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

Major Changes Proposed to Reduce Control of Downtown Blowing Rock Development – Public Hearing Tuesday February 12, 2019

The following MAJOR CHANGES have been proposed in the Blowing Rock Town Codes controlling downtown development:

1. ELIMINATION OF THE LIMIT ON THE DENSITY OF RESIDENTIAL UNITS ON DOWNTOWN PROPERTY. THE CURRENT DENSITY LIMIT IS 5 UNITS/ACRE.

2. AN INCREASE IN ALLOWABLE BUILDING HEIGHT FROM 30′ ABOVE THE SIDEWALK OR FINISHED GRADE AT THE PRIMARY ENTRANCE TO 35′ .

3. AN INCREASE IN THE ALLOWABLE TOTAL BUILDING HEIGHT.

4. A REDUCTION IN THE AMOUNT OF GREEN SPACE REQUIRED IN A BUILDING SETBACK AREA FROM 75% TO 40%.

THE BLOWING ROCK CIVIC ASSOCIATION WILL MAKE AN INFORMATIVE PRESENTATION ON THE PROPOSED CODE CHANGES AT THE TUESDAY, 2/12/19 PUBLIC HEARING.

Adoption of these changes will decrease approval controls that are currently available to the Town Council.

BRCA professional advisors have expressed concern that elimination of the limit on density and increasing allowable building height could stimulate construction of numerous short term rental townhouses/condos that could dominate the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. They say that this could certainly produce a major change in the character of downtown.

With use of current codes Blowing Rock has three very substantial developments under construction (Chestnut at Blowing Rock with 23 Luxury Condominiums, The Townes at Blowing Rock with 6 luxury townhouses, The Inn on Cornish, a 21 room boutique hotel ), another significant development recently approved and soon to break ground (The 1150 Main St. development with six condominiums/townhouses and two retail spaces), and another substantial development that was approved but construction has been delayed by the developer (a restaurant retail development in the old Moody’s Furniture Building at 125 Sunset Dr.). There is no shortage of substantial developments in Blowing Rock approved under the existing town codes.

A public hearing will be held at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday February 12, 2019 at Town Hall. We urge you to attend and express your views at this hearing. We also urge you to contact Town elected officials to express your views on these proposed code changes: Mayor Charlie Sellers, csellers@tobr.us, Mayor Pro Tem Albert Yount, ayount@tobr.us, Council members:
Doug Matheson, dmatheson@tobr.us, Virginia Powell, vpowell@tobr.us, Jim Steele, jsteele@tobr.us, Sue Sweeting, ssweeting@tobr.us. YOUR COMMENTS ARE IMPORTANT AND NEEDED BY OFFICIALS.

Please see the Blowing Rock Civic Association website   WWW.BRCIVIC.COM for more details

URGENT ATTENTION – SUMMARY OF CODE CHANGES FOR DOWNTOWN BLOWING ROCK

The Blowing Rock Town Council has set a public hearing Tuesday February 12, 2019 at 6:00 P.M. at Town Hall for consideration of major changes in long standing town codes governing downtown development. these changes include:

1. Eliminating restrictions on the density of residential units on downtown properties that could enable construction of numerous condominiums without council approval or public input.

2. Increases in the permitted heights of buildings constructed in the downtown area. Enabling more and larger residential units on downtown properties.

3. A substantial reduction in the amount of green space required for downtown area developments enabling more units to be built on downtown properties.

4. Measurement of building heights from secondary streets instead of from primary streets such as Main Street and Highway 221.

5. A reduction in the amount of space required for trees and in the height of trees planted for a development.

6. A substantial reduction in set backs required for construction of buildings enabling more units to be built on downtown properties.

Community surveys of residents, property owners and taxpayers have repeatedly listed their top priority to be as spelled out in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan  “…to ensure that the Town’s unique character and quality of life are not compromised.” The question is: How will the major proposed changes, if approved, impact this top resident priority? We urge all interested citizens to attend the February 12, 2019 public hearing and to express your important opinion on these proposed code changes.  WE URGE YOU TO EMAIL THE MAYOR AND TOWN COUNCIL IF YOU CAN NOT ATTEND.

Sincerely,

William H. Carter
Vice President – Blowing Rock Civic Association