Buncombe considers condemning Catawba casino on Aug. 18

Buncombe County seal

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners may soon wade into the gambling turf war that has erupted between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Catawba Indian Nation. At the board’s meeting of Tuesday, Aug. 18, commissioners will take up a resolution to oppose a Catawba casino that broke ground in Kings Mountain on July 22.

Eastern Band Principal Chief Richard Sneed, whose tribe owns two casinos in Western North Carolina, lobbied the board to oppose the rival operation at an Aug. 4 briefing. He argued that the Catawba, who primarily reside in South Carolina, were not authorized under the agreement that established their nation to operate gaming across state lines. The U.S. Department of the Interior recently granted the Catawba an exception for the Kings Mountain casino, an action the Eastern Band is challenging in federal court.

Sneed said he’d visited county commissions across WNC “like an old-school revival preacher” to drum up support for his cause; Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Swain and Haywood counties have since passed resolutions opposing the Catawba development. He said Buncombe should join those counties due to potential loss of regional employment and economic activity from the Cherokee casinos. He also mentioned the tribe’s $5.75 million deal with the city of Asheville for naming rights to the downtown civic center.

Commission members generally expressed approval for a resolution against the Catawba casino on Aug. 4. “Oftentimes the county doesn’t adopt resolutions on general statewide issues or general federal issues, but I do think this is a very particular issue that uniquely affects the counties of Western North Carolina,” said commission Chair Brownie Newman. “For that reason, I think it’s certainly worth the commission joining the other counties of Western North Carolina to support this.”

In other news

Commissioners will hold a public hearing regarding the Schedule of Values, the document describing the “appraisal methodology, definitions and rates used to value all real property.” North Carolina mandates property revaluations every eight years, but Buncombe County has generally done so on a four-year cycle to keep up with rapid appreciation in the local housing market. Because revaluations bring taxable value into closer alignment with market value, they can lead to higher tax bills for property owners.

The board will not vote on whether to approve the schedule until Tuesday, Sept. 1. According to Lamar Joyner, clerk to the board, the relevant documents are not available online and must be viewed in person at the county tax assessor’s office at 94 Coxe Ave. Buncombe’s current schedule of values is available online here.

Public hearings will also take place for two rezoning requests. The first concerns a nearly 6-acre parcel off Smokey Park Highway in Candler, which would be rezoned from commercial service to R-3 residential. The second rezoning would reclassify 1.7 acres off U.S. Highway 70 in Swannanoa, next to the East Haven Apartments, from R-3 residential to commercial service. The county planning board unanimously recommended approval of both moves at its July 20 meeting.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains eight items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:

The commission will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m., at which members will discuss strategic partnership grants, solar panel financing, COVID-19 and changes to public comment procedures. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

The meetings will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and through BCTV. Comment will be accepted through 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 17, via email (limit of 350 words) at comment@buncombecounty.org or voice mail at 828-250-6500.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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