BLOWING ROCK PUBLIC HEARING TUESDAY NIGHT

Use Permit process to approve, deny or approve with conditions a proposed downtown hotel. YOUR ATTENDANCE AT THIS HEARING IS IMPORTANT IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THIS PROPOSED PROJECT. Important pertinent facts concerning this proposed hotel are:

1. The developer plans for this facility to contain 40 hotel rooms.
2. The developer proposes a restaurant and bar with patio seating at the hotel.
3. The developer proposes 53 parking places on site.
4. The developer proposes THAT THE PRIMARY TRAFFIC ENTRANCE TO THE HOTEL WILL BE FROM MORNINGSIDE DRIVE.
5. The developer proposes THAT A SECONDARY TRAFFIC ENTRANCE TO THE HOTEL WILL BE FROM RAINEY STREET.
6. The hotel building will reach an estimated height of 60 feet above Highway 221 making it very prominent in downtown Blowing Rock.
7. The public will be able to speak on this project under oath because it is a quasi judicial process. Expert evidence is the focus of the process which can include observations about traffic, safety and other relevant matters.

 

See the Blowing Rock Town Website for the Tuesday meeting agenda and Town Land Use Code for more detailed information.

BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION’S RESPONSE TO RAINEY LODGE HOTEL

Blowing Rock Civic Association, Inc.

PO Box 2471

Blowing Rock, NC 28605

 

April 2, 2019

 

RE Rainey Lodge Conditional Use Permit

 

Honorable Mayor Sellers, Mayor Pro-Tem Yount, Council Members Matheson, Powell, Steele and Sweeting and Town Manager Freeman

We strongly support developments that benefit our residents and business community like the substantial developments that are now underway in Blowing Rock. We do, however, share your concern that every proposed development be carefully studied to assure that it will be, in fact, beneficial to our uniquely charming  town and its residents and taxpayers.

Because of our concern about the community and specifically about our members who live in neighborhoods adjacent to the subject proposed development, the board of Blowing Rock Civic Association engaged the services of a professional planning consultant and attorneys to evaluate and document compliance of the proposed development with the Town’s Land Use Code.

We have attempted to assure that this project and future projects comply with the intent and rules established in the Town’s Land Use Code by:

1.     Communicating to town residents and taxpayers and to their elected representatives all pertinent facts necessary to evaluating any significant project, especially in our historic downtown, and

2.     Recommending improvements in the documentation required by the staff, Planning Board and council to evaluate compliance of proposed projects with the Land Use Code.

This project has the unique challenges of a sharply sloping lot and a location next to an established neighborhood with a number of residents and a very difficult traffic situation.

As you know, Code Section 16-4.10.3 enumerates the Findings of Fact that the applicant has the burden of proof to establish and the Council has a responsibility to specifically evaluate and document substantial evidence that any proposed development meets these requirements:

1.     Maintain or promote public health, safety and general welfare

2.     Comply with the Land Use Code

3.     Is compatible with the particular neighborhood as demonstrated by the applicant

4.     Will not substantially injure the value of adjoining property

5.     Conforms to general plans of the Town as embodied in the Town ordinances and Comprehensive Plan.

 

To assist with your evaluation of the Conditional Use Permit, we recommend that you ask yourselves the following questions:

1.     Has the developer submitted a 100% completed application or are there important details still to be determined?

2.     To maintain or promote public safety has the developer produced compelling evidence during high volume seasonal traffic that the additional traffic generated by cars and delivery trucks will not present a safety hazard on Morningside and Rainey, neighborhood streets that are not suitable for commercial traffic? Has the developer received NCDOT approval of such a traffic study?

3.     Has the developer produced evidence that public safety will not be impaired by the substantial additional traffic generated by his development at the intersections of Morningside and Highway 221 and Rainey and Main St. during high volume seasonal traffic? Has the developer received NCDOT approval of such a traffic study?

4.     To maintain or promote public safety has the developer produced an independent detailed fire and rescue plan for his development during high volume seasonal traffic?

5.     Has the developer produced independent evidence that traffic including delivery trucks and fire trucks can operate safely within the development and surrounding streets?

6.     Has the developer produced independent evidence that the development will be compatible with the neighborhoods surrounding it?

7.     Has the developer, as required by town code, produced an independent study to show that the development will not substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting property?

8.     Has the developer submitted sealed final plans for his proposed development? If not, then how do you know what exactly is being approved? Issuing a permit without sealed, completed plans would be like signing a very binding contract without all important details being included.

It will be very difficult for the town to control these important details once the permit is issued.

We request that the Council consider these Findings of Fact and require the applicant to complete their CUP application, identify any variances and resubmit to the Planning Board and Council.

 

Sincerely,

William H. Carter, Vice President

Blowing Rock Civic Association

 

 

 

 

 

REPORT TO MEMBERSHIP OF BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION’S ACTIVITIES 1/1/2018 TO 3/15/2019

REPORT TO MEMBERSHIP OF BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION ACTIVITIES 1/1/2018 – 3/15/2019

1.       BRCA NOW HAS OVER 300 MEMBERS INCLUDING TOWN MERCHANTS, HOTEL OWNERS AND MANAGERS, COMMERCIAL PROPERTY OWNERS, HOMEOWNERS, RESIDENTS (FULL TIME AND SEASONAL) AND TAXPAYERS (ALL FULL TIME).

2.       A GREAT DEAL OF THOUGHTFUL HARD WORK BY BRCA BOARD MEMBER TIM GUPTON RESULTED IN THE FIRST BRCA ANNUAL COMMUNICATION AND ACTION PLAN INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING (SEE COMPLETE PLAN ON BRAC WEBSITE  WWW.BRCIVIC.COM

A. PROTECTING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD INFRASTRUCTURE, PROTECTING OUR RESIDENTIAL ECONOMY AND PROTECTING OUR VIBRANT VILLAGE

B. HOMEOWNERS ARE THE CORNERSTONE OF THE BLOWING ROCK ECONOMY PROVIDING 85% OF TOWN PROPERTY TAX REVENUE AND 60% OF TOTAL TOWN REVENUE

C. WORK WITH THE CHAMBER, TDA, LOCAL REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY AND OTHERS TO PROMOTE HOME OWNERSHIP, PRIMARILY SECOND HOME OWNERSHIP, AS THE TOWN’S PRIMARY ECONOMIC ENGINE

D. ENCOURAGE THE USE OF PROFESSIONAL EXPERTS TO ADVISE ON TOWN DEVELOPMENT. THE COUNCIL HAS RECENTLY APPOINTED A COMMITTEE TO EXPLORE THIS POSSIBILITY.

E. ENCOURAGE OUTSOURCING TO ENHANCE AND EXPEDITE IMPROVEMENT OF NEIGHBORHOOD INFRASTRUCTURE

F. ENCOURAGE A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN SELF FUNDED DOWNTOWN PARKING

 

3.       BRCA APPOINTED A DEVELOPMENT EVALUATION COMMITTEE THAT HAS BEEN VERY BUSY OVER THE PAST YEAR. THIS COMMITTEE IS COMPOSED OF THREE ENGINEERS, A COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL, A CONSTRUCTION EXECUTIVE, A RETIRED SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE, A CONSULTING ARCHITECT, A CONSULTING TOWN PLANNER, AND THREE CONSULTING ATTORNEYS. THE MISSION OF THIS COMMITTEE IS TO EVALUATE ALL DEVELOPMENTS PROPOSED FOR BLOWING ROCK AND ANY PROPOSED CHANGES IN LAND USE CODE AND TO OBJECTIVELY REPORT THE PERTINENT FACTS OF THESE MATTERS TO THE PUBLIC. IN THE PAST YEAR THE COMMITTEE ACTIVITY INCLUDED:

A. EVALUATION OF THE MORNINGSIDE 12 CONDO SHORT TERM RENTAL DEVELOPMENT PROPOSED FOR THE .905 ACRE PROPERTY BACK OF THE SPECKLED TROUT. CONCERNS EXPRESSED AT TOWN HEARING ABOUT DENSITY AND SCALE – PROJECT DENIED UNANIMOUSLY BY COUNCIL.

B. EVALUATION OF THE 1150 MAIN ST. PROJECT WITH 6 CONDOS AND 2 RETAIL SPACES REPLACING THE OLD WHITE HOUSE AT THE CORNER OF MAIN AND PINE ST. DOWNTOWN. THE COMMITTEE FOUND NO CONCERNS – PROJECT APPROVED BY COUNCIL.

C. EVALUATION OF LAND USE CODE CHANGES PROPOSED TO GIVE DEVELOPERS MORE AUTHORITY FOR DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT. THE COMMITTEE WITH CONSIDERABLE ASSISTANCE FROM PROFESSIONALS EXPRESSED CONCERNS ABOUT THESE CHANGES DAMAGING THE CHARM AND CHARACTER OF DOWNTOWN – CODE CHANGES WERE UNANIMOUSLY DENIED BY COUNCIL. SIGNIFICANT DISCREPANCIES WERE DISCOVERED BY THE COMMITTEE IN THE PUBLISHED LAND USE CODE COMPARED TO ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS OF THE TOWN PLANNING OFFICE. THESE DISCREPANCIES ARE BEING ADDRESSED WITH THE TOWN BY BRCA LAWYERS. THESE DISCREPANCIES COULD HAVE A MAJOR IMPACT ON DEVELOPMENTS.

D. EVALUATION OF THE RAINEY LODGE 40 BEDROOM, 53 PARKING PLACES HOTEL DEVELOPMENT PROPOSED FOR THE .905 ACRE PROPERTY BACK OF THE SPECKLED TROUT. A SUBSTANTIAL EFFORT IS UNDERWAY TO ANALYZE FACTS ABOUT THIS PROJECT BY THE COMMITTEE AND PROFESSIONAL PLANNING, ARCHITECTURAL AND LEGAL CONSULTANTS AND TO GET FACTS OUT TO THE PUBLIC ABOUT IT. WE HAVE STRONGLY URGED COUNCIL TO REQUIRE THAT THE DEVELOPER PRODUCE A TRAFFIC STUDY, FIRE AND RESCUE STUDY AND  A STUDY OF THE IMPACT ON HOME VALUES CLOSE TO THE DEVELOPMENT.

4.  THE BRCA MUNICIPAL ASSETS COMMITTEE ADVISES ON BENEFICIAL USES OF TOWN ASSETS

A. THE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDED THAT THE TOWN REJECT A REQUEST THAT A GROUP BE  GIVEN THE OLD FIREHOUSE BUILDING BY USE OF A TOKEN LEASE TO CREATE A THEATER/CULTURAL CENTER. THE COMMITTEE REPORTED THAT THE BUILDING HAD AN ESTIMATED VALUE OF $ 800,000. TOWN MAINTENANCE EQUIPMENT FOR ALL DOWNTOWN PARK AND GREEN SPACE IS CURRENTLY STORED IN THE BUILDING. THE TOWN DETERMINED THAT A NEW BUILDING COSTING SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSANDS WOULD HAVE TO BE BUILT TO STORE THIS VALUABLE EQUIPMENT IF THE OLD FIREHOUSE WERE TRANSFERRED TO THE GROUP. BRCA ATTORNEYS POINTED OUT THAT STATE LAW WOULD REQUIRE COMPETITIVE BIDS IF THE OLD FIREHOUSE BUILDING CONTROL WAS TRANSFERRED. COUNCIL REJECTED TRANSFER OF THE BUILDING TO THE REQUESTING GROUP.

B. THE COMMITTEE HAS REQUESTED THAT THE MAYVIEW TOWN STORAGE YARD BE TRANSFERRED TO THE BLOWING ROCK CHARITY HORSE SHOW FOUNDATION IN EXCHANGE FOR PROPERTY FROM THE FOUNDATION CLOSER TO THE TOWN’S MAYVIEW MAINTENCE FACILITY. THIS WOULD ENHANCE MAYVIEW BY TURNING AN UNSIGHTLY INDUSTRIAL SITE INTO AN ATTRACTIVE PASTURE IN ONE OF BLOWING ROCK’S PREMIER NEIGHBORHOODS. THIS WOULD ENCOURAGE HOME DEVELOPMENT IN THIS IMPORTANT AREA. THIS EFFORT WAS PUT ON HOLD BY THE TOWN UNTIL A NEW TOWN MANAGER IS HIRED.

5.    OTHER IMPORTANT FACTS AND ACTIVITIES

A. VERY IMPORTANT BLOWING ROCK NUMBERS:

1. FULL TIME POPULATION  1213

2. PEAK SEASONAL POPULATION  9,000

3. TOWN OPERATING BUDGET $ 8,216,000

4. TAX BASE PER PERSON  $ 941,467  ONE OF THE HIGHEST IN NORTH CAROLINA!!!

5. PROPERTY TAXES PER PERSON  $ 3,557

6. MEDIAN HOUSE VALUE $ 556,900  ONE OF THE HIGHEST IN NORTH CAROLINA!!!

7. WATER AND SEWER BUDGET $ 2,114,000

8. FULL TIME TOWN EMPLOYEES 68

9. MEDIAN AGE OF BLOWING ROCK RESIDENTS  60.1 YRS.

B. BLOWING ROCK HAS THREE EXCELLENT DEVELOPMENTS UNDERWAY THAT ARE ADDING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN TAXES TO A VERY SOUND TOWN FINANCIAL STATUS

1. CHESTNUT AT BLOWING ROCK – 23 LUXURY TOWNHOUSES SELLING AT $ 1,050,000 AND UP

2. THE TOWNES AT BLOWING ROCK – 6 LUXURY CONDOS SELLING AT $ 849,000

3. THE INN ON CORNISH – A 21 ROOM BOUTIQUE HOTEL

C. AN EXTENSIVE ANALYSIS WAS DONE OF THE BLOWING ROCK PARKS AND RECREATION OPERATION WITH THE FOLLOWING RESULTS:

1. BRCA STRONGLY RECOMMENDED THAT PARKS AND REC OUTSOURCE VARIOUS FUNCTIONS INSTEAD OF HIRING A PROPOSED TWO MORE EMPLOYEES.

2. IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT 64% TO 92% OF PARKS AND REC ACTIVITIES BENEFIT NON RESIDENTS OF THE TOWN. THE POOL IS 92% USED BY NON RESIDENTS PRIMARILY BY OTHER WATAUGA COUNTY RESIDENTS. BRCA HAS URGED THE TOWN TO SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE FEES FOR NON RESIDENTS’ POOL USE AND WE HAVE ASKED THE COUNTY TO CONTRIBUTE MORE MONEY TO THE POOL OPERATION.

D. BOARD MEMBER TIM GUPTON HAS DONE A THOROUGH ANALYSIS OF TOWN FINANCES AND HE CONTINUES TO CLOSELY MONITOR TOWN FINANCIAL STATUS AND ACTIONS.

E. BRCA CONTINUES TO ENCOURAGE VOTER REGISTRATION BY BLOWING ROCK HOMEOWNERS. THIS FALL IS A CRUCIAL ELECTION OF TWO COUNCIL MEMBERS AND THE MAYOR. THERE ARE SOME SHARPLY DIFFERENT PHILOSOPHIES ABOUT THE FUTURE OF BLOWING ROCK AMONG THE LIKELY CANDIDATES IN THIS ELECTION. SOME FAVOR VIRTUALLY UNLIMITED GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT THAT FAVORS TOURISM AND BUSINESSES. WHILE OTHERS TAKE A GREATER INTEREST IN BLOWING ROCK PRESERVATION AND COMPATIBLE DEVELOPMENT WITH SIGNIFICANT CONSIDERATION  FOR HOMEOWNERS . WE DO NOT ENDORSE CANDIDATES BUT WE FAVOR PRESERVATION OF THE COMMUNITY AND QUALITY DEVELOPMENT THAT BENEFITS HOMEOWNERS. BRCA WILL HOLD A COMMUNITY CANDIDATES’ ROUNDTABLE MEETING THURSDAY OCTOBER 3, 2019 AT THE AMERICAN LEGION BUILDING, RECEPTION AT 6:00 P.M. FOLLOWED AT 6:30 P.M. BY THE ROUNDTABLE ALL BEING EXPERTLY PLANNED BY OUR BRCA CANDIDATES COMMUNITY MEETINGS COMMITTEE.

F. IN OCTOBER OF 2018 THE BRCA CANDIDATES COMMUNITY MEETINGS COMMITTEE HELD A VERY WELL ATTENDED CANDIDATES ROUNDTABLE WITH CANDIDATES FOR WATAUGA COUNTY COMMISSION. THE COUNTY COMMISSION IS VITALLY IMPORTANT TO BLOWING ROCK. IN RECENT YEARS THE COUNTY TOOK AWAY MORE THAN $ 100,000 OF SALES TAX MONEY FROM BLOWING ROCK AND THEY STILL HAVE NOT MADE GOOD ON A COMMITMENT TO MAN A RESCUE AMBULANCE FOR BLOWING ROCK. ADDITIONALLY THE STATE LEGISLATURE IS CONSIDERING ABOLISHING THE BLOWING ROCK ABC BOARD AND HAVING A WATAUGA ABC BOARD IN CHARGE OF THE ENTIRE COUNTY. THE BLOWING ROCK ABC OPERATION YIELDED $ 155,000 TO THE TOWN LAST YEAR. THIS COULD BE LOST. WATAUGA CO. COMMISSIONERS HAVE COMMITTED TO NOT RAISE TAXES AGAIN TO FUND THE BOONE RECREATION CENTER NOW BEING BUILT AT AN ESTIMATED COST OF $ 40 MILLION.

G. BRCA BECAME EXTENSIVELY INVOLVED IN THE TOWN’S SEARCH FOR A NEW TOWN MANAGER. BRCA BOARD MEMBER TONY RAND GAVE THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEMBERS THE NAMES OF TWO EXECUTIVE SEARCH FIRMS RECOMMENDED BY UNC SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT DEAN MIKE SMITH TO ASSIST THE TOWN WITH THE PROCESS.

 

SINCERELY,

 

GEORGE T. WILCOX

PRESIDENT

PUBLIC NOTICE OF AD HOC COMMITTEE FOR TOWN PLANNING

All – Please note the notice below of the first meeting of an Ad Hoc Committee to explore among other alternatives the possible use of professional experts to assist the Town in planning for downtown and the Highway 321, Valley Blvd., corridor in Blowing Rock. Thanks so much. George Wilcox, BRCA

 

PUBLIC NOTICE
A majority of members of the Blowing Rock Town Council serving on an ad hoc committee will meet Tuesday, March 19 at 5:00 in Town Hall.  The meeting agenda includes the following:

1.  Introduce committee members.

2.  Discuss the scope of the committee.

3.  Begin to develop, define and design the process for orderly land use development in downtown Blowing Rock and the 321 Bypass.

The ad hoc committee meeting will be held at the Blowing Rock Town Hall, 1036 Main Street.  The Town Hall is ADA accessible.

 

Albert Yount, Mayor Pro-Tem

Solid Progress on Obtaining Expert Assistance for Planning for Downtown and Valley Blvd. Blowing Rock

All – Excellent progress was achieved at last night’s BR Town council meeting with the appointment of Council members Sue Sweeting, Albert Yount and Jim Steele to an ad hoc committee formed to obtain and work with expert professional assistance on planning for downtown and Valley Blvd. (321 corridor in BR). Sue Sweeting who initiated this effort will chair the committee that will include two or three additional members from the community. We strongly recommended the inclusion of Blowing Rock  homeowner Joe Bogdahn on this committee. Joe, an experienced real estate developer, has worked extensively with professional planning experts on the improvement of downtown Winterhaven, Florida. Joe spoke eloquently at the recent public hearing against. proposed downtown Blowing Rock code changes that were rejected unanimously by council. Joe will bring a much needed professional perspective to this process. After some discussion regarding the need to update the Blowing Rock comprehensive Plan it was decided that the small ad hoc committee was the best way at this time to expedite the planning process before developers force piecemeal decisions that might not serve the best interest of the town long term. The ad hoc committee will begin work immediately.

Best regards,

George Wilcox

IMPORTANT – 40 Bedrooms Hotel Proposed in Downtown Blowing Rock – Developer’s Community Meeting

Friends – Several members of the Blowing Rock Civic Association Development Evaluation Committee attended the subject meeting Wednesday March 6th. Our group had cordial discussions with the developer Steve Barker from Charlotte and his development Planner Walter Fields from Charlotte. Barker proposed the “Morningside” condominium project that was defeated by a unanimous council vote a year ago for the same property. Barker who has developed a Ramada Inn in Fargo North Dakota and a Fairfield Inn in Shelby, N.C. presented site plans, renderings and a model of the subject proposed hotel planned for the .905 acre property back of The Speckled Trout restaurant. Barker intends to present this project as meeting all town codes. Our committee and the professionals we have retained are evaluating the project and will have a report on it. The project on this key piece of downtown real estate does have some substantial natural challenges including substantial building height above Highway 221 and Main St. and the use of neighborhood streets for increased car traffic and delivery trucks. The developer plans to present his project to the Planning Board at their Thursday March 21, 2019 meeting starting at 5:30 P.M. He then intends to present the project at the Town Council meeting on Tuesday April 9, 2019 at 6:00 P.M. in a Conditional Use Permit process that requires expert testimony by the developer and citizens. We recommend that you consult an attorney about any specific concerns you might have about this project. Immediately following the public hearing Council will vote to approve or deny the proposed project.

George Wilcox

 

Blowing Rock Civic Association

Hotel Proposed for Property Back of Speckled Trout in Blowing Rock

Friends – A 40 room hotel has been proposed for the .905 acre site back of the Speckled Trout restaurant in downtown Blowing Rock. The developer Catellus Group from Charlotte will hold a community meeting to introduce their plan and to obtain public advice on it on Wednesday March 6, 2019, from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.atBlowing Rock Art and History Museum in downtown Blowing Rock. Blowing Rock Civic Association has been sent renderings (please see the attached) and site plan for the proposed hotel by the developer. Our Development Evaluation Committee is carefully studying these documents. They will report  the results of this study to our board, our members and the general public.

 

Thanks so much,

 

George Wilcox

 

Blowing Rock Civic Association

Thank You for Your Vote Against Code Changes Governing Downtown Development

Honorable Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem and Distinguished Members of the Blowing Rock Council:

We appreciate your vote against proposed changes in town codes governing downtown development. We also appreciate your resolution to obtain expert professional assistance with any future evaluation of town codes. We clearly think it is vitally important to retaining town quality that council have a maximum amount of discretion on proposed developments. We think it is very important that you retain the best professional planning talent to objectively review our codes and to assist in development of a fact based town plan using information from successful plans of other communities. The Blowing Rock Civic Association has many members who have been highly successful in many fields but we found it necessary to hire two experienced town planners, three attorneys, and one of the best architects in North Carolina to provide us with expert guidance as we evaluated the proposed changes in Blowing Rock codes. We also had experts advising us who had years of planning board and town council experience here and in other towns. Many hours were spent to assure, as in the past, that our presentations to you were factual and accurate. Our intense study of town codes impressed us with the complexity and importance of this subject matter that you must deal with constantly.

Again thanks for all of your effective efforts,

George Wilcox
Blowing Rock Civic Association

Blowing Rock Downtown Development Code Changes DEFEATED !!!

All – I am pleased to report that major code changes proposed for downtown Blowing Rock development were defeated by a unanimous council vote. Council member Sue Sweeting made the motion to defeat these changes and included in it obtaining outside experts to assist in any future examination of town development codes. One of the largest groups ever to attend a council meeting spoke out overwhelmingly against the changes. Mayor Pro Tem Albert Yount told council and the large audience that he had received over one hundred emails and letters and countless personal contacts  against these changes. He said he had received more than twice the response he has received to any other issue since he has been on council. Marshall Sealey, Bill Carter and Brian Beaty all made excellent presentations in opposition to the changes. Please join me in thanking these fine gentlemen for all of their hard on this very important matter. This hearing provided an excellent forum for a very good discussion of issues involving our downtown. The consensus was clearly that downtown Blowing Rock is a uniquely wonderful place that must be preserved by carefully managing change. Many thanks to all of you for your great support.

Best regards,

 

George