Growing Pains Marked - (And Marred) The 1980's

Growing Pains Marked - (And Marred) The 1980's

From toxic dumps to high-rises to shopping centers, the 1980's was the decade when growth pressures came to a head in Watauga County.


Growing Pains Marked - (And Marred) The 1980'sMany believe the "activist" attitude grew from groups formed in Ashe County to oppose a Virginia dam. The dam would have backed up the headwaters of the New River, destroying the area which was recently designated one of America's Heritage Rivers. Another regional issue which raged through the decade was a proposed toxic waste dump.

Growing Pains Marked - (And Marred) The 1980'sNorth Carolina joined a seven-state Southeastern Compact, which was designed to serve as a cooperative body to find a site for a low-level nuclear waste dump to replace an aging facility in Barnwell, South Carolina. State residents were all for the proposal until some of the mountain counties became potential targets for the dump.

.Growing Pains Marked - (And Marred) The 1980'sIn 1986, after three years of research, Ashe, Alexander, Alleghany, and others were among those counties considered for the dump. Opposition mounted, citing the danger of not only storage, but the transportation of the waste. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League was formed in 1984, primarily to combat the dump, but later spread its influence into other environmental arenas. North Carolina eventually pulled out of the Compact, with litigation and controversy still raging to this day

One of the 1980's most bitter fights came about a little after the fact. Sugar Top condominiums were designed as "futuristic" condos designed to bring upscale clients to the area. The original 218 units sold rapidly, and an early artist's conception showed five floors.

Sales representative Skipper Clark of Resort Investments, the group behind the condominiums, was quoted as saying, "We're going to raise the standard to upper middle class. Now the mountain is dominated by young people who don't have the money to support the services." He also said that the builders were "making every effort we can to preserve the environment."

Sugar Top continued upward, drawing the rage of those who said the ridge-top project destroyed scenic mountain views. The condo directly led to the passage of the North Carolina Ridge Law, which limits construction at the tops of elevated areas.

Growing Pains Marked - (And Marred) The 1980'sOther construction drew different levels of criticism. The Boone Industrial Park was criticized due to the expense of placing water and sewer lines to the site, which at that time wasn't in the city limits. Now the lines have been extended up toward Carroll Leather Goods along the route which will soon be the "old" Highway 421.

The Boone Mall was constructed in the 1980's, becoming the High Country's first indoor shopping center. The grand opening for original tenants Food Lion and Rite Aid was in February of 1983. The other forty stores inside the mall were officially opened in March. The mall and its stores employed 500 employees at the time.

New Market Center's construction also began in 1986 at the intersections of Highway 194 and 421. The shopping center encompassed 120,000 square feet of floor space. Highway 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock was also four-laned early in the decade. At the time, some feared a "Blowing Boone," apparently envisioning the two towns growing into one.

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