a joy.

“Helping someone visualize dreams and work toward achieving them is such a special and empowering experience,” he said. “It is the birthright of every person to be able to use speech and language freely and to enjoy communication freedom.”

Stuttering Intervention is winning fans from the speech pathology profession.

“This book captures, better than anything I have read over the past 50 years, the unique sensitivities and deep feelings experienced by many people who stutter,” said David A. Daly, professor emeritus of speech-pathology at the University of Michigan and author of books on treating fluency disorders, particularly cluttering. “In my opinion, Dr. Shapiro’s understanding of the problem of stuttering and his thoughtful organization and presentation of the vast research and clinical information on this topic is unparalleled.”

WCU’s first Robert Lee Madison Distinguished Professor, Shapiro is internationally renowned for his work in communication sciences and disorders and has engaged in teaching, clinical service and research across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.

After being asked at conferences and in courses to identify where others could read more about the ideas he was sharing for working with people who stutter and their families, Shapiro felt compelled to write the book’s first edition, which was released in 1998.

SEE ALSO: WCU to screen ‘The King’s Speech,’ host discussion in honor of International Stuttering Awareness Day

Throughout “Stuttering Intervention,” Shapiro weaves real and instructive stories from his clients’ challenges and successes in communication and life and his own experience as a person who stutters with information about a range of topics. These include concrete strategies for evaluating and treating stuttering in clients from preschool children through senior adults, background about fluent and disfluent speech, historical and theoretical perspectives, and the personal impact stuttering can have on people’s lives. Shapiro shares international perspectives that cross disciplines and cultures and provides guidance about how to cultivate knowledge, empathy and understanding of stuttering and people who stutter.

For Shapiro, the bonds formed with his many clients and their families have been lasting. They keep in touch over the years, apprising him of special moments in their lives such as graduations, weddings and new jobs, all of which are possible or even more meaningful because of their ability to communicate independently.

“It is hard to imagine the challenges people who stutter incur on a daily basis as well as the joy that communication success brings,” said Shapiro. “Success is more than fluency. It is life-altering and freeing in many ways.”

In response to the invitation issued in the book for readers to contact him directly, Shapiro has received and responded to messages from people throughout the world. “If I don’t respond,” Shapiro said, “I didn’t get the message.”

For more information about stuttering, including treatment and self-help groups for people who stutter and their families, contact Shapiro at 828.227.3291 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Next to Hunter Library at Western Carolina University is a Baptist church with a 190-year-old graveyard. George Frizzell, head of the library’s special collections, helped survey that graveyard 17 years ago.

So when Frizzell spotted a postscript to a letter in WCU’s collection of some 200 Civil War letters written by Western North Carolina soldiers and their families, the archivist described feeling an eerie chill. The names seemed familiar.

“We saw the one with the postscripts about the headstones, I thought, ‘could it possibly be?’” he said. “I walked over and found the grave, and next to it was the smaller stone to ‘Little Charley.”

In that Cullowhee Baptist Church graveyard are two Civil War-era tombstones, side by side; a large one for a Dr. Edmonston, the other one for Charley.

The story of the tombstones is told in a letter written by Maggie Edmonston, Dr. Edmonston’s wife and Charley’s mother. And it seems as relevant now, as the nation observes the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, as when Maggie Edmonston wrote the words “Dear Brothers” in a poignant plea for help to her brothers-in-law. The letter is dated July 14, 1864.

“Will you please go to the marble yard in Petersburg or any yard you may see and select some nice tombstones for Dr. Edmonston’s grave?” Maggie Edmonston wrote from Webster. “Have sent off three times but failed to get any. I know you will take more interest than any buddy else please let me know if you get any so I can send you the inscription if you can get some nice ones let me know I can have them shipped to Walhalla. I want two set one small set for my baby that is all I can do for him and I never will be satisfied until I get that done.”

Dr. Edmonston was a native of Haywood County who is believed to have died here in the mountains from milk sickness after returning, weakened by illness, from the war. He was practicing medicine in Webster when he apparently drank milk poisoned with tremetol, which happens when cows graze on white snakeroot. The reason the couple’s baby died isn’t recorded, though WNC’s old cemeteries provide ample evidence of many babies in the early to mid-19th century also having died from milk sickness.

The 200 or so letters, and WCU hopes to receive even more in the years to come through donations from local families, provide an invaluable look at this region during the mid-19th century. They are being digitized and made available online. The letters demonstrate that though times have changed, human emotions have not. And although most of the Civil War battles were fought on lands far from these mountains, it touched people here as dreadfully as anywhere in the nation. As the war dragged on, it claimed more and more WNC lives, and destroyed more and more WNC families.

George Huntley, a Rutherford County native, wrote his sister Tincy on June 29, 1863, while marching into Pennsylvania as a member of the North Carolina 34th Infantry Regiment: “We are stoped to
day in a Beautiful Oke grove I Cant tell 
whare old Lee Will Carry us tow this is One of the finest Countrys that I Ever
saw.”

Three days later Huntley, a school teacher before the war, died from a wound received in the Battle of Gettysburg.

It is those types of details that bring the letters to life for Frizzell.

“The letters summon up the emotional experiences, the concerns and the hopes,” he said. “They speak so much to place, and being here.”

There are letters from Frizzell’s ancestor, M.W. Parris, telling his wife which men had been wounded and killed during the North Carolina 25th Infantry Regiment’s latest battle. The toll included a dozen or so men from Jackson County.

“I am sorry to tel that Som of our brave
boys has got kild and Severl wounded in the great
battle at richmond which Commenct last wensday,” Parris wrote on July 3, 1862.

Among them: Capt. Coalman’s head was shot off by a cannonball, John B. Queen fell dead as the fight started, Joseph Moody had his fingers shot off, William Cogdal (Cogdill) was wounded in the neck, Leander Hall in the leg, Harris Hooper was struck through the thigh or leg, Major Frances was badly wounded in the shoulder, W. William Beard badly wounded by a shot through his hips.

Parris adds that he believes they’ve won the battle, but describes the victory as “dearly bought” indeed.

Frizzell said Parris clearly penned the letter about the dead and wounded to the community as much as to his wife, Jane.

“These are folks they knew, and he’s trying to let all the wives know — this is how important information was shared,” Frizzell said.

Village of Forest Hills leaders are saying no thanks to a Charlotte company that wanted to build luxury student apartments on a 19.5-acre tract in the tiny town across the highway from Western Carolina University.

This does not mean that the 200-unit, $25-million development couldn’t be built elsewhere in Jackson County, just not in Forest Hills’ town limits. Planner Gerald Green said the only restrictions on developments of this type are in Cashiers, the county’s four municipalities and the U.S. 441 corridor.

Developer Shannon King told The Smoky Mountain News late last week that if Forest Hills said no, she would look elsewhere in the area for a suitable site. King needed Forest Hills’ to grant an exemption from the community’s zoning laws for the development to move forward there.

Before settling on the Forest Hills site, Monarch Ventures had scouted the vacant hotel — locally dubbed the ‘ghostel’ — on the main commercial drag of N.C. 107 in Sylva. This was intended to be a Clarion Inn, the town’s first name-brand hotel, but the developers ran out of money and abandoned the project, which was foreclosed on by the bank that held the construction loan. Michelle Masta of Skyros Investments is marketing the unfinished hotel shell, and she confirmed Monarch Venture’s prior interest. The hotel is mired in litigation from a contractor who wasn’t paid in full; it can’t be sold until the legal issues are resolved.

Forest Hills council members, meeting Friday in a more than five-hour visioning session, agreed that this type of student development is at odds with their vision of tranquil life in the village.

The community incorporated in 1997 expressly to keep students out. This included zoning out the possibility of large student complexes, and setting restrictions on the number of students living together in a rental house. That stance has clearly softened during the intervening years for this set of council members, at least. They noted that 50 to 75 students currently do live in Forest Hills (many in a motel there) and are part of that community. But a huge development, as proposed by Monarch Ventures, seemed more than Forest Hills leaders were willing to embrace.

“It’s not that we are anti-student because we are against a complex,” Council Member Suzanne Stone said. “Saying ‘no’ to Monarch would not mean saying ‘no’ to WCU.”

A recent survey sent to Forest Hills residents recorded little support for the development. Out of 59 responses, 38 noted they “strongly disagree” with such a development, eight disagreed, six had no opinion, two agreed and five “strongly agree.”

 

Track record

Additionally, Forest Hills council members cited concerns about the background — or lack of background — of the company involved, Monarch Ventures.

North Carolina incorporation records show that Monarch Ventures came into existence just 13 months ago, in September 2010; and that it has no record as a company building these types of student-based developments. This raised questions about how Monarch Ventures had presented itself to Forest Hills leaders — as a veteran student-housing development company.

The company might be new, but King, the woman who owns and launched Monarch Ventures, in fact does have an extensive, national background of building private student housing. King, until less than a year ago, was executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Campus Crest Communities, a company also based in Charlotte. Campus Crest developed and owns 32 student-housing complexes nationwide.

The company is the subject of myriad complaints regarding its housing. Additionally, a federal lawsuit filed in Mecklenburg County by a former employee accused Campus Crest of having a sexually hostile and demeaning work environment.

According to court documents, company officers directed top employees to “hire predominantly young, white women to available positions at the company’s various residential rental properties.”

Council Member Clark Corwin showed fellow board members a copy of a newspaper article that quoted from the lawsuit. King, according to court papers, is alleged to have said: “We have Southern investors; they do not like for us to hire blacks.”

“I can’t imagine that in this day and age,” Mayor Jim Wallace said in response.

“I don’t think they need anymore time at our meetings — we’re done,” Stone said.

After some discussion about how best to pull the plug on King’s development plans for Forest Hills, Council Member Gene Tweedy said: “Just tell her, ‘The community is not interested.’”

Problems with Campus Crest buildings, called “The Grove” at the company’s multitude of student housing complexes across the nation, include reports that students trying to move in were told they couldn’t because the apartments weren’t finished on schedule.

An “anti-Grove” group is active on Facebook, primarily populated by disgruntled student renters.

Asheville has a “The Grove” complex on Bulldog Drive, near UNC-Asheville, owned by Campus Crest.

“Student complaints from these complexes are the same across the country,” wrote Peggy Loonan, who is leading an effort to prevent Campus Crest from building in Fort Collins, Colo., in a Feb. 11 guest article for the Northern Colorado Business Report. “Students, not professional leasing agents, manage onsite leasing offices. Maintenance is slow to respond if at all; appliances don’t work; apartments aren’t cleaned between tenancies and mattresses are soiled. Move-in dates on signed leases are pushed back because construction isn’t complete. Students describe hearing other tenants having sex. Students turn off heat to stay within their allotted utility amount and report being denied copies of utility bills.”

King, contacted late last week, was eager to distance herself from Campus Crest and its work record.

“Quite frankly, that’s why I’m no longer with Campus Crest,” she said.

King said that Monarch Ventures is committed to building near Western Carolina University.

“We absolutely want to be in the Western community,” she said.

The Village of Forest Hills wants to control its future by possibly acquiring a 74-acre, abandoned golf course located within its borders.

If the privately owned property is obtained, the town’s leaders indicated that they might try to offset the purchase cost by developing 25 acres or so into cluster housing for Western Carolina University staff and faculty, or for active senior-aged residents.

The owner, at last check, was asking upwards of $1.3 million for the property, but Forest Hills leaders said perhaps there might be room for negotiation on that amount. Or, certain tax breaks may be available that could help knock it down.

“I’d like to see us pursue this aggressively,” Council Member Suzanne Stone told fellow board members, who gathered Friday for a facilitated strategic-planning session.

Stone echoed board member Clark Corwin in saying that she could envision the property serving Forest Hills as an important community venue. Stone mentioned the possibility of musical events; Corwin said he pictured a small arboretum.

Any residential development on a portion of the defunct golf course would be individual houses, not a large-scale student complex as proposed recently by a campus-housing company (see related article). A community survey polling residents about such developments largely received negative marks.

A residential planned unit development, however, could prove a benefit to the community and an overall land-value enhancer for Forest Hills residents, County Planner Gerald Green said. Cluster housing such as this generally includes green space and a community garden.

But money is a problem for the tiny incorporated entity, which has only a few hundred residents.

“We don’t have funds, and we don’t want higher taxes — we’re stuck,” Mayor Jim Wallace said.

Green said that wasn’t necessarily true.

“The challenge is to create a vision that people will buy into,” the county planner said.

Green suggested Forest Hills combine strategic efforts with WCU, which could advertise as a university with top-notch learning and cultural opportunities for seniors. That population, in turn, could become a source of funding for the cash-strapped institution through class fees or donations through a college-linked retirement community. The university is working on a new strategic plan now. Stone, who sits on a WCU subcommittee working on development issues as part of that plan, said she’d touch on the possibilities with her subcommittee members.

 

WCU annexation decision delayed indefinitely

Annexing a 35-acre parcel of Western Carolina University is off the table for now, the Village of Forest Hill leaders said Friday during a strategic-planning session.

“That is moot until after WCU’s strategic planning session,” Mayor Jim Wallace said.

Former Chancellor John Bardo last year asked the tiny town, which is across the highway from the university, to annex part of campus to further his dream of a “Town Center” for unincorporated WCU. The idea was to pave the way for legal sales of alcoholic beverages, which currently aren’t allowed outside town limits in Jackson County, in hopes it would entice new restaurants and bars to rectify the lack of nightlife around the university.

Since then, Bardo has retired and a new chancellor, David Belcher, has taken over. Belcher has initiated new strategic planning for the university; the state has slashed WCU’s budget in the name of cost-savings measures; and Jackson County commissioners have said they’ll place a countywide alcohol referendum on the ballot next year, which if it passes, could eliminate any need for annexation since alcohol sales would become legal countywide if approved by voters.

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