Letter: Sierra Club critique flames out in Woodfin

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Come on, Bill Branyon, get your facts straight! Your attack on the Sierra Club in the June 29 issue of Mountain Xpress really did remind me of the old phrase “Angry and Bitter, Party of One!” [“Sierra Club Chimera: WENOCA Chapter Endorsements Are an Environmental Disgrace”]

Attacking one of the nation’s largest and oldest organizations devoted to protecting our environment and going after a great public servant like Ken Brame was pathetic. Ken’s volunteers do play an important role in our local elections, because these days, the average Joes and Joannes who work the polls with Sierra Club endorsements feel locked out of the political system. Those folks meet Sierra Club-backed candidates who pledge to try and approve only smart development, then help them to get elected, no matter what you say.

You see, Bill, we have to have some development, because this is America, and folks want to move around and live in places like Western North Carolina. If I own a piece of property and if it’s zoned to build, say an apartment complex, I try to do just that. With any luck, the town where I’m building has responsible elected officials (who probably were endorsed by the Sierra Club during their campaigns) who work with me to limit hillside clearing, tree cutting, building height and paving over open land. Being an environmentalist does not mean “all development is bad.” While I’m at it, since when are all rather bland-looking rectangular hotels bad for the environment?

I cite specifically the work that the Sierra Club did in my town of Woodfin last year. Woodfin is adjacent to Asheville on its north side and has about 7,000 residents on both sides of not only Interstate 26 but also the French Broad River. After being controlled by a commission who let just about anything be built in the town for 50 years, Woodfin residents last November elected three new commissioners who — wait for it — were endorsed by the Sierra Club and had their volunteers campaigning with us. You see, I was one of those three badly needed candidates who said, “Enough!” As a result, I set a record for the most votes ever received in a Woodfin municipal election.

Since elected, we’ve grown our environmentally patriotic majority on the commission to five, and in less than eight months, we passed a steep slope ordinance, conditional zoning ordinances and revamped the town’s comprehensive plan. We are currently working on stormwater controls, tree/canopy protection and rewriting our zoning ordinances in an attempt to attract neighborhoods instead of mini-storages and mini-malls. We are a good example of what you called Sierra Club’s “endorsements that are an environmental disgrace.”

So, Bill, exactly what have you done for the environment lately?

— James McAllister
Commissioner and mayor pro tem


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2 thoughts on “Letter: Sierra Club critique flames out in Woodfin

  1. Voirdire

    Sierra Club endorsements… which is the ONLY thing they do, endorse candidates (other than non-stop fundraising of course). Talk about pathetic.

  2. Robert

    The new Woodfin commissioners, including Mr. McAllister, have been a hard-working bunch and a breath of fresh air! Though they were endorsed by the Sierra Club, it’s important to note that the people of Woodfin, along with neighboring community members, were also instrumental in getting them elected by a landslide margin. To my knowledge, only one Woodfin incumbent even bothered to fill out the Sierra Club questionnaire. As for general concerns about Sierra Club endorsements county-wide, I think it would be wonderful to have greater transparency in future elections regarding the selection process, and also to allow *all candidates* an opportunity to be interviewed *after* the filing date. You never know when some really great/visionary leader might choose to throw his/her/their hat into the ring.

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