Buzzworm news briefs

Campaign Calendar

Another election season is about to hit its stride, and Xpress will publish a weekly calendar of campaign events to keep you in the know leading up the Nov. 7 vote. Candidates and organizations are invited to notify us of forums or events (see instructions below).

Offices on the ballot in Buncombe County will include:
• U.S. Representative, District 11
• N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice (nonpartisan; two seats)
• N.C. Court of Appeals (nonpartisan; five seats)
• Buncombe County District Court (nonpartisan; five seats)
• N.C. Senate, Districts 48 and 49
• N.C. House, Districts 114, 115, 116
• Buncombe County School Board (Enka, Erwin and Reynolds Districts, one seat each)
• Buncombe County Sheriff, Clerk of Court and District Attorney
• Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor

To be eligible to vote in this election, you must be registered by Oct. 13. Changes in party affiliation are also required by that date. Mail-in, absentee ballots will be available from the Buncombe County Board of Elections beginning Monday, Sept. 18. Additional election information is available at the Board of Elections Web site (

Let the races begin; upcoming campaign events include:

Monday, Sept. 18: Candidates’ Forum on Health Issues from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center (236 Charlotte St. in Asheville). The forum, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Social Justice Committee of Congregation Beth Ha Tephila, will include candidates for the 11th District congressional race, for N.C. House Districts 114, 115, and 116, and for N.C. Senate District 49. The event is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, Sept. 20: Congressional candidate Heath Shuler will appear at the monthly lunch meeting of the Asheville Leadership Forum at the Country Club of Asheville, at 11:30 a.m. The public is welcome; the $16 cost covers lunch — and there is a request for “no jeans, please.”

Wednesday, Oct. 18: The two candidates for Buncombe sheriff, incumbent Bobby Medford and challenger Van Duncan, will be the guests at the 11:30 a.m. Asheville Leadership Forum. The event takes place at the Country Club of Asheville. The public is invited; there is a $16 fee (covers lunch) — and no jeans, please. Each candidate will speak for about 15 minutes, then ask questions of each other and field questions from the audience.

Candidates, organizations and citizens: Send your campaign-event news — as far in advance as possible — by e-mail to; by fax to 251-1311; or by mail to Campaign Calendar, Mountain Xpress, P.O. Box 144, Asheville, NC 28802. If you have questions, call 251-1333, ext. 107.

Broadband Charlie

The race for the 11th District U.S. House seat between Democrat Heath Shuler and incumbent Republican Charles Taylor is heating up, with new radio and TV ads from Taylor painting Shuler as an ally of the liberal left.

But at an Aug. 22 talk by Taylor to alumni and guests of UNCA’s Leadership Asheville Forum, Taylor took a break from partisan politics to concentrate on his efforts at bringing technology to the region to boost education, the economy and job creation.

In a speech to a small crowd of about 45 people gathered for the forum’s monthly “Critical Issues” luncheon at the Country Club of Asheville, Taylor spoke of his efforts to help bring broadband Internet to the region — as well as some hefty heaps of federal money — as a subcommittee chairman on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

“We have a beautiful environment here, but we have to have a strong economy,” he said. As founder of the nonprofit Education and Research Consortium of the Western Carolinas, Taylor touted the group’s success in bringing high-speed Internet to the region, aiding schools and businesses alike. He cited the recent announcement by Boston-based Netriplex as one example of how broadband is paying dividends. The company, which provides online-security and monitoring services, plans to bring 25 high-paying jobs to Asheville with a new data center. Company executives cited the area’s broadband service as a key reason for their decision.

Since 1997, Taylor has obtained more than $25 million for the ERC’s various projects, with a goal of $100 million. Through Taylor, ERC-linked schools (which include Western Carolina University, Brevard College, Mars Hill College, Montreat College, Furman University and UNCA) received $2 million for an astrological research center. In the same appropriations bill this year, Taylor scored $1 million for a computer-engineering program and $1 million with no strings attached.

Taylor also noted his efforts to obtain $8 million to design and fund a regional workforce-development center that includes high-tech training tools as well as laboratories for lasers and robotics in manufacturing.

Joking with the attorneys in the room, Taylor said schools today are churning out “too many lawyers and not enough engineers,” and that boosting the science curriculum and research at area colleges will be important to the task of transforming the regional economy into a high-tech hub.

Next month, opponent Shuler will address the same forum as part of his bid to unseat the 16-year House veteran. Whether Taylor can turn political pork into a victory, much as he has done in the past, remains to be seen this time around as voter unease with the Republican congressional majority spreads. Shuler currently has the lead in fund raising and in recent polls, averaging roughly a five-point advantage. Noted political handicapper Charlie Cook, of The Cook Report, says the race is now a “tossup.”

— Hal Millard

Bartram’s Walk decision delayed

In the latest chapter of the continuing slope-development controversy, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will meet with the county Planning Board Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 2 p.m.

About two dozen development proposals were submitted to the Planning & Development Department in June — just before new, stricter steep-slope regulations took effect — sparking widespread concern among residents of the affected areas. The meeting will be held in the Training Room at 199 College St. in downtown Asheville. The meeting is open to the public, but no public comment will be taken.

At least 50 Town Mountain and Beaverdam residents turned out for the Aug. 21 Planning Board meeting to challenge the board’s May 1 approval of the proposed Bartram’s Walk subdivision. A revised plan submitted by the developer was up for consideration on Aug. 21. Attorney Patsy Brison, speaking for, raised questions about the source of elevation and slope data submitted by the developer, Beaverdam Land Conservancy LLC.

Attorney Brian Gulden, representing the developer, declined to address Brison’s questions and asked that consideration of Bartram’s Walk be postponed. The board unanimously concurred, and it won’t consider the revised plan until Sept. 11 at the earliest.

In a break with its formal rules, which preclude public comment, the board heard a torrent of questions from irate residents. But as Planning Board Chairman Bill Newman told one questioner, “We only enforce what’s in this book.” Hefting a fat loose-leaf notebook, he added, “If you want to change the law, you need to take it up with the commissioners.”

This did little to placate the questioners, who’d been told at the Aug. 15 Board of Commissioners meeting that the commissioners could do nothing and the matter was now in the Planning Board’s hands. Beaverdam resident Catherine Ball told Xpress, “We’d like to see a moratorium on new developments, for the Planning Board to stand firm on variances, and for the county to put together a task force to work on stricter development regulations.”

Questioning the developer’s slope data and plans for addressing storm-water runoff and safety concerns, the group’s Web site predicts that the development will hopelessly snarl traffic on Wolfe Cove and Beaverdam roads.

— Cecil Bothwell

The morel minority

Autumn is nearly upon us, and with it … fungi. That’s right folks, there’s no better time of year to prowl the woods for nature’s decay agents, with their caps of many colors, their funky odors of earth and duff, their marvelous textures and subtle flavors. But lest ye ingest a poisonous button or two, an upcoming event at Warren Wilson College might be worth its weight in chanterelles.

The Asheville Mushroom Club will hold its FungiFest at the WWC campus in Swannanoa on Saturday, Sept. 9. The special day will start off at 9:30 a.m. with a guided foray allowing guests to pick and identify mushrooms, followed at 11 a.m by a tribute in pictures to the beloved yet still-misunderstood ‘shroom by acclaimed nature photographer Taylor Lockwood.

The following programs will include classes on mushrooms of Western North Carolina (kids welcome!), a cooking demonstration, a lecture on “The Ins and Outs of Fungal Edibility” and a seminar on mushrooms’ various medicinal uses. Special guests at the event will include mycologist (mushroom doctor, to you) Coleman McCleneghan, and Asheville’s own champion of the champignon, Alan Muskat.

A day pass for the event is $15 for adults, $9 for students and $7 for children under 12. Members of the Asheville Mushroom Club get in for a measly $3. For more information, visit

— Kent Priestley

Richmond Hill, Asheville's largest park

Richmond Hill, Asheville’s largest park, has become at least a temporary blemish on the city’s environmental record. On Aug. 23, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources cited the city for violations at the site, where new development is taking place. The chief problem is lack of sufficient erosion control — a shortcoming brought to light in pictures like the one above by park advocate James Wood. The following day, city staff went to work to address the erosion and sediment issues, some of which could threaten the park’s ecosystem. “The management of the construction project at Richmond Hill Park has not met the community’s expectations or our own expectations,” Irby Brinson, director of Asheville Parks and Recreation, said in a press release. “As the department head, I take responsibility for that. And I am personally involved in making sure that our erosion control measures are improved and the plan for the site is followed so that this does not happen again.” photo by James Wood

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