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Jackson County Is Planning The Future of Cullowhee

Lilly Knoepp
The area along Old Cullowhee Road was one of the main regions brought up during the Cullowhee Small Area planning meetings.

  Western Carolina University has grown leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. However, that hasn’t been the case for the Cullowhee area.  Here’s more on the growth of college town.


Jackson County’s Planning Board wants to know how residents want to see the Cullowhee Valley grow.  Charles Hill is 76 years-old, and moved to Cullowhee from South Georgia 22 years ago. He lives in the Cullowhee River Club and is hoping for more river access and restaurants.


“I’m most interested in the River Park and improving the river any way that they can. And for them to take out the dam if at all possible. That’s what I would like to see,” says Hill.  


Harrison Connor isa senior at Western Carolina who is going to dental school next year.  He says students want more biking and walking access to get from their homes to campus as well as more dining options.


“Monday through Thursday people are here but on the weekends it’s basically dead after 9pm,” says Connor, who is the WCU student liaison on the Cullowhee Small Area Plan.


Balancing the needs of the community and students is a big part of the challenge for the Jackson County planning team.  Caroline LaFrienier is the project manager for the county’s Cullowhee Small Area plan. The steering committee of the plan hosted three days of public comment events.


“Specifically in Cullowhee with the development of Western where the community used to be so sleepy,” says LaFrienier. “Now we are always hearing, ‘ We need more housing. We need more parking.’ and the community members are saying, ‘We don’t want anymore housing. We don’t want anymore parking.’ So we are trying to balance that.”


Protecting the environment in Cullowhee is a priority LaFrienier adds, saying they’re compiling an ultimate wish list for the next 20 years. Stewart Design firm from Raleigh and a local nonprofit are also part of the process.


“Hypothetically if we don’t write something down then its not ever going to be done so we want to hear everyone’s ideas and then we are going to wade through and see what’s most important, what do we need to prioritize and what is going to be best for the community,” says LaFrienier.


The county also has a survey for suggestionsonline. The planning board is expected to present their findings from public comments in June.

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