Buzzworm news briefs

Madison Commissioners green-light Wolf Laurel development

The Madison County Board of Commissioners narrowly approved zoning changes March 13 that pave the way for Wolf Laurel Ski Resort to develop about 300 acres in the Laurel Valley for vacation homes and retail businesses. Siding with the evident sentiments of most county residents in attendance, Commissioners Dyatt Smathers and Elsberry Wyatt opposed each of three separate rezoning proposals, all of which passed on 3-2 votes.

An estimated 275 people packed the chamber to its fire-code limit, and more than 100 others crowded the courthouse grounds. Many of those outdoors sported hand-lettered “I support Laurel Valley Watch” badges, referring to the community group fighting Wolf Laurel’s expansion. Xpress interviewed those without badges, all of whom also opposed the project.

The commissioners gave each side in the debate a half-hour to present its case. Wolf Laurel developer Rick Bussey spoke of benefits to the local economy and maintained that his construction of up to 700 vacation homes, plus roads and infrastructure, wouldn’t adversely affect “the integrity of the Laurel Valley community.” Bussey’s plans also call for an airstrip large enough to handle small jets.

Opponents, led by attorney Gary Davis, heatedly disagreed. Besides opposing the specific proposals, speakers repeatedly stressed the county’s urgent need for comprehensive land-use planning.

The area in question was formerly zoned residential/agriculture ; the approved changes shift two parcels totaling about 200 acres to residential/resort zoning, and a third to retail/business.

Following a motion by Smathers to reject the first proposal (seconded by Wyatt), County Attorney Larry Leake spoke to the commissioners for several minutes without using his microphone. When members of the audience loudly requested, then demanded, that he speak into the mic, Leake pointedly stated, “I’m speaking to the board,” and continued to deliver his advice in a manner inaudible to the public. Smathers’ motion was defeated 2-3, and Vice Chairman Eddie Fox then offered three motions affirming the proposed changes, which passed with support from Chairman Vernon Ponder and Commissioner Hall Moore.

Later in the meeting, the board amended the minutes of its September 2005 meeting in a related matter. According to Smathers, the commissioners had voted in September to rezone 12 acres from residential/agricultural to industrial district, but the minutes had erroneously recorded the new zoning as residential/resort. The amendment was passed to set the official record straight. Based on the original, inaccurate minutes, opponents of a jetport slated for the property had been poised to file an injunction against the project, which would be illegal in a residential zone.

Correction: Xpress incorrectly reported that at the March 13 board meeting, all three zoning changes for the Wolf Laurel development were approved by 3-2 votes. Instead, Commissioners Dyatt Smathers and Elsberry Wyatt voted against the first two zoning changes. The third zoning change received unanimous support from the five commissioners.

— Cecil Bothwell

Putting families together

“I felt like the least-qualified person there,” recalls Robert Nixon about the first Village Adoption Connection event last October. “I had a lot of concern as a single person considering adoption, [but] the event put me more at ease that that was a possibility.”

Now in the process of adopting Scottie, a 15-year-old boy who waited seven years to become part of a permanent family, Nixon says that despite his worries, “When I am with Scottie, I feel like we could have a home — a home good for both of us.”

As for Scottie, “I finally have someone to call ‘Dad,'” he says, adding, “He’s the coolest man.”

The idea that single people can’t adopt is one of many myths Diane Delafield would like to put to rest. “You can adopt if you’re single, married or divorced; 21 or older; and any race, gender or ethnic group,” explains Delafield, executive director of Under One Sky, a nonprofit organization that serves older kids in foster care. “We’ve got a parent who’s 72 years old adopting a teenager right now.”

Under One Sky will hold a second Village Adoption Connection event at Warren Wilson College on Saturday, April 1, from 1 to 5 p.m. The event will introduce potential adoptive parents to nine children who have participated in Passages, a camp-based program designed to help older youth in foster care build on their strengths and find adoptive families.

The children are: Kasey (16) and her sister Kendra (14), Michael (12), Ashley (13) and her brother James (15), Samantha (14), Brandon (14), Amanda (18) and James (13).

Although the children won’t be there, they’ve designed and developed personal videos — and in some cases “zines” (minimagazines) — to help potential parents learn more about them. Participants will also get a chance to talk to the folks who know the kids best — social workers, Under One Sky camp staff, and in some cases teachers or friends whom the children would like to have represent them.

The event will begin with an opening circle featuring the kids’ personal videos paired with Under One Sky staffers sharing their own experiences with the children. Afterward, participants will break into smaller, more intimate groups to find out more about individual adoptees.

“I really would invite people to come and just find out a little bit more about these kids,” says Delafield. “The truth is that these kids are like any other children. They have hopes, they have dreams — these kids are bright. They are artists and future veterinarians, and Sam wants to be a neonatal nurse, and Brandon wants to go to Juilliard School of the Arts.”

Two adoptive agencies, the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina and Omni Visions, will be on hand to address any questions about the adoption process.

“There’s no fee to adopt any of these kids,” notes Delafield. “In fact, when you adopt kids … in North Carolina, you get a monthly stipend and you also get services provided after you adopt.”

And to any prospective parents who might still doubt their own qualifications, Nixon has this to say: “These kids are not seeking perfect parents or a mansion. They just want somewhere to call home.”

For more information or to register for Village Adoption Connection, call Donna at 251-9703 or visit under1sky.org.

— Lisa Watters

Book drive for literacy

Two local organizations, the Asheville-Buncombe Education Coalition and Biblio Charitable Works, Inc., have come together with sponsors Ingles Markets, Clear Channel Radio, and Biblio.com to present a Spring Book Drive on Saturday, March 25, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The used-book drive will benefit the efforts of ABEC to tutor and mentor students in Buncombe County, as well as the local and Latin American literacy projects conducted by BiblioWorks. Children’s-book donations will be distributed among students served by the 20 member agencies of ABEC. Adult and children’s books will be distributed by BiblioWorks through their through projects locally and abroad. Donated books may also be sold, with the profits donated to these agencies. Books that can’t be used will be recycled.

“Ingles Markets has graciously offered us use of their parking lot and event staff at the South Forest Shopping Center Ingles location on Hendersonville Road,” says Allen Singleton, president of BiblioWorks. “Clear Channel Radio has also offered their assistance in promoting the Spring Book Drive with public service announcements on their stations in Western North Carolina. Biblio.com is providing storage, sorting and online sales of books that we collect. There are a number of groups coming together to make this a great project to promote literacy and education both right here at home and as far away as Bolivia, South America, where BiblioWorks is working now.”

Beginning Wednesday, March 22, books will also be accepted at other drop-off locations, including the ABEC office, the United Way Building (Big Brothers Big Sisters), Harvest House (Kenilworth Road), the Senior Opportunity Center (Grove Street), the Asheville City Schools Foundation and Warren Wilson College.

Donors are encouraged to bring any and all books they would like to donate, and the agencies will take care of the rest.

For more information, visit BiblioWorks online at www.biblioworks.org or call Kevin Donaldson at 350-0744, or visit ABEC online at www.abeducationcoalition.org or call Elisabeth Bocklet at 236-1228.

— Cecil Bothwell

Campaign Calendar

Primary decisions: Candidates are gearing up for the May 2 primary election, when voters will make their first round of choices for 2006 and determine which candidates become the nominees for the general election in November. Only contested seats are part of the primary ballots, which are distributed by party affiliation (Democrat, Republican or Unaffiliated). To participate in the primary, voters must be registered by Friday, April 7; changes in party affiliation must also be made by that day. Registered voters may then vote only in the primary election of their declared party. Unaffiliated voters, however, may vote in either the Republican or the Democratic primary, or may opt for the “Nonpartisan” ballot which contains only contested nonpartisan elected positions, in this case state or district judgeships.

Voting by mail: Absentee ballots can be requested from the Buncombe County Board of Elections for registered voters who plan to vote by mail. The deadline for those requests is April 25, with exceptions for illness or disability.

“Early” voting: Dates for one-stop absentee voting (or “early” voting) begin April 13 and end April 29. One-stop voting takes place at the Board of Elections office, 189 College St. in Asheville.

Volunteering to help: Precinct workers are needed around the county for the primary and general election days. To serve in this capacity, you must be a registered voter in Buncombe County and must be affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party. You may not serve, however, if you hold office in a state congressional district, a county, a precinct political party or political organization; if you are the manager or treasurer for any candidate or political party; if you are a candidate for nomination or election; or if you are a near relative to another worker in the same precinct or a candidate for nomination or election. For additional information, contact the Buncombe County Board of Elections at 250-4200 or visit www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Election.

March 25 sheriff’s candidate event: The Van Duncan for Sheriff Committee will hold a meet-the-candidate event at the A-B Tech Enka campus on Saturday, March 25, from 4 to 6 p.m. Food and drinks will be served. For more information call Duncan at 779-0118 or visit www.vanduncan.com.

March 28 volunteer luncheon: The League of Women Voters will hold a brown-bag luncheon on Tuesday, March 28, at which Trena Parker, director of the Buncombe County Board of Elections, will discuss training for volunteers, poll workers and judges, as well as how the BOE prepares for elections and what happens when the polls close. The meeting will take place from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the YWCA on South French Broad Avenue. For more information about the League’s campaign-season activities, visit www.abc.nc.lwvnet.org or call 258-8223.

Candidates, organizations and citizens: Send your campaign-event news — as far in advance as possible — to nholder@mountainx.com, (fax) 251-1311, or “Campaign Calendar,” Mountain Xpress, P.O. Box 144, Asheville, NC 28802.

Standing at the crossroads

In folklore of the Deep South, crossroads were places where deals with the devil could be made. And in Appalachian coal-mining history, bright yellow canary birds were brought into the mines to check for safety: If the birds died, it revealed the presence of methane or carbon monoxide gas, signifying poisoned air or potential explosions.

Perhaps these southern tales were in mind when the Canary Coalition teamed up with the Southeast office of Nuclear Information and Resource Service for their latest campaign, the Energy at the Crossroads Tour. Organized in reaction to license applications submitted for the construction of new coal-fired and nuclear-power facilities in Western North Carolina and throughout the Southeast, the tour will emphasize the idea that the future of energy does not necessarily have to include deals with coal and nuclear-power industries.

“There are choices that can be made to make this unnecessary,” says Avram Friedman, executive director of the nonprofit Canary Coalition, which is based in Sylva. The organization works on air-quality issues and advocates the use of wind, solar and other renewable-power sources to combat problems associated with power-plant emissions.

The campaign kick-off, which will include a press conference and presentation of the Canary Coalition’s resolution to the city of Asheville, will take place at City Hall on Tuesday, March 28, at 11 a.m. “Our resolution primarily calls for a moratorium on the construction of new power plants until alternative methods can be studied,” says Friedman. “The impacts the plants will have on health and the environment must also be taken into consideration, as they have not been in the past.”

The seven-state, year-and-a-half-long tour will continue with a multimedia presentation at UNCA’s Owen Conference Center on Thursday, March 30. The two-hour free event begins at 7 p.m. and will combine music, comedy and information to raise awareness about renewable-energy options that support human and environmental health.

For more information about the Energy at the Crossroads Tour, contact the Canary Coalition toll free at (866) 4-CANARY, or visit www.canarycoalition.org.

— Rebecca Bowe

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