Proposed Watauga Lake development could be the beginning of something good for county

Published 8:18 am Monday, April 8, 2019

A new development has been proposed in the Watauga Lake community of Butler.
The plans by the California developer, which have already been approved by the Carter County Planning Commission, are to develop the property in three phases, maintaining the natural beauty of the property.
The first phase consists of a 22-unit motel and a restaurant with seating for 75 to 100. The initial phase would employ approximately 50 people.
The second and third phases would be more ambitious, with a shopping village, convention center and other large-scale operations that could bring employment to as many as 500.
The property is in the Butler area off U.S. Highway 321, with views westward toward Old Fish Spring. The scenery will remain pristine because most of the land around the lake is owned by the Cherokee National Forest.
The proposal will go before the full Carter County Commission this month for either approval or rejection.
Naturally, there are those who oppose the development and they have expressed their concerns over the development and its impact on such areas as traffic. They have even gone as far as to get up a petition to oppose the development.
There is always some concerns over new development, especially on this magnitude. Some people don’t like change regardless of whether it is good or bad. They would rather things stay just the way they are.
However, change is needed in the community. If we are to move forward, if we are to meet the challenges of the future, things must change in Carter County. We cannot stay the same.
We need new jobs. We need new tax dollars. We need new people to move into our community. We need more tourist dollars. We need more reasons for people to visit our community.
Much of the Tri-Cities is thriving. We as a community need an injection of that energy. Our families have lower incomes. Our population is getting older, and we are losing our young people to places, where there are more economic opportunities. Additionally, we, like many other communities across Tennessee, have an opioid abuse problem.
Many of the economic changes of the last several years have undercut many of our local workers. And, nobody, not even the leaders of our community, seem to know quite how to pick Carter County and Elizabethton up and move it forward.
We have very few manufacturing jobs left in our community. Most of the jobs in our community are in education, health care, the hospitality industry, government, and small businesses.
We do have some assets, and one of those is Watauga Lake. We must use what we have to make the changes we need to address moving our community forward. We cannot afford to be left behind any longer.
The need for new jobs in our community as well as new tax dollars should concern everyone. It takes tax dollars to improve our schools, to build and upkeep roads, to pay for law enforcement and fire protection.
Not every small town can be a tech hub, nor should it be. It is not the answer to our problem. We do have great outdoor opportunities, two state parks in our county, a TVA lake, two prime rivers — the Watauga and Doe — great hiking and biking trails, and a historical heritage that ranks right up there with some of the larger cities in this country.
Let’s take what we have and use it to develop jobs, new tax dollars and bring new people and opportunities to our community. It seems that the Watauga Lake development is an ideal place to start. Rather than oppose it, let’s get behind it and see what kind of doors it may open to other opportunities for Carter County and Elizabethton.

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