Preserving Heritage and Planning for the Future

The Mountain Landscapes Initiative was begun in 2007 by The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, a regional nonprofit foundation, and The Southwestern Commission, a regional government council.  The aim of the initiative was to support local communities in addressing a broad range of issues related to development planning and land use.

7 County Area

The Area.  The southwestern corner of North Carolina consists of seven counties including Cherokee, Clay, Macon, Graham, Swain, Jackson, and Haywood, as well as the Qualla Boundary, the territory where the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians reside in Western North Carolina.  On a statewide basis, this Area is known as Region A.  And though the initiative was focused in this region, the issues addressed by the initiative may be relevant and valuable to other areas of Western North Carolina as well as mountain areas of Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia.

Issues Addressed.  More than 65% of the land in the Area is publicly owned, with two national parks, two national forests and several lakes owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  These natural resources are a valuable part of the heritage of the area, however, they have historically had the effect of limiting the tax base and size of local governments in the Area.   However, recent changes in the privately owned portion of the land have been characterized by increasing second/vacation home ownership, rapid population growth and attendant development pressures on local communities.  North Carolina does not mandate zoning for its counties and in the past these areas have not had strict controls on land use and development, being predominantly agricultural.  The Mountain Landscapes Initiative was designed to support local communities in managing development and land use in a way that would promote growth of their local economies yet help preserve the character and culture of local communities and preserve natural resources.

Vicki Greene, Toolbox Project Manager

Approach.  The ML Initiative took a broad-based, participatory approach that involved literally hundreds of community meetings at various locations throughout the Area.  The meetings fostered dialogue in which local residents could bring forward concerns and opportunities as they saw them in their local communities.

Results.  The Mountain Landscapes Initiative produced a useful and valuable resource for community members, local Area planners and government officials.  Called the “Region A Toolbox”, the work product of the Initiative addresses all the major areas of land use and community planning with reference to various model ordinances.  It also includes 4 illustrative case studies.

Toolbox Highlights:

1)  Growth and Change…Why a Toolbox?
2)  Community Planning
3)  Site Building and Design
4)  Environmental Protection
5)  Sustainable Transportation
6)  Preserving Landscapes and Cultures
7)  Open Space Conservation
8)  Farmland Conservation
9)  Economic Systems
10)  Case Studies:  Wood Farm, Cowee Valley, Mountain Watch, Cashiers
11)  Model Ordinances and Guidlines

Learn more about the Toolbox created by the Initiative.

Toolbox Project Manager

Vicki Greene, Assistant Director, The Southwestern Commission

Toolbox Advisory Committee
Bill Forsyth (Cherokee) NC Economic Development Board
Harry Jarrett (Clay) County Commissioner
Gene Farley (Graham) Insurance
Rose Johnson (Haywood) President of Haywood Community College
Mike McKinney (Haywood) Banking
William Shelton (Jackson) County Commissioner, Farmer
Joe Cline (Jackson) Tuckaseigee Water & Sewer Authority
Lewis Penland (Macon) County Planning Board, Developer
Fred Alexander (Macon) Duke Energy
Kate Welch (Swain) Bryson City Town Board
Calvin Murphy (Qualla Boundary) Environmental Consultant
Bob Wagner, The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
Adelaide Key, The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina

Technical Resources
Ryan Sherby, Southwestern Commission
Vickey Wade, Western Carolina University
D.J. Gerken, Southern Environmental Law Center
Stacey Guffey, Macon County Planning Director
Paul Carlson, Land Trust for the Little Tennessee
Sharon Taylor, Land Trust for the Little Tennessee
Joel Storrow, P.E. McGill Associates
Mark Pruett, Haywood County Erosion Control Officer

This page is sponsored by Carolina Cabin Rentals, Inc., a locally owned business in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina offering NC Cabin Rentals including Boone, NC cabins Blowing Rock, Banner Elk and Beech Mountain areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC.  We recognize and appreciate the valuable work done by the host of individuals who contributed to the Initiative.

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