New businesses yield opportunity, consume mountain landscape

Last year’s vote that approved alcohol sales in Jackson County and Cullowhee has produced more than its fair share of business development, including new sports bars and expanded convenience stores.

Recently, a business boom has hit Jackson County and the surrounding area that includes restaurants like Cook Out and the Cullowings Sports Grill, along with other businesses like a Verizon store and a new Dollar Tree at a larger location.

Paige Roberson, town manager and main street director for the town of Sylva, recently spoke to The Western Carolinian about the industry expansion in Jackson County.

As town manager and Main Street director, Roberson said that her job is “to assist the citizens and Town Board with activities that make Sylva a place that businesses want to locate [to] and people want to live.”

Roberson also said that Sylva, as the county seat, is the commercial center for Jackson County. Therefore, Sylva sets the precedent for business development for the rest of Jackson County as well as Cullowhee.

Roberson also shed some light on the specific businesses opening and/or expanding in Jackson County.

Dollar Tree, currently located next to Wal-Mart, will be moving closer to Downtown Sylva to a larger location.

Roberson also said that while she has only seen several revisions of site plans for the new Verizon store, it will be located on Highway 107 and will look much like the store in Waynesville.

The Cook Out restaurant, while no owner or opening date details are known at this time, will be located on 107 next to the Verizon store.

Roberson said that she hopes that “independently owned stores and small businesses, along with chain stores that will promote growth and economic development. . .” will appear in Sylva next.

Many locals and tourists who value the scenic views of the mountains are worried about the effects of business development on the landscape.

Roberson said that developable sites are still available within Sylva and in Jackson County that can be developed without meeting the steep-slope restriction. There are also several vacant commercial locations in shopping centers along Highway 107 and Business 23.

John Jeleniewski of the Jackson County Planning Department said that Jackson County has entered into an agreement with the Town of Sylva to administer their Zoning Ordinances.

Jeleniewksi and the Planning Department help to improve Sylva by applying the town’s already existing Zoning Ordinances concerning site development, signage, etc.

“We only administer the Ordinance they have adopted and amended,” said Jeleniewski.

As Code Enforcement Officer, when a new business wants to open in the Town of Sylva, Jeleniewski review the proposed business “use” to see if it is applicable to the Zoning District they wish to locate and issue zoning and sign permits.

If the project includes new site development, Jeleniewski applies the Town of Sylva Zoning Ordinance (which includes development standards) to the submitted plans.

The Jackson County Planning Department is not involved in businesses in Cullowhee, which does not have zoning or development ordinances.

For Cullowhee, building modifications are reviewed by the Jackson County Building Inspections Department and any site work done in these non-zoned County areas will be subject to review by the Jackson County Erosion Control Department.

While many may see the flood of new businesses to the area as an infestation, many hail the new development as opportunity for those without jobs.

New businesses yield new jobs and for many facing poverty, that opportunity is worth the loss of a bit of mountain scenery. For others, however, nothing is worth the unique, natural landscape of Western North Carolina.