(Asheville Citizen-Times) Residents living near land proposed for development in eastern Buncombe County raised concerns Wednesday over traffic and other potential problems. About 60 people met at the Riceville Fire Department for an introduction to the development proposal, which calls for building about 300 homes and 50 rental units on rural land near Warren Wilson College Traffic in the area already gets congested around peak times, some residents said. Copper Coggins, who is attempting to sell the land, said it’s time to let go of the property, which she has owned since the 1970s, although it’s been in the family for more than 200 years.She was trying to sell it for about a year and a half before Case came along. She described him as a “pragmatic progressive” that listens well.

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(Mountain XPress) About 150 community leaders gathered Dec. 11 to discuss Asheville’s strengths as a tourism destination, learn about new projects in the works, and share ideas for the future. “Asheville has a really strong brand. We hear about Asheville all over the country,” reported keynote speaker Mike Konzon, principal at PGAV Destinations, a global leader in the the business of planning and designing tourism sites. He encouraged local leaders to maintain the sense of the town’s authenticity – even as it takes intentional steps to increase visitation. “Authenticity is what separates Asheville from Greenville or any other place people want to go,” he said.

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(Asheville Citizen-Times) The North Carolina Arboretum will increase its daily parking fee from $8 to $12 per personal vehicle, effective Jan. 2. The arboretum will offer half-price parking for personal vehicles the first Tuesday of each month. Entry had been free on those days. The increase comes as a result of reductions in state resources that have impacted the arboretum’s operations and financial planning. The organization has lost more than $1.3 million in state funding in recent years.

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(New York Times) Gannett Company, one of the nation’s largest newspaper chains, will try to expand its advertising and circulation revenue by inserting parts of its flagship newspaper, USA Today, into its local newspapers. Beginning in January, Gannett will add 12 to 14 pages of USA Today content each day to 35 newspapers. [Including the Asheville Citizen-Times] That means readers, along with their local news, will get a broader mix of news from the USA Today content.

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(Asheville Citizen-Times) Another new restaurant, Vue 1913, has opened in the Omni Grove Park Inn. It’s one of several changes to the hotel in the past year, including the purchase of the hotel by Omni and the addition of casual-format Edison restaurant and bar. According to a press release sent from the hotel, Vue 1913 is an “American Brasserie, an American twist on a European style restaurant.” The release says the restaurant is headed by chef James Lumley, whose winter menu highlights classic restaurant fare, such as onion soup, baked brie and a seafood tower with oysters, shrimp, crab and lobster tails. Appetizers start at $8 and entrées at $21.

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(ABC WLOS News) A snowy owl spotted for the first time in Western North Carolina in decades is fighting to stay alive. Severely underweight and ill, naturalist and longtime bird rehabilitation expert Carlton Burke has taken ‘Tundra’ into his nature sanctuary in Mills River. “Suddenly he’s now in captivity because he’s weak and needs some extra help,” said Burke from his bird sanctuary where he’s caring for ‘Tundra.’ “The first 48 hours are most critical and I’ve had this bird about 24 hours now and its survived. At this point we’re getting it to eat. It’s been examined by a veterinarian, a lot of tests have been done, X-rays. We don’t see any actual injuries at this point in time.”

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(Asheville Citizen-Times) Buncombe County government has spent nearly $39,000 to remove a home in Beaverdam that became unsafe when the ground underneath it shifted in July. But some people who live around the property at 145 Black Oak Drive say the site is still unstable and the county should do more to prevent another slide like the one that blocked the street this summer and threatened other homes. Remaining fill dirt on the property “is going to go. There’s no doubt about it,” said Billy Fabec, who lives below the property, perched on a steep ridge just north of the city limits. But Michael Frue, chief county staff attorney, says the county has already “gone above and beyond” and has no obligation to do more.

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(Associated Press) Almost 17,200 additional students packed into North Carolina schools this year while the number of teachers dropped, according to new payroll data, leading to what some advocates say are larger class sizes that inhibit learning. There were 95,725 teachers working with more than 1.5 million students after the normal churn of the new academic year settled down in October, said the state Department of Public Instruction’s chief finance officer, Philip Price. The payroll and enrollment figures for the current year come as the state Board of Education opened its monthly two-day meeting last week with an annual report on teacher turnover during the school year that concluded in May.

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(Asheville Citizen-Times) C.J. and Hilda Cody were known to their family and friends as a loving and happy couple who were looking forward to spending Christmas with their children and grandchildren.But detectives investigating their shooting deaths believe the evidence shows they appear to be victims of a murder-suicide at their home, according to the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. The slayings add to an unusually high county homicide rate this year. A man and a woman were found dead Wednesday in the Erwin community in what investigators believe was a murder-suicide. That same day, a man in south Buncombe was charged with murder after the body of his wife was found in their home. Not counting the deaths of the Codys, the recent slayings brought the homicide tally to a dozen in the county this year, half of them in the past five weeks. Buncombe had just four homicides in 2012 and three the previous year, according to the N.C. Department of Justice. Sheriff Van Duncan said the short time-frame between the recent killings has strained his investigators.

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(USA Today) The annual Kennedy Center Honors reception isn’t normally a place to break news, but President Obama opted Sunday to publicly mention Area 51 — the installation where the government is supposedly storing UFOs and alien life, the inspiration for innumerable conspiracy theories. The reason: Oscar-winning actress Shirley MacLaine and her claims to have seen UFOs and extraterrestrial beings. “Now, when you first become president, one of the questions that people ask you is, ‘What’s really going on in Area 51?’” Obama said to chuckles at the White House event. “When I wanted to know, I’d call Shirley MacLaine.” Obama added: “I think I just became the first president to ever publicly mention Area 51. How’s that, Shirley?”

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