A Confederate identity crisis

If you’re strolling down North Lexington Avenue this weekend and you start seeing people in Confederate uniforms and hoop skirts, it won’t necessarily mean you’re still hung over from Bele Chere.

Instead, you may be catching a glimpse of the Old South — or at least a re-creation of it by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is holding its annual national reunion, July 30 to Aug. 3 in downtown Asheville. Organizers are expecting about 500 SCV members and 300 guests from across the country to attend, says reunion chairman Jim Holbrook, who’s also commander of the SCV’s Zebulon Baird Vance Camp No. 15, based in Asheville.

And at least half of the 350 people slated to attend the private “Grand Confederate Ball” at the Asheville Civic Center are expected to be wearing period dress as they stroll from the reunion headquarters in the Renaissance Asheville Hotel to the ball, Holbrook notes. (The “grand march” along Woodfin and Hiawassee streets will run from 7-7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2.)

Apart from the promenade, Confederate-related displays set up in the Renaissance Hotel lobby are about the only other facet of the SCV gathering that will be accessible to the public. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a private organization.

Behind closed doors, however, battle lines are expected to be drawn anew in the continuing internal war over the group’s direction — whether members will stick with their traditional pursuits (maintaining gravestones, erecting monuments, and studying Civil War history) or direct their collective muscle behind fights to display Confederate symbols everywhere from schools to statehouses.

Controversial Black Mountain lawyer and SCV member Kirk Lyons is among those leading the charge to turn the group into an activist organization (see “The War Between the Sons,” Feb. 5 Xpress). Lyons gained prominence years ago for defending members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white-supremacist groups — although he told Xpress earlier this year that he’s never declared himself to be a white supremacist. (“I never claim to be anything but this: I’m a Christian and I am an unreconstructed Southerner from Texas,” Lyons said then.)

Earlier this month, Lyons told Xpress that the Asheville reunion will be even more important in charting the SCV’s course than last year’s convention in Memphis, which drew national media coverage.

“It’s going to decide whether it’s going to go into the future or remain lingering in the past,” Lyons proclaims.

But Walter C. Hilderman III, a co-organizer of Save the SCV — a splinter group that opposes an activist bent in favor of maintaining a purely historical focus for the group — frames the issue differently.

“The whole struggle is about whether the SCV is going to be a 21st-century PAC for ‘Southern heritage’ — that’s a real nebulous term — or shall it be an organization as it was originally intended by its constitution: to protect and defend the record of the Confederate soldier of 1861 to 1865,” observes Hilderman.

But he questions whether the issue will even be fully debated.

Earlier this year, Save the SCV sympathizers found themselves on the outs with the SCV’s national leadership. Seven SCV camps and their commanders (including Hilderman) were suspended, as were four North Carolina brigade commanders and the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Hilderman notes. Plus, two appointed North Carolina Division officers were fired. As a result, about 350 SCV members (who belong to the suspended camps) can’t introduce resolutions at the reunion or even vote on a bevy of proposed amendments to the group’s constitution, Hilderman complains.

But there’s at least one point that both sides could probably agree on: The Asheville reunion will be one to remember.

For more info about the SCV, check out Save the SCV can be found at, while a Web site supporting the SCV’s current leadership is at

— Tracy Rose

Mental-health reform sparks hiring

For jailers at the Buncombe County Detention Center, looming mental-health reform signals a possible increase in the number of mentally ill inmates — and fewer resources for dealing with them.

State-mandated mental-health reform aims to transform a public mental-health system from one that provides mental-health, developmental-disability and substance-abuse services into one that oversees services provided by the private sector. The state’s goals include providing more consumer choice, moving patients from psychiatric hospitals into the community, and directing the state’s resources toward people with the most severe problems.

Despite North Carolina’s avowed good intentions, Capt. Glen Matayabas, facility administrator of the county jail, announced at a July 16 news conference that the uncertainty surrounding reform efforts has prompted the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department to hire a social worker to help provide services to inmates (to be paid for using funds collected from the inmate commissary and telephone system).

As part of the reform effort, the Blue Ridge Center — the public agency that currently assesses inmates each Monday morning — is destined to close at the end of the year. (ARP/Phoenix, a division of the nonprofit Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care, will continue to provide inmates with services to address alcohol and drug addiction, along with limited mental-health services, says Executive Director Don Reeves.)

Each year, about 450 inmates at the jail require or request mental-health services, Matayabas said, a figure he expects to increase under reform. Detention Center staffer Brenda Sane, who started work July 14 as director of inmate programs, told Xpress that she’s applying to become a licensed clinical social worker (which will enable her to provide mental-health services).

“At least at this point, we know we have Brenda,” Matayabas said after the news conference. “We don’t know exactly what will happen with the changes in the system.”

About a dozen members of the N.C. Mental Health Consumers’ Organization, an advocacy group made up of mental-health care recipients, took part in the joint press conference. The 400-member group (which has an office on the campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital, a state psychiatric facility in Raleigh) wants to make sure the reform efforts are properly implemented and adequately funded so that care recipients don’t simply fall through the cracks.

“Mental illness is not a crime, and reform should make sure consumers are not punished for it,” declared Dorothy O’Neal, the organization’s executive director. “Sheriff’s Departments — even the ones that go out of their way to help — are not the right places for treating mental illness. Jails should not be the hospitals of last resort.”

For more info about the N.C. Mental Health Consumers’ Organization, call (919) 832-2285 or (800) 326-3842.

— Tracy Rose

A coveted (Planning Board) seat

It’s not always easy to find citizens willing to serve on local boards, which typically offer precious little in the way of glamour or perks. But there’s no shortage of interest in the Buncombe County Planning Board, whose members wield a bit of power on items that affect development in the county.

Although Planning Board members only make recommendations on policy initiatives, they do have the authority to approve or reject requests related to specific development projects — such as whether to grant a developer a variance when building a subdivision.

So on Aug. 5, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will face a decision that’s bound to make someone unhappy: whether to reappoint three incumbents or replace one of them with a new applicant.

The terms of Planning Board Chairman Jim McElduff and members Jay Marino and David Summey expired in June, according to a list provided by the county Planning Department. Both Marino and McElduff say they’re interested in serving another term, and Planning Director Jon Creighton reports that he hasn’t heard that Summey is ready to give up his seat, either. (Xpress wasn’t able to reach Summey, who was out of town last week.)

Meanwhile, Scott Hughes, an accountant with the Asheville firm of Hughes, Hughes & Co., has also applied for one of those seats. In his application, Hughes notes that he served as chairman of the board that developed Buncombe County’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan back in 1998 (which calls for incentives to manage growth rather than zoning). Hughes also is a member of the Council of Independent Business Owners, confirmed CIBO Executive Director Mike Plemmons. If chosen, Hughes would join at least one other CIBO member on the nine-member board.

Plemmons noted that Hughes lives in the north Buncombe school district (the area now represented by McElduff); CIBO, said Plemmons, encourages its members to serve the community, adding: “What’s wrong with that?”

And though the average county resident probably wouldn’t have been mesmerized by last week’s Planning Board meeting, board members did take action on July 21 on four subdivision requests — which, collectively, affect what a piece of Buncombe County looks like. They gave preliminary approval to two subdivision plans (phase two of Blue Mist Farms in northern Buncombe County and the remainder of phase one of Crest Mountain in Emma), though those approvals are partly contingent on the projects’ either conforming with the new hillside-development ordinance or a finding by the county attorney’s office that they are grandfathered under the previous unregulated system. Two other subdivision plans (WNC Lifestyle Communities on Warren Wilson College Road and Ledgestone in Fairview) were approved, though board members decided against granting variances for the Fairview project.

Board members also discussed storm-water runoff problems at Ethel and Glen Boyd‘s property in Leicester. The Boyds appeared before the commissioners last month to complain about an uphill development flooding their land, though county officials said then that since the county has no regulations governing storm-water runoff, the courts were the couple’s only recourse. The Planning Board, however, is considering developing such regulations, and board members agreed to tour the Boyds’ property on July 28.

Board members also briefly discussed Planning Board member Roy Chapman‘s proposal to outlaw unsafe pre-1976 mobile homes, many of which sit abandoned around the county. They also talked about the troublesome logistics of such a ban (especially the estimated $1,500 cost to dismantle and dump a mobile home at the county landfill) and decided to continue their discussions at an upcoming meeting.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to decide on the Planning Board appointment at its Aug. 5 meeting, which starts with a 4 p.m. work session in Room 204 of the Buncombe County Courthouse.

— Tracy Rose

Peaceful souls

Are you one of the thousands in WNC who oppose the current war — or war in general? If so, you might want to check out the weekly peace vigil at the Cathedral of All Souls. It’s been held on the church grounds in Biltmore from 5:30 to 6 p.m. every Sunday since mid-March. Organizer Rae Stoll told Xpress, “We have anywhere from 20 to 40 participants each week, and the vigil is open to everyone.” Stoll added, “We encourage members of the Jewish and Muslim community as well as people with no religious affiliation to join us.”

Following the vigil — and not connected to it, other than through the shared venue — the Episcopal Peace Fellowship sponsors a speakers’ series and potluck supper on the first and third Sundays of each month. This, too, is open to the public.

For information, phone Rae Stoll (828-299-4833) or Mason Wilson (828-274-9665).

— Cecil Bothwell

Hurling burley

HOT SPRINGS— Tobacco can be a helluva habit to kick, particularly if that habit involves earning a living. Generations of WNC farmers have depended on burley tobacco as a reliable source of cash. But times change: Domestic demand is down, and cigarette manufacturers are looking to Asia for both smokers and growers.

Enter the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, offering funding and information to help burley growers switch to more benign but still profitable alternatives. With support from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund, ASAP created a Transition Program that encourages farmers to adopt organic production methods and grow more diverse crops. As part of the program, ASAP hosts Farm Field Days — tours of farms that are making the switch.

This year’s first tour will be held at the Zimmerman Berry Farm on Thursday, July 31 from 1-4 p.m. The farm produces domestic and wild blackberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, wine berries and blueberries for both the pick-your-own and wholesale markets. Pam Zimmerman will discuss production-and-marketing issues that a grower should consider before beginning commercial berry production. The farm is handicapped-accessible, and the public is invited.

From Asheville, take 19/23 north to the Marshall exit — N.C. 25/70. Follow 25/70 about 10 miles past Marshall to N.C. 208. Follow the Laurel River 3.5 miles to Guntertown Road, then turn right. Continue 1.7 miles, turn right across the bridge on Revere Road. Zimmerman Berry Farm is 2.2 miles down on the right. For information, call (828) 656-2056 (e-mail:

— Cecil Bothwell

Tailgate parties

Toss some ice in the cooler and slather on the SPF90 with DEET (a sure-fire combo in these days of thinning ozone and thickening clouds of West Nile vectors): There’s a tailgate party happening on your side of town, and you’re invited. There’s sure to be live music, fresh food, fun for the kids, and a chance to catch up with friends and neighbors you’ve been too busy to phone since the garden started birthing zucchini and cucumbers the size of city buses and the weeds invaded the lettuce patch in late June.

The Mountain Tailgate Market Association Summer Celebration takes place Wednesday July 30, Thursday July 31, and Saturday Aug. 2 at all Buncombe and Madison County farmers’ tailgate markets. These hypermarkets are everything you depend on from the regular weekly growers’ gatherings, plus food tastings and contests, cooking demos and more.

Participating Markets:

French Broad Food Co-op Tailgate Market — Saturdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at the FBFC corner lot, 90 Biltmore Ave., Asheville.

North Asheville Tailgate Market — Saturdays 7 a.m.-noon behind Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, 675 Merrimon Ave., Asheville.

Wednesday Evening Downtown Farmers’ Market — Wednesdays 3-6 p.m. in the FBFC and Bio Wheels lot on Biltmore Avenue, Asheville.

West Asheville Tailgate Market — Wednesdays 3:30-6:30 p.m. beside West End Bakery, 757 Haywood Road in west Asheville.

Black Mountain Tailgate Market — Saturdays 9 a.m.-noon on Vance Avenue beside Black Mountain Natural Foods, 115 Black Mountain Ave. in Black Mountain.

Madison County Farmers’ Market — Saturdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on the Mars Hill College campus.

Weaverville Tailgate Market — Thursdays 3-7 p.m. in the United Methodist Church parking lot on Main Street in Weaverville.

For more info, contact Charlie Jackson at (828) 293-3262, or e-mail to

— Cecil Bothwell

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