This week, the BPR news team has been looking at mayor’s races in three very different Western North Carolina communities, including Franklin and Waynesville. The final installment takes us to one of the region’s major centers for tourism – Maggie Valley.
Located at the far western end of Haywood County, the tiny town of Maggie Valley has always been a seasonal draw for tourists, but the increasing cost of living in the Asheville area is pushing development further and further west. Maggie Valley’s always been a fiercely independent place, and change hasn’t always been welcomed there, says Alderman Mike Eveland, who’s running for mayor.
“Our commercial (real estate) over the last 10 or 12 years has been in decline to some degree," says Eveland. "I think we’ve leveled off and I think that the last couple of years have shown us that the numbers are better. Growth over the next eight to 12 years is going to be interesting, because there are people within the Valley that would really like to see the valley stay the same, and then there’s a lot of people that look at the valley and understand that it needs to grow and evolve.”
Maggie Valley’s next mayor will have to manage that growth, whether that’s Eveland or Mayor Pro Tem Janet Banks, who is also running for mayor. “I moved here 12 years ago. The population of Maggie Valley, I had been told at that time, was approximately 1,100 people. It’s now up to almost 1,400 people," Banks says. "So you’re looking at basically a 20 percent growth increase over 10 years. I would like to see a slow, steady growth that we can manage within our current budget.”
The town’s financial position is especially strong – Maggie Valley has no debt, a fund balance hovering around 100 percent and the lowest taxes in Haywood County. If that’s going to continue as the commercial sector grows, Maggie Valley will have to deal with another Asheville-driven crisis, according to Banks – affordable housing. “There aren’t housing affordability options for people who are coming here to work, and I think we need to do something about it.”
Eveland says there’s already a shortage of workers in Maggie Valley, and agrees with Banks that it’s going to get worse if something isn’t done. They also agree that change is coming. In fact, Eveland and Banks seem to agree on a lot, except for who’s the best person to help manage that change.