Here’s a look at some of what’s happening across Western North Carolina this week:
• The Urban News reports that there’s a 6 p.m. meeting Monday, July 21, at the YMI Cultural Center to inform people about a proposal to redevelop Asheville’s historic center for black-owned businesses known as The Block. The Eagle Market Renaissance Development team will talk about the proposal and its impact on the South Pack Square area.
• The Weaverville Tribune‘s blog, Dropped from the Headlines, reports on an article in the July 2008 edition of The North Carolina Press Association magazine. That story states that federal law requires all reporters and photographers to wear bright safety vests when outside of their vehicles on federal-aid highways or their rights-of-way, or be subject to fines or arrest.
• The Oconoluftee Job Corps Center in Cherokee should be accepting applications for participants by the end of August, according to the Smoky Mountain Times. The center will train students ages 18 to 22, as it had for 35 consecutive years of operation until it was closed in March 2007 by the Job Corps’ national director, citing health and safety issues.
• Work continues on Transylvania County’s new public safety complex in Brevard. The facility includes a new jail, as well as space for the county’s emergency-management and communications office, as well as the sheriff and his staff.
• Here’s a real mountain mystery — D.C. Buchanan, a photographer for The Mountaineer newspaper, writes that he may have photographed a UFO during a recent photo shoot at Balsam Mountain Preserve. “What I found so interesting was that each time I tried to debunk what I was seeing, the tests prove, in fact, the objects are within the scene photographed. Aside from that, there is an obvious lighter topside and darker bottom which coincides with the position of the sun at the time the photos taken. The facts are there,” he writes. Look at his photos and decide for yourself.
• The Watauga Democrat has a long piece on the 50th anniversary of the Hilltop Drive-In and its famous Snackburger, a “whole beef patty smothered with chili and coleslaw, topped with tomato and served on a warm bun.” Once a notorious hang-out for drunks, the Boone business location morphed into a business friendly to families and hungry college kids.
• Some Polk County residents are upset at a proposed equestrian facility in the Green Creek community. At a recent hearing, the county’s zoning board heard from residents, according to The Tryon Daily Bulletin. “One of those who spoke was Roger Smith, who owns the approximately 100-acre property off Hwy. 9 and plans to donate it to the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club. The proposal includes barns for 500 horses, 10 riding rings (five for show and five warm-up rings), one steeplechase track, various riding trails and a 30-hookup recreational-vehicle park. Some of the concerns residents expressed at Monday’s hearing were related to lights and noise, increased traffic and the impact providing water to the facility will have on surrounding wells. Residents also said they thought the proposal may too large for the property.”
• A man was found guilty of first-degree murder on Monday in the 15-year-old homicide of Zilphia Louise Lowery in McDowell County.
• In a story about the county tax rate, the Clay County Progress reports some interesting property-tax rate statistics. “Among the seven counties in western North Carolina, Clay County’s property tax rate of .43 percent is fifth. The lowest tax rates are in Macon, Jackson, Swain and Cherokee counties. Only Haywood and Graham have higher rates than Clay County. … For the 2008-2009 fiscal year which began July 1, only 24 counties raised their tax rate. This is the smallest number of increases since 1998-1999. Six counties out of the 100 in the state reduced their tax rate, including Cherokee County, which dropped to .3850 percent after a property revaluation last year.”
• Cherokee County opened its new jail on July 9. The transfer of prisons was a historic moment, noted the Cherokee Scout, “as the county was operating the oldest and newest jails in the state at the same time. The old jail on Central Street was built in 1922.”
• At the Cherokee Indian reservation, there’s a proposal to sell alcohol in the tribe’s casino, reports the Smoky Mountain News. The Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise has asked the Tribal Council to consider holding a referendum. The law would only apply to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, which is currently undergoing a $650 million expansion, and not the rest of the reservation.
• “Doctors in Haywood County will soon be asked to weigh in on whether they think Haywood Regional Medical Center should merge or affiliate with another hospital,” according to the Smoky Mountain News. The hospital lost its Medicare certification in February, setting off a financial crisis, the paper reports.
• Finally, if you’re into shopping, then you might want to check out Gerber Village in south Asheville. Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant, the “boutique” wine shop WineStyle and Elite Athletics are all slated to open there in coming months, the Pisgah Mountain News reports. However, the second phase of the project — a dense development of condos — has been put on hold because of a down real-estate market, according to Gerber Village leasing agent John Spake.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor