Originally published in The Sylva Herald on Aug. 20, 2020.
Move-in weekend is usually a joyous occasion for Western Carolina University students and their parents.
For many occupants of The Husk and The Helm apartment complex, this has not been the case.
The Husk and The Helm faced various code enforcement violations such as soil erosion and water quality.
“As of last Friday, all buildings at The Husk were approved for occupancy,” said Tony Elders, director of the county code enforcement office. “As of Saturday afternoon, all but eight of the buildings at The Helm were approved for occupancy. Those eight buildings still have quite a bit of work to complete and be approved before occupancy.”
WCU student Emily Hall described her experience after receiving an email stating she couldn’t move in just days before the scheduled move-in date.
“We have two options – either they give us $400 credit, or they give us a hotel room,” she said. “I took the room, which was super nice. I came up Friday night and thank God I did because they ended up emailing us at 11:30 p.m. saying we could move in Saturday at 2:30 p.m. So we went to the Husk to pick up keys and whatnot and they had the worst attitude and did not tell me anything.”
Upon Hall moving in later than expected, she noticed constant construction and trash covering the complex as well as her apartment.
“Our house is destroyed,” she said. “It looks like people have been living here for years with the amount of damage, scuffs, chips and anything else. We had just a small window (of time) and not much writing room on the paper to write down everything that’s wrong.”
Along with the damage, she claims her apartment wasn’t finished.
“We do not have a peephole in our front door, just a hole straight through,” Hall said. “A light over our (kitchen) island is about to fall out of the ceiling. My bathroom is so tiny my door hits the toilet and won’t open all the way. We do not have WiFi and they told us by 3 p.m. today (Aug. 17) we would. Also, we do not have a patio and it’s mud and half the back of the house isn’t painted.”
Student Erin Walker faced other move-in challenges.
“There’s the normal spots of walls that aren’t done correctly and the little things that can come in and fix easy-peasy,” Walker said. “But then me and my three roommates all noticed we have mold growing on the baseboards of every single room.”
Not only is Walker facing mold in her new apartment, but other safety and academic concerns as well.
“Our door lock doesn’t work,” she said. “We can’t even lock our own door when we’re all gone.
“And they promised us internet by Monday afternoon. I wish that was true. We still have no internet and most classes are online.”
The Husk portion of the development is fully open, but students are still having problems with their living quarters.
“My apartment at Husk was fine except it was missing a door frame and the sink water is gross,” WCU student Sophia Braden said. “Our apartment is the only one with broken AC, though. My pipes when me or one of my roommates shower sound like the wall is gonna explode in my room, tea kettle sound.”
Water complications have become a common trait among residents.
“I live at the Husk and I don’t have water connected to my dishwasher, fridge, or washing machine. I don’t have any hot water,” WCU student Lauren Wagstaff said.
Similar to other residents, her internet is also slow if working at all and was falsely promised it would be fixed on Monday.
The Herald reached out to The Husk and The Helm as well as the developer, Zimmer Development Company, but did not receive a response.
WCU contacted the developer and was told: “The Husk is fully open, and students are moving in. Students assigned to apartments that are not yet available at The Helm are being offered hotel accommodations,” according to WCU spokesman Bill Studenc.