The shared vision for the future of the Town of Blowing Rock is one of a vibrant mountain village resort community that welcomes all with its charming authenticity and unique sense of place. As a premier destination for visitors to North Carolina’s High Country. Blowing Rock will provide abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation, shopping, dining, lodging and entertainment in a memorable setting that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. With a focus of maintaining its rustic authenticity, the community will continue to exemplify the western North Carolina vernacular through its architecture, its culture and by preserving and protecting the natural beauty of the mountain landscape. As a full service community, residents and visitors will continue to enjoy high-quality services and amenities that make the Town a desirable place to live or visit year-round. Moving toward this vision, the community will embrace change while remaining vigilant to ensure that the Town’s unique character and quality of life are not compromised.
Friends – On motion by BR Councilman Jim Steele with a second by Council Member Virginia Powell, Council set a public hearing for 6:00 P.M. February 12, 2019 Town council meeting for Staff Recommended and Planning Board approved code changes to eliminate density limits for downtown residential units, significantly reduce required green space, significantly increase allowable building heights and authorize measurement of building heights from secondary streets instead of from major streets. Council member Sue Sweeting unsuccessfully urged Council to table these recommendations. The BRCA Development Evaluation Committee is analyzing these recommendations and plans to make a presentation at the public hearing, We urge everyone to attend this important public hearing and to comment on these proposed changes.
Thanks so much,
Friends – The following information from Blowing Rock Civic Association attorney Jim McCleod of Johnston Allison & Hord law firm in Charlotte reveals a very serious failure by Blowing Rock town staff to adhere to the legally prescribed process for a public hearing on proposed major code changes for downtown development. When we called his attention to this flawed performance Town Manager Jim Freeman moved quickly to rectify the problems. We will continue to insist that the appropriate process be followed.
Blowing Rock Civic Association
Major changes have been proposed to the Town Land Use Code to eliminate residential density requirements for the Central Business and Town Center.
The proposal also
1. Concludes that short-term rental condo units should be considered the same as motel/hotel units with relaxed on-site parking requirements
2. Significantly reduces oversight by the Planning Board and the Town Council of one of the town council’s major development control tools
3. Relaxes building height restrictions and the method used to measure height
4. Significantly reduces the amount of green space
5. Does not address the demand on public parking to accommodate the increased density
6. Does not address impact on neighborhoods adjacent to the Central Business District
7. Does not address the risk of losing retail or restaurant sites to short-term rentals on Main Street
After quick approval of these proposed changes by the Planning Board there was a rush to bring the changes before council at public hearing on January 8th. BRCA objected to this quick scheduling of a public hearing for failure to follow the required process in the Town Code to call a public hearing. Town Manager Jim Freeman with the advice of the Town Attorney agreed that the prescribed process was not followed and therefore the public hearing has been postponed. The quick public hearing did not provide adequate time for the public to evaluate and comment on the proposal while most homeowners and taxpayers are not in town.
BRCA has retained a consulting architect and attorney to advise our Development Evaluation Committee on the proposed code revisions that could substantially change the character of downtown Blowing Rock. We will continue to produce information for the public on these proposed code revisions.
The town continues to struggle with the process for hiring a permanent Town Manager. BRCA strongly recommended to the Mayor and Council that they retain one of two professional search firms recommended by the Dean of the University of North Carolina School of Government to assist in this process. BRCA has pointed out that while we have many talented citizens in our community hiring a town manager is a highly specialized job best done with the help of those who are up to date on current effective contacts and techniques. Councilwoman Sue Sweeting strongly supported retaining a professional search firm at a recent council meeting at which her colleagues decided to, at least initially, proceed on their own. We are hopeful that the Council will reconsider using a professional advisor to insure we have the best pool of applicants and best candidate since experienced and qualified Town Manager applicants will likely expect that the Town use a professional search firm.
BRCA Board member Tim Gupton led a board process to develop our Communication and Action Plan that you can view on our website at www.brcivic.com. The goal was to communicate to our strategic priorities and outcomes to help all stakeholders work together to insure the best future of Blowing Rock. The Plan highlights that our Homeowners are the Cornerstone and the Economic Engine of Blowing Rock and that a Vibrant Village and Great Neighborhood Infrastructure are vitally important to preserving the character of our historic village while improving our economy and property tax values based on QUALITY not QUANTITY. We have met individually with the Town Manager, Mayor, Council members, Chamber Executive and TDA Director to share our plan and seek feedback. We are encouraged by the dialogue.
Board of Directors of Blowing Rock Civic Association 12/2018
Chairman of the Board and President – George T. Wilcox –CEO and Owner of Wilcox & Co. financial consulting, life and health insurance and investments. Former manager Merck & Co. Former member of the Board of Blowing Rock Hospital, former member of the Board Blowing Rock Country Club, member of BRAHM, member of BR Chamber of Commerce, member BR Methodist Church, member BR Historical Society, member Blue Ridge Conservancy, member Conservation Trust of N.C.
Vice President – William H. Carter – CEO and Owner of Carter Land Co. commercial real estate sales, development, investment and management. Longtime Blowing Rock resident and property owner and a member of various BR organizations.
Secretary/Treasurer – Betsy C. Wilcox – Manager and agent Wilcox & Co. financial consulting, life and health insurance and investments. Graduate of UNC Greensboro, N.C. Member of BRAHM, BR Chamber of Commerce, BR Methodist Church, BR Historical Society, Blue Ridge Conservancy and Conservation Trust of N.C.
Brian Beaty – Computer networking consultant and former Mayor Pro Tem of the Town of Marvin, N.C. , one of America’s fastest growing towns.
Richard Gambill – A Chemistry and Textiles graduate of N.C. State Richard was a manger for two major chemical companies before founding his own successful business as a manufacturer and marketer of custom cabinets. After retiring to Blowing Rock Richard has become active in a number of organizations including BRAHM, the BR Chamber of Commerce, BR Historical Society and the BR Rotary Club where he serves as Treasurer.
Tim C. Gupton – A graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and the Harvard Executive Education Program Tim pursued a very successful career as a CPA with KPMG and then with his own firm Hughes, Pittman and Gupton, LLP. Tim was also a founder and general partner of Research Triangle Ventures and HPG Family Office, LLC. Tim also was an executive, board member, and owner of several successful startup companies in pharmaceuticals, genomics, and chemistry. He currently is a member of the board of Blue Ridge Conservancy, an officer of the Mayview Homeowners Association, and a member of BRAHM and other BR organizations.
Karyn K. Herterich – Karyn and her husband Dieter own SouthMarke Shopping Mall in downtown BR. Karyn also owns and manages one of SouthMarke’s outstanding shops Serves You Right. She has had extensive involvement in the BR Chamber and other BR organizations. Through her Kennedy Herterich Foundation Karyn has been a very charitable benefactor of many Blowing Rock and High Country organizations and endeavors. Karyn is the North Carolina member on the Board of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Jean Kitchin – Owner , CEO and President of a company that includes three pharmacies for 16 years. Former Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of UNC Chapel Hill, Former Chair of the UNC Chapel Hill Alumni Association, recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from UNC Chapel Hill, Former Chair of the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center Board of Visitors, Former Chair of the Nash County Rocky Mount Board of Education, has hosted and produced television programs for a number of state stations and continues to host and produce programs for WHIG TV. Jean is an active member of various BR organizations.
Dan J. McLamb – Dan, a law graduate of UNC Chapel Hill where he also received his undergraduate degree is a founding partner in the Raleigh law firm Yates, McLamb, and Weyher, L.L.P. Dan is recognized as one of the best litigators in North Carolina. Dan has received numerous professional awards and extensive professional recognition. His clients include some of the state’s most outstanding institutions and companies. Dan, a BR homeowner, is an active member of various BR organizations.
Blake Pace – Blake who received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Maryland College Park is General Manager of Affordable High Country Housing, a company that buys, repairs, manages and sells homes. Blake is also a very talented musical producer and performer, having performed at a number of events for President Ronald Reagan. Blake serves as President of Ensemble Stage Company, one of the state’s most outstanding theatrical organizations. Blake has also been active in the BR Chamber and various other BR and high Country organizations.
Senator Tony Rand – Senator Rand, who received both undergraduate and law degrees from UNC Chapel Hill, is a practicing attorney. He served for a number of years in the N.C. Senate including eight years as Senate Majority Leader. He later served as head of the state Post-Release and Parole Commission. Senator Rand who has owned homes in BR for years is active in a number of BR organizations including serving as a board member of the BR Chamber and on the board of the BR Country Club. Senator Rand is also a member of the N.C. Lottery Commission.
James M. Scott – Jim had an extensive military career as an officer and an engineer. After retiring from the military Jim pursued a career as an engineer in the private sector. Jim who has been involved in Blowing Rock for years served as Chairman of the Blowing Rock Planning Board for several years. Jim also obtained a real estate license for his business activities. Jim is an active member of various BR organizations.
Julian R. West, Jr. – Julian, a graduate of East Carolina U., was an owner and executive of PS West Construction Co. in Statesville, N.C. After retiring from the company Julian has continued in commercial real estate development and management. Julian also serves as a director of a regional bank. Julian was a member of the Statesville Planning and Zoning Board and of the Statesville Board of Adjustments. He was also Chairman of the Statesville Chamber of Commerce. He is a Charter member of The Greater Statesville Rotary Club and he has served on a number of other civic and church boards. Julian has a home and other investment properties in Blowing Rock. He is an active member of various BR organizations.
Friends – Our town council got off to an excellent start in replacing resigned town Manager Ed Evans. Ed has offered to stay on the job through the end of November. The Council today voted to hire as soon as possible an interim town manager who would assume town management responsibility promptly. A detailed presentation by Hartwell Wright of the N.C. League of Municipalities at today’s called council meeting covered the recommended process for selection of a new town manager. Wright also recommended hiring an interim manager promptly because legal responsibility for our town management resides in the town manager. Wright said on average it takes six months to choose and hire a new town manager. At this time of year he said with holidays it will probably take longer. Wright emphasized the importance of making a deliberate decision to obtain the right person as our town manager. Wright will provide the town with the name of an experienced retired town manager to consider as interim town manager. Mayor Pro Tem Albert Yount has already received the resume of an experienced candidate for the interim manager position. Council will hold a confidential meeting next Monday to consider candidates for the interim management position.
Friends – Betsy and I attended the subject hearing last Tuesday night 8/21/2018. A large crowd attended this meeting most of them apparently well organized mainly Boone proponents of this facility that will be located in Boone. The hearing was interesting and informative. There were a large number of speakers urging approval of this facility. A few speakers expressed concerns primarily about the economics of building and operating this facility. I spoke as a citizen and not as an officer of the BRCA. I did not question the need for or merit of the recreation center. I did question the economics reported by the Watauga Democrat that reported a capital expenditure of $ 35 million, operational expenses of $ 1,500,000/yr. and no amount reported for maintenance and depreciation. I specifically said we hoped that there will be no further property tax increases required to support this facility. While the county tax rate is relatively low it was set to equalize tax increases that would have resulted from the county’s relatively high property values. I was assured both publicly and privately by both Democrat and Republican commissioners that this facility would not require additional property tax increases either for capital or operational expenditures. After the hearing the commission voted unanimously to proceed with the recreation center.
Friends – The following were significant points from the subject meeting:
1. Vitally important painting of street lines to protect driver safety has been delayed according to Town Manager Ed Evans due to problems with obtaining trucks to transport paint and due to the rainy weather.
2. Difficult to drive Sourwood Lane on Green Hill will temporarily be made a one lane street while water lines are being replaced. According to Ed Evans this street is only 8 feet wide at one point while NCDOT requires that a one lane street be at least 9 feet wide and that a two lane street be at least 18 feet wide. The manager stated that a number of town streets do not meet NCDOT standards.
3. Laurel Park resident John Pfeifer, during the citizen comments section of the meeting, asked the town to place signage at the intersection of Laurel Park Rd. and Main to prevent serious safety problems created by vehicles parked and u turning in that space.
4. Laurel Park resident Lee Rocamora, during the citizen comments section of the meeting, asked council to allow citizens to address current agenda items in their comments.
5. The Town, by use of a recently acquired program, has found 24 short term rentals in residential areas of town where they are prohibited by law.
6. For the first time council has adopted a formal performance review form and procedure for evaluating town manager performance.
7. Preceding the meeting Council member Sue Sweeting conducted a very informative discussion session with citizens that covered a wide range of town government matters. The County Commission public hearing 8/21 @ 5:30 P.M. in the county commission boardroom in Boone on financing for a proposed $ 35 million recreation center in Boone was one of the important topics discussed.
President – Blowing Rock Civic Association
Watauga County had a 13% property tax increase in 2017 primarily to finance the subject proposed facility. Despite this large increase the county will have to borrow a substantial additional amount to build this facility. Additionally a consultant hired by the county has estimated that the county will be spending at least an additional approx. $ 400,000 plus per year for operational expenses for the facility. Of course, additional substantial amounts will be required for building maintenance. SUBSTANTIAL ADDITIONAL PROPERTY TAX INCREASES COULD BE REQUIRED FOR THIS FACILITY. Sales tax increases to finance the subject facility have been defeated twice by county voters in the past ten years. While the current Watauga Co. 35.3 cents/$ 100 of property value rate may appear low, county property values are very high compared to other N.C. counties. For example, officials at Appalachian State University are concerned because of the inability of faculty members to find affordable housing in the county. At the same time Watauga is ranked as the third poorest county in the state with 31.3% of the population living below the poverty income level. 25% of the Watauga residents receive assistance with food. These numbers are huge and very alarming. Please see local media articles available on the internet for more information on this proposed facility.
The subject PUBLIC HEARING will be held in the Watauga County Commission Boardroom at 814 W. King St. in Boone at 5:30 P.M. next Tuesday August 21, 2018.
We encourage you to attend this meeting and to speak on the issues impacting this important long term taxpayer commitment.
1. Chestnut at Blowing Rock – 23 Luxury town homes on former site of Blowing Rock Hospital. Four units are under contract at prices between $ 1.4 and $ 1.6 million. Two more of the town homes are reserved. Town homes range in size from 2400 to 2800 square feet with two car garages. Completion of the under contract units is targeted for the spring of 2019. An investment group including Hunt Broyhill of Hickory is developing this project. Premier Sotheby’s Ashley and Jerry Hutchens are marketing this project. Tel. 828-964-5438.
2. Ground has been broken for a six town home development called The Townes on property across Chestnut Drive from the Chestnut at Blowing Rock development. Each town home includes 2600 square feet of space and a two car garage. These town homes are priced at $ 849,000 per unit. An investment group including former Ruddick Corporation CEO Thomas W. Dickson of Charlotte is developing this project. Premier Sotheby’s Maurice Williams is marketing this project. Tel. 828-337-0221.
3. Construction is well underway on John and Jan Winkler’s 21 unit hotel development “The Inn on Cornish” across Main from the Chetola entrance. Units in this development will be available for short term rentals.
4. The 1150 Main Street development replacing the old white house at the corner of Main and Pine downtown just approved by the council includes six condominiums. It is expected that these condos will not be sold but instead will be used for short term rentals. The developer still must close on the property purchase, obtain permits, and complete other details before starting lot clearing and construction.