Little Tennessee Perspectives

2004-05, Macon County, NC.  The first complete CVM project.

WearsvilleOverview: This project, undertaken while Cumming and Norwood were doctoral students at UNC Chapel Hill, was developed in partnership with Macon Tomorrow. Macon Tomorrow is a grassroots organization interested in creating a more productive community conversation about land educacion a distancia. The goals of this research and action project were to foster a more inclusive, informed and ongoing civic discussion about land use change, development and the future of Macon County that would serve as a counterpoint to the failure of traditional civic processes, such as public hearings, to promote civil dialog or problem solving.

View the film, Voices of Macon County, which was produced as part of this project:

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Project results:
clarks chapel hillside devt summerFour public meetings about are attended by more than 170 residents, and people reported high satisfaction with the meeting process:

  • 100% reported in evaluations that the small group discussions at the meetings allowed everyone to participate. This high level of engagement is rare in traditional public meetings and nearly unheard of in planning meetings in western NC, which were typically rancorous
  • 98.5% agreed or strongly agreed that the meeting process was an effective way of helping people talk about the changing landscape
  • 95% of comments from small group discussions favor ‘doing something’ to manage growth and development, though there is a wide range of potential prescriptions

LTP continued to be influential in the region following its conclusion:

  • The project served as a model for a larger regional initiative to address land use planning and growth management, the Mountain Landscapes Initiative
  • It helped initiate public dialog around the critical issue of steep slope development
  • Community partners who became involved in the research process continued to lead land use planning efforts in the region
  • Maps and statistics generated by the researchers have been used by planners, conservation organizations and the media to advocate for more stringent land use planning regulations


In the Media:
Selected media coverage:

  • Growth pressures are mounting, but we’re doing little
  • Macon residents worried about development
  • Survey studies public input in Macon County
  • Planning workshop to focus on healthy growth