Two decrepit trailers hauled in and dumped down on an empty lot in the middle of Cullowhee’s old business district are creating a furor in that community.
“It’s the slums of Cullowhee,” Cindy Jarman said between serving customers at the Cullowhee Café, 64-year-old mainstay run by Jarman’s family. “Those are 80-foot eyesores.”
It’s also as provided a case in point for Cullowhee advocates who say the area needs land-use regulations.
The trailers are parked along old Cullowhee Road not far from Western Carolina University and directly across from the venerable Cullowhee Café.
The owner of the trailers, Bill Kabord, operates a trailer park nearby. He did not return messages seeking comment.
Jarman’s sister, Kathy Millsaps, said the trailers are particularly disheartening because so many efforts have been undertaken recently to revitalize and improve Cullowhee. There’s even a group now, the Cullowhee Revitalization Endeavor (CuRvE), dedicated to that very mission.
“Cullowhee is trying to clean up,” Millsaps said. “And I think there does need to be rules so that something like this doesn’t take place, particularly in an area like Cullowhee that is trying to grow and improve.”
CuRvE meets at Cullowhee Café though it has no direct affiliation with the family. The group has planted flowers, done various landscaping projects and collected roadside trash in an effort to beautify the area.
In addition to two dilapidated trailers parked in a lot across the road, Kabord hauled another newer-looking mobile home in and set it up three feet from the Cullowhee Café property line. That one is there to stay — it was recently underpinned — but Millsaps said she understands the worst looking ones are pulled in for repairs, and then they might be removed.
Millsaps’ father, Arnold Ashe, plans to plant fast-growing Leyland Cypress trees to try and block the restaurant’s view of the trailer that is there for keeps.
The fact that the two worst looking trailers might eventually be removed still doesn’t appease many people in the community. They have been loud, vocal and pointed regarding their discontent with the situation.
“I’m pretty furious about those junky old trailers being brought into Old Cullowhee,” Cullowhee resident Claire Eye said. “I have no issues with quality mobile homes, but these are real eyesores, and to put them right there in the heart of Old Cullowhee Road is distressing. At the same time that the community and WCU is working to revitalize Old Cullowhee, this sort of move feels like a slap in the face.”
Eye said she believes the trailers absolutely do make a case for zoning, though she has doubts that land-use planning in the community actually will ever take place.
“I believe zoning is a Herculean task that we’re not likely to win, but it’s worth fighting for,” Eye said.
A group of Cullowhee residents and business owners are at work now on that very issue. Since Cullowhee is not incorporated, any land-use regulations would need the OK of county commissioners. They met for the first time earlier this month with Jackson County Planner Gerald Green to discuss the possibility of community-based planning.
Preston Jacobsen of Cullowhee said he’s very unhappy about the trailers being parked in almost the dead center of old Cullowhee.
“I think it could hurt the image of Cullowhee,” Jacobsen said, then added that “this is indeed a perfect case and point for a planning board. As a landowner I’m hesitant, but as a citizen of Cullowhee and Jackson County I think it is needed.”
Rick Bennett, owner of Cullowhee Real Estate, said that like Jacobsen, a part of him balks at being told what he can and cannot do with the property that he owns.
“On the other hand I try not to devalue anyone else’s property. (The trailers) do show me that for other property owners, there does need to be some restrictions,” Bennett said. “Other property owners have worked to make their properties attractive.”
Bennett also worried about the impact of the trailers on potential Cullowhee-area investors.
“Those trailers would not give them a good warm and fuzzy feeling,” the real estate agent said, adding that what’s in essence the community’s commercial district needs guidelines and a certain measure of uniformity.
Bennett noted that the old trailers have been hauled in and plopped down in what is essentially Cullowhee’s downtown.
“Would the town of Sylva allow this to happen to their merchants on Main Street? It’s to everyone’s common good to keep up the value,” he said.