Worried about impact of new development

 

To the Editor:

“They paved paradise and put in a parking lot.”

This Joni Mitchell lyric has been running through my head this last week since I was advised that the Town of Sylva would be considering a proposal for a four-story, 84-apartment building right across the street from my house. This quiet neighborhood, on the eastern edge within Sylva’s city limits, is mostly composed of homes built in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. It is almost within sight of the hospital, but not quite.

Right now, I look out at a pasture that gets mowed a couple times a year, some pine trees, and a beautiful early 20th century home. In the background all around are mountains. There are no tall buildings within sight, or within city limits that I have noticed.

While I understand that there may be a need for senior housing, plopping down a four-story building in the middle of a pasture and paving the entire area does not exactly fit within the style of this mostly single-family community. Perhaps a collection of duplexes or townhomes with some green space, even garden areas so that these seniors (of whom I am one) can remain active, would better suit this neighborhood if indeed housing is needed.

Add to this the light and noise pollution. My newest neighbors just commented on the positive impact on sleep because of how quiet and dark it is at night. If this proposal is approved, it will never be dark here again. Our view will be of the side of a building instead of the side of a mountain.

Traffic at the Skyland Drive/Chipper Curve intersection is already awful. The entrance onto Allens Branch will funnel traffic right into that already difficult intersection. There must be a better alternative! Please look elsewhere KRP Investments and Town of Sylva.

Kristin Kane, Sylva

 

 

Are we losing freedom of speech?

 

To the Editor:

Protecting our freedom of speech may be one circumstance where liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Independents virtually all Americans can agree and unify.

When did we begin to lose that freedom? Maybe it happened when political correctness, a concept based on language usage, became a fixation in the ’70s. Euphemisms to ease perceived exclusion, marginalizing, or insult to groups of people became ingrained in our conversations.

For instance, he is not balding – he is in follicle regression. She is not a housewife – she is a domestic engineer. Old is chronologically gifted.

Now such demands have escalated to proportions that unequivocally challenge our freedom of speech. Powerful big tech entities like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google censor any entries they…whoever “they” really are we do not know…. deem offensive. The problem is what is offensive to those censoring is not necessarily offensive to others. But, we are expected to accept their conclusions, no questions.

For instance, many Americans believe there was election fraud. But because social media rejects that idea they disallow entries that mention it. Certain people have been shut down on social media because “they” do not like positions those individuals take. Some will say a certain idea is not popular, is offensive to others or is deemed untrue. It is not the job of any media to determine any of those conclusions. Readers and listeners can make their own judgment and most will. One may reject much of liberal or conservative gab, but those ideologues must have freedom to present their ideas no matter how fanatic, offensive, bizarre or eccentric.

If one does not use social media, we have something called cancel culture where “they”… again whoever “they” are … deem certain terms, products, books, toys, foods, titles etc. etc. are offensive because “they” say so. If you have any association with general news, you have heard that certain Dr. Suess books are racist, Goya Foods was boycotted because the company owner supported President Trump, cartoon characters Dumbo, Pepe le Pew, Speedy Gonzalez … gone. My sense is because some group decided this, we all are supposed to go along with their ideas and forget our own freedom of thought and speech.

Workers have lost their jobs because they expressed an opinion. Entertainers and celebrities have suffered the same injustice. Most recently Piers Morgan left his show because of reactions to his negative comments about an interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Banjoist Winston Marshall apologized because he praised a book by right-wing writer Andy Ngo.

Somewhere in the nonsense of politics, establishment of a commission reminiscent of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth has been suggested. This government agency would, I guess, with probably hundreds of hired snooping bureaucrats, comb social media, talk shows, letters to the editor, print media articles, monitor phone calls for comments that are anti anything that is the latest government darling. That, people, is when we will have totally lost our freedom of speech guaranteed in our U.S. Constitution.

Carol Adams, Glenville

 

 

Hatred of Asians must be stopped

 

To the Editor:

As a member of the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community in Jackson County, the attack in Atlanta on the Asian American community was shocking and heart breaking, but not really surprising. Violence against Asian Americans increased by 150 percent in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 2,800 hate incidents recorded by the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate.

Words have the power to inflame and the hateful rhetoric of the last president threw gasoline on an already tense situation. Calling the virus the Kung Flu, the Wuhan Virus and the China Virus over and over again, only helped to direct the hate and animosity of Trump supporters toward the Asian American community. Asian Americans have often needed to “prove” racism until social media videos came along. AAPI groups have video footage of hundreds of instances of violence committed against our community.

The Asian community in Jackson County is the smallest minority group at 1.1 percent of the population, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau numbers. That’s 315 people. We’re smaller than the African American population that makes up 2.4 percent and Latinos that make up 6.2 percent. While we don’t hear of violence against Asians in Jackson County, all minority groups face racism. On Sunday I attended a candlelight vigil at the fountain in Sylva against AAPI Hate, and during the hour that we were assembled, several cars drove by yelling at us.

It doesn’t take much to inflame your supporters, but words can also heal and President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ words in Atlanta, did just that. I felt gratitude to know that President Biden ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in honor of the people who were killed in Atlanta. I felt gratitude when community members attended the vigil to show their support of the AAPI community.

Words can unite and heal, so let’s all speak out against hateful speech and speak up against racism. Let’s use our speech to bring us together not tear us apart.

Nilofer Couture, Cullowhee

 

Proposed project problem-packed

 

To the Editor:

The proposed housing at the end of Chipper Curve Road and on Allens Branch Road causes great concerns as to whether it is good and acceptable for the neighborhood or the town.

My first major problem is traffic. Allens Branch Road is very close to the branch, is very narrow and at its terminus at Chipper Curve there exists a very narrow bridge. Widening the road would probably necessitate the relocating of power lines. The set-back lines shown on the map appear to start at the edge of the existing pavement, so if the road is widened the building would be very close to Allens Branch Road and would not allow for a 45-foot easement, which I believe is required by the state. The proposed entrance to this four-story housing unit, which will have no less than 126 parking spaces, will definitely cause a huge effect on traffic.

If the adjacent land is bought (0.76 acre tract), what would keep the owner from creating a second access onto Moody-Childress Drive, which would also create a hazardous entrance onto Allens Branch Road? School buses navigate this area and already creates a clear danger to our children on Allens Branch Road. They are on the road at peak times.

The plan shown in the Herald shows a pond, which I now understand is to absorb run-off from the parking lot. It does not appear to be sufficient to hold or absorb the water, and I see no plan shown to rectify that situation.

I would like to state that I believe the two-story house currently located on this property is one of the best built houses in the Town of Sylva and that is a landmark which should not be demolished.

This building plan itself will not fit in this location. Imagine a building four stories high (approximately 50 feet) and hundreds of feet long within the right of way, near the power lines on Allens Branch Road. The neighbors on Magnolia Street will be looking at the back side of this humongous building from their front porches and will be virtually robbed of any view. Neighbors view from the north will also be diminished.

How was it determined by the developer and the Planning Board of Sylva that there is a need in the Town of Sylva for this type housing for senior living? I do understand that there are only a few (eight or nine) units that are accessible for handicapped seniors.

There are entirely too many unanswered questions, and it is believed that this hearing should be postponed and the Town make its own investigation so the public and the Town Board will have knowledge of all the facts.

Max Holland, Sylva

 

 

Shift to a smaller scale project in harmony with town

 

To the Editor:

My name is Lisa Lovedahl Ries, and I have lived inside Sylva’s city limits for a very long time. In 1995 I purchased a small home on Chipper Curve Road and moved to the lower part of Allens Branch Road in 2006. The best part of my home is the neighborhood and my back yard. We heavily use our backyard and it is our nature sanctuary, the number one reason we chose to live here.

I have the utmost respect for the Town of Sylva government. I have served on the planning board. I support affordable housing and strongly believe there is a need for sidewalks on Skyland Drive to provide safe travel for those without vehicles. The issue I don’t support is the idea of a four-story tower dominating the skyline of our long-established neighborhood.

I am referring to the project to build a four-story apartment tower on the corner of Allens Branch Road and Skyland Drive. There are no other four-story buildings in the city limits, including the hospital and nearby medical buildings. The only other few four-story buildings in Jackson County are situated on four-lane roads, a hotel on the highway and several apartments  near Western Carolina University.

I reviewed the Town of Sylva Land Use Plan on their website. In the very first paragraph, it states “by planning for and promoting growth while maintaining its small town form and character.” (TOS, land use plan, 2020 page 5). The land use plan also addresses the quality of life in neighborhoods, stating, “it will promote and maintain the quality and character of established and new neighborhoods.”

It has areas designated as “urban neighborhoods” with higher residency density. The area of the proposed Skyland tower is not in this designated area. Allens Branch Road is designated as an “In Fill Neighborhood” with low to medium density with future use to retain its existing land use pattern, “as a denser development pattern conflicts with the topography in most in-fill areas”. The only parcel on Allens Branch Road, which is the parcel planned for the project is in the “Skyland Mixed Use Corridor” which recommends smaller scale future land use and states, “Is at risk of becoming a disconnected mix of use.” The parcel of the proposed four-story Skyland tower is surrounded by a sea of single-family residents.

This project will place the tallest building in Sylva, a four-story apartment tower right in the middle of neighborhoods that the town’s land use plan states should retain their existing land use pattern. The four-story Skyland tower will stick out like a sore thumb from its surroundings. It will not complement the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and streams as stated in the town’s Land Use Statement. There must be a compromise to build a smaller scale project that will be in harmony with our beautiful mountain town.

Please don’t take the mountain skyline away from our neighborhood and replace it with a looming four-story tower.

Lisa Lovedahl Ries, Sylva

 

 

For the People Act is vital legislation

 

To the Editor:

American foreign policy often points to the presence of “free and fair elections” as a marker of the health or lack of health of democracy in other parts of the world. But what about the state of our own elections?

Most Americans would agree, a free and fair election system is fundamental to a functioning democracy. Yet many states are considering bills that would seriously curtail access to the polls, in response to accommodations that were made in 2020 to assure safety during the pandemic: early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, alternative drop-off procedures. On their websites, neither Sen. Richard Burr nor Sen. Thom Tillis mention protecting voting rights in their lists of priorities or achievements. Is this because they take our democracy for granted?

The U.S. Senate is now considering the For The People Act (S-1). This bill, if passed, would establish national standards for voter registration and mail-in voting, curtail gerrymandering (what we have now allows candidates to choose voters rather that voters choosing candidates!) It would curb the dark money which drowns out the voices of actual constituents and elevate small-dollar donations.

These measures have been called a “power grab” by the GOP, but perhaps they should be in favor of a “power grab” that returns that power to the people to whom it rightfully belongs. Senators Burr and Tillis, what say you?

I encourage all citizens who care about democracy to call our senators to urge them to vote for S-1 the For The People Act.

Betsy Swift, Sylva