March 11, 2013
Lake Junaluska, NC – The Board of Directors of Lake Junaluska Assembly, Inc. has voted to pursue annexation by the Town of Waynesville.
In a 24 to 1 vote March 8, the Board agreed to ask the North Carolina General Assembly to “approve extension of the corporate limits of the Town of Waynesville to include those tracts of land more commonly known as Lake Junaluska Assembly.” The motion also asked the Board of Aldermen of the Town of Waynesville to support the annexation.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Lake Junaluska to formalize a partnership with the Town of Waynesville, a relationship that has existed for 100 years,” said Jack Ewing, executive director and CEO of Lake Junaluska Assembly. “Was it an easy decision for our residents and staff to make? Of course, not. Lake Junaluska has a unique and treasured personality, one that is beloved by generations of families who live here, work here, vacation here and worship here. But we are confident that by pursuing annexation with the Town of Waynesville, we will preserve this sacred place and all that it means to so many people. We move forward with confidence and assurance that Lake Junaluska will be strong and secure for another 100 years.”
The Board’s decision to seek annexation from Waynesville comes after a year-long process of public meetings, committee meetings, surveys and studies to determine the best course of action for preserving the popular Christian resort and landmark, which is also home to about 780 private residential properties. Currently, Lake Junaluska Assembly is an unincorporated community under the direction of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church and will celebrate its 100th anniversary this summer.
Under annexation, ownership of the Conference and Retreat Center property, the dam, lake, and other recreational facilities and public spaces will not change. “The Lake Junaluska Assembly Board of Directors will retain control of those,” said Buddy Young, director of Assembly Public Works, likening the Conference and Retreat Center to a college campus within the city limits of a town.
Annexation services will include maintenance of streets, water works, sewer collection system, and code enforcement, among other typical municipal responsibilities.
The Board of Directors OK’d the motion for annexation following recommendations by the Assembly Public Works Committee, Junaluska’s Municipal Studies Task Force, and consulting firm Martin-McGill of Asheville, whose preliminary findings indicated annexation of the Lake by Waynesville would be mutually beneficial. The Martin-McGill study was funded jointly by Lake Junaluska and the Town of Waynesville through a grant it received from the NC Rural Center. Its final report is due out in April.
The purpose of the study was to conduct a clear and objective analysis of the projected impact of annexation of Lake Junaluska Assembly by Waynesville. The study looked at budgets, boundaries, population, tax analysis, revenue analysis, staff transition, available grants, water/sewer/street infrastructure, capital improvement plans, operational plans, transition options, capital financing options and public hearings.
The idea of annexation began about two years ago when, as part of the Lake’s strategic planning, Young conducted an assessment of the Lake’s aging infrastructure and found it needed massive repairs or replacing in the next 10 years. The results of that assessment, The Municipal Status of Lake Junaluska by Andrew d’Adesky and Young, with assistance from the UNC School of Government, was released in 2012 and recommended the Lake either incorporate, be annexed, transfer control of the water and sewer infrastructure or remain unincorporated.
A year-long series of discussions and public meetings determined that annexation was the best option for the Lake. But it wasn’t an easy decision to make, nor was it without emotion from the Lake’s board and committee members, and residents who call the tight knit community a sacred place.
“Junaluska has been in my sights, in my presence for 50 years, and to reach this point and have to make this report at this time is heavy on my heart and mind,” Frank Furman, co-chairman of the Assembly Public Works committee, said, as he delivered his committee’s recommendation. “This is a place of retreat for the Furman family where somewhere between 20 and 30 show up every year to celebrate the family history. . . . Each of us has memories, some fun, some work, but they’re memories that will be with us all of our life of what Junaluska is, what we hope it to be and what it will continue to be. More so than ever in the past, we the members of the board have an opportunity to address the (Lake’s) future in a very meaningful and purposeful way.”
Acknowledging the “hurt and broken relationships within the Junaluska community” over the decision to pursue annexation, Larry M. Goodpaster, bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, said he wanted Lake officials to work with people who are skilled in healing rifts. “There are hurt relationships and brokenness within the community, which is not who we are as a United Methodist Christian gathering of people who live around the lake . . . . My concern is just that we move forward in a Christian way and that we find ways to bring about reconciliation.”
Retired historian, Bill King, a member of the Municipal Studies task force, likened the emotional process to the framing of the Constitution: “When the group was retiring after creating the compromise we know as the Constitution and were looking forward to what these United States were going to evolve from, the senior partner in that group was Benjamin Franklin. And he said: ‘In the course of our deliberations I have been looking at the carved image on the back of the chairs and it is an image of a sun with rays. And I’ve often wondered whether it was a rising sun or a setting sun. I am sure it was a rising sun.’
“And so I would use that illustration to say that I see the sun rise at Junaluska over Chambers Mountain every morning and I am confident that we are turning toward the East and seeing that sun with the leadership of the staff that we have here with not only just the annexation move but with the report of the nominating committee, the audit committee, the bylaws committee, the finance committee, the ministry committee, and the conference and retreat committee. We are all moving toward that sun.”