Swain seats new planning board

One Swain County resident expressed concern last week that developers and speculators will rush to break ground on mountainside subdivisions in the next few months to beat out development regulations coming down the pipe.


Swain County commissioners last week appointed the county’s first planning board, tasked with developing some basic development regulations. Swain County currently has no regulations for development other than erosion laws.

Boyd Gunter of Alarka fears developers will work quickly to beat the deadline and renewed his call for a moratorium on new subdivisions at the Swain County commissioners meeting last week.

“A lot of this development is unsafe, unwise and not good for the county’s future,” Gunter said. Gunter said public health and safety are at stake, meeting the legal requirements to enact a moratorium.

A developer from Jackson County heard about Gunter’s proposal and showed up at the commissioners meeting to speak against it. Wayne Kirkland decried the pending moratorium in Jackson County. If passed, he said it would halt new subdivisions until an ordinance can be adopted. Kirkland asked the Swain commissioners not go that route.

“For the real estate industry and development industry, that would be tantamount to a death blow,” Kirkland said.

Gunter disagreed. There is enough development already in the pipelines to keep the construction workers busy. Gunter said big developers were not entitled to carry on business as usual.

“Developers and speculators are playing these mountains like a stock market,” Gunter said. “They are coming in here and making twice and three times their investment. We don’t have to guarantee these people money. This is a game they are playing.”

While Gunter’s call for a moratorium did not seem to gain much traction, commissioners did move forward with the creation of planning board with a unanimous vote.

“Swain County’s population, both seasonal and full-time residents, has increased significantly over the past few years,” the resolution creating the planning board states. “The Swain County Board of Commissioners desires to study the impact this growth has and will continue to have on Swain County and its citizens.”

Each commissioner appointed two people to the inaugural planning board. Here’s who they appointed:

• Chairman Glenn Jones — Johnnie Lackey Jr. and Jonathan Douthit.

• David Monteith — Mark Davis and John Herrin.

• Genevieve Lindsay — David Ennis and Sarah Robinson.

• Steve Moon — Mike Clapsaddle and John Seay.

• Phillip Carson — Jeff Herron and Phillip Smith Jr.

County Attorney Kim Lay will serve on the board as a non-voting ex-officio member to provide expertise to the board in crafting language for ordinances.

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