Synopsis Of the Town Council Meeting December 12, 2017

Friends,

Our new Mayor Charlie Sellers started last night’s meeting by stating his commitment to improving transparency of town government, making much needed improvements to town infrastructure and focusing the Sunset Drive Gateway project on basic infrastructure improvements. Mayor Sellers then presided over a refreshingly open meeting during which he gave citizens the opportunity to ask questions and make comments on important topics brought before the meeting. He was supported by council members in this very useful process. The following were major matters addressed:1. 12 large trees in Memorial Park will be removed this winter. We support this decision. The Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission ably represented by Curtis Andrews, recommended their removal because of their diseased and deteriorating state as expertly identified by N.C. Forestry Service professionals and town staff. An extensive plan was presented for improvements to the park to assure park beauty in the future. The first phase, removal of the twelve trees and their stumps, at a cost not to exceed $ 27,000 was approved unanimously by the council. Twelve new trees of a variety of sizes will be planted in the spring to replace the removed trees. Valid concern about safety hazards created by rotting tree limbs and sections moved council to expedite tree removal. Park sections around the distressed trees may be closed until tree removal.
2. The Inn on Cornish 21 unit hotel planned for property on Main St. and West Cornish Road across from Chetola was unanimously approved. Construction will start on this very good project of the Winkler family from Boone in spring of 2018.
3. After an extensive discussion in which Mayor Sellers, Council Member Sue Sweeting and new Council Member Virginia Powell proposed holding the annual January Council “retreat” in Blowing Rock to give citizens and media an opportunity to attend this meeting the council voted three to two to hold the meeting in Asheville. A reading of minutes of these recent “retreats” clearly reveals a number of council actions were taken on major issues during these recent meetings with no citizens or media in attendance. We supported holding this meeting in Watauga Co. to provide needed transparency to any government actions taken by the council at this meeting. This open discussion of the location of this meeting is itself a new step in the direction of greater government transparency.

 

Best regards,

 

George

 

Blowing Rock Civic Association

HUGE VOTER TURNOUT IN BLOWING ROCK NOVEMBER 7, 2017

 

 

THE RESEARCH HAS BEEN DONE ON VOTER TURNOUT FOR THE ELECTION NOVEMBER 7, 2017.

 

IT WAS HUGE   !!!!!!!!!!   LARGEST IN YEARS AND VERY BIG CONSIDERING IT WAS  A LOCAL ELECTION ONLY FOR BLOWING ROCK, THE MAYOR AND TOWN COUNCIL.  NO FEDERAL OR STATE OFFICES ON THE BALLOT.

 

SOME STATS

VOTER REGISTRATION UP OVER 15% FROM PREVIOUS ELECTION

ABSENTEE VOTING UP OVER 25% FROM PREVIOUS ELECTION

TOTAL TURNOUT 42%

THE MISSION AT BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION IS “VOTE”  EXECUTE YOUR RIGHTS.  THANKS FOR SUPPORTING OUR VILLAGE OF BLOWING ROCK AND GETTING INTERESTED AND VOTING.

BETSY WILCOX

Town of Blowing Rock Seeks Applicants for Various Boards

 

 

Are you interested in the future of your community and have extra time to volunteer?  Would you

like to serve on one of Blowing Rock’s municipal boards?

 

The Blowing Rock Town Council will soon consider appointments to the Planning Board, the

Board of Adjustment, the Tourism Development Authority, the Alcohol Beverage Control

Board and the Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission. Each of these boards has an

essential role in preserving and protecting the quality and character of our community.

 

Planning Board- 4 Vacancies

The Planning Board conducts studies and makes recommendations to the Town Council on

matters related to the growth and development of the Town. The Planning Board reviews all

requests for new subdivisions, all requests for zoning changes, requests for new commercial

development, and makes recommendations to the Town Council on whether those requests should

be approved, modified, or denied. The Town has established standards for new subdivisions and

other new development through the adoption of a Land Use Ordinance (often referred to as the

Zoning Code). The Planning Board reviews any proposed changes to the Land Use Ordinance and

will often initiate such changes to ensure that the regulations in the Land Use Ordinance are current

and provide the proper protection for the Town and its residents.  There are nine (9) members on

the Planning Board, eight (8) members who live within Town limits and one being an Extraterritorial

Jurisdiction (ETJ) member and the Board meets at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

There will be 4 (Kim Hartley, George Ellis, Joe Papa and Natalie Bovino (ETJ) ) vacancies on

this Board.  Three of these vacancies are for those members who live within Town limits and one

lives in the ETJ.

 

Board of Adjustments- 2 Vacancies

The Land Use Ordinance establishes regulations for the use and development of land within the

community.  However, sometimes a property owner, because of special characteristics on his or

her property, will request a variance from the specific regulations in the Land Use Ordinance.  The

Board of Adjustment reviews variance requests and decides whether those requests should be

approved.  The Board of Adjustment also hears appeals from any person who may disagree with

any order, directive, or decision made by the Zoning Administrator.  There are six (6) full members

on the Board of Adjustment, one being an Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ), plus two (2) alternate

members.  The Board meets at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month, when cases are

pending. There will be 2 (Jerry Starnes and Terry Storey (ETJ) ) full member vacancies on this

Board.

 

Tourism Development Authority- 1 Vacancy

The Tourism Development Authority (TDA) promotes, solicits, and encourages tourism in the

Town of Blowing Rock in accordance with adopted Town plans/policies and administers the

appropriation of the room occupancy tax proceeds. This Authority also studies the impact of tourism

on the Town and develops strategies to minimize any negative impacts of tourism on the Town.

This Board will have 1 (Dean Bullis) vacancy for the Business/Tourism member vacancy.

 

The Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission (BRAAC) – 2 Vacancies

The Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission consists of seven (7) members, all of whom

are citizens and residents of the Planning and Zoning jurisdiction of the Town.  Members are

appointed by the Town Council for a term of three (3) years.  It is desirable that at least one member

be a member of the design profession.   BRACC shall have all of the responsibilities and duties

imposed by the enabling ordinance and shall promote and assist in the implementation of general

community beautification in accordance with adopted Town plans/policies. This commission also

studies the appearance characteristics of the Town and recommends standards and policies of

design for the Town. There will be 2 (Debra McDowell and Curtis Andrews) vacancies.

 

Alcohol Beverage Control Board- 1 Vacancy

The Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC) oversees the operation and management of the

Town ABC store and employs a local ABC officer to oversee the enforcement of State of North

Carolina ABC laws. There are three (3) members on the ABC Board and the Board meets at 3:00

p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.  This Board will have 1 (David Greene) vacancy.

 

If you have an interest in serving on one of these important citizen boards, please provide a letter

of interest and a list of any pertinent work history or volunteer experience by Tuesday, January 2,

2018 to Hilari Hubner, Town Clerk, at Post Office Box 47, Blowing Rock, NC 28605 either by mail

or email to clerk@townofblowingrocknc.gov.

 

 

Tonda Spear

Account Tech/ Payroll Administrator

Town of Blowing Rock

P.O. Box 47

1036 Main Street

Blowing Rock, NC 28605

(828) 295-5200

www.townofblowingrocknc.gov

 

Pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 132, Public Records, this e-mail and any attachments, as well as any e-mail message(s) that may be sent in response to it, may be considered public records and therefore are subject to public records requests for review and copying.
Reply  Reply All  Forward

BRCA Forms Development Evaluation Committee

Friends – I am pleased to announce that the Blowing Rock Civic Association has formed a Development Evaluation Committee to evaluate commercial and residential developments that are proposed for Blowing Rock. this committee is composed of three engineers with extensive construction experience, a real estate professional with extensive development experience and an attorney with extensive real estate and development experience. Every committee member is qualified to give expert testimony at public hearings on development permitting by the town. This committee will be studying plans of the proposed development behind The Speckled Trout property bounded by Morningside Drive and Highway 221 in downtown Blowing Rock. They will issue a report of their findings to the BRCA, the Town Planning Board, the Town Council and to the public.

Sales of Homes Close to Blowing Rock but Not in Town Limits

Friends – Richard Puckett of Premier Sotheby’s International has provided the following interesting information about the subject home sales from 12/14/2016 to 11/9/2017:

Seven of the subject homes were sold at the following prices:

 

$    960,000
$ 1,100,000
$ 1,300,000
$ 1,375,000
$ 1,377,000
$ 1,575,000
$ 2,000,000

Sales of Homes Valued at $ 800,000 and Above in Blowing Rock

Friends – Richard Puckett of Premier Sotheby’s International has provided us with the following very interesting information about the Blowing Rock sales from 1/1/2017 to 11/14/2017 of homes valued at $ 800,000.00 and above:

 

1. Five homes were sold during the period.

 

2. The sold prices for the homes were as follows: $ 875,000, $ 1,125,000, $ 1,150,000, $ 2,675,000, and $ 3,100,000.

TOWN COUNCIL AND MAYORAL RETREAT RESPONSES TO BRCA’S REQUEST OF KEEPING YOUR TAX DOLLARS IN BLOWING ROCK

Fellow Citizens

In response to the following e-mails,

I will not be mayor of our fine town until next month, but as a citizen I feel that is is in the best interest of our citizens to hold the retreat in Blowing Rock at a venue that can benefit from our presence. Lets keep our tax dollars in our community.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you

Charlie Sellers
The Blowing Rock

Re: Location of the Blowing Rock Town Council January Retreat

====================================================================================

Thu, Nov 23, 2017 7:45 pm
sue sweeting (sweetingsue75@yahoo.com)To:you + 18 more Details
I would agree and request that our retreat in Blowing Rock is good for the Town and our residents.

Sue

====================================================================================

Dear George,

Thank you for clearly and succinctly explaining how your group feels about this issue. I hope every group, citizen, business owner, tourist, second home owner and Blowing Rock school family will feel our town council is approachable and continue to do so on any issue with us over the next four years.

I hope we will all have a Town email address to receive and send these emails over to further our transparency.

I look forward to seeing you all on December 12th to discuss this issue in public, in Blowing Rock, with the Town council, and not just on this email or any one group’s website.

Let the sun shine in!

Virginia Powell

Update on Important Blowing Rock Town Government Actions

Friends – It’s a very busy period for Blowing Rock Town government. The following are significant issues:

1. Removal of Major Memorial Park Trees – After ignoring a March 2016 report by an N.C. Forest Service arborist for more than a year and half some town officials recently began a move to eliminate a number of large trees from the front of the park on Main Street.The N. C. Forest Service did an update of their March 2016 report including critical parts that for some reason were removed from the original report that was given to the town council. The bottom line was a recommendation to eliminate seven of the large trees. The report says that the trees have become damaged by a disease caused by the stress of significantly increased year around park traffic, poor town staff maintenance practices, and cutting of roots by staff installing electrical lines for lighting of trees. Council was told that the N.C. Forest Service’s Nancy Stairs, who did not attend the meeting, will do a comprehensive plan for tree replacement, park traffic and drainage at no charge to the Town. Council instructed Jennifer Brown, Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation Director, to work with Stairs to provide this comprehensive plan for presentation to the December council meeting. It was agreed that with the exception of one dead tree no trees would be cut until the comprehensive report was received and approved by the council including specific, detailed recommendations on tree removal and replacement. The initial report from the N.C. Forest Service strongly recommended that the Town retain an arborist for permanent park work who is experienced in working with the effects of the very high year around traffic now in the park. Despite expressing alarm about tree liability issues town management admitted that they just had not gotten around to cutting down a large dead tree near the park playground. Despite the report council proceeded to vote 4-1 for holiday inflatables in the park that will encourage more foot traffic and the town had trucks running over park tree roots the first thing next morning hanging Christmas lights on the trees. Copies of the N.C. Forest Service Reports are attached. Stay tuned for further developments.

 

2. Another presentation was given on expensive cosmetic changes being considered for Sunset Drive. This time it was a summary of results from a public survey on the subject. Pictures shown by the presenter showed a serious need for resurfacing and lining Sunset Drive that would be relatively inexpensive but effective. Concern has been expressed by many residents about using property tax dollars for cosmetic projects before town infrastructure needs such as street and road resurfacing and lining are addressed in all parts of town.

 

3. The Inn on Cornish, a 21 rooms hotel, on West Cornish Rd. and Main Street proposed by Boone developer and builder John Winkler was unanimously approved by the town Planning Board. They strongly recommended that it be approved by the town council.

 

4. BRCA’s Development Committee will be meeting with town Planning Director Kevin Rothrock to inspect plans submitted by the former, never built “Mountainleaf” developer for 12 residential units to be placed on the downtown property behind The Speckled Trout, bounded by Morningside Dr. and Main St. that meeting will take place Tuesday. The committee will be issuing a report to you on the project right after their meeting. The developer will hold at community meeting on Thursday 11/30 at 5:30 P.M. at the Town Hall Council Chamber.

 

5. The newly elected Mayor Charlie Sellers and council member Virginia Powell will take office at the December council meeting.

 

George

 

 

Location of the Blowing Rock Town Council January Retreat

Honorable Mayor-Elect, Mayor Pro Tem, Distinguished Council Members:

 

Congratulations to those who were elected in our election earlier this month. Thanks to all of you for your service and commitment to Blowing Rock. One of the major issues in the recent election was the concern about inadequate transparency in the operation of town government. After closely observing town operations for the past several years we certainly agree that transparency and communication with citizens on key issues need substantial improvement. We think that holding the subject retreat in Watauga County will be an important positive response to those voters who expect greater government transparency. In recent years significant council decisions have been made at retreats in Asheville. It is difficult if not impossible for Blowing Rock citizens and media to observe the council actions that take place in a remote location like Asheville. We would all agree that Blowing Rock faces significant challenges moving forward and citizen involvement and support will be critical to meeting these challenges successfully. In addition to increased transparency having the retreat closer to home would demonstrate a dedication to controlling town spending. Additionally retreat money would be spent locally during a challenging time of year for local businesses.

We would appreciate your prompt response by email to our request to hold the retreat in Watauga Co. Your responses along with this email will be posted on our website brcivic.com and distributed by email to a number of Blowing Rock citizens and the local media. Making citizens aware of the retreat location decision-making process is a good example of improved transparency.

George Wilcox
Blowing Rock Civic Association

 

 

SHOULD WE COMPLAIN? ARTICLE BY DAVID ROGERS IN THE BLOWING ROCK NEWS

 

By David Rogers. November 17, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC – For a government by, of, and for the people, “the people” — INDIVIDUALLY — must participate for it to be effective.  Those who fail to participate really have nothing to complain about.

Not to take anything away from the fine individuals who were recently elected (we consider all of them friends not only of us but of the Town), but the level of participation in Blowing Rock, as well as the rest of North Carolina is sorely lacking.

And it is lacking on two levels: [1] the number of candidates competing to serve the public interest(s); and [2] the number of voters actually casting ballots.

Statewide, only 16.81% of registered voters cast their ballots in the November 7th municipal elections, according to the North Carolina Board of Elections website.  The ratio of participating voters was even worse in all of Watauga County with only 11.68% (2,326 out of 19,915) of registered voters going to the polls.

Thanks largely to grassroots campaigns successfully orchestrated by challengers Charlie Sellers for Mayor and Virginia Powell for Commissioner, Blowing Rock saw a 41% participation rate this year, with 438 of the 1,243 registered voters living in the Watauga County sections of Blowing Rock marking ballots, although a write-in vote for mayor, “Waylon Watson,” was actually a non-vote because no such person resides in Blowing Rock and would have been ineligible to serve.

Why Is This Important?

Every municipality in America probably has more needs than it has cash to address those needs. So to that extent, Blowing Rock is not unique.

Our Town government and its elected policymakers, in conjunction with Town staff, develop a budget to allocate scarce resources to, presumably, the most pressing needs.

But this is where it is especially important to have participation in our systems of self-governance.  Different people have different skillsets, as well as different values and perspectives. Consequently, they might have very different assessments of which needs are more important than others.

This may well be a crass over-simplicification, but Citizen A, for example, may think that since Blowing Rock is not a Third World country, the most important thing for us to spend Town money on is to make sure that everyone has clean water and an up-to-date sewer system that manages human waste most effectively.

Citizen B, on the other hand, might place a higher priority on the services of Parks & Recreation because it contributes to increased tourism — on the assumption that having more opportunities for family fun puts more heads in beds, which in turn generates more occupancy tax and sales tax revenue to help pay for those infrastructure needs.

Citizen C has a totally different view altogether. She is a proponent of year-round economic development, so her priorities might be to expand access to high speed Internet, provide incentives for businesses to locate here, and maybe even to relocate Town services.
None of these viewpoints is necessarily more “right” than the others, nor are they “wrong.” They are simply different.

Depending on who gets elected, a Town budget allocating scarce resources to address abundant needs will reflect the viewpoints and priorities of those willing to serve in elected office. Of course, part and parcel to that thought is that the implemented policies and decisions reflect the viewpoints and priorities of those candidates receiving the most number of votes in being elected.

Town policymakers never come under heavier scrutiny than those times when they vote to raise property taxes.  Since an estimated 60+% of the Town’s budget (not counting periodic grants and other unusual contributions) comes from property taxes assessed to home, business property and lot owners within the Town limits (whether or not they are registered voters), raising property tax rates is the quickest and easiest way to secure the additional resources.

It is an important side note to this discussion that property taxes are a source of COERCED money. Once imposed, homeowners and other property owners have no choice but to pay the taxes, no matter how unfair they think them. Consequently, a Town’s decision to raise taxes should not be taken lightly nor made without considerable forethought.

This is all the more reason why PARTICIPATION in local government, either by a willingness to serve or at the very least participating in the vote that elects representatives is an important part of the democratic process.

By most accounts, the recent property tax increase in Blowing Rock was driven by the fact that past and present town councils deferred routine maintenance and infrastructure improvements because a disproportionate share of scarce resources were allocated to other needs.  Instead of addressing water, sewer and streets as imminent threats, money was instead allocated to Police, Fire, Parks & Recreation, or any number of other departments where a convincing case was made for more money.

In November 2014, Blowing Rock voters collectively said that they had had enough of kicking the can down the proverbial road when it came to town infrastructure. More than 79% voted “yes” to new water system bonds, more than 81% to sewer system bonds, more than 73% to streets and sidewalks bonds, and almost 73% for parks and recreation bonds.
Of course, bonds are debt obligations that need to be repaid over time and carry a cost of money in the form of interest.  The most convenient (and logical) way to repay those bonds was to raise property taxes and then Town Manager Scott Fogleman, along with Finance Director Nicole Norman devised a schedule for raising taxes over several years, instead of all at once.

At the same time, the sitting members of the Board of Commissioners were persuaded (by Fogleman?) that our Town employees were underpaid and that if not brought up to some level more closely equivalent to other positions around the region with similar responsibilities, we would start seeing increased turnover, or loss of valuable staff members.  To pay for the hefty salary increases in aggregate, even more of a property tax increase was approved.

The purpose of this editorial is not to pass judgment as to whether those policy decisions were right or wrong, but to instead say that we get what we vote (or don’t vote) for.

Nothing against those who chose to run for public office, but it is somewhat embarrassing for the Town to have had only two candidates for Mayor and four candidates for the three open seats on the Board of Commissioners.

When not even half of the Town’s already registered voters actually bother to participate in our participatory form of government, we collectively have no mandate to complain about the decisions being made by our elected officials.

Similarly, those who own property here but register to vote somewhere else other than Blowing Rock, perhaps in a no- or low-income tax state like Florida, are consciously making a decision to forfeit their participation in Blowing Rock government decisions. In short, they have to live with whatever decisions are made by whomever makes them, like it or not.

If there is a flaw in the system, it is that commercial property owners whose residences might lie in the Blowing Rock Fire District or in Blowing Rock School District, but not within the Town limits are not allowed to vote for any of the elected officials or ballot measures that affect them.

We often hear grumbling about increased taxes and other decisions by Town Council that are branded as ill-conceived, but so few people seem to be willing to get personally involved in Town government.

Think about it: out of every 100 people who have actually made a decision to participate in local government by registering to vote, only 41 of them actually took the time and made the effort to participate in the process. Sure, Blowing Rock’s 41 is better than the 11 out of each 100 for all of Watauga County (and actually skews the overall countywide number marginally higher), but less than half choosing to participate is still a feeble effort.

National and state elections may be higher profile and carry more “glamour,” but local and municipal elections have a more immediate and direct impact on our daily lives. Why would we NOT participate?

WANT MORE INFORMATION ON YOUR MAYOR ELECT?  GO TO BLOWINGROCKNEWS.COM FOR A PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH DAVID AND CHARLIE SELLERS.