Waynesville Mayoral Candidates Talk Growth, Affordable Housing

Oct 30, 2019

A change in North Carolina law means moved many municipal elections in Buncombe County to next year, but there are still some important contests in the state’s western counties in 2019.  The BPR News team is looking at three of them this week, including in the town of Waynesville.

As the largest North Carolina town west of Asheville, Waynesville’s long played a key role in the Western North Carolina economy. It’s also experienced recent residential growth that shows no signs of stopping.  When voters head to the polls next week, they’ll have to choose from two mayoral candidates with lots of experience, but with different ideas on what that growth means for this town of 10,000.

“There’s a certain element of growth that we can’t control,” says longtime Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown.  "I’m not allowed, nor is the town board allowed, to put a fence or a wall around the city limits. So we have some control over it, and what we do is try to use smart growth principles to make sure that we are not inundated with problems. In other words, we try to infill when we’re doing growth projects.”

The other candidate is longtime Alderman Gary Caldwell.  “I actually see a need that’s going to come up with these apartment complexes, we’ve got two in the works. I see the need of expanding our fire department, but I would like to see this fire department being considered as also having a substation for the police department to work out of.”

Residential growth driven by Asheville’s booming real estate market is also driving an affordable housing crisis across Haywood County. Caldwell said he talked to a new resident about it.

“He was having such a trouble finding a place to rent that he actually had to rent a house that was larger than what he really, really needed," he says.

Whether it’s Caldwell or Brown, Waynesville’s next mayor will have to continue building on efforts they both took over the last few years to address the crisis.

“The town has adopted an incentive policy to try to attract entities to create those types of projects in Waynesville," says Brown.  "Unfortunately at this point in time, we have not had any entity come forward to try a project. I expect in the near future that we will have a nonprofit or even a for-profit company come and try to build some of these things with the incentives we’ve provided.”

Early voting ends this Friday, and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.