Letters to the editor

Residents oppose Laurel Valley development

It has come to my attention that the Laurel Valley community in Mars Hill is now under siege by a multi-leveled group of developers, fronted by B&E Ventures. Destruction of our neighborhood by bulldozers has already begun, and the effects are devastating to the delicate balance of waterways and wildlife corridors. In no way is this land-grab seen in a positive light by the residents of Laurel Valley. We are not averse to gradual, sensitive growth that takes into consideration the history, lifestyle and sensibilities of the present residents and condition of the area.

What we do object to is the giving over of the stewardship of the land to those who wish only to profit from its exploitation. The homes projected to be built are “vanity homes” for those who are wealthy enough to fly in from other areas and stay for short periods of time; an airstrip has already been paved for this purpose.

In no way are the new owners intending to integrate into and contribute to the preservation of their surroundings. At first glance this [development] may seem to be a financial boon to the county tax coffers, but upon further reflection is quickly seen to be what it actually is: a sell-out. It must be tempting for the county government of Madison to embrace this type of development because this category of homeowner pays land taxes and does not draw upon the services of the county in the same way as permanent residents do. Permanent residents make use of the school system, and municipal and health services, but give back so much more to the community through their permanent status by supporting local businesses, farmers’ markets and by maintaining the agricultural heritage of the county year-round. Their commitment to their county contributes to its stability.

Resort/residential and retail/business rezoning from agricultural/residential for literally hundreds of acres is extreme. Business traffic in a quiet residential/farming neighborhood is incompatible with a peaceful way of life. The citizens of the Laurel Valley area are calling on the Madison County Planning Board members to vote to protect this way of life by saying “no” on all B&E Ventures requests for rezoning. The waterways that nourish this valley flow far and wide through the county, and disturbance and pollution from developmental and pesticide runoff will affect home and farmland for as far as Hot Springs. All of Western North Carolina is experiencing an alarming rise in gated-community/resort style building.

This is a call to all affected citizens to take a united stand and let your voices to be heard in demanding extremely high standards for development of our precious lands. Once the bulldozers begin to roll, we literally lose ground.

Please support the newly formed Laurel Valley Watch Inc. in our effort to oversee developers’ activities. Laurel Valley Watch hopes to set an example and new standards for all communities who are undergoing similar onslaughts by rampant development.

— Krystina Crimi
Mars Hill

Housing is a right – and the Lord’s will

Blessed are the poor,” says Jesus in Luke 6:20. But where are the poor going to live?

This is a most relevant question since housing costs are rising in Asheville, with million-dollar condos going up downtown while those who are homeless stand in their shadows waiting on a 10-year plan, with affordable housing the watchword on our lips but far from our hearts and hands.

It is time for people of conscience to say with their lives that housing is a human right!

Why are we so quick to let the likes of Wal-mart come in and steal affordable housing from the poor? The occupants of the more than 50 mobile homes await eviction notices. This is not the Lord’s will, but the will of corporate greed and an economy in captivity to consumption.

The Lord’s will is stated clearly: “They shall build houses and live in them.” Isaiah 65:21. “Is this not the fast I choose, to loose the bonds of injustice…? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house?” Isaiah 58:6-7.

“Blessed are the poor,” but where are the poor going to live?

— Rev. Amy Cantrell

Panhandling solution

Here is the solution to the panhandling problem in Asheville:

1. Pass a city ordinance making it illegal to give money to panhandlers.

2. Post signs in strategic locations so visitors and panhandlers will see them.

3. Fines of $25, $50 and $100 would be donated to organizations that help the homeless.

Weaverville had a similar problem with too many ducks at Lake Louise. People were feeding the ducks. The duck population multiplied until there was duck poop everywhere. Town council passed an ordinance making it illegal to feed the ducks. The ducks have moved on to more promising habitats, and the lake is back in balance.

Panhandlers hurt the quality of life in downtown Asheville. As long as some people give them money, the panhandlers will persist. It’s much better to give money to the Salvation Army, ABCCM or Western Carolina Rescue Ministries. Money given to these organizations helps to reduce the suffering. Money given to panhandlers just perpetuates the problem.

— Paul D. King

Vote NO on Super Wal-Mart

I have been a resident of Asheville for 18 years. I love the mountains, the great sense of community and the diversity of locally-owned businesses. I know change is going to happen, but Wal-Mart doesn’t! This is why I urge the City Council to vote NO on the Super Wal-Mart in West Asheville. Here is why:

1. Wal-Mart says they create jobs, but what they really do is put small and locally-owned business out of business — replacing these higher paying jobs with lower paying ones. On average, Wal-Mart pays its sales associates $14,000 a year; that’s $1,000 below the poverty line for a family of three.

2. Wal-Mart costs taxpayers about $2.5 billion a year to support its employees. This is due to Wal-Mart’s employees having to rely on public assistance, since their wages are so low. This includes Section 8 housing, free & reduced school lunches, federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families, etc.

3. In the largest class-action lawsuit in history, 1.6 million current and former female employees are suing Wal-Mart for gender discrimination.

4. Women comprise 92 percent of Wal-Mart’s cashiers, but only 14 percent of Wal-Mart’s store managers.

5. Our local economy is based heavily on tourism. People coming to Asheville want beautiful mountains and unique shops; Wal-Mart is neither beautiful nor unique.

— David Braverman

Pro-gay discrimination would fix ’em

I have an idea that would shock this or any state into protecting gay rights: overt reverse discrimination.

I hear from real estate management insiders that gays, on average, make significantly better tenants than average tenants. So if anyone out there owns or manages rental property, you could advertise that property as “gay only.” This is legal since discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not banned in North Carolina.

But when the establishment sees this happening, they will be shocked into banning such discrimination immediately, thus protecting gays, and saving the world from overpopulation.

So the idea is: a) perfectly legal, b) in the interests of the renter/advertisers, and c) will shock and corner authorities into positive action. …

Also, Pittsburgh bans discrimination against gays, so the city of Asheville can, too.

— Alan Ditmore

Control your own health-care costs

According to a January report by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the national cost of medical care escalated to $1.9 trillion in 2004. This represents a 7.9 percent increase over the previous year, or nearly three times the 2.7 percent rate of inflation.

In terms of the national economy, the cost of medical care now accounts for a record 16 percent of our gross domestic product and ruins the profitability and international competitiveness of our industries. In personal terms, it amounts to $6,500 for every American, or $15,500 per household. It represents a major financial burden, lost productivity, personal misery and premature death.

The real tragedy is that most of the diseases associated with the outrageous cost of medical care are self-inflicted through flawed lifestyles. These include inactivity, smoking, substance abuse and meat consumption.

Yes, meat consumption. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 1.4 million Americans are disabled, then killed prematurely each year by heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases that have been linked conclusively with consumption of animal products. That accounts for 56 percent of all deaths and, presumably, for a similar percentage of medical costs, or more than a trillion dollars.

Most of us have no control over the national cost of medical care. But each of us has a great deal of control over our household’s $15,500 share every time we visit our local supermarket.

— Albert Bowers

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