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Wednesday, 21 October 2009 19:35

Maggie hopefuls say tourists and locals important

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If there’s a buzz word for Maggie Valley’s town board elections this year, it’s “balance.”

Alderwoman Saralyn Price said she wants to “equal it out” between residents and businesses in town. Challenger Scott Pauley claims that he’ll bring balance and cohesiveness back to the board. Challenger Ron DeSimone wants to tip the scales back toward the residents’ side to create a true balance. Meanwhile, challenger Phillip Wight’s idea of balance concerns maintaining a balanced budget.

Two of these four candidates will win seats on the town’s board for the next four years, helping decide how to support the needs of residents and business owners alike, the fate of the festival grounds, and whether to approve proposed design standards that will shape Maggie’s future appearance.

Festival Grounds quandary

An issue on everybody’s mind seems to be how to handle the festival grounds that’s struggling to bring events in to Maggie Valley, thereby attracting tourists to local businesses. The greater underlying issue is determining how involved the town should get in supporting the tourism businesses that make up such a significant portion of its economy.

“I think we should try to help bring businesses in, but we’re not in the festival business,” said Price, who would rather leave the matter up to a festival director.

The town is looking to fill that position but has taken its time since firing the last director in May.

In the past, Price has not supported direct assistance to tourism businesses. Price voted against a request for a $200,000 loan by Ghost Town, an amusement park in town that had been an anchor for tourism before facing financial troubles.

“I didn’t feel like it was up to the taxpayers to do that,” said Price.

Pauley said he’d like to do what he could to help tourism and fill the void on weekends. Even though he owns a motel, he says he’s also a resident and has a “no strings attached” attitude.

According to Pauley, Maggie’s festival grounds is the most beautiful one in the area. If promoted properly, Pauley said the festival grounds could ease some of the effects of rough economic times.

Pauley agreed that the town’s taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize tourism-related businesses directly. However, the town could provide tax incentives to assist them, Pauley said.

According to Pauley, the town’s role is to not do anything that discourages new business. If elected, Pauley hopes to get the ball rolling a little faster on the search for a new festival director.

Wight, who is the president of the Maggie Valley Lodging Association, said more power needs to be passed on to some of the town’s boards, like the parks, recreation and festival grounds committee. Wight said they could have hired a festival director by now.

“All these other boards, they get second-guessed, give them a power,” said Wight. According to Wight, the town should also create a budget oversight committee to ensure greater attention to Maggie’s budget year-round.

“If you’ve got all those other committees, start an oversight committee to make recommendations,” said Wight.

Wight said the town should have handed at least a little money over to Ghost Town, which he considers a “jewel.”

“The worst thing I think the town did to themselves is to give them nothing,” said Wight. “They didn’t give them the $200,000, but didn’t give $5,000 either.”

DeSimone said the town should realize that tourism is only a part of the picture and not put all its eggs in one basket. He would like to see the town be more well-rounded with businesses open year-round for Maggie Valley’s full-time residents.

The town can still encourage enterprise by creating zoning and ordinances that are conducive to business, DeSmone said.

DeSimone spoke out against the creation of the festival grounds in the past, and he now says the town should just hand it over to private hands, rather than getting further involved.

“That festival grounds has really been a sore spot in Maggie Valley,” said DeSimone. “It’s always run at a deficit. It’s never done what it was intended to do.”

Regulating Maggie’s look

Maggie Valley’s planning board has drafted a proposed set of design standards meant to bring a cohesive look to the town. It will encourage designs that befit Maggie’s setting in new construction as well as renovations to already existing buildings. For example, the planning board’s draft now states that earthy colors and pitched roofs would be encouraged.

Price said she’d like to hear more public input on the design standards before deciding whether she supports it. Price does admit that she is not for people painting their buildings orange, yellow, or pink.

Meanwhile, Wight, whose motel’s roof is a bright blue, said the design standards are a “real hard sell.” Wight would like for them to be more suggestive than mandatory for existing construction.

“Deep down, I do not like telling people what the can or can’t do with their property,” said Wight, adding that sometimes having a purple or orange building can be integral to the character of a business.

DeSimone said he understands why the town is working toward bringing cohesiveness to Maggie’s look but acknowledges that it may be a hindrance to businesses, including franchises.

Sometimes their identity is wrapped up in their building,” said DeSimone. While DeSimone favors the concept of design standards, he would support them only if they were flexible enough to allow for special cases.

Pauley said he, too, is in favor of the concept. The key, he said, is to get a “good, healthy dialogue” with citizens started on this issue, as well as on others, before adopting anything.

Pauley added that the town should definitely consider that businesses are going through difficult times before subjecting them to standards that might make a renovation financially unfeasible.

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