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Silver Creek Community near Mill Spring gains momentum

A number of residents of the former Land of the Lakes development off Silver Creek Road have taken the initiative to improve their community. The area is home to around 200 people, including almost 40 children. Residents are primarily retirees and young families, mostly homeowners. As a result of community efforts they can now look forward to almost two miles of newly improved roads.
One of the first steps taken was to rename the community as the “Silver Creek Community (SCC).”
The development was called Land of the Lakes when it was developed in the early 1970s. There are a number of long time property owners who bought lots at that time. They remember the promises of paved streets, a community center, and other amenities the developer planned.
As it turned out, the developer, the Virginia Land Development Corporation, pulled out a short time later. The main entrances were paved but after 30 years of no maintenance, even that section of road has seriously deteriorated.
Rita Holden, the new organizations vice president, kick-started the current effort in 2008. Shortly after Rita, her husband and eight-year-old son moved to the area, she recognized the need for improvements and a sense of community. Like many residents, they acquired the lot from family members who had owned it since 1972. For the first year she worked on getting the roads improved. Others joined her efforts in earnest in 2009. She still leads the project to get the state to improve the roads.
Octogenarian Wiley Gainus serves as the SCC president. Gainus teaches lapidary at Tryon Arts & Crafts and has owned property in the development since its inception. Wiley provides leadership on a number of issues, including ensuring that the restrictions that were placed in the deeds of the original development are still in force. He has not let a serious bout with H1N1 flu or a heart attack derail his efforts. According to Holden, “The people in the community really respect Wileys gumption.”
Irene Gainus, Wileys wife, serves as secretary. Her dream is to eventually have a small coffee shop and community center in the development. She and Wiley have lived in the SCC full time since 1990.
Don Yarborough is also a key participant and refers to himself as the ex-officio assistant to the president. As Yarborough says, Gainus comes up with the plan and he does the leg work. Yarborough and his wife have lived in the SCC since 2006.
The Silver Creek Community has expressed appreciation for the work of Kipp McIntyre, the Polk County Economic Development Director. He has provided advice and support for their initiatives. The county has provided support in a number of vital areas which are described below.
The new name was officially registered with the N.C. Secretary of State in May 2009 as the Silver Creek Community Foundation and later revised to the Silver Creek Community. As a registered non-profit organization, the group will be able to apply for grants to accomplish some of its planning and objectives.
Members of the SCC feel that the name change will help them dispel the reputation that Land of the Lakes had acquired over the years. President Gainus admits that some of the local legends have a basis in fact but says that these are now in the past.
As part of the identification process for the Silver Creek Community, newly created signs will be installed at the two entrances from Silver Creek Road, Chimney Rock Road and Bishop Road. In addition to letting people know where they are, the signs will allow for posting of meeting notices and other community information.
Unlike many property owner associations in more recent developments, neither the SCC nor its predecessor has the power to levy and collect fees. As a result, their ability to self-fund many projects is limited.
The Silver Creek Community has a total of 369 parcels, almost all of which are about one acre in size. Approximately half of them are owned by people who own more than one parcel. Occasionally several parcels are owned by members of a family.Nearly 200 of the parcel owners live in Polk County, and many others are from other parts of North and South Carolina. Ten other states are also represented.
Developed lots have a combination of constructed homes, manufactured homes and single and double-wide trailers. Only approximately half of the lots are developed, which when combined with hilly terrain, makes the development seem less dense than it is.
Land in the development is assessed at an average of $4,700 per acre and varying between $2,400 and $18,000 per acre. These prices, the one acre lot size, and the ability to place mobile and manufactured homes result in this development being one of the most affordable in the county, according to Steve Martin of the Polk County Assessors Office.
In 2009, the community saw the same decline in real estate activity as the rest of the county with only nine parcels changing hands in five transactions, according to tax department information. This compares to an average of 23 per year for the prior nine years.
The improvement of roads in the community is viewed as the single most important initiative. Providing better safety for school children is one of most important motivations. School buses cannot enter at either Bishop or Chimney Road roads because of the condition of the roads. The loop through the development being proposed will permit school buses to swing through.
Cathy Ruth, the Polk County planner, is credited with discovering that because the development was created before 1975, roads may be turned over to the state without having to first bring them to state standards. People in the development tell of being stonewalled for years by the NC DOT. Strong political backing of the current proposal has proved critical, according to SCC leadership.
The project has had to meet density requirements for being a state road and fall within the budget. Ryan Whitson, Polk County manager, has assured the group that there is adequate state budget in 2010. People are hopeful that construction can start this year.
Besides reducing wear and tear on vehicles and stuck motorists, paved roads are expected to improve perceptions of the community and create a sense of pride in the neighborhood.
Like most areas in Polk County, the land at SCC has steep slopes and proper drainage and erosion control will be an important part of the project.
The SCCs initial request is modest, for only 1.8 of the total of 12 miles of road in the development. It provides a loop beginning at Bishop Road, turning left onto Twin Drive, then left onto Hitching Post and left onto Chimney Rock Road.
Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill wrote to the state that they should “consider this requestwith the understanding of how important a timely response (is) in providing emergency services to us.” Also supporting the proposal to the state was the postmaster.
A Phase 2 proposal is currently being prepared which will provide another loop deeper into the community. Even with Phase 1, some students may still have to walk a great distance. Phase 2 will significantly reduce that distance.
The Polk County commissioners approved the supporting resolution 5-0 at the October 5 commissioners meeting. The request has now at the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) in Raleigh. The DOT has reviewed the proposal and is meeting with SCC representatives this week.
The SCC has begun providing residents and property owners with other support.
For example, at a recent SCC meeting, a guest speaker presented the assistance available to people of modest means to weatherize their homes, either owned or rented. In this program, the actions taken, such as sealing and insulating, are provided free of charge. The resident then benefits from reduced energy costs and improved comfort.
Commissioner Tommy Melton attended as well and offered to facilitate a meeting between president Gainus and county manager Whitson on the subject of derelict and abandoned structures in the development. As a result, four complaint forms have been resubmitted, updated with Whitsons suggestions. There are another two situations that could not be dealt with because of ownership issues.
At another meeting, Michael Herman, the Polk County animal control officer, answered questions about animal situations in the community. His involvement has produced positive results, especially since enforcement of animal control ordinances was stepped up in 2009. The results have even been noticed by neighbors outside the development.
Other initiatives include working with the gas company to prevent four-wheelers and trucks from using the gas line easement as an off road track, building shelters for school children at bus stops, and cleanup campaigns.
The Silver Creek Community objectives and successes are examples of individuals stepping forward to be accountable for their community.