They weren’t thrilled about it, but members of the Cullowhee community did show an appetite for possible development standards during a recent second public input session focusing on the proposed regulations.
“This is not a pretty plan, there are parts of it I find very disturbing,” said Jim Lewis, during the Oct. 23 meeting. “But if not this, what? Just let us go?”
Up to now, the mood at many of the Cullowhee planning meetings and public forums was upbeat and positive — full of rah-rah and optimism.
Occasionally a naysayer would need to be hushed — Cullowhee property owner Mike Clark has been a consistent and vocal critic — but in general the consensus seemed to be that Cullowhee needs development standards.
Cullowhee is the fastest growing area of Jackson County. The growth owes much to Western Carolina University and is evidenced in recent years by a surge in private student housing complexes and smattering of bars.
Without regulations in place, Cullowhee’s growth has taken place in a Wild West, cowboy environment. For more than a year, the Cullowhee Community Planning Advisory Committee has contemplated how to guide such growth.
Downtown Cullowhee doesn’t look much like the thriving little town Rick Bennett found when he first moved to Jackson County in 1966. In the golden era of the 1970s, he reminisces, the little town boasted 17 restaurants, four gas stations, three grocery stores.
A far cry from the struggling crossroads in existence now, where cheap student housing fills buildings once inhabited by small businesses that just couldn’t make it and abandoned buildings punctuate the space between the few that have managed to stay open. The decline stems back to the construction of four-lane N.C. 107, which allowed traffic en route to Western Carolina University to bypass Cullowhee.
Dr. Richard Thompson is breathing a bit easier this semester. He’s not worrying about funding. Not wondering if the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching will slip into the abyss.
1889 — Cullowhee Academy opens with 18 students and 1 teacher
By Randall Holcombe • WCU
The little school that was the forerunner of Western Carolina University was called Cullowhee Academy. Its location is marked by a stone memorial, erected in 1934, that sits in a garden area between the university’s steam plant and Breese Gymnasium. The memorial honors Robert Lee Madison, who was 22 when he taught his first class of 18 students at the academy on Aug. 5, 1889.
It’s August, freshman move-in day, and Western Carolina University is welcoming a new class of freshmen to campus. It’s what WCU Chancellor David Belcher calls a “huge day.”
“We’ve got students coming in right and left,” says Belcher.
One of those students is Kailey Spencer. She plans to study forensics and is looking forward to the lab work.
The latest development to throw down a stake in Cullowhee intends to build a 488-bed student housing complex on a two-lane stretch of road across from the community garden and near the Tuckasegee River.
It’s a place where students can “thrive” while enjoying “a much more robust amenity package.”
The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching is sweating out the legislative short session. Gov. Pat McCrory didn’t include any funding for the Cullowhee-based center in his proposed budget, and unless legislators carve out a place in the final budget, the center will close June 30.